Sunday, 29 June 2014

RIP Damien D'Oliveira

I GOT home from taking my wife to work to find Damien D’Oliveira, academy manager at Worcestershire CCC, had lost his two year battle with cancer.

Although it was clear Damien was ill, the news of his passing has come as a great shock and looking at the tributes on Twitter it’s clear it’s not just the cricketing world in mourning today.

From respected cricketing journalists like Edward Bevan and Steve James to the likes of Peter Oborne, the social medium was used to pay tribute to Damien and his family.

Son of the legendary England batsman Basil D’Oliveira, Damien’s own career never hit the international heights but he was a loyal county servant to Worcestershire.

And after hanging up his bat, ‘Dolly’ continued his and his family’s association with the county by becoming a coach and later academy manager at New Road.

I have no doubt there is a lot of sadness at New Road today as the Pears begin their match with Glamorgan.

All of the batsmen will walk to the wicket sad at Dolly’s passing, many will owe that walk to Damien’s work at the academy.

I was lucky enough to work as a journalist for the Worcester Standard for 15 months and during that time I was able to go to the club’s media day at New Road.

While there you could see how loved Dolly was by the players and staff such as coach Steve Rhodes and chief executive David Leatherdale.

You can’t be a journalist in the city without knowing how important the surname D’Oliveira is to the county, I was lucky to see it in action on the field first hand.

Basil’s grandson and Damien’s son is a fine leg spinner in the making and I hope his talent and the will of the cricketing gods combine to further Brett’s career.

Who knows, maybe the D’Oliveira name may once again grace and England team sheet?

My prayers and thoughts are with Damien’s family, friends and everyone associated with Worcestershire CCC.

RIP Damien, may you now be at peace



Saturday, 28 June 2014

PM in a muddle of his own making

IT'S not been the best week for the Prime Minister.

Following Andy Coulson being found guilty of conspiring to hack phones on Tuesday, the PM upset most of his European friends on Friday and heard how a former advisor had been sent to prison on child porn charges.

In a political world where all we hear is how bad Miliband is and how if he was doing better the Tories would be toast, I pose the opposite question, wouldn't the Tories be solid certainties for a majority in 2015 if Cameron was better at his job?

Think about it, the economy is slowing rousing itself from it's slumber, voters are warming to the PM's EU reform talk and the party is staying close to Labour in the polls.

Yet time after time Cameron is either guilty of or presides over cock ups which once again make you think about a change of owner of Number 10 in May 2015.

The Prime Minister of the UK should know a trial is not concluded until a verdict was given on all charges. Yet Cameron raced to get on TV on Tuesday to besmirch Coulson while a jury was still considering some of the charges.

Surely someone close to Cameron should have pulled him to one side and advised it was better to wait for all verdicts before he spoke out. To some it would have looked cowardly but in the long term it would have created an air of professionalism lacking in Downing Street in recent weeks.

And on the EU, Cameron is a hopeless diplomat, emboldened by his one triumph of getting the UK's contribution to the bloated organisation reduced, the PM tried a Thatcherite approach on Friday.

The difference is most of the EU leaders were scared stiff of Maggie, with Cameron they point and laugh and gently remind him he has to face his voters next year.

Truth be told the EU values our opinion about as much as I care for salad, Merkel and co will only listen if the PM returns to Brussels next June/July with a parliamentary majority and they no an in/out EU referendum is very much possible.

The PM thinks this tough talking on Europe wins votes, it does but only if you succeed. Failure's like yesterday only help Farage and UKIP hoover up more Tory votes.

Honestly, Cameron is a very good Prime Minister but when he loses next year it won't be because Labour won, it will be because he lost by making too many mistakes.

By May 2015, David Cameron might not only have lost the unlosable election of 2010 but he might lose his job to a gentleman not many people actually want to see in Number 10.

No tears for troubled Cook and ECB

READING Kevin Pietersen’s column in the Telegraph this morning, you ask yourself why he is not still part of the English cricket team.

Here is a man forced out of his role in the team not because of injury, loss of form or suspension but simply for being ‘not the right sort’ wanted in the new Team England.

Yet the article lays bare everything wrong with the current set up and actually, considering how disgracefully he was disposed with, he is quite supportive of Cook.

For those who think it’s a smear against the current set up, ask yourself this: why does Pietersen say ‘the same old negative stuff’? He recognises the efforts to move on from the Flower/Fletcher regime.

Cook’s captaincy is criticised but even then Pietersen attempts to be supportive when he says he can understand the reasons for the tactics to Matthews.

But he does hit the nail on the head when he suggests some of the senior players are struggling to offer leadership in the dressing room.

Because that is the biggest problem facing English cricket, Pietersen was willing to criticise the leadership on tour and was ostracised for it.

When it was all going wrong for England on Monday at Headingley, how many times did you see senior pros in Cook’s ear suggesting something different? Not many I fancy.

In keeping his job after a 5-0 whitewash, getting rid of Pietersen and being described as the ‘right sort of person’ to lea England, Cook has created a climate of fear.

People like Broad and Anderson probably don’t want to speak out now for fear of losing their England careers – if it happened to KP it can happen to them.

There is a climate now where you cannot criticise Cook, see his comments about ‘something needing to be done’ about Shane Warne.

The Aussie’s comments are strong yes but I am sure he said far worse from 22 yards away when trying to get a batsman out!

Yet there seems to be no one in Cook’s ear saying, sod the critics, shut them up by going out and getting a bucket load of runs.

Because in this situation of Cook’s and the ECB’s making, the criticism will only get louder and louder while the captain can’t get a run and England don’t win cricket games.

I think it’s already too late though, Cook looks finished and should England lose the test, ODI and t20 series against India he should go.

If he stays he might have to answer more criticism when KP bares all in October…..

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Suarez is an idiot

LUIS Suarez is an idiot

A FANTASTIC footballer who is lethal in front of goal yet he goes and does VERY stupid things.

To bite someone once is unfortunate, twice stupid and three times well just pain moronic.

Surely someone somewhere can say to this grown man that the time for biting was when he was a toddler and not a global football star.

There can be no excuse, the defender was pushing and pulling me? Newsflash Luis, that is what they do.

You have a god given talent, if a defender wants to get physical then embarrass him by sticking him on his backside and scoring a brilliant goal.

Don't start eating him! The ban imposed by FIFA is a farce as he can be transferred and he will be on a beach for at least three weeks before the punishment really takes effect.

The shocking stat for me is since 2010 Luis Suarez has been banned for 34 GAMES without picking up a red card.

Football needs Luis Suarez to sort himself out before he is remembered for the bad not the good.

And to be honest, the next time he does it, he might lose some of those teeth if a defender decides to chin him!

Monday, 23 June 2014

A hidden jewel in the Welsh countryside

After a couple of lazy days on holiday we enjoyed visits to Newtown, to Machynlleth and to a lovely nature sanctuary down the road from there.

Run by the RSPB, the Cors Dyfi nature project is home to the famous Ospreys Monty and Glesni who return each spring to mate and bring new life into the world.

Live web cams greet you in the reception to watch Glesni take care of her chicks who had hatched just day before our visit.

And the highlight is the walk through the reserve, where you can catch a glimpse of a water buffalo and other wildlife.

The wonderful 360 degree observatory is a sight to behold though (pictured) and allows for fabulous views of the Welsh countryside.

Perfect for adults and a great chance to educate youngsters about the natural world, the centre exists on donations alone. It's a wonderful day out with just a suggested donation of £2.50 per day.

Find out more about it using the links below, we enjoyed it immensely and hopefully baby Jacob will be going back when he is with us!

Friday, 20 June 2014

Why it's not the end of the World for England

WE are out of the World Cup football is not coming home once again but sadly England are after their final group game with Costa Rica on Tuesday.

Inevitably it took less than 10 minutes before the post-mortem began, we have held so many now you think we would prepare them in advance.

‘We should have picked Terry’, ‘Ashley Cole should have gone’, ‘It’s all Roy Hodgson’s fault’ and ‘They don’t seem to care’ are just some of the comments I have seen.

Yet no one seems have to have noticed we have lost narrowly to the teams ranked seventh (Uruguay) and ninth (Italy) in the FIFA rankings – England are tenth by the way.

The truth of the matter is against Italy, a cavalier England were ruthlessly exposed down one side by a nation which makes a living on the tactical side of the game.

And against Uruguay, the South Americans had two shots on target and scored with both, England had several and scored with one. It twas always thus in football…

You have to wonder how the game would have panned out had Godin been shown a second yellow card for his arm/slap on Daniel Sturridge after the blatant handball.

That is not an excuse, watch the game again and see how many times Godin is involved in defensive situations.

Defensively, England have been dreadful in this tournament and rightly punished but going forward the team have a youthful zest and vigour not seen for a long while.

And I don’t remember Roy Hodgson ever saying we would win the World Cup, nor any of the players for that matter so let’s nail some of these criticisms of Hodgson and the team.

‘We should have picked Terry, he’s a leader’ – John Terry voluntarily gave up the chance to represent his country and anyone watching the Premier League this year will know that against pacey strikers he was often found wanting.

‘Ashley Cole should have gone’ – Ashley Cole couldn’t get into a Chelsea team which nearly won the Premier League this year so why should he start as first choice left back for the national team?

‘It’s all Roy Hodgson’s fault’ – After every major tournament we call for youth and a new approach, Roy did just that after Euro 2012 and slowly introduced the likes of Shaw, Sterling, Lallana and Berkley. Yet now he stands accused of doing too much too soon and ignoring experience at his peril.

No wonder we label it the ‘hardest job in the country’ because he cannot win whatever he does.

Hodgson remains the best man for the job, a coach who has travelled the world and knows more about the world game than any other ‘English’ coach.

Perhaps if we as a nation stop calling the bloated, arrogant and money laden Premier League ‘the best in the world’ and realise we have no god given right to win anything then the work of getting back to the top can truly begin.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Farewell Paxo and thanks for the memories

JEREMY Paxman was one of the journalists on television that made me want to seek a career in the industry.

Tonight he took his leave of Newsnight and journalism is somewhat lesser for his departure.

Love him or despise him, no British television journalist could interview like Paxo.

Fools weren't suffered gladly, politicians were yanked 'off message' and crooks and liars were exposed.

Not many came out of a Paxman interview without a scar or several, careers were often broken at his hands.

Michael Howard was leader of the Conservative Party and one election away from becoming PM. Yet mention his name to 100 people and I would wager at least half remember the 'Did you threaten to overrule him' interview...

Type George Galloway and Paxman into YouTube for one of the best two minute of television you will see...

His capacity to eviscerate is legendary, some may say bullying but it was always in pursuit of the truth and holding politicians to account.

In closing this I wanted to make some pithy remark which of course he would have hated.

Instead I found a tweet from the wonderful broadcaster Alastair Stewart who said: "Thanks Paxo. When interested, focused & on form, never equalled. When bored & doubtful of some items, he spoke for many of us."

And the man himself in a Channel 4 interview explained his 'modus operandi' 

"Find things out, inform people and let them make their own judgement." 

Enough said!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

'Spirit of Cricket' is the real villain, not Sri Lanka

There has been plenty of debate about the 'run-out' of Jos Buttler in yesterday's ODI at Edgbaston with everyone from former England captains to Piers Morgan having their say.

But England are victims of their own stupidity and both teams are the victim of the airy-fairy 'Spirit of Cricket' which leaves the potential for conflict like we saw yesterday evening.

In no other sport are the laws of the game left open to interpretation like cricket.

Sri Lanka gave a batsman two warnings, he did it again and rightfully they appealed, as per the laws of the game.

Having had two warnings, Jos Buttler ought to have boxed clever and ensured it didn't happen again.

But we then had the farcical situation of umpire Michael Gough having to speak to Angelo Matthews asking
him if he wanted to uphold an appeal despite the dismissal being within the laws of the game!.

Matthews made a choice to uphold it, just as Stuart Broad chose to stand there when he was clearly caught at first slip in the first Ashes Test last Summer.

Broad had to live with the choice as will Matthews who can probably expect a lot of angry English fast bowlers in the two test matches which follow.

But the fact the teams are in this position is a farce, the Spirit of Cricket needs to be radically altered and spelt out to teams – my suggestion would be play hard, play fair and play within the laws of the game.

Broad doesn't walk 'It's against the Spirit of Cricket', Sri Lanka 'Mankad' Buttler 'It's against the Spirit of Cricket'...

The MCC and ICC need to man up and decide just what is and is not in the laws of the game and not continue with this farcical 'oh it is in the laws but dear boy it's not cricket' rubbish.

Otherwise it won't be too long before all this crops up again!