Guns

I am going to talk about guns.

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Claude Tozer: First-class Australian cricketer, World War 1 veteran and a medical doctor. Played in seven matches for New South Wales in the 1920-21 Sheffield Shield Season. He averaged 46 and change and scored a century and a handful of half centuries.

Shot and killed by a patient in 1921.

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Jeff Stollmeyer: West Indian Test cricketer in the 50s, played in 32 Tests, and averaged over 42 with the bat.

Shot and killed by home invaders in 1989.

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Haseeb-ul-Hasan: Pakistani first-class cricketer.

Shot and killed in 1991.

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William Strydom: South African first-class cricketer. South African Cricketer of the Year in 1977.

Shot and killed by robbers in 1995.

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Ashley Harvey-Walker: English first-class cricketer who scored over 3,100 runs for Derbyshire and took seven wickets once as a bowler against Surrey. He played in the infamous “snowed out” match I brought up a couple weeks ago.

Shot and killed in a Johannesburg bar in 1997.

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Francois Weideman: South African first-class cricketer who played in 40 first-class for two different clubs. After retiring he worked for the South African Cricket Union, a “development program aimed at disadvantaged communities.

Shot and killed during a robbery attempt in 2001.

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Rahatullah: Pakistani first-class cricketer and also represented his country for the U-19s.

Shot and killed by unknown assailants in 2008.

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Louis Vorster: South African first-class cricketer. Played 95 first-class matches and scored 4,786 runs.

Shot and killed by armed robbers just this past April.

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Errol Peart: American cricketer.

Shot and killed during a robbery.

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All of the above thanks in large part to this wikipedia article.

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This has been a complicated post for me in a lot ways.

America has an issue with gun violence, with gun culture, and with guns in general. I firmly believe that the answer is less guns, not more guns, and not the same amount of guns in the hands of different people.

The above list of cricketers of course contains only one American, and almost all of their murders happened during robbery attempts, and therefore might have very well been foiled if the victim or a bystander had been armed; and in the case of Claude Tozer, who was killed by a mentally unstable patient, the idea that guns are not the problem, that the mental health safety net is, also comes into play.

And so in a lot of ways, this list of murdered cricketers does not reinforce my belief, in fact it contradicts it: gun violence is not an American problem, and it can be solved if “good” and “sane” people are able to protect themselves, and it can be solved if the “evil” and “insane” are off the streets getting the help they need.

But I stand by my premise: America needs far fewer guns. And anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong.

I don’t think we should melt them all down, but I do think that laws similar to Australia’s and the United Kingdom’s (both enacted after horrific mass killings: Port Arthur and Dublane, respectively), while draconian by American standards, would go a very long way toward savings countless lives. And I am going to stand by that belief.

It is just not worth it. Not anymore. Your guns are not worth it.

And no, it is not solely an American problem, and yes upstanding citizens should be able to protect themselves, and yes our mental health safety net is a laughing stock, but none of the above matters* if we simply make if viciously illegal in this country to own a handgun, a semi-automatic weapon, an assault rife.

I firmly believe that.

And I firmly believe that if laws such as the UK’s and Australia’s had been implemented 10 years ago, then those kids and those teachers in Newtown are very much alive at this moment.

We are late, America. We have failed those kids. And it cost them their lives. But now is our chance for redemption. Change the laws, change the culture, and save lives.

It’s just not worth it anymore.
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And don’t talk to me about arming teachers. It’s a fallacy. It’s a non-starter. Owning a gun means you are more likely to be a gun shot victim. It is time for a serious discussion about guns in this country. Preaching bullshit clouds the discussion and keeps us all from progress. Stop it.

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More cricket tomorrow. If anyone is still reading.

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*A mental health safety net is vitally important, don’t get me wrong. In fact, far more than just a safety net is required if we are to maintain a functioning society, but we would no longer need to be as scared of those that fall through the cracks, and there will always be cracks, if guns are not readily accessible.

Cricket at the Edge of the World

My favorite cricket ground on the planet is the Bellerive Oval in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.

The pitch is not really anything to write home about (though of the 11 Tests played at the ground, eight have produced a result), and the terraces and stands are not particularly spectacular or historical, but the views of the Derwent river and the hills across the river it affords those of us lucky enough to watch the matches there on television are truly breathtaking:

belleriveovalAs the matches progress, the cameras often show us the Tasmanians sailing, fishing, and otherwise enjoying the Australian summer; it gives the games a nice summery and festive feel that other grounds do not. It does not hurt of course that when it is warm and sun soaked in Australia, it is cold and miserable here in Minneapolis.

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So many cricket grounds, especially those it seems in Australia, are outside of the city centers, in warehouse districts, settled in among bland office buildings; and so it is nice when there is a ground like the Bellerive Oval to savor.

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And speaking more lyrically, there is something to be said for cricket at the edge of the  world.

Bellerive is not the most southern cricket Test ground, those plaudits go to University Oval in Dunedin, New Zealand, but Bellerive is a very close second, and Hobart is on an island, adrift in the Southern Ocean, the last outpost before Antarctica. A lone watchtower on the far edge of the known universe.

Again, speaking lyrically, but it does give the matches a touch of the fantastical, that I enjoy.

If I had to pick one ground to see a Test match at, I would not pick Lord’s or the MCG or the Wankhede, I would pick the Bellerive Oval.

Cricket at the end of the world; at the bottom of it all.

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Major Announcement

Dear USA based readers (and other assorted parties):

I wanted to introduce you to a new page here on Limited Overs, the World Cricket Internet Schedule for US Viewers.

The page will list all upcoming International matches (including IPL, BBL, and other major tournaments), separated by date, with a local US time – AND it will tell you where to watch the match, on the Internet, in the United States.

I feel that as the sport grows in popularity here in the states, both among the ex-pat community, as well as among native born Americans, and coverage of the sport increases, this will become an invaluable resource for my fellow stateside cricket fans. And while of course right now the only Internet sources showing cricket matches are Willow and ESPN3, I think that will change in the future, so I am getting a head start. And even before other sources come along, it will be a good place to see which matches are coming up on any given day, on a site geared toward fans in the United States, so you can plan your days and nights accordingly.

I also hope to expand it soon to include those matches on actual television, not just the Internet.

Anyway, check it out, bookmark it, and come back often. Also please do let me know if you have any thoughts or feedback or suggestions.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Cheers.

Dessert Course

A few days ago, over on The Full Toss, James Morgan expressed his thoughts on how enjoyable the India versus England series has been due to the fact that there is no DRS. He took quite a flogging in the comments, and I have to ask: would James be just as dismissive of replay technology if England were down 2-1 instead of up 2-1? Probably not.

That said, I have to say: I agree with him.

After watching Australia v South Africa and all of the appeals and all of the reviews and all of the reversals, it feels quite cleansing to watch a series where when the umpire puts his finger up, the batsman walks. You don’t have to put your joy or sorrow on hold, you get to enjoy the pure moment. It is one of the things I enjoy about County Cricket, and I must stay that I am enjoying it on World Cricket’s biggest stage, as well.

Bear in mind throughout this post that I only started following the sport in the spring of 2007, and DRS came around not two years later, so it is not like I am a hopeless traditionalist longing for the bygone days when men were men and out was out. It is just simply cleansing to watch, like I am enjoying the sport how it was meant to be enjoyed. Like a pacemaker restoring the rhythm of an old man’s heart.

Unfortunately, I feel like a bit of a heel, I feel a little embarrassed, and I feel a little dirty. For over the past few years I have done nothing but extoll the virtues of technology in sport. I have gotten on my high horse and bemoaned the lack of goal line technology in football; I have cried foul at baseball’s reliance on the human eye to judge whether a 98 mile-per-hour tailing away fastball was a millimeter too far outside in game seven of the World Series, not to mention in every other game of the season; and I have nodded approvingly at sports like American football and rugby and cricket and basketball that use technology and use it well.

Getting the call right, that’s the important thing – that’s what I always say: there is too much at stake to fool around with human error.

But maybe I was wrong, maybe all I have wanted my entire life is to debase myself in that quintessential trait of humanity: the fact that we are prone to mistakes, and that is what makes life interesting.

Perfection is boring. Imperfection is what gets us up in the morning.

Or maybe not. Maybe this is just a nice palette cleanser, like a sorbet between courses, before getting back to the nuts and bolts of the real world; a real world where we use all the tools at our disposal to ensure the team that wins deserves to win – and that’s not all that terrible of a world to live in.

Plus DRS or no DRS, we still get plenty of imperfection in cricket: just ask David Warner.

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You can’t go home again

This post inspired by Subash’s post over on the Cricket Couch.

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In less than three hours, Sachin Tendulkar will walk out to play his 194th, and quite possibly last, Test match for India.

I am not saying he should or should not retire, or that he will or will not retire, that decision lies solely with him, for he and he alone knows if there are runs left in his bat, and he has earned the right to make the decision himself, but the point remains: come Monday evening, he could very well be walking off the pitch wearing the Indian whites for the very last time.

Only 39 years old, and it feels as though I am writing his obituary.

And that’s the thing about athletes, they achieve so much when they are still so young – the average Olympian is only 26 years old, for instance – and because of the way the body breaks down as we all age, they are forced to hang it all up just as the rest of us are starting to hit our strides.

For most people, our 20s can be a little aimless. We are unsure of our skin, this world and our place in it; but by our thirties, we know what makes us happy, we have decent incomes, we have people around us that we love. In a lot of ways, for regular folks, life doesn’t really begin until our 30s.

The opposite is true for professional athletes.

After spending their entire lives, 30+ years, doing just one thing, and doing it better than 99% of the people on planet earth, they are forced to walk away from it forever.

That must scare the living crap out of them. It must feel like dying.

It’s identity theft, but instead of your bank account number, they steal your soul. Reach down and scrape it out and leave it on the bathroom floor.

I cannot imagine the level of emptiness athletes must feel when a new season rolls around and they are home with the kids, and the walls, and the quiet.

Am I being overdramatic? Of course I am, to some degree, but it is not uncommon for athletes to respond to the aforementioned blackness with drugs, spousal abuse, and other anti-social behaviors.

I look at Olympians on the medal stand and I think to myself: Christ, peaking at 19, how bloody depressing is that?

Honestly, of course, they are not peaking, they will go on to have kids and earn Doctorates, but I cannot help but think that those tears we all see gold medalists shed as their anthems blare are not tears of joy, but tears of sadness, tears of ending.

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Sachin, of course, will be okay. He has two children to hang out with, he has his millions of dollars, and he will probably go into coaching, or announcing, or maybe serve on a board or work for the ICC or start a business or just do nothing at all: take naps in the afternoon, and look back on a marvelous career.

All I am saying is that the cliff he is looking over and contemplating is not separating playing cricket from not playing cricket, it is separating life from death. If he jumps, a part of him dies – a very, very large part of him – and it dies forever. Therefore I honestly cannot begin to imagine the thoughts that must be in his head right now; though all of us have noticed the lack of twinkle in his eye, as if a darkness rests back there, tormenting him.

I do know that the above will be in my head as I watch this Test.

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I don’t talk a lot about Sachin on this blog, though I really could not tell you why. But just for the sake of my non-cricket-fan readers (and it turns out there are a few): Sachin Tendulkar is the greatest cricketer who ever lived. Full stop.

Cricket was already popular in India of course when he made his debut in 1989, but in the 23 years since, the game has gone from past time to obsession for one billion Indians, and countless more cricket fans the world over, no matter their allegiance.

He has 15,643 Test runs, the most all time, and over 2,000 more than the second most all time.

He has 51 Test centuries, the most all time.

He has 100 centuries in all formats, the most all time by a country mile.

He has 34,079 runs in all formats. No one else has 33,000, 32,000, 31,000, 30,000, 29,000, or 28,000; the closest is Ponting with 27,483.

He is a revolutionary, an iconoclast, and the game as we all know it does not exist in its current format without Sachin.

He is Michael Jordan. He is Roger Federer. He is Tiger Woods. He is Pele. Babe Ruth, Wayne Gretzky, Jesse Owens.

But more. Picture any of those guys, but picture them carrying the weight of the whole of India on their backs, yet still able to perform at the highest level for 23 years.

I don’t talk a lot about Sachin Tendulkar on this blog, but I am going to miss him when he is gone. This game we love will not be the same ever again. But the hole he is going to leave in this sport and in our hearts will pale in comparison to the hole he will carry in him for the rest of his life after his cricketing days are over.

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Image shared via the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Image links to original.

Mystery Series

The two lowest ranked Test nations currently are of course Zimbabwe and Bangladesh (actually Zimbabwe isn’t even on the charts at this point, but let’s say they are for the sake of argument.)

In 2010, Zimbabwe played zero Tests. In 2011, three; in 2012, one; and next year they are scheduled to play six.

In 2010, Bangladesh played seven tests. In 2011, five; in 2012, two; and next year they are also scheduled to play six.

Now, 2011 and 2012 were of course World Cup years, so I guess their boards and the ICC and the boards of other nations can be forgiven for the lack of Tests scheduled for the weakest among us, and next year, a non-World Cup year (however, there is the Champions Trophy) they each have six Tests scheduled, which is an improvement, but I still think the lack of Tests, and the gaps between Tests, is simply shameful.

In their only two Tests this year, against the West Indies, Bangladesh got shellacked. It was hard to watch. And this is a decent enough Bangladeshi one day side that beat the West Indies in the ODI series.

But in the Tests it was not even close, and for the ICC who is looking to grow their game globally, it is a problem. And why even bother promoting Ireland to full Test status when they probably won’t be playing more than one or two Tests a year anyway?

Look, I understand that there are scheduling conflicts and backroom politics that I will never even begin to fully comprehend; plus of course there is the IPL and the Champions League and other competitions that, you know, actually make money, but I really do think it is time for Zimbabwe and Bangladesh and even other consistently under-performing Test sides like Sri Lanka and the West Indies and New Zealand to greatly increase their Test schedules – even if it means blowing up the current FTP and starting from scratch – in order to make the game globally more competitive.

And this all rolls downhill: better Test sides make better one-day sides, so everyone wins.

Here’s the all the raw data from the last few years, for fun: (countries sorted by current ICC ranking):

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And here it is in graph form, for fun (x axis is nations in descending order of current ICC ranking):

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After India, the drop off is dramatic.

Now this could very well be a “which came first the chicken or the egg?” situation, but it is rather obvious: fewer tests mean a poorer ICC ranking.

So how do things look going forward?

Here is the raw data again, with 2013 matches included (more on that in a second):

Picture 81South Africa might experience a dip in form down the road, as might India; while countries such as England, Sri Lanka, and the West Indies can probably expect their current form to hold.

I expect improvements, slight but improvements nonetheless, from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, and New Zealand.

Regarding NZ, they are only playing one more Test in 2013 than they did in 2012, but it is still more than double the number they played in 2010, so I still expect an improvement in form, despite current, errrrr, difficulties.

All of the above is for fun, meant to be taken with a grain of salt.

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Finding calendar year 2013 Tests was a vastly more difficult task than I thought it would be.

There is not a single good source out there that lists them all.

ICC’s Future Tours Programme is about as close as one gets but it is not divided into calendar years, it is clunky and difficult to navigate, and the data is not infallible, or all that reliable.

One quick example: they have a four Test series scheduled for February and March of this year, India versus Australia, in India.

The tour is not listed on Cricinfo. It is not listed on Cricket Australia’s website. It is not listed on BCCI’s website. The only place I could find it listed was on Willow.tv’s website, but they are not exactly the bastion of good information.

Subash over at the Cricket Couch talked to some pals of his in Chennai and confirmed the match there is happening in March, despite the fact that some sites I found had the matches happening in the West Indies (seriously.)

I think the mystery is solved in the last sentence of the above link: the schedule is not yet “declared” and then something something Cricket authority (lower case a).

I do think the series is of course actually going to happen, but it is just so utterly and completely ODD that there is not a good source that lists all upcoming matches in a clean, easy to navigate, format; one that includes not just matches in the next six months, but ALL scheduled Tests, ODIs, and T20s…

If this source already exists, please do let me know.

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This is just another example of how bloody difficult it can be to be a cricket fan in 2012, despite all of our advances.

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Snowed In

Not much to write about right now, cricket wise…England won at Kolkata and India are in CRISIS.

Cricket is the only sport where a team loses a match or two and OH MY GOD THE WORLD IS ENDING…DROP EVERYONE. I am not sure if it is a regional or cultural thing, but I doubt it, because it happens in Australia and South Africa and England as well as in India and Pakistan. It just might be because teams play so few Tests, and the matches have such profound impact due to their scarcity.

Or not.

Or maybe cricket fans and pundits and boards simply enjoy a good old fashioned knee jerk reaction, and maybe they just like to over-use the phrase “in crisis.”

What I know is this, India will be okay. They are going through a transitional phase as the old guard retires but I firmly believe they have plenty of good solid young talent to bridge the gap. And let’s not forget they won in Ahmedabad, and could still very well win at Nagpur, which means the series ends in a draw. And considering India were whitewashed by England in England just last summer and while I understand that these are Indian conditions, it does not change the fact that a vastly different Indian squad is doing better against a vastly similar England squad, and that’s something. 0-4 could be 2-2 and that’s improvement.

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Elsewhere, not a whole lot. Bangladesh beat the West Indies in a five match ODI series, which is great for the health of the game, globally speaking. Unfortunately, Bangladesh’s Test form is still abhorrent, and considering they are only scheduled to play four Tests in 2013, that’s not going to change any time soon.

The above is the basis for a future post to come later this week.

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We are still a few days away from the first Test between Australia and Sri Lanka, and I must say that I am very much looking forward to it: because it is going to be played at Hobart, my absolutely favorite Test ground.

Expect a lot of Hobart related gushing around here over the next week and a half, including a post later in the week.

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It is snowing here. And not just a flurry or a few inches, but one of those all day fourteen inchers that locks you inside for an entire day. I spent the day reading Jeffrey Eugenides’ brilliant novel “The Marriage Plot” (been taking a lovely break from non-fiction for the last six months) and thinking about what to write a blog post about. But I felt completely uninspired and lazy and bored and now it is after four so it will be dark very soon; and so I am going to have a beer and will leave you with a few links, for outside reading:

Re: Alastair Cook: If you have not read Minal’s posts about Alastair Cook for The Corridor of Certainty as well as for the Sightscreen, then do so now. If you have read them, then read them again.

I’ll wait…

Minal is a great supporter of my site and I felt terrible for not including her in my Ode to the Cricket Blogger piece. Please know: support like hers is invaluable, and it was a main source of inspiration for my words on cricket blogging’s fantastic community.

She wrote a follow-up/response to mine, as did Devanshu, read them both, they both say it better.

Re: Ricky Ponting: The Cricket Couch compiled a sizable handful of the blog posts about Ponting’s retirement. Check it out.

Re: Snow: I was in New York City in February of 2006 for what was then known as the Storm of the Century. I still have the New York Times from that day and it includes one of my favorite articles of all time. It’s not cricket related but it is worth a read. That, friends, is a template for how I want to write about cricket: informational and interesting with bits of poetry:

“for most of the day, the storm provided a rare chance to see what New York is like when it is forced to settle down, take a deep breath and go suddenly quiet.”

Re: Snow (part 2): Speaking of snow, in June of 1975, play was stopped at a County Championship match…because of snow. Unbelievable. Read all about it here.

Right, that’s your lot, more soon.