A Quick Thank You

20 12 2010

Today, remarkably, the Compulsive Hooker is one year old! I would like to thank, in our best Oscar acceptance speech style, everyone who has read, commented or contributed on the website as without you (sniff, sniff, wipes away tears) the Hooker would be nothing. Actually, technically, there would in all likelihood still be a website – just one with not a great deal of point behind it…

One unforeseen consequence of calling yourself the ‘Compulsive Hooker’ has been the interesting search terms people use to find us. ‘Pakistani Hooker’, ‘Indian Hooker’ all popping up now and again. Special thanks though must go to the chaps (we presume) who reach this website by searching for ‘Bangladeshi Hooker’ – one of you at least keeps coming back so we have obviously found a cricket fan by an alternative route there…

Another popular but random search term that regularly refers us traffic has been ‘Ben Young’s Girlfriend’. We don’t know who she is or what she looks like but we conclude that she must be of interest as this given us a not insignificant number of hits this year.

Thanks to the ever amusing Jrod at Cricket With Balls and, on the rugby side of things, to that excellent blog Total Flanker for the consistent  referral traffic. Thanks are also due to all of the friends of the Compulsive Hooker who come to the site through Facebook or Twitter. We will soon be setting up a page on Facebook so please join that as and when…

So with far more people visiting the site than we ever imagined possible back in January when we had just over 500 people in our first month – most of whom were our direct relatives – we will say thank you again and please keep coming back!





Bradman/Tendulkar: How Do You Rate The Greatest Ever?

20 10 2010

Sir Don Bradman

The Compulsive Hooker read an article in yesterday’s Times* sports section written by that excellent and usually cogent journalist, Simon Barnes, on the subject of ‘greatest ever’ players and the difficulties of comparing across the eras. It is a rare sport after all that has not changed dramatically in certain ways and, in some, almost completely so that the form of  the game is unrecognisable from its humble beginnings.

The main example used in Barnes’ article is the very topical comparison of the highest international run scorer of all time, Sachin Tendulkar, to the the batsman most would consider to be the unparalleled example of this craft, Sir Donald Bradman. Before we get any further we would like to say that this article is not supposed to be a piece looking at the two players relative merits in any great depth; but to question the arguments used in the Times piece in question.

Comparing players across the ages is of course something that any sports fan will have indulged in at some stage – usually in a bar and often quite vociferously. Indeed we at the Compulsive Hooker are eminently guilty of this having only recently taken the time (and not an inconsiderable amount of it either) to pick our Test Cricket All Time World XI. On a website in which our average article garners only three or four comments and responses currently, the fact that this piece has so far gained twenty seven responses says it all. These are frequently thorny subjects as not a small amount of partisanship inevitably comes into it; along with the fact that there are relatively few eye witnesses around today who, in this instance, would have seen both Bradman and Tendulkar at their peaks (and most importantly perhaps, been able to judge).

Sachin Tendulkar

The conclusion of the article is eminently sensible and one with which we heartily agree; Barnes deciding that ‘we must at least entertain the possibility that in different eras, Bradman, [George] Best and [Jim] Clark would have been lesser figures.” (For those who might not know the other two names George Best was a footballer from Northern Ireland and Manchester United, whilst Jim Clark was the dominant Formula 1 Racing driver from the ’60’s).

What Barnes is not saying is that Tendulkar is better than Bradman – rather that we must consider the possibility of this being the case. It is also not this possibility (which we agree could be so) that has got us thinking but, instead, it is the methods with which people compare these greats from across the ages that has prompted us to write this article.

The old arguments regarding the speed and quality of modern day bowling; how Bradman would have fared with a helmet; how the improved standards of fielding would have affected his ability to score; the higher stakes nature of modern cricket and many more reasons have been trotted out like a faithful old hound. Yet, equally, this can be reversed by asking whether Tendulkar would have fared as well in Bradman’s time – an era of difficult and uncovered pitches making batting tricky; batting without a helmet against the fast bowlers of the day (and there were some to rank up with anything around in the modern game – think Larwood, Lindwall et al); using a bat that weighed closed to two pounds rather than his modern day monster which cause even defensive shots go for four – the list goes on.

In our opinion, whilst obviously a method which has its own flaws, the best way – and really the only way – is to compare how a player rates against their contemporaries and from that compare the all time greats.

We must acknowledge of course that one thing modern science and training techniques have given sport is a narrowing at the top – something that can be seen most emphatically in something as easily quantifiable as athletics. There are more people operating in that top three or four per cent than there used to be but it still remains very rare that a Beamon-esque (or perhaps Usain Bolt like) moment occurs.

Beamon and Bolt have at different moments over the last 50 years annihilated (for that is the only word) the previous records by such a distance that they could undoubtedly be considered amongst the greatest, if not perhaps, the greatest ever. Beamon’s 1968 long jump record has of course since been broken but the point remains – perhaps given modern training methods and techniques, Beamon could have even improved further on that mark and could therefore conceivably have been the greatest long jumper in history.

What is certain is that Bradman was so far ahead of his contemporaries and indeed, so far ahead of anyone in the game ever statistically, that it seems reasonable to us to call him the best ever. Tendulkar, for all his brilliance (and don’t take us the wrong way on this) is not even reckoned by some to have been the best player of his era. Brian Lara, for example, is someone who could reasonably challenge for this honour. For the record our money is on Tendulkar, but, if he is not unanimously rated as the best of his era, it is unlikely he is the best of all time – that is of course unless Lara is also challenging for the very same honour…

Therefore suggesting Bradman would not have been as good as Tendulkar in the modern era for the reasons given by Barnes (not that he himself is actually suggesting this is the case) assumes that automatically Tendulkar would have been as fine a player then as he is now – something that in our opinion is simply not a given. It is a different argument as to whether Bradman could have survived in the modern game or Tendulkar in the cricket of the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s.

The Compulsive Hooker’s view is that we would back both Tendulkar and Bradman to adjust their games to the demands of either era; or put differently, had they been born in reverse order still to be up there with similar records that you see today. It is conceivable, as Barnes rightly suggests, that Bradman might have found the physical demands tougher which could perhaps have affected his record downwards slightly and, likewise, potentially Tendulkar’s may have gone up – but the difference is so big to start with that, for us at least, it is still Bradman.

Ultimately, we would like to say that we are not suggesting that people stop having these discussions – that would obviously be highly hypocritical – but to realise that the argument; ‘he wouldn’t have fared so well in todays game’ is moot when talking about best ever elevens.

Fun – but still moot!

*Due to the Times incredibly annoying habit of  making you pay to view their articles, we cannot find the article itself to link to so you’re going to have to trust us that we have been fair to the piece in question!





A Truly Worrying Sporting Development

5 07 2010

We are currently sitting watching the Australia Pakistan game and have noticed a dreaded and worrying development in the method of support that the crowd use. Inevitably and unfortunately it is this piece of noise polluting plastic:

The worst thing to happen to sport probably ever...

We haven’t mentioned them yet in our writing as we hoped if we ignored them they might go away. Sadly it appears not. We also haven’t heard them in any other sporting occasion than the world cup so this apparent spread is a truly disturbing phenomenon!

They have been one of the reasons (probably even the main reason) we haven’t enjoyed the football world cup so much – there drone proving to be more irritating than even Cristiano Ronaldo’s behaviour. We have no truck with the people calling them a traditional sporting spectators instrument (absolute rubbish) and sincerely hope that places like Lords will never allow them in.

Imagine trying to concentrate with Shaun Tait bowling at you in a crucial Ashes session only to be distracted by what sounds like a huge swarm of bees attacking you.

It’s just simply not cricket.





Out Of The Ashes

16 06 2010

Since the 20/20 world cup a month or so ago, most of the cricketing world is aware of the extraordinary story that is Afghanistan and its cricket team.

We have been following this story for a while and, having written about it in several past articles, we thought we would just mention that there is now a behind the scenes documentary detailing their rise over the past few years.

Thanks are due to Jrod at Cricket With Balls for bringing the fact that the film is now out to my attention. For further information and trailers go to http://www.outoftheashes.tv/ for what promises to be a truly memorable and moving journey.





French Cricket Anyone?

5 06 2010

There are truly earth shattering events taking place in Europe at the moment. Indeed in France, where these major ructions are taking place, the whole French way of life is being threatened. This is not, you may think, anything to do with the wobbles and uncertainties currently surrounding the Euro; neither is it anything to do with that great French patriot President Sarkozy, although you suspect he may have strong opinions on the matter, but is in fact all to do with the greatest game on earth: namely cricket!

It seems that the French, despite years of mocking ‘les rosbifs’ for our supposedly eccentric ways and delight in playing an apparently incomprehensible game, have decided to take up cricket themselves. It appears that due to the major influx in recent years of large amounts of  Brits, West Indian’s of various nationalities, Bangladeshi’s and especially Sri Lankans, the demand for cricket has been rising by as much as 10% year on year. Quite astonishingly, as much as 40% of these players are actually French nationals themselves, which is a surprisingly high number and brings a whole new meaning to the term ‘French cricket’! The stated aim is to have a semi professional league as early as 2015 which would be no mean achievement. Ireland, for example, long more of cricketing nation than France, are unlikely to achieve this in the foreseeable future.

Cricket is a sport that is currently taking off around the world in all sorts of unlikely destinations. China is another area in which the sport, similarly to France, is being introduced into the schools curriculum and which in 20 to 30 years could easily change the face of world cricket. What is unusual though is the language issues faced by both of these countries as to play in English, especially for the French, would be unthinkable! What this means is that a whole new lexicon of cricketing terms could become common in cricketing circles over the next few years. As per the Times article (click here); these are some of the translations in use:

  • Fielder chasseur (literally, hunter)
  • Batsman batteur (drummer)
  • Bowler lanceur (thrower)
  • Bouncer rase-tête (head shaver)
  • Donkey drop balle en cloche (bell-shaped ball)
  • Duck zéro pointé (zero points)
  • Four touche indirecte (indirect touch)
  • Six touche directe (direct touch)
  • Googly bosanquet (after Bernard Bosanquet, the inventor of the googly)
  • Stump piquet (post)
  • Wicket maiden vierge couronnée (crowned virgin)
  • Corridor of uncertainty le couloir du doute (corridor of doubt)

Great stuff altogether. Thinking about it further, the Compulsive Hooker quite fancies playing some cricket over there – after all the teas must be excellent… Visions of fine cheeses and freshly baked baguettes in between innings sound just fine to us!





A Legend Returns

18 04 2010

Very surprising news has surfaced this weekend, with the announcement that Brian Lara will be signing for Surrey to play in their 20/20 campaign this Summer. This news has elicited mixed reactions from us at the Compulsive Hooker, with excitement at seeing the great man play once more mingling with concern that he will tarnish his enormous reputation.

Lara, although he seems to be a player from very recent cricketing history, is actually a dinosaur in that he came from the pre 20/20 cricketing age. Having played his last test match in 2006, he missed the explosion in popularity of 20/20 cricket in the game by only a short while, and now being almost 41, it will be interesting to see how he goes. During his pomp Lara was a breathtaking player, having the ability to hit good balls almost anywhere that he wanted when set, and like the current greats of Tendulkar, Sehwag, Kallis etc, surely he would have been a masterful exponent of the shortest form of the game. The prospect of him seeing him play 20/20 is therefore potentially a mouth watering one.

Lara himself is always going to be the best judge as to whether a comeback is a good idea or not, and we hope for his sake that he is making the correct decision. There are many examples of legends returning to their chosen sport, only to see it go wrong. Possibly a current example unfolding before our eyes is Michael Schumacher’s attempts in Formula 1, although he does have the mitigating factor of an arguably less good car than his rivals. Lara, on the other hand, can hardly blame his bat if he doesn’t score any runs….

*************

There have been a host of strange overseas signings in the past few weeks, Lara being just one of them. At least with the great man you can at least partially understand the logic. Other signings include Elton Chigumbura of Zimbabwe who is going to Northamptonshire and Tino Best of the West Indies who has signed for Yorkshire. Chigumbura is known probably only to the most avid of international cricket followers, and to tell the truth is a handy cricketer, one of the few who regularly pull Zimbabwe out of the doldrums with a fighting 60 from numbr 7 or 8, yet we are doubtful he has the quality to be a star overseas player. Tino Best of course is known mostly, not from any exploits with ball in hand, but from being ‘sledged’ out by Freddie Flintoff in a test match at Lords. Flintoff’s ‘mind the windows, Tino’ winding the Barbadian up so much he was promptly dismissed.

Admittedly the IPL and Indian board’s intransigent and slightly, it appears, revengeful attitude to the ECB’s decision to not alter the County Championship schedule so it does not clash with the 20/20 Champions League, mean that perhaps there are less high quality players available. Yet, it seems to us, a sad indictment of our County Game when players such as these are being signed. Surely Yorkshire and Northamptonshire have homegrown players who, at least, have the potential to be as good as these two?





Dingo’s Rant: A Surprising Australian Viewpoint

4 04 2010

A debut contribution from a regular reader, Dingo. A fair dinkum Aussie, who has a love of all things sporting, he will be writing the odd article now and again.

It would take the best part of an hour to get the cows from the pitch. An inconvenience sure, but none the less an efficient way to keep the outfield from becoming overgrown.

1987, Woongoolba Year 6 cricket, a credible enough team considering the shallow pool of players to choose from. A school of only 200 children, if it hadn’t been for the lure of escaping classes on Wednesday afternoons, it might have been impossible to field a team at all.

So there we were, on a pitch surrounded by the sugar cane plantations, sons of farmers, fishermen and mill workers. Shoes were optional (more required to avoid the leavings of the absent bovine than anything performance related) and sharing of equipment was mandatory. A cracking match against the visitors from Jacobs was underway. Nobody knew the score by the time the last pair were at the crease, (scoreboards being in short supply in the cane fields), but the general feeling was Woongoolba were about fifty runs off the pace. After a dazzling flurry of shots that would not  have been present in any textbooks, furious running and brave calling between the wickets, what felt like a game winning partnership had been achieved. In due course the last wicket had fallen and the question came up who was victorious. Mr. Henderson, Umpire and Year 6 teacher, informed us “I actually stopped counting the runs a while back, you boys were having such fun and working so hard, I felt that nobody deserved to lose”.The funny thing was, everyone was completely satisfied with that, not to mention the cows who were allowed back in to their favored grazing areas.

It’s hard to remember a time when professional sports and sporting occasions were just that, fun. It seems like every decision, goal or achievement is associated with business rather than pleasure. Every mistake is analysed and the appropriate person chastised. Every victory a testament to planning and work ethic.

There is simply no time for fun. Just ask a football manager, Mr Benitez? Having fun? Nope,  no fun there. Rugby? Mr. Johnson? Having a good time? I’m guessing by that scowl, not too much. And yet, we watch our favored sports as entertainment. You know, fun stuff.

Fun, entertainment, call it what you will, but it is not necessarily mutually exclusive from the professional game. Remember when Clive Lloyd was leading his Caribbean Kings on a swathe of destruction through the cricket world? How could calypso flair not be fun? And surely Brazil in full flow, in pursuit of yet another world cup, is fun? They play with an obvious joy which is a pleasure to watch.

So why are teams so scared to let their players have fun?  From my view point, I’m definitely inspired by those who appear to be enjoying their game. Freddie Flintoff, Shane Warne, Dan Carter, all seem to be going about their business with a smile on their face which is refreshing to see. So c’mon, entertain us, enjoy yourself, play the way you love to play, the way you learnt to play on the cow fields or parking lots growing up. Throw the speculative pass. Send more men into attack instead of behind the ball, swing the willow in the middle overs, you may not succeed, but you’ll win some fans who also miss the fun. Try it, you might be surprised!

Note from the Compulsive Hooker: Those of you wondering if an Australian can truly have written about having fun rather than winning, let me assure you he is genuinely from the land down under and assures me that his next piece will be much more ‘Australian’.








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