Olympiad

The Greeks defined an Olympiad as “a period of four years between Olympic Games, used in dating events.” In other words, an Olympiad wasn’t about athletic contests, it was instead the space between those contests. The events were just moments to mark time by.

This is why tournaments that take place every four years are special. They are more than just bats, balls and medals. They are a chance for us to look back at where we were four years ago, and to look forward to where we might be four years from now.

And given the precarious nature of our time on this planet, we of course also wonder if we will be here at all when the first coin is flipped in England in 2019.

2019.

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I started this blog a week or so after India lifted the cup in Mumbai. Four years ago almost to the day – give or take a fortnight or so. In that time, so much has happened. When I logged into WordPress for the first time that one morning in April, I was stuck in the worst job in my entire life, three (!!) jobs later, I am as happy with my employment status as I have ever been.

And that is just one, small part of the nearly 1,500 days that have passed since. Birthdays and Christmases and goodbyes and failures and successes. Little things, big things, smiles, bike rides, dinners, cups of coffee.

Change happens slowly, but it is always happening, and every four years when that Cricket World Cup final feed ends, we are forced to look back at that change, reflect on it, and wonder what will come next.

If it comes at all.

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Also in that four years, I wrote (guessing) about 500 blog posts. Some great, some terrible, most average. And this past fall, I hung it up. I was tired of it. I was uninspired. I had become jaded by the sport which is oh, so common. Far too common.

But now, four years after its birth, I think it is time to start posting here again. I like this place. This is a good place.

It’s time to come home.

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On cricket:

The whole of the cricket loving world – save Australia – wanted New Zealand to win last night, because every sports fan loves an underdog. The problem is of course that cricket does not love an underdog.

Despite a few glitches here and there, the game is relentlessly, tragically fair. In Test cricket, 99 times out of 100, the better team always wins. So while that ratio is a little lower in the one day game, it still hovers in the mid-90s in favor of the better team. And Australia are simply a more talented squad. Not on the day, not because of the MCG or the home crowd – they are just a more exceptional side than New Zealand.

The Kiwis, for all their aggressive, fun, swashbuckling cricket, just don’t have the chops on the pitch that their neighbors across the ditch have.

And that’s why we saw what we saw last night.

But it would have been fun if the cricketing Gods had given us a short reprieve before slamming the door shut on the party. The match effectively felt all but over when Starc bowled McCullum. And while the MCG exploded, you could almost feel the rest of the world’s heavy, resigned, sigh.

“Oh, that’s right,” we all said. “This is cricket.”

The partnership between Taylor and Elliot gave us hope, as did the early wicket of Finch, but we all knew better. We all talked about India’s defense of 183 at the 1983 World Cup, but we were well aware that we were fooling ourselves. This was Australia, at the MCG, on a perfect late summer’s day. While there wasn’t a Waugh or a Ponting or a Gilchrist, it was still Australia.

And it was still cricket.

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On hiatus

gone_fishing

In the meanwhile, follow me on twitter (both cricket Matt and regular Matt) and I plan on writing about all kinds of stuff (Arsenal, music, politics, video games) over on Medium.

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Notes from Around the System for October 1

Congrats to Captain Sana Mir and the entire Pakistan Women Cricket Team, for their gold medal in the Asian Games. From the Express Tribune: “Pakistan retained the women’s Twenty20 cricket gold medal at the Asian Games on Friday by defeating spirited Bangladesh in a rain-affected final, as Sri Lanka took home the bronze. … Pakistan, electing to bat after winning the toss, were restricted to 97-6 by a steady Bangladeshi bowling attack. Bismah Maroof top-scored with 24 and leg-spinner Rumana Ahmed claimed two wickets for 13 runs. … Bangladesh, making a strong dash for the revised Duckworth-Lewis target of 43 from seven overs following a heavy downpour during the break, scored 38-9 to lose by four runs.” The men’s tournament is at the semi-final stage.

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The American Cricket Federation has been busy the last couple weeks, launching newly designed kits and logos for each of its Champions League teams, and their third annual National Championship starts October 10. Via Facebook: “In addition to winning American bragging rights for 2014, the national champion team also receives an automatic invitation to represent the United States against the Canadian champion squad at the 2015 North American Cricket Championship in Phoenix, Arizona.”

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Scotland are in the market for a new director, as Roddy Smith is leaving for greener pastures after 10 years. The BBC: “During Smith’s time as chief executive, his management team have increased from eight to 25 and turnover has quadrupled. … Cricket Scotland reported a rise in participation figures for players, coaches and umpires during those 10 years. … And the national side have secured a place at next year’s World Cup finals in Australia and New Zealand by beating Kenya in a qualifying event.” Giles Clarke will probably be available after the next World Cup.

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Speaking of Kenya: “Aasif Karim, the former Kenya captain, has lamented the ‘death’ of Kenyan cricket in a year in which the national team lost the ODI status it received from the ICC in 1996 and failed to make it to the 50-over World Cup and this year’s World Twenty20 – the two premier ICC events. … ‘Kenya cricket is dead,’ Karim, who led Kenya during their 1999 World Cup campaign, said during an in extensive interview with ESPNcricinfo. ‘It is dead and buried. Your intent can be good but if you’re not competent to do something, it doesn’t happen. We’ve had an incompetent administration for the last ten years. The results are clear. Where is the cricket now? My prediction is that from being an Associate team having ODI status we will become an Affiliate.'” (via The Times of India.)

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The ICC has announced the fixture list for the WCL Division 3 tournament that starts Oct. 23: “Bermuda, Nepal, Singapore, Uganda, USA and host Malaysia will lock horns in the eight-day tournament across three grounds, Kinrara, Bayeumas and Selangor Turf Club, with the tournament final to be played at Kinrara on Thursday, 30 October. … The two finalists will gain promotion to Pepsi ICC WCL Div. 2, which will be played in Namibia from 17 to 24 January 2015.  Pepsi ICC WCL Div. 2 is the final step in the qualification pathway to the ICC’s four-day, first-class competition for Associate and Affiliate Members, the ICC Intercontinental Cup, as well as the 50-over Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Championship.” Lots at stake in other words. I am checking to see if it will be streamed anywhere. Keep an eye on the Streaming Schedule.

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Not football, cricket. From Andina: “Peru and two other South American nations (Brazil and Colombia) will compete in the Amazon Cup Twenty Cricket Tournament to be held on October 4 and 5 in the Colombian capital, Bogota. … Cricket has been played in Peru for over 150 years, at the Lima Cricket & Football Club, and is now undergoing resurgence as a recently-admitted Affiliate Member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and a founder member of Cricket South America, along with Argentina, Brazil and Chile. … The Peruvian capital hosted a triangular Cricket South America Under-13 tournament between Peru, Chile and Argentina in April 2010 and again in 2011.”

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Finally today: Yahoo has a great gallery of photos from the cricket match played at the Summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

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Notes from Outside the System: Sept. 17 – Sept. 24

Cricket Ireland logo.svg

From SportsKeeda: “Ireland’s Gaby Lewis became the second youngest cricketer (male or female) to make an appearance in international cricket, when she took to the field against the South African women’s team last Tuesday. … Lewis was 13 years and 166 days during her debut T20 international, beating teammate Elena Tice to 2nd place on the list of youngest debutants in international cricket history. Tice had made her debut back in 2011 at the age of 13 years and 272 days. … Pakistan’s Sajjida Shah holds the record for being the youngest cricketer to feature at the international level, having made her debut at the age of 12 years and 271 days in 2000.”

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Sometimes I forget that Jersey is its own country (a parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy, to be exact). Via BBC Sport: “Jersey’s Lee Meloy has been named the International Cricket Council’s European coach of the year. Meloy, the island’s development officer, helped guide Jersey to inter-insular victory over Guernsey and was part of the support staff at World League Four in Singapore.
He also coached the Under-17s to success at European Division Two in Essex.” (Guernsey, on the other hand, is not part of the United Kingdom, but is a possession of the British Crown. Whatever that means.)

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Seriously. The cricket match at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro is the goofiest thing anyone has ever done ever. I know I am beating a dead horse but I can’t over the lunacy. For a good cause though, I guess. An interview with one of the participants is posted on GiveMeSport.com.

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Can’t help but agree: “Ryan ten Doeschate is the best associate cricketer of our times,” according to SportsKeeda. “Even though he has not played a whole lot of international cricket, he has plied his trade against some of the best in the world, and has been successful in pretty much all conditions. With his record, one cannot help but feel that he would have probably had a good career had he chosen to play for South Africa too, but there is no doubt that he has been the best player of his generation from the associate nations.”

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The cricket at the 2014 Asian Games is happening right now. Cricinfo has coverage of the women’s (who are at the semi-final stage) and the men’s (whose fixtures start on Sept. 27).

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Blogger Tim Wigmore has a say about the farcical withdraw of the ODI status for the UAE vs. PNG matches over on Cricinfo: “The incident embodies the ICC’s obsession with the concept of status. When two national teams, no matter how weak, meet in any other sport, the game has full international status. Andorra against Luxembourg is a football international, in the same way that Germany against Brazil is. … Cricket takes a very different view. As one person who has been involved in cricket administration put it to me, there is a belief that extending Test status to Associate members would be ‘like dancing on the grave of Donald Bradman’. Such a belief dictates much of cricket’s thinking today: Afghanistan can play Ireland in a five-day game, in accordance with Test match rules, but it does not count as a Test.” The whole piece is worth your time.

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Finally, Malaysia – not Uganda – will be hosting the upcoming World Cricket League Division 3 tournament. Straight from the horse’s mouth: “Uganda was to host the six-team competition from 26 October to 2 November, however, due to a recent elevation in the ICC’s ongoing safety and security assessment level, it has been decided to relocate the event to the Malaysian capital.” Sad that we live in a world where a sport association has to have its own safety and security protocols.

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Lancashire vs. Middlesex, a game for the ages

Games evolve. That’s what they do. We like to think that the sports we watch are just about the same as they were 100 years ago, but intellectually we know that is not the case. Baseball instituted the designated hitter in the 1970s. Soccer outlawed the back-pass. The NFL brought back the two point conversion. And cricket drastically changed the rules of the ODI in 2011.

All of these changes were done with one thing in mind: make the games (supposedly) more fun by giving advantages to the offense.

This is true in every sport and in almost every rule change. Roughing the passer rules, goal line technology, soccer’s magic spray holding the wall in place, lowering the mound and the shrinking of the strike zone in baseball, and in cricket the body armor batsmen are allowed to wear to make it easier to stand up to bowlers.

All for the offense. All for more runs, goals, touchdowns. All because league administrators think that high scoring affairs are how you sell tickets.

And I think that is silly. Offense minded rule changes dumb down the game and alienate core followers.

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But though I mention cricket above numerous times, it is one of the few games that still manages to challenge even is most ardent supporters with its long days and slow scoring rates. First class matches still require an attention span that belongs more in the 19th century than it does in the 21st. And despite so many calls to make the game shorter with ODIs and T20s, in the early 1990s the County Championship took the unusual step to make their matches LONGER – increasing from three to four days.

And that brings me to my point: tomorrow morning, on ESPN3.com, the first class County Championship match between Lancashire and Middlesex will be shown LIVE here in the states.

The sport that exists outside of time and the format and league that exists even further away from modern sporting convention. Live and in color in the United States, a country that more so than any other demands shoot-em-up scoring in its games.

I will be watching for a couple reasons. 1. ESPN deserves it for making the effort and 2. I want to take a few hours to enjoy a format and a league that requires intellectualism, patience and a long attention span.

And by the looks of my twitter feed, I am not alone here.

Take note, league administrators.

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Playing makeup, wearing guitar

Indulge me.

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Tomorrow night I am going to see The Replacements.

This probably means nothing to you. And that’s okay. It means nothing to 99% of the world’s population. But it means something to me. And here’s why.

The Replacements are a seminal Minneapolis rock band who were active from 1981 until about 1991. They were known in their early days as drunken louts with a bunch of great songs that they would play at punk venues throughout Minneapolis. They were the Minneapolis sounds – sorry, Prince – before there was a Minneapolis sound. Their songs are Minneapolis.

Their shows were either trainwrecks or brilliant. And when they were signed to a major label this didn’t change. And it was ultimately their downfall. They released their last record – appropriately titled “All Shook Down” in 1990 and broke up in 1991. Founding guitarist Bobby Stinson died in 1995. Their second drummer Steve Foley died in 2008. Songwriter, singer and guitar player Paul Westerberg released a bunch of schlop records. Bassist Tommy Stinson joined Guns N’ Roses. Guitarist Slim Dunlap suffered a massive stroke in 2012. The Replacements as we knew them were gone forever.

I came to the band “late.” I bought their second to last record ‘Don’t Tell a Soul’ in 1989-ish, and bought their last album the week it came out. I was not party to the glory years of Minneapolis punk. The days of all-ages shows at 4:30 in the afternoon when they were stumbling drunk. But I went and bought “Tim”, “Pleased to Meet Me” and “Let it Be” and those albums followed me everywhere I went. They were staples of my car stereo. I lived, drank, breathed, loved those records.

(Note: I work 100 yards from the house on the cover of “Let it Be“).

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I have mentioned how they were drunks several times now, but I should probably mention the songs.

Oh, those songs.

Westerberg wrote some of the most perfect rock songs ever in existence. They are about hope and loss while simultaneously sad and funny.  He sings about rebellion and bars and Minneapolis over perfectly crafted pop guitar. It’s perfect. They are perfect. Go listen.

Last year they reunited, probably for financial reasons but who cares, and tomorrow is their first show in Minnesota in 23 years.

And I am going.

It’s at Midway Stadium, a minor league baseball park in St. Paul.

At first I was mostly excited because it was going to be a fun summer outside romp with my wife and 13,000 of our closest friends. But then this morning I read this paragraph from local writer – and Replacements historian – Jim Walsh:

there’s no preparing for the two-hour rush of emotion that happens while you’re hearing all those songs you’ve been listening alone to for so many years, but suddenly they’re unfurling in the open air with thousands of other like-minded and super-solitary souls…

That’s it. That’s it right there. It put a lump in my throat and I realized that tomorrow is going to be far more emotional for me than I ever imagined.

I have listened to “Left of the Dial” a thousand times. But each time I was alone or maybe with a handful of people. Tomorrow night I am going to hear it with 13,000 people who also have only heard the song on their car stereo for the last 23 years.

I get emotional just thinking about that.

The Replacements weren’t everyone’s cup of tea. But if you loved them, they were yours. They belonged to you. They were outsiders who sang songs for other outsiders. The downtrodden, the outcasts, the rebels. Us. All of us. All together in one place. Belting out the chorus to “Bastards of Young” all together finally and probably for the last time.

It’s going to be perfect.

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I had plans to tie cricket in here. To mention that maybe an experience at a cricket match – something I have never done – would be equally as emotional for me. To be up close, to be part of this game I have followed and written about for so long. But the segue felt hackneyed. And nothing will ever compare to seeing the Replacements. Live. Which I am doing tomorrow night.

 

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Notes from Outside the System for September 10

Cricket’s Sixes format is starting to take root in Africa, as the inaugural Africa Sixes tournament that wrapped up over the weekend was quite successful. SuperSport: “Following the success of the inaugural Africa Sixes Challenge, the organisers hope to expand the Global Softech Sixes tournament by playing the event in three Southern African countries in 2015, said Jacques Faul, CEO of the host franchise, The Unlimited Titans. … Faul said plans are under way to include Namibia and Zimbabwe in next year’s program and to play the Global Softech Sixes over three rounds from July to September.” This format has legs, everyone. Here’s the wiki. Might as well get to know the rules now.

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Peter Della Penna has the scoop: The USA will be going to Uganda: “After several weeks of deliberation, the USA Cricket Association is going ahead with plans to prepare a team for ICC WCL Division Three in Uganda. The decision was reached at a meeting of the USACA board last week despite a formal vote not being taken on the matter. … USACA is now in a time crunch to conduct a camp before the deadline to submit a final squad to the ICC by Friday September 26, 30 days before the start of the tournament in Uganda. The latest USACA would conceivably be able to hold such a camp would be the weekend of September 19-21, but it is unclear if such a camp will be arranged at such short notice.” Sounds about right.

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Speaking of Uganda, the African Cricket Cup is happening right now. But Cricinfo has nary a peep about it. Find the fixtures and results and live scoring on the Africa Cricket Association’s website.

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Meanwhile, in Silicon Valley (via the Guardian): “Recently arrived tech workers from southern Asia, especially India, are helping to galvanise a cricket boom, as new teams in the San Francisco bay area are reinvigorating a sub-culture that began with the 1990s dotcom bubble. … ‘Technology and cricket are intertwined. People come seeking jobs and bring their culture and sport,’ said Abrar Ahmad, a founder of the Bay Area Cricket Alliance, a non-profit that has seen its number of teams more than double from eight to 17. ‘Almost every city here has its own grounds. We’ve come a long way.’ … In addition to the men’s teams there is now also a youth league, a women’s team, an academy, tournaments, equipment stores and practice facilities.” It’s happening, folks.

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More information on that bonkers plan to play cricket at 19,000ft from The Daily Echo: “Simon Rogers, 39, from Winchester, is part of a group climbing the Tanzanian mountain to raise £200,000 for Cancer Research UK, Rwanda Cricket Stadium Foundation and Africa development charity Tusk. … On September 20 two teams will climb almost 20,000ft over seven gruelling days, battling freezing temperatures and extreme altitude sickness, before playing a full T20 match in a crater at the summit. … Only two thirds of the mountain’s 25,000 annual climbers reach the crater, and none have topped the feat with a game of cricket.”

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Programming note: the Ireland vs. Scotland ODIs will be streaming live on Quipu.TV.

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