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Yohan Blake, the Olympic-medal winning Jamaican sprinter, analyses India's bowling attack, and talks about miming cricket strokes during sprinting training. That and more in a lighthearted chat with Indian journalists, in this interview in Hindustan Times.
"Praveen Kumar swings the ball and, of course, Zaheer Khan is a good left-hand bowl and Rohit Sharma (the Mumbai batsman had got a decent haul of wickets when he went to the Caribbeans with the India A squad in June-July) ... you guys have some wonderful spinners too. You have some good guys coming up too... I love them. My favourite bowler is of course Sharma, Rohit Sharma. My favourite international bowler is Jimmy Anderson from England."
"I want to show you that I am better at cricket than running! I am a really talented batsman. I am a T20 batsman. You guys need to see me in action. …I am a bowling machine that can bat all day. I have played some cricket... that's my love, that's my passion, every day I watch cricket."
Fresh off his silver-winning sprint at the Olympics on Sunday night Yohan Blake declared his next targets. Rio 2016 is the obvious one but Blake also spoke of IPL 2013 - where his good friend Chris Gayle stars for Royal Challengers Bangalore. On his way out of the stadium on Sunday Blake spotted an Indian journalist and began talking cricket.
"You know what, I can bowl faster than Zaheer Khan," he said. "I followed the Indian team when they were at the Caribbean last time. My favourite cricketer is Lara. I also like Tendulkar and Dhoni. But Virat is young and a great player. I really love watching him play."
Blake hasn't been to India - he missed the 2010 Commonwealth Games in new Delhi - but perhaps cricket will draw him there. "I want to play in the IPL. I am working hard for it," Blake said. "Chris is a great friend and I follow his side very closely. I also like Kolkata Knight Riders and Chennai (Super Kings). But I want to play for Royal Challengers Bangalore because of Chris." Well, he could perhaps start by teaching his good friend how to run.
So you've heard of dogs stopping play and interruptions caused by streakers and missing bails. But how often does the reason for a stoppage lie 4000-odd miles away? That could well be the case at the Kingston Test on Sunday, with a 'drinks break' being scheduled to coincide with the final of the Olympics men's 100m race in faraway London, at 3.20pm Jamaican time.
And who could blame the Jamaicans for wanting to put everything else on hold for what is the showcase event of the Games? Defending Olympic champion Usain Bolt, along with Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell, is in contention for medals following Saturday's heats; it would take any one of them under 10 seconds to secure glory, that too in a week when Jamaica is celebrating the 50th anniversary of their independence from colonial rule. The action from the track will be telecast on the big screen in Sabina Park.
Dave Barry, in the Miami Herald, has a tongue-in-cheek American view on cricket, and the archery Olympic event at Lord's.
Lord’s Cricket Ground is steeped in tradition. Every morning, a crew of ground-steepers goes around and steeps the hell out of it. And well they should, for Lord’s is the home of the Marylebone Cricket Club, which was founded in 1787 and is the most venerable institution in cricket. If you’d like to become a member, simply write a letter to the club stating your interest, then feed it to a goat, because, trust me, the Marylebone Cricket Club is way too classy to admit the likes of you.
Mihir Bose, in Outlook, writes why cricket is not likely to be a regular Olympic sport, pointing out the lack of incentive in administrators to allow cricket at the Olympics.
The keepers of cricket’s sacred flame at the ICC have no desire to apply. Partly this is because Indians—who, as moneybags of the game, have an influence over it—would not like it to be subject to IOC discipline. Yet it also does not find favour with David Collier, chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board. The Olympics are held at the height of summer, in the middle of the English season. In an Olympic year this would pose major problems for English cricket.
Sourav Ganguly and Lord's have history. He scored a century on Test debut there in 1996 and in 2002 he celebrated the NatWest one-day final victory with a topless, shirt-waving celebration on the balcony. Now his feats are serving as inspiration to some of India's Olympic archers, who are excited to be competing at Lord's - the venue of the Games' archery competition.
"We were excited when we heard that Lord's would host the archery contest. Sourav scored a Test century there on his debut," Rahul Banerjee, a Ganguly fan, told the Indian Express. "Sourav's performance will be at the back of our minds when we step on to the famous ground and we will be inspired by what he did in 1996. Like Sourav, we also want to make our country proud." A similarly successful debut will do, for a start.
Charlotte Edwards, the England women’s captain, tells the London Evening Standard that she rues the fact that cricket isn't an Olympic sport, as it would give women’s cricket the boost it needs to thrive.
“I would be lying if I said I’m not gutted that I’m not involved in the Olympics. In years to come, Twenty20 cricket will be in the Olympics. But, by then, I won’t be involved. I just have to accept that I will have missed the home Olympics. Cricket at the Olympics would have raised the profile of women’s cricket in this country. Women’s cricket as a game has not had the recognition. [But] we don’t play cricket for recognition, we play because we love playing for England.”
Cricket may not be an Olympic sport as of now, but it is set to feature at the London Olympics next month. How?
Well, Oscar winning filmmaker Danny Boyle, the director of the opening ceremony set for July 27, unveiled a set portraying the opening scene from the ceremony, which included a game of cricket in progress. The director said the Olympics would open in an English meadow with cricket being played at one side of the stadium, and livestock, meadows, rivers and landmarks like the Glastonbury Tor on the other.
Boyle said that the opening scene of the 27 million pound ceremony would be called 'green and pleasant' and that ten thousand volunteers will participate in the show. "The best way to tell that story is through working with real people," Boyle said. "I've been astounded by the selfless dedication of the volunteers, they are the pure embodiment of the Olympic spirit and represent the best of who we are as a nation."
Cricket may have missed the cut for the Olympics but there's a chance it might return to the Commonwealth Games in 2018. Mark Stockwell, the chairman of the Gold Coast CWG, has said that cricket would add an extra bit of magic to the event. The issue was also discussed by the ICC in Dubai recently and the feasibility of including cricket at the CWG is being studied. Cricket was last played at the CWG in Malaysia in 1998 - South Africa won that event - and the driving force for cricket's inclusion that time was Tunku Imran, who is now chairman of the CWG Federation sports review committee. "If the ICC agrees, we could have the sport in the 2018 CWG," Imran said. "But it is not going to be easy."
Paul Collingwood's been in Australia, he's now in South Africa, and he'll soon be in India. But when he finally returns home to Durham, a huge honour awaits him. Collingwood, still the only man to captain England to victory in a global cricket tournament, has been chosen as a torchbearer for the London Olympics. Though cricket is not an Olympic sport, several cricketers have carried the torch before, and Collingwood is glad to join the list.
"The Olympic Games is the biggest sporting event to take place in this country in my lifetime, and to be associated with it in this way is an honour and a privilege, not only for me but for my family too," Collingwood told the Sunderland Echo. "Sadly, since cricket is not an Olympic sport, I won't ever get the chance to represent Great Britain at The Games, but this is the next best thing."
Collingwood has been jet-setting around the world to play Twenty20 tournaments in the hope of making it back to the England limited-overs squad, a hope that despite evidence to the contrary he maintains is a very real one. Perhaps a little Olympics inspiration is what he needs. Faster, higher, stronger Paul.
Question: Who are the current Olympic silver medalists in cricket? Answer: France, and they want a re-match against England, who won gold at the Paris Games in 1900. France Cricket, the governing body for the sport in the country, is preparing to issue a challenge to England – a return game in Lille ahead of the London Olympics in 2012.
"It would be a one-day game," Maxime Parent, spokesman for France Cricket, told the Independent "I don't think that the French public is quite ready yet for a Test match stretching over five days. Perhaps, one day, who knows? Cricket is advancing quickly in France but it needs a match like this to capture the imagination of the public. France v England is always a big event in France, whatever the sport."
Cricket in France has come a fair way since it was banned as an "alien" sport in 1940 by the Vichy government. There are now ten clubs in France’s super-league and about one-third of its players are French. It might have been very different if the MCC had gone ahead with its first foreign tour – to France – in 1789. They had to cancel because of the French revolution.
Boris Johnson, the left-field London mayor, has backed cricket’s inclusion in the 2012 Olympics that will be hosted by the city ... even though it’s an impossible campaign. "It is high time we install in the Olympics Twenty20 cricket," Johnson said at a business lunch in London.
Last month the London Assembly passed a unanimous motion to lobby international cricket authorities and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to include the sport. “Let’s face it, if they want to draw in south Asian audiences to watch the Olympics, they have to have cricket,” Murad Qureshi, the London Assembly member who moved the motion, said. “India is one of the biggest markets out there, we have to make it relevant to people.”
Previous host nations had been able to introduce a national sport as a “demonstration” event in the Games, but the IOC changed the rule for Beijing 2008, allowing China to showcase a traditional discipline as part of a “cultural Olympiad”. Cricket, which last made a five-ringed appearance in 1900 in Paris, cannot be an official sport until at least 2020, with the finalisation of events for those Games occurring in 2013.
Cricket being a non-Olympic sport is like being the sickly child in a Hollywood weepie, the one who is not allowed out to play with the other kids and instead watches from an upstairs room, shortened breaths misting the window as sad strings play in the background. So feels Emma John in the Guardian in this piece on how cricket would brighten Beijing's day. A wonderful follow-up after serious opinions by the big guns of international cricket. Here's an excerpt:
...the six-hitting (or 5.8-hitting) would have provided some unexpected interaction for the crowd, who presently get that kind of excitement only when a javelin throw goes seriously awry. Of course, in these heady days of million-dollar prize funds it takes a lot to lure English cricketers to any tournament. But a gold medal would appeal to Kevin Pietersen's love of bling, for one, and the Olympic Village would have benefited hugely from the England team's presence.