Arendse Must Go

19/02/2008

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When Norman Arendse stole what should have been solely Shaun Pollocks moment, by publicly wishing his daughter a happy birthday when giving Pollock is farewell speech after his final match for South Africa, maybe a thoughtful gesture in his mind but a highly inappropriate one, the entire country collectively cringed. A week later Arendse was in in the headlines, both front and back pages, for his very public battle with Mickey Arthur over selection and transformation. Another inappropriate act by a man who’s position suggests he should know better. When he called a general council meeting and had Aurthur removed from the selection panel, he failed to give all the facts to those in attendance, the fact that Arthur could not be removed by them or him, and further embarressed the the board by telling the media the decision was unanimous, something it was not. Yet another inappropriate act. Strike three. In baseball terms he would be out.

 

 

While everyone with any sense knows that transformation is important in a South African context, having a more representative team is something that should be striven for, but it should not be forced. Forcing the issue does no good to anyone and the biggest loser would be the players brought into a battle they didn’t ask for. Justin Ontong, a very talented cricketer, saw his international career almost destroyed when he became the pawn in a similar power struggle a few years ago. He is only now forcing his way back into contention. Arendse has threatened to set back the career of more black players, most notably Monde Zondeki, by allowing his name to be used in this verbal battle. Zondeki was the second highest wicket taker in this seasons Supersport Series, and would have been justified a place in the South African squad on merit. Yet all that Arendse has accomplished is to  push Zondeki into the “quota” bracket, and in doing so let everyone know that he would have been in the team because of his skin color and not his obvious ability. Zondeki does not need that. He needs to know he was chosen by the selectors because they had full trust in his ability and that he had the full confidence of the players he runs onto the pitch with. He must not be a token. Herchelle Gibbs, who has been dropped for the forthcoming series, has said that while he is hurt and not being part of the team he does not want to be picked because of his skin color. The players feel that way and that is something that Arendse does not grasp.

 

While there is merit in a transformation policy, forcing it will only hinder the development of black players and lessen the countries confidence in the sport. Arendse is doing more to damage the game then to promote it, particularly with black players. Ntini, Amla, Prince, Duminy and Langeveld have all been picked on merit and not as part of a forced “quota” system. That is how it should be. Arendse has to see that or he must go.

 

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South African Cricket in Selection Crisis

08/02/2008

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South African cricket has been thrown into crisis by a power struggle between coach Mickey Arthur, and Cricket South Africa president Norman Arendse.

Problems surfaced with the delaying of the squad announcement for the tour to Bangladesh, which the players are scheduled to leave for on Wednesday. The touring squad was due to be announced on Tuesday, but this has been put back until the following Monday or Tuesday. Arendse said that the delay was due to fitness tests that were planned for Monday for Neil Mckenzie and Andre Nel. Subsequently it has come to light that the real reason for the delay is because of Arendse not accepting the make up of the squad – as there are too few black players that have been selected by the selection committee, of which Arthur is part of.

CSA guidelines say that there should be 7 black players in any squad. However these are said to be targets rather than actual quotas. After South Africa won the rugby World Cup, the sports minister, Makhenkesi Stofile, said that there should be no quotas in South African sport, players should be there on merit, more should be done for the infrastructure and development of black talent rather than a quota system, and that a winning team unites a country more than a losing one. CSA has always maintained that it sets targets for transformation rather that enforcing a quota system. What’s coming out of their presidents office suggests otherwise.

The focus of the problem is being reported as the non inclusion of Herchelle Gibbs and Monde Zondeki, and the inclusion of less than 7 black players. Gibbs, one of the most talented and natural batsman in world cricket over the last ten years, have been out of form in Test cricket for the last 2 or 3 years. With testing tours of India, England and Australia to follow the Bangladesh series, the selectors have looked to sure up the opening problem by selecting Neil Mckenzie as Smith’s opening partner. Although Mckenzie is not an opening batsman, he has the technique, experience, and know how to do the job. The issue of Zondeki is more complicated. Zondeki has taken 54 wickets in 10 matches this season, 2nd to Dillon du Preez 55, at an average of 20,16. His inclusion should be on merit as his form suggests. However the selectors seem to be loyal to a group of bowlers, hence Pollock finding himself playing in only 1 test in the last 3 series before his retirement. Morne Morkel will no doubt find himself in the team sooner rather than later. They may also want to play two spinners in Bangladesh and India, and so Johan Botha may find himself in the team along with Paul Harris. Should Nel not be fit Zondeki may get the call up. The actions of Arendse will only harm Zondeki. He would much rather know that he has the backing of everyone concerned, the selectors, coach, captain and players, rather then being a political selection.

The best 11 should take the field at all times. Gibbs, Amla, Prince, Ntini, Langeveld and Duminy have shown that merit gets rewarded and should be proof enough to Arendse not to force the issue. Justin Ontongs career suffered because of political interference and the same mistakes should not be repeated.

The infighting and filing of chargers and counter chargers by Arendse and Arthur are not good for any South African crickets, black or white. It seems that one of the two will have to go. CSA had better get their house in order quickly. Its better that this crisis happened at the beginning of the season and not while touring Australia.

The latest rumblings do however bring up an interesting question. With Arendse’s selection interference becoming evident, was it he, much to his denial, who in fact was the person who took Kallis and Hall off the actual squad selection for the T20 World Cup? A tournament that South Africa only lost one game in, an all important decider with India, a game that the experience and calmness of Kallis and Hall would have been needed.


Manchester United Back in South Africa

06/02/2008

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Manchester United will be back in South Africa for a pre-season tour in July 2008. They were last in South Africa in June 2006.

Although no venues or fixtures have been released United have confirmed the 7 day tour will take place from July 19th. The touring party will not include those players who will take part in Euro 2008, just as in their list visit the squad was minus players involved in the 2006 World Cup in Germany. So while Christiano Ronaldo will not be present, South African fans will still be able to see the likes of Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and club captain Gary Neville, thanks to Englands failure to qualify for Euro 2008, as well as veteren stars Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes.

Sir Alex Furgeson is pleased to be going back, saying

We really enjoyed our visit in 2006,” said the Old Trafford boss.  “The atmosphere in all the stadiums and the enthusiasm from the fans helped make for a great trip.  All the facilities were first class and I am looking forward to returning.”

United have over the last few years split their pre season tours between the Far East and Africa, concentrating on the growing markets of these areas rather then, like Chelsea, attempting to break the American market.

Details of the tour are expected this month.


50th Anniversary of Munich Disaster

06/02/2008

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Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Munich disaster, a tragedy built in to the very fabric of Manchester United.

8 of Manchester United’s legendary “Busby Babes” and 23 people in total, lost their lives that day, February 6 1958. Sir Matt Busby’s team, who were back to back English Champions, a team with an average age of just 22, were on their way back home to Manchester from a European tie against Red Star Belgrade. After a refueling stop in Munich BEA flight G-ALZU, on its third attempt at taking off, crashed, decimating a team that was arguable on its way to becoming the best ever Manchester United team, and one of the best club teams the world had ever seen.

The 8 Manchester United players who lost their lives were: Geoff Bent, Roger Byrne, Eddie Coleman, Duncan Edwards, Mark Jones, David Pegg, Tommy Taylor and Liam Whelan. They will be remembered at a service at Old Trafford this afternoon that will be attended by current players, staff, families of those who past, as well as Munich survivors such as Sir Bobby Charlton, and many others connected to Manchester United.

A decade after the tragedy Manchester United were Englands first European Champions. A remarkable achievment considering the loss and truma of such an event.


Goodbye Polly

04/02/2008

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Shaun Pollock hit the winning runs against the West Indies, just as he had in front of his adoring home fans in Durban two days earlier, to bring to an end the international career of a true legend in cricket.

While South Africa brought up a comfortable 8 wicket win in a rain affected match, a result that gave them a 5-0 white wash series victory over the touring Caribbean team, the series will be fondly remembered for the exceptional send off each of the 5 cities gave one of their favorite sons.

While Polly would have always known that the country was behind him, he could never have imagined the fond affection he has managed to evoke in all cricket lovers in South Africa. Every run he scored was cheered with a reception as if he had just brought up his century. He received standing ovations every time he went down to the boundary to field. His last over in each match was greeted with decibel levels that are more common in the enormous stadiums of India then in the smaller grounds in South Africa. Capacity grounds, all stood, clapped, screamed, waved many flags and banners, as they saluted and bayed good bye to their hero. It was certainly lump in the throat and a few tears stuff.

 

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Pollock, ever the gentle man, came out to the middle at the completion of each match and thanked all sections of the crowd, and at each match few left their seats until he had gone back up the stairs to the pavilion.

While Polly was deeply touched and obviously very emotional at the reception he received at all the matches, especially that at his home ground in Durban, it was a send off that was thoroughly deserved by a man who few can disagree, has been a role model both on and off the field.

Shaun Pollock will be missed by all. There’s no doubt that he will be a success at whatever he endeavors to do after cricket, but for now we say goodbye to a world legend. Thanks for the memories.

 

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