After the winter of discontent what now for England?

As any fan of the England cricket team knows to say 2013-14 was a winter of discontent would be an understatement. Whitewashed 5-0 in the Ashes by an Australian team we’d beaten 3-0 only the previous summer, then beaten 4-1 in the one day games and 3-0 in the 20 20 games. We then went off to the World 20 20 championship in Bangladesh where we won only one match – albeit against the eventual champions Sri Lanka – and then put the tin lid on the shambles by losing to Holland. Oh and one player retired mid tour (Graeme Swann) one went home with a nervous breakdown (Jonathan Trott) and another was dropped for good (Kevin Pietersen). Add to that the loss of two coaches (Andy Flower and Ashley Giles). All in all a shambles that made its political equivalent (1978-79 under James Callaghan where ironically the cricket did go well – England beat Australia 5-1 – just in a winter of non stop strikes and non stop snow everything else went wrong – look like a teddy bear’s picnic by comparison).
But the winter is over now. It is summer. England have a new coach in Peter Moores and a week tomorrow they play their first Test since that awful winter against Sri Lanka at Lord’s. The selectors meet today to pick the team and will announce it tomorrow. So who should they pick? Every cricket
fan in the UK has his/her opinion so I reckon I should reveal mine. So here it is. My England team to play Sri Lanka at Lord’s a week tomorrow:
1.Alastair Cook (Captain)
2.Sam Robson
3.Joe Root
4.Ian Bell
5.Gary Ballance
6.Ben Stokes
7.Matt Prior (wicket-keeper)
8.Stuart Broad
9.Chris Jordan
10.James Anderson
11.Monty Panesar
Plus two more bowlers to make up a 13 man squad: Liam Plunkett and Steve Finn.
Now this comes with a caveat. They might not all be fit. Matt Prior and Ben Stokes might not be. In that case James Foster would replace Prior and Moeen Ali would replace Stokes. In that case Liam Plunkett would replace monty Panesar for team balance.
So the reasons? There are five certain picks in my opinion – Cook, Bell Root Broad and Anderson. As for the rest for Cook’s opening partner I’ve looked to the future. Michael Carberry and Nick Compton have failed and Robson has been in good form for the England Lions (England’s second XI) although Yorkshire’s Adam Lyth was close. Root bats no 3. it is high time this young man was given a regular role. He has been moved all over the shop. He has opened, batted at 3,5 and 6 – give the kid a break! Bell our best player wants to bat at 4 so let him. Ballance has started well at yorkshire and Stokes was the only good piece of news in an awful winter. Jordan was the star – with bat and ball – of the recently completed one day series with Sri Lanka and Panesar is in because we should always pick a spinner and he is the beat we have in a very bare cupboard.
I also think we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. We’ve lost three experienced players already. My team contains six experienced players (Cook Bell Prior Broad Anderson and Panesar) two new caps (Robson and Jordan) two others who first appeared during the winter (Ballance and Stokes) and one 23-year-old who first played in 2012 (Root). A blend of youth and experience. Just what is needed after the winter of discontent.

It is time for Royal Family to skip a generation

The heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, has created a diplomatic storm this week. While on a visit to Canada, he spoke to a jewish woman who’d fled Poland during World War II that Russian President Vladimir Putin “is doing just about the same as Hitler” in Ukraine. It was a stupid remark that should not have been made by someone in his position.
First of all Charles is Britain’s next Head of State. The Monarch in Britain is a figurehead. He/she goes on tour to represent Britain. He/she is an ambassador for the country. It is not an ambassador’s job to criticise another country. It is up to Prime Minister David Cameron or foreign secretary William Hauge to do this. Secondly it is an insulting remark. Whatever you think of Putin – and while he is a dangerous man in my opinion he’s no Hitler – Russia lost 20 million men fighting Hitler. Of course they are going to be offended.
This wouldn’t be a problem if it was a one off. But it is not. He has written letters to British Government ministers that the Guardian newspaper wants to publish – quite rightly – under the UK’s Freedom of Information act. The Attorney General Dominic Grieve is trying to block their publication. While one does not know what is in them they can be taken as controversial if the Government is trying to block their publication. Why should Charles be protected?
It is now clear that this man would be a disaster as King. He is not popular in Britain – for the way he treated the popular Diana – and his wife Camilla even less so – they had an affair when Charles was still married to Diana. He is also a “loose cannon” who as King could cause serious problems if he got involved in a political issue or made another diplomatic blunder like the Putin one. He could seriously damage the royal family, now popular again after a bad spell between the Queen’s annus horribilis of 1992 and Diana’s death in 1997. He could put the future of the monarchy in danger.
However there is a solution. Charles’ son Prince William and his wife Kate are very popular as their recent tour of Australia and New Zealand showed. They are the future of the royal family. So why not skip a generation? Charles could renounce his claim to the throne and when his mother the Queen dies the crown would pass to William instead. Charles would then be free to speak his mind without causing a fuss and the future of the monarchy would be safe in William’s hands.
it probably won’t happen. Charles has been preparing for the job of King all his life. But there is no shame in sacrificing yourself for the greater cause of the monarchy. Republicanism – in decline in Britain at the moment – is only a bad monarch away from a resurgence. Charles should admit he is not up to the job. For the sake of its future the Royal Family should skip a generation. Otherwise we could have a Republic. Tony Blair as British President anyone?

All hail Mike Hessman the Barry Bonds of the Minors

First of all a bit about myself. I’m just an ordinary guy who likes sport and has strong views about the way sport (and Britain) are run. I’ll be writing when I feel like it about whatever I feel like writing about. And who knows someone might like it.

Although I’m from Britain I’m a big fan of baseball and a couple of days ago I noticed something on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight. Namely that Mike Hessman of the Toledo Mud Hens(the Detroit Tiger’s Triple A team) had hit his 400th career Minor League home run, only the fourth man in the history of baseball to do that in American Minor League circuits. The others being Buzz Arlett, Nick Cullop and Merv Connors. So what people will say? After all you only hit 400 home runs in the Minor Leagues if you can’t hack it in the majors.That is true. In his 109 game Major League career he hit .188 (which is not good – anything below .200 is considered unacceptable for a Major League hitter – although he did have 14 home runs and 33 RBIs.) He is now 36 years old which means he is unlikely to be gracing the Majors again. Baseball Prospectus – the baseball players Who’s Who – said of him “he is what materialized when baseball scientists asked “what if it is possible to achieve higher than 80 power by giving the specimen 20s everywhere else?” (Baseball Prospectus 2014, page 178). You get the impression they don’t think he’s very good. So why should this guy be celebrated?. Simple. The fact is 98% of minor league players never reach the Majors(No girls in the Clubhouse, Marilyn Cohen, page 108). He did. Secondly to be still slogging away in the Minors at 36 suggests he truly loves his sport. He has found his true level. And that is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact he should be proud.

The fact is this guy represents most baseball players – indeed most sportspeople (and fans). The vast majority of us aren’t Miguel Cabrera Mike Trout or Justin Verlander. We are just average to poor players. We can identify with this guy. He has more in common with the rest of us than the small elite we see in televised sport. He should be celebrated. The record for home runs in the Minors is 432 held by Buzz Arlett. Hessman might pass that record before his career is done. In which case he would become “the Barry Bonds of the Minors”. And one other point. He will have done it without the aid of performance enhancing drugs.

Finally if you want to read a good blog I’d recommend Jennifer Doyle’s “The Sport Spectacle”( Always an interesting and provocative read. even if you don’t agree with some of it…

Update: On August 3rd 2015 Hessman hit his 433rd Minor League home run beating Arlett’s record. And it was a Grand Slam! Congratulations Mike you deserve this record. With the Tigers’ play off hopes being slim at best it would be a sentimental gesture for the them to give Mike some big League at bats at the end of the season…