Time was

When we would be surprised if England beat the West Indies.

Now we’re unsurprised that Ireland beats the West Indies.

It was said before the match it would not be a shock if Ireland beat West Indies but what did come as a surprise was the ease with which it was achieved.

Has there actually been another breakdown of an entire international sporting team to beat that? For this isn’t about just this team, or this year. It’s systemic.

66 thoughts on “Time was”

  1. So Much for Subtlety

    What I am fascinated by is the collapse of individual players. We have just seen that with Tiger Woods retiring. He has not played well since his wife took to his car with his five iron and some of his sponsored dropped him. Martina Hingiss is another good example – she got booed on court and has hardly won a single game since.

    Both were hugely popular but the crowd turned on them. I guess Michael Jordan was lucky that the media was willing to cover up what a sh!t he really was for so long. Until well after he retired anyway.

    The West Indies? They had a strong style based on fast bowling. Helmets helped as did growing professionalism among batters. But the US has probably pulled many potential players away. Why play cricket for peanuts when you can play basketball? Viv Richards is only a piddling 5′ 10″ or so but Curtly Ambrose is 6′ 7″ – why would a young man that tall play cricket? Also I expect the collapse of the education systems in the West Indies and especially the loss of English coaches at the schools has meant less talent over all.

  2. So Much for Subtlety

    Alex – “You don’t see East German athletes dominating the Olympics any more.”

    Germany came sixth in the 2012 Olympics. They won more medals than that extreme oddity South Korea, but fewer Golds.

    Robert Harting (born DDR) won in the discus. Kristina Vogel (born in Kazakhstan) won in the cycling but she did with Miriam Welte (born FDR). The Germans did well in sports that they do a few other people do – they won a lot of equestrian medals. Perfect for the German character I think. They also won a lot in that arch-DDR sport of rowing. But without many DDR athletes. That doesn’t mean they did not have DDR coaches and chemists.

    I can’t find where most of their canoeists come from – and five of them won Gold. But all those that I could find came from the DDR with one coming from Berlin which could go either way.

  3. So Much for Subtlety

    Ironman – “Loss of English coaches?”

    I always enjoy a good comment from Ironman. Or at least as close as he comes. You know it is going to vacuous but yet trying to be abusive.

    I take it we are all in agreement that at one time, places like Jamaica had a lot of British teachers running the schools? You know, like back when we still ran half the Caribbean. And then there was a time when places like Jamaica did not have so many? With people like Michael Manley’s Afro-centric sucking up to scum like Castro and Nyrere in between. That period in Jamaican life when British teachers were strongly encouraged to leave and jobs became sinecures for political placemen.

    The trick is that people like Vic Richards got most of his education when the British still ran things. Sir Gary Sobers even started playing with the Police cricket team at a time when there were still White police officers in Antigua.

    The most important factor in determining cricketing success is a good coach. Which is why some schools produce a lot of players and many produce none.

    What is it you object to in all this my old chip off the CIF block?

  4. West Indian cricket has been battling for years with mismanagement and internal squabbling over pay. It’s now into its third generation.

    One of the most startling declines in my adult life has been that of the Italian football league. Back in the mid-90s, every top player in the world went to play in Italy – Juventus, Inter, Parma, Florentina, Lazio, Roma, Milan – with a handful playing in Spain for Real Madrid or Barcelona. Within a few years, the very top players were all playing in Spain with the remaining very good players in England. Now the very top players are in Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich, the top English clubs and Paris St. Germain take the rest, and the Italian league is for retirees like Ashley Cole to see out their days – and Italian footballers who can’t seem to get signed abroad these days. It’s been a spectacular fall.

  5. My Trinidadian cousins would rather play football. My guess is there just aren’t that many Caribbean kids who want to stand around in the sun any more waiting for the odd cricket ball to come their way.

  6. So it was indeed all the white men, without whom those poor little black children would never have learnt to play cricket and without whom they now can’t play cricket.

    Funny, presumably those England and Australia teams being smashed by the great West Indies side had quite a few white men who had been coached by white men in good English schools. How could they have lost?

    Thick.Racist.Prick.

  7. You’re wrong on this SMFS.

    Caribbean cricket has wholly inadequate financial backing, and the US has opportunities in abundance. Baseball talent spotters, let’s not forget baseball, were circling even in Clive Lloyd’s day.

    As for the “loss of English coaches” ….. which of England’s Cricket, Rugby or Football teams under-achieves the most is a separate argument, however we know that they all do.

  8. This is the cause of the West Indies decline:

    http://www.bola.co.uk/cricket.html

    Prior to the widespread existence of bowling machines, professional batsmen could only practice for short periods against bowling of high pace, if at all, given bowlers of high pace are rare beasts and not to be worn out by bowling for hours in the nets. Once bowling machines arrived they could spend all winter if they liked playing 90mph bouncers and the like. Coupled with more and better protection for batsmen, this meant any batman could become proficient at playing pace bowling, and the West Indies USP was negated. As their success on the field declined, the interest among youngsters declined and becomes the downward spiral we see today. Its indicative that bowling machines arrived in the 80s, when England (and everyone else) consistently failed to win even a Test match against the Windies. By the 90s England were drawing series against them in the UK, and taking the odd test in the Caribbean, finally won a series in England in 2000 and the Caribbean in 2004.

    If you look at old footage of the Windies bowlers, they were no quicker than the bowlers of today. Its just the batsmen were consistently unable/afraid to get into line (because of poor technique and lack of protection) and played horrendous shots to get out. Some of the dismissals would look bad by club cricket comparisons. Pure pace rarely bothers top class batsmen these days (Mitchell Johnson in the last Ashes series being an exception – he was bowling mid 90s however which is Jeff Thomson class). Nowadays its reasonable pace plus movement thats required, not just out and out speed.

  9. Jim

    Agreed. Mitchell Johnson is indeed very very fast. However, he was appalling at yes until he worked his line out; once he did he became virtually unplayable.

    As a raw 17 year old I used to accompany my very fast friend to net sessions. I had once the dubious pleasure of facing up to Joel Garner. I promise you it was the steeple bounce that frightened me the most. (I think he had slowed it down for us quite a bit though)

  10. Goodness me, there’s a lot of claptrap talked about this subject, but it’s really very simple. West Indies cricket was flushed down the toilet by the introduction of drug-testing for recreational drugs. In a region where cannabis smoking was as widespread as beer-drinking was in England, that unsurprisingly had a drastic effect on the pool of talent available.

    Tim Newman>

    The Italian league reached a nadir within the last few years, but it’s quietly been clawing its way back.

  11. Jim,
    It’s an oddity of cricket that fast bowlers haven’t got faster, and presumably they never will. What the Windies had was quality as well as pace; backed up by an exceptionally good batting line-up. Who knows what IVA and others might have done with a modern bat.

    The side that white-washed England in 1984 did not bowl that many bouncers, but they were brilliant regardless.

  12. Ironman,
    Joel Garner? Blimey. Lucky for you, I suppose, he seems a gentle soul, and was super-accurate. Rather him than Mitchell Johnson.

  13. @Dave: mandatory drug testing did not arrive in the West Indies for first class cricket until 2009. So the demise of West Indies cricket cannot be blamed on that. It may have had an effect since, but the underlying problems go back 10-15 years prior to 2009.

    One has to wonder if schools are the problem – if it wasn’t for the public schools in the UK, English cricket would be similarly devoid of decent players. Maybe the decline of sporting standards in schools in the West Indies have mirrored the decline in the State sector in the UK, with no private sector to take up the slack.

  14. Just a little aside: 20 years ago in the Caribbean I would notice basketball courts. Now the kids all appear to be obsessed with the English Premier League, definitely not basketball.

  15. Most of the above, but also that ‘that’ West Indies generation was just unusual in that a number of true greats came along at the same time.

    If you have removed (say) Marshall and Holding from the bowling and Richards and Greenidge from the batting you’d have had a more even contest, certainly with the Aussies.

    In other words, systemic issues exist but it was a fluke that so many once in a lifetime players came along together.

    The greatest team I’ve seen including those Windies (whom I loved) is the Steve Waugh/Shane Warne Australians (whom I didn’t).

    McGrath, Gillespie, Warne at their best together for three or four years + almost A N Other is the most complete attack I’ve seen.

  16. Coupled with more and better protection for batsmen, this meant any batman could become proficient at playing pace bowling

    So what was England’s excuse in the last Ashes?!!

  17. When I went to the MCG during the last Ashes, I watched Doug Bollinger and Jackson Bird bowling in the nets, which you can get right up close to at that ground. Terrifying stuff, I’m surprised the batsman could even see it, let alone play it. Mitch Johnson had another 5mph on them.

  18. Tim, more boggling still, surely, is the way batsmen can change their minds in mid-stroke and do something else.

    How is that possible?

  19. “So what was England’s excuse in the last Ashes?!!”

    Simple, they were a team in name only, riven through with factions. Once a person (especially a batsmen) gets the feeling his team mates are not ‘up’ for it, all pulling together for the team, it all falls apart rapidly. Viz India the other summer in England. Highly talented batsmen who by the end of the series just didn’t want to be on a cricket pitch. If you don’t want to be there, you can’t perform at the highest level.

  20. Tim, more boggling still, surely, is the way batsmen can change their minds in mid-stroke and do something else.

    Agreed, it’s an incredible skill. The likes of Kallis and de Villiers can watch the bowler run-up, adjust the feet as the arm comes down, adjust further when the ball is in flight, and play the ball in one of five different ways. When I batted, I saw the bowler run in, then heard a fizzing sound followed by either a thunk of a ‘keeper’s glove or the crash of stumps. An hour or so later my bat might have come down to meet it.

  21. I was slightly ahead of you then Tim.

    Against quick bowling, the key is to be mostly beaten but not quite. Edges are very hard to set a field for, and you’re generally looking at the shortest boundary.

    If Third Man does stop it, there’ll only be a single for sure, and you can get up the other end. Win-win.

  22. Against quick bowling, the key is to be mostly beaten but not quite. Edges are very hard to set a field for, and you’re generally looking at the shortest boundary.

    Jeez, any edge I’d have got would have been pure fluke.

    I noticed when I went to the MCG how far back the wicketkeeper and slips stand when a quick is bowling. They’re halfway to the boundary. I don’t remember standing that far back in under 18s!

    The Old Batsman has a great little anecdote about when facing the first delivery of the innings you take a look at where the keeper is stood to gauge the pace of the bowler. He recounts one time when the keeper was practically on the boundary, and he thought it was a wind-up. He took the first delivery over his head.

  23. @TimN

    ‘ The likes of Kallis and de Villiers can… adjust further when the ball is in flight’

    No-one can adjust when the ball is in flight (against the quickest bowling).

    You only have about a third of a second, after all. It’s just impossible.

    The best batsman *predict* the flight and bounce of the ball based on little hints in the run-up, arm and hand position, and the way the pitch is playing (in terms of pace and bounce).

    That latter bit is why you need to play yourself in – get used to the particular pace and bounce of a wicket and you’re halfway there.

    This is also why a green seamer takes wickets, and so does quick swing (probably more apposite to your point – after a ball seams it’s no longer ‘in flight’ I suppose), or even slowish but late swing.

    If the best bats could adjust in flight, Jimmy Anderson would take many fewer wickets.

  24. Top class fast bowling is still lethal, despite undoubtedly improved protection and probably improved technique. I think what di the W.I. Was young players being sucked away to the USA to play basket ball – I remember that being discussed as an issue even back in the heyday of Viv and the rest.

    It’s good that we now have a chance to beat them, bad that even Ireland can! That was a wonderful sporting machine, teh Cricketing equivalent of the All Blacks – what a horrendous comment!

  25. Interested is exactly right. If the ball seams away from the bat there really isn’t much even the best batsman can do.

  26. So Much for Subtlety

    Dave – “West Indies cricket was flushed down the toilet by the introduction of drug-testing for recreational drugs. In a region where cannabis smoking was as widespread as beer-drinking was in England, that unsurprisingly had a drastic effect on the pool of talent available.”

    No cricket player is tested as much as a track and field athlete. And yet the period of collapse in West Indian cricket has seen the rise of West Indian track and field.

    Drug testing doesn’t seem to have bothered Usain Bolt. But then I doubt drug testing in the West Indies is all that rigorous.

  27. So Much for Subtlety

    Ironman – “So it was indeed all the white men, without whom those poor little black children would never have learnt to play cricket and without whom they now can’t play cricket.”

    Let’s see, the West Indies did not invent cricket. British people did. British people took it to the West Indies, along with a lot of African people in chains, who also did not invent cricket so …. yes …. without White people, those little Black children would never have learnt to play cricket.

    You know, I love how you can shoe horn your monomanical obsession with your racial self righteousness into every little thing, but this is sad.

    “Funny, presumably those England and Australia teams being smashed by the great West Indies side had quite a few white men who had been coached by white men in good English schools. How could they have lost?”

    That might be true if all it took was White coaches. The key is the school coach. Britain has sold off the playing fields of a lot of schools, and the quality of staff has gone down. It is often said to have had an impact on cricketing. The point about Jamaican education is not just that the White teachers were driven out, but that incompetents were put in their place. Theoretically, I suppose, they might have got good Black coaches. But somehow I don’t see cricket as high on Michael Manley’s agenda. Being colonial and racist and all.

    “Thick.Racist.Prick.”

    And yet nothing I said is untrue.

    Jack C – “You’re wrong on this SMFS.”

    I am sorry but you simply re-stated what I said. How does that show I am wrong?

    “Caribbean cricket has wholly inadequate financial backing, and the US has opportunities in abundance. Baseball talent spotters, let’s not forget baseball, were circling even in Clive Lloyd’s day.”

    Which is exactly what I said.

    “As for the “loss of English coaches” ….. which of England’s Cricket, Rugby or Football teams under-achieves the most is a separate argument, however we know that they all do.”

    But all for different reasons. A problem with coaching is a fairly consistent problem. One of the reasons world rugby has improved so much is that everyone has got Australian or New Zealand coaches these days. Well, almost every team. The southern hemisphere teams take their games so much more professionally.

  28. So Much for Subtlety

    Interested – “The best batsman *predict* the flight and bounce of the ball based on little hints in the run-up, arm and hand position, and the way the pitch is playing (in terms of pace and bounce).”

    The big changes in my lifetime have been the rise of the West Indian fast bowlers and then the return of the spin. The last was pretty much entirely the work of Shane Warne. He really changed the game. Now he was also a massive sh!t. The Australians of that period were not the sort of team most people could warm to, but the Waugh era players mostly looked decent sorts of blokes off the grass. You could have a beer with them. But Warne was and I guess still is a sh!t.

    I suspect the two are intimately linked. A lot of what Warne does is based on misleading other people and a complete indifference to their opinion. Warne was amazingly tough psychologically. He would go on doing his thing while every delivery was being batted all over the place until he got what he wanted. Most bowlers would collapse once they thought the batsman was on top of their game. But you can see how that would make him an excellent lady’s man as well.

  29. So Much for Subtlety

    Bloke in Germany – “SMFS is nigh crippled by his labour, carrying the white man’s burden.”

    It is a burden to be sure, but luckily I have my stiff upper lip to help me. Did you think your intellectual contribution to the world would be reduced to making childish off topic snarky comments on blogs? Just curious as I would have thought most people would have grown up hoping for more.

    However, while we are on the subject of coaches, Ireland’s triumph is probably all the greater because this is cricket. The Gaelic Athletic Association has relaxed some of its rules on “foreign” sports. I believe they have even allowed the odd rugby game to be played in Croke Park – If I remember right, the first time they allowed it was in 2007. But for much of the lifetime of most of the Irish team, the GAA would not have been encouraging cricket players. In fact when did they lift the life time ban for playing cricket?

    The captain is called William Porterfield. From which we can conclude that he is probably not a Catholic and may well be from the North. So what we have is a largely Ulster team? That would be more impressive. Although being the Irish, I expect that a lot of their team is actually Australian.

  30. Bloke in North Dorset

    When I went to see that famous Windies side in the 80s at Headingly what struck me most was how far back the keeper and slips were standing. You just don’t appreciate how far back they were on TV.

    I’d seen Trueman bowl when I was a lad and I’m sure the Windies were much further back than th Yorkshire keeper and slips.

  31. So Much for Subtlety

    Tim Newman – “One of the most startling declines in my adult life has been that of the Italian football league.”

    Well the obvious solution is for A. C. Milan to go back to being a cricket team again. Give up this football stuff. After all, if Ireland can be a powerhouse why not Italy?

  32. So Much for Subtlety

    Ironman – “I guess we’ll just have to remain in ignorance about the FDR.”

    I guess you will. After all, I could answer. But I am crippled with guilt that you might be able to find some hidden racist meaning in what I said and that might make the Baby Jesus cry or something.

    In the meantime, please feel free to continue your unique and special contributions to making this so much more like grown up blogs like Comment is Free.

  33. I know nothing about cricket, but the discussion on fast bowlers rings true.

    I play tennis to a fairly reasonable club standard. I once had a hit with a guy who had played Challenger tournaments (lower rungs of international professional). For shits and giggles I asked him to give me some of his fastest serves – I couldn’t even see them before they were past me, and he said he could only serve at about 120mph max, so far from the quickest top players. He then slowed up and hit some slow topsin serves instead. The “weight” of the spin nearly took the racquet out of my hand.

    At the top level it’s all about learning the opponent’s motion in order to figure out where they are likely to serve. Even then , against the very fastest servers there is still a big element of guessing. It’s what makes Federer such a great server: his ball toss and set up for every serve is almost identical, so he doesn’t give away if he’s hitting flat, slice or topspin until almost the last possible moment.

    Related to that, I remember reading an interview with a baseball fielder about how he anticipates where a ball will be going. As well as watching the batter, a lot of it is down to the sound of bat against ball. He said that covered stadiums make things more difficult as the sound is different.

    Professional sportsmen are just a breed apart.

  34. So Much for Subtlety

    GlenDorran – “At the top level it’s all about learning the opponent’s motion in order to figure out where they are likely to serve. Even then , against the very fastest servers there is still a big element of guessing. It’s what makes Federer such a great server”

    The evidence seems to suggest that this is not true. Or at least it won’t help if you are short no matter how good you are at telling where someone else is likely to serve.

    Roger Federer is 6’1″, the same as Rafael Nadal and Pete Sampras. Novak Djokovic is an inch taller as is Ivan Lendl and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Andy Murray has no excuse because he is taller still – 6’3″. Tomáš Berdych is a massive 6’5″. By contrast Stanislas Wawrinka is a piddling 6′.

    Baseball looked at new materials for bats and banned them. You can play with aluminium or carbon fibre bats in the pee wee leagues, but the professional adults have to take their chances with wood. Tennis did not go that way. Which means rackets are more consistent, more reliable and above all, able to take a great deal of abuse. People who play with wood have to be good tennis players. I am sure it helps to be a good player if you play with carbon fibre, but when it comes down to it, what you really need to be over 6 feet tall and hence able to serve a ball as fast as physics will allow. Just ask Michael Chang.

  35. “The evidence seems to suggest that this is not true. Or at least it won’t help if you are short no matter how good you are at telling where someone else is likely to serve.”

    I take your point to a degree but Andre Agassi, probably the greatest returner ever, is 5′ 11″, so short by tennis terms.

    Yes, the average height of the top players is increasing, but they are at the top because of their incredible skill levels and athleticism, not their height. John Isner is 6′ 10″ but will never win a Grand Slam because his serve (his only weapon) is relatively easy to read despite its pace and more importantly he moves like an elderly cart horse.

  36. And I’m not sure I agree with your point about racquets.

    Today’s top players can serve just as fast with wooden racquets (I’m sure Roddick* was recorded at over 140mph with an old 70s Wilson)

    The most significant advance in racquets is actually the development of polyfibre strings. They have enabled players to control the return of serve to such a degree that it has almost eliminated serve and volley from the game. And a huge serve is no longer the deciding advantage it once was. Statistics show that it’s actually the return which is the key factor.

    *another reason I like Roddick, and a demonstration of pro athletes insane levels of skill, was when he agreed to play a journalist using a frying pan. He won easily, obviously, but he was up for such a daft challenge even when at the top of his career.

  37. So Much for Subtlety

    GlenDorran – “I take your point to a degree but Andre Agassi, probably the greatest returner ever, is 5′ 11″, so short by tennis terms.”

    Would he have a career today? I first noticed it, or read about it more likely, with Pete Sampras so that is Agassi’s era. But Sampras showed the way that men’s tennis was going. He had a massive first serve. I think it took a while for people to notice that this is what really mattered. So in the old days, players were shorter. Jimmy Connors is only 5’10”. John McEnroe 5’11”. Could they play today?

    “Yes, the average height of the top players is increasing, but they are at the top because of their incredible skill levels and athleticism, not their height. John Isner is 6′ 10″ but will never win a Grand Slam because his serve (his only weapon) is relatively easy to read despite its pace and more importantly he moves like an elderly cart horse.”

    The one I felt sorry for was Michael Chang. Not only was he vastly better behaved than pretty much everyone else by that stage, but the guy could play tennis. He was hard working, determined and very skilled. But he just didn’t win that often. He is a little short. Could he have a career today? I don’t think so. It wasn’t that he lacked fitness or commitment or athleticism. It is just what can you do against the first serves so many people hit today?

    On the other hand Isner has played the longest recorded professional match in tennis history and is currently the highest ranked American male player. So he is doing something right.

  38. No-one can adjust when the ball is in flight (against the quickest bowling).

    If it gets pitched short or wide it gets smashed. Not all of this can be predicted before the ball leaves the bowler’s hand.

  39. “Well the obvious solution is for A. C. Milan to go back to being a cricket team again.”

    I never knew about AC’s cricket roots until now. Thanks for that, that’s the best bit of trivia I’ve heard in ages!

    This blog is a wonder for learning new things.

  40. Professional sportsmen are just a breed apart.

    I heard an anecdote once on one of these blogs about a pretty good table tennis player getting his arse kicked by a member of the British team who used a matchbox instead of a paddle. As you say, a breed apart.

  41. The serve is by no means everything, not even on grass these days, so yes, the slightly smaller players can and will have careers.

  42. Sampras had a *heavy* first serve (i.e. loads of spin) and was phenomenally accurate. It was not primarily pace (although he could dial it up when needed). And he had an amazing variety of serve as well. And it was incredibly disguised as well. His dad used to tell him what kind of serve to hit just before impact, so that’s where he learnt it (and probably why Fed serves as he does). Probably the best serve of all time I reckon.

    Your right about Chang – a gutsy and brave counterpuncher. But equally if he had been bigger and stronger would he have played in the same way and to the the same standard? The game is full of guys who hit hard but ain’t too smart.

    Lleyton Hewitt is 5’11” and has had a similar kind of career to Chang and plays a smiler style.

    I guess that to teach the very top you have to get lucky in all aspects: stature, skill, mentality. I’ve got the tennis physique (6 3, slim, long limbs) but am sadly lacking in skill or mental strength.

  43. So Much for Subtlety

    Jack C – “The serve is by no means everything, not even on grass these days, so yes, the slightly smaller players can and will have careers.”

    Name three playing today. Grass used to even things up a little. Is it just me or do people play on grass a lot less than they used to? It has even spread to the women’s game. At the risk of provoking Ironman’s wrath for saying something that could be interpreted as racist, I don’t much care for the Williams sisters’ game. But they can serve. They are also part of the trend to taller players. Venus is 6’1″. Serena is a better player but she is only 5′ 9″. Still the days when someone like Billy Jean King or Justine Henin – both 5′ 5″ – could be successful players seems to be over.

    Still, Maria Sharapova is 6’2″. So it is not all bad.

    By the way, while on the subject of odd links with Britain, one of the tragic tennis players is the Soviet star Svetlana Parkhomenko. As she retired just as the USSR collapsed and so missed out on all the prize money, photo shoots and her pension was reduced to nothing. But I have always been interested in her name. Which looks English, not Russia – the feminine form of Parkhome? Anyone know if there is a link?

  44. Tim N:

    I knew a guy who was a top junior golfer in Scotland, handicap of about +4 or 5 so one of the best amateurs in the country. He tried to make it on tour but came back after only a few months totally demoralised. The standard was just so insanely good that he knew deep down that no matter how much he tried he would never make it.

    The gap between the very very very good and the elite is huge.

    On the same note SMFS, you’re right about Isner: a good player having a nice enough career, but he’ll never win anything of note. It’s the gulf between the good and the great.

  45. Parkhomenko is a Ukrainian name, same for men and women. I have no idea of the origin, but there were a lot of Brits kicking around in pre-revolutionary Russia and Ukraine.

  46. “I heard an anecdote once on one of these blogs about a pretty good table tennis player getting his arse kicked by a member of the British team who used a matchbox instead of a paddle. ”

    There’s a sport called racketlon where players play table tennis, tennis, badminton and squash. I heard that they had to change the scoring because when it first started the best table tennis players would rack up cricket scores (the matches are timed); the amount of spin they put on the ball meant no-one else could even get a return back.

  47. A couple of men in the top 10 are well below 6 foot. Generally, players will be a bit taller, so it’s all relative. Being 6’6″ and having a big serve will not win you Grand Slams.

    These days serve and volley is quite rare even at Wimbledon: at one stage they were talking about having special slow balls and/or old-fashioned racquets to try and slow things down.

  48. So Much for Subtlety

    GlenDorran – “I knew a guy who was a top junior golfer in Scotland, handicap of about +4 or 5 so one of the best amateurs in the country. He tried to make it on tour but came back after only a few months totally demoralised. The standard was just so insanely good that he knew deep down that no matter how much he tried he would never make it.”

    I read an interesting article by, I think, Steve Sailor, who claimed that golf prodigies tended to do badly if they were allowed to compete with the grown ups at an early age. Because they got crushed and their confidence suffered. The successful ones humiliated other children for as long as possible.

    After all, no one starts out as Number One.

    “On the same note SMFS, you’re right about Isner: a good player having a nice enough career, but he’ll never win anything of note. It’s the gulf between the good and the great.”

    Ask most British boys if they would want Isner’s career at the cost of dying at 35 and I bet many would leap at it.

    Tim Newman – “Parkhomenko is a Ukrainian name, same for men and women. I have no idea of the origin, but there were a lot of Brits kicking around in pre-revolutionary Russia and Ukraine.”

    I think an English eye tries to break the k and the h. A Russian probably sees that as almost one letter like the Spanish Gu- or the English Qu-. Par-kho-men-ko?

    Russian Navy still flies the Scottish flag.

  49. The Russian ‘kh’ sound is represented in their alphabet as an ‘x’ and sounds like the ‘ch’ at the end of ‘loch’. If you grew up learning Welsh, as I did, this sound is a piece of piss.

    I knew about the Russian navy saltire. Not sure if the origin is the Scottish, though.

  50. So Much for Subtlety

    Jack C – “A couple of men in the top 10 are well below 6 foot. Generally, players will be a bit taller, so it’s all relative. Being 6’6″ and having a big serve will not win you Grand Slams.”

    Two of the top ten today. Kei Nishikori is 5′ 10″ and David Ferrer is one inch shorter. Heard of either of them? Ferrer is at the end of his career as he is now 32 so if he wasn’t able to break into the big leagues by now ….

    Four in the top twenty – David Goffin and Tommy Robredo. Both 5′ 11″. The others are mostly not just tall, but really tall.

    Tim Newman – “I knew about the Russian navy saltire. Not sure if the origin is the Scottish, though.”

    It is indeed.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Gordon_%28Royal_Scots_Navy_officer%29#Later_Career_-_Russian_Navy

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Navy

    Among those hired was Henry (or Harry) Farquharson, called in Russia Andrei Danilovich (Daniloff) Farkhvarson or Farvarson (1675–1739), who had taught mathematics and astronomy at the University of Aberdeen and was recommended by Halley and Jacob Daniel Bruce (1670–1735), while John Colson was hired to teach Bruce mathematics. Farquaharson’s task in Russia was to create and administer a School of Mathematics and Navigation. It was under Farquharson’s guidance that he and Tsar Peter wrote the mathematics curriculum for the new school. He was accompanied by Stephen Gwyn (1684–1720) and Richard Grice (1682?–1709), who were graduates of the England’s Royal Mathematical School

    Jeremy Bentham’s brother Samuel Bentham served in the Imperial Russian Navy. He became a lobbyist for water tight compartments in ships after seeing Chinese junks in Siberian waters with this.

  51. “Two of the top ten today. Kei Nishikori is 5′ 10″ and David Ferrer is one inch shorter. Heard of either of them?”

    Yep, both of them, but I’m a tennis obsessive 🙂

    Ferret ha been the most consistent player outside of Fed/Nadal/Murray /Djokovic over the last four or five years. He’s a player in the style of Chang – no big weapons but a dogged retriever.

    There are some questions raised about his phenomenal endurance – must be something the Spanish put in the water….

  52. “Heard of either of them?”

    They’re in the top 10. The fact that you haven’t heard of them is not relevant.

  53. Russian Navy still flies the Scottish flag.

    Sighs …

    The Russian Navy flies the Russian flag.

    The Russian Naval Ensign (flies at the blunt end not the pointy end) is a saltire. Albeit inverted colours from the Scottish flag.

  54. @SMFS,

    Sure, my intellectual contribution to the world couldn’t possibly match your agile running to Wikipedia to appear an expert on any and every topic that comes up here. After all, I’ve only had the one project stolen by a Nobel laureate and it’s so long ago I no longer care. I am thoroughly (and knowingly) ignorant on the racial aspects of cricket, West Indian politics, military strategy the woman’s place in the world, ensigns of the great navies, and the 10,001 other topics on which you are the world’s greatest and most knowledgeable commentator.

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