The heart of football has stopped beating. Diego Armando Maradona is dead

Un poco con la cabeza de Maradona y otro poco con la mano de Dios,” (“a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”). – How Diego Maradona described his exploits to a select few reporters sniffing around for the day’s killer quote after the quarter-final against England in the 1986 World Cup.

Diego Armando Maradona is dead. By any measure, the man was the greatest footballer who ever lived, a short, stumpy man who seemed to have the ball on a string, one who looked terribly clumsy but who had the feet of an angel.

He died of a heart attack, no doubt brought on by the way he abused his body, with cocaine and alcohol use high on his list. The genius on the field was a man who could not control his self-destructive urges.

Maradona came from a poor background, being raised in a shantytown on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. His talent was spotted at an early age, when he appeared for trials with the Argentinos Juniors, for whom he played 10 days before his 16th birthday.

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Vale, Robert Fisk

The veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk died recently at the age of 74, and his death means one of the Western world’s journalists who best understood the region has left the scene.

Fisk lived in Beirut for most of the 30-plus years he covered the region and reported the troubles in Northern Ireland before venturing out of the country.

He reported on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the continuing woes in that country. Fisk interviewed the al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden thrice and also covered the US invasion of Iraq.

Robert Fisk.

Some questioned his approach to journalism; he did not believe in getting opinions from both sides, so-called balanced journalism. Rather, it was his belief that the job of a reporter was to provide an outlet for the underdog.

His famous example was that of the liberation of a concentration camp. And he asked whether one should be expected to get a quote from a SS guard for balance, a query which nobody has attempted to answer.

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Racism: Holding and Rainford-Brent do some plain speaking

Michael Anthony Holding, one of the feared West Indies pace bowlers from the 1970s and 1980s, bowled his best spell on 10 July, in front of the TV cameras.

Holding, in England to commentate on the Test series between England and the West Indies, took part in a roundtable on the Black Lives Matter protests which have been sweeping the world recently after an African-American man, George Floyd, was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis on May 25.

Holding speaks frankly, Very frankly. Along with former England cricketer Ebony Rainford-Brent, he spoke about the issues he had faced as a black man, the problems in cricket and how they could be resolved.
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The BBL is going downhill slowly, but surely

The ninth edition of Australia’s annual 20-over cricket tournament, the Big Bash League, ended on a rather downbeat note, with the final reduced to a 12-over-a-side affair, though the fact that it would rain on the day was known well in advance.

Despite that, the Sydney Sixers, a finalist and the eventual winner, did not want the game shifted to Melbourne due to the home ground advantage that it claimed it would have.

The other finalist, the Melbourne Stars, would not have minded moving the game so that the full 20 overs could be played, but moving it to the MCG, which was the alternative venue, would have afforded the Stars home-ground advantage. Shouldn’t professional teams be able to play at any venue and win?
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Fast bowlers have lost their balls

There was a time in the 20th century when there were more class fast bowlers in the game of cricket than at any other. Between 1974 and 1994, pacemen emerged in different countries as though they were coming off an assembly line.

It made the game of cricket, which many call boring, an exciting spectacle.

From Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson, to Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Colin Croft, Joel Garner, the late Malcolm Marshall, Imran Khan, Sarfraz Nawaz, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Devon Malcolm, Bob Willis, Ian Botham, Allan Donald, Fanie de Villiers, Richard Hadlee, Courtney Walsh, Curtley Ambrose, Patrick Patterson and Craig McDermott, they were of several different types and temperaments as is to be expected.
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High time for Michael Cheika to stop whinging about referees

When Australia loses a rugby match, it is generally put down to some external factor like refereeing. This is the response of both the so-called experts and the coach, Michael Cheika, whose middle name should be “whinging”.

Thus when Wales beat Australia in a pool game in the Rugby World Cup last week, a match that is very likely to decide the winner of that pool and condemn Australia to meet England in the quarter-finals, the reaction was no different.
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RWC commentators need to be lined up and shot

While many people have raised questions about the quality of refereeing at the ongoing Rugby World Cup, nobody, surprisingly has questioned the quality of commentary that is available. If one were to compare the two, the commentators would lose by a mile.

There is a strange kind of logic that has prevailed in management circles for quite a while now, namely that a person who is good in one sector of an industry would also be equally good in another. It is this kind of logic (?) that leads managers to appoint rank and file employees to positions of leadership. It flies in the face of logic to argue that someone who is good at following orders would be equally good as a leader, but that’s the conventional wisdom that has prevailed and will never go away.
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Was Garcès the right choice to officiate SA-NZ game?

The authorities who select referees for matches at the Rugby World Cup do not seem to think very deeply about the choices they make. This is, perhaps, what resulted in the French referee Jérôme Garcès being put in charge of the game between New Zealand and South Africa on 21 September.

Some background is necessary to understand why Garcès’ appointment was questionable. He had officiated in the game between Australia and New Zealand earlier this year and handed out a red card to Kiwi lock Scott Barrett for a charge on Australian skipper Michael Hooper. This was a decision that was questioned in many quarters; that Scott Barrett deserved a yellow card was not in question, but a red card was deemed to be a gross over-reaction.
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Wake me up when the World Cup is over

The World Cup cricket tournament began on May 30 and will end on July 14. By that time, even the most ardent fan would have had enough and will be wishing that it gets over, not matter who wins. The International Cricket Council has turned what was once a short, enjoyable cricket festival into a boring tournament which is a pain in the nether regions.

Twenty-seven matches have been gone through, and four have already been washed out, giving the teams involved a singular disadvantage. No extra days can be factored in to play such washed out games, else the tournament would only end when Christmas comes around. And there are another 18 matches to go.
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Cricket Australia: anyone will do, as long as we stem the losses

Ever since the Australian cricket team lost its captain Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner and opener Cameron Bancroft to suspension for ball-tampering, the organisation running the game, Cricket Australia, has been fighting to make the spectre of losses disappear.

The three players were found to have been the prime movers behind the use of sandpaper to change the surface of the ball during a series in South Africa in March 2018; Bancroft, the actual person caught on TV while stuffing a piece of sandpaper down the front of his pants, was suspended for nine months, while Smith and Warner were banned for a year. Warner, in addition, will never be able to hold a leadership position in the team.

After these shocks to the system, Australia has been losing one series after the other, no matter whether it be Tests or the shorter forms of the game. Thus the arrival of the Sri Lankan team to play two Tests has come as a great relief. Sri Lanka is without its skipper Angelo Matthews, a talented all-rounder, who often rescues the team when it is in trouble.
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