Search This Blog

26 December 2010

Boxing Day Test

Today was not a happy day for Australian cricket. Twenty runs was the highest score on the Australian score card, and the tenth wicket fell before the total score got to three figures. To add insult to injury, it took England just an extended session to overtake Australia's score without losing even one wicket! The atmosphere at the iconic MCG was extremely subdued; no one wants to see such a capitulation, and Australia just did not appear to be competitive enough. If they don't manage to pull this game from the brink, then England will have won the Ashes, and I think Australia will have some very difficult decisions to make: to preserve a core team around which to build with an infusion of young players who can be honed into a top team again over some time. Australia have been such a good team, by a huge margin for such a long time, it is difficult to even contemplate a period of rebuilding, but this is what is required.

I got Matthew Hayden's book "Standing my ground" as a present from Pearl. Australia now needs to manufacture a few new idols of the likes of Hayden. I believe that the captain should also stand aside, for a someone who will be able to take the side into the future; I am not sure that this will or should be Michael Clarke! Anyways, I am not a selector - they will have to think long and hard about this!

23 December 2010

Good bye 2010, bring on 2011!

It's difficult to believe, but last night was the shortest night of the year i.e the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere, and with it the holidays are therefore only a breath away! Melbourne has a new buzz, with many visitors including the Barmy Army and the English Cricket Team aka "The Poms" to entertain us on Boxing Day (plus next four, hopefully), and I hope it turns out to be a real contest. The Ashes cricket series is well poised, which has re-ignited interest in the game, - the MCG is a sellout on Sunday!

2010 saw me celebrate a significant anniversary (you can but guess which), included two trips to South Africa and a number of adventures of exploration around Australia. In March we drove along the Victorian and SA (aka South Australian) coast and caught a ferry to Kangaroo Island, yet another very pristine part of the world, which is good to see (and know, since they are becoming scarcer!). In winter we explored Victoria's King Valley and specifically their wine farms! In spring we took Jay, Jacqui and their girls up to Hamilton Island - part of the Whitsundays group on the north-eastern shores of Australia and bordering the GBR (Great Barrier Reef). It was a nice change from Melbourne which was still very chilly and wet. In fact this year has been by far the wettest that I have experienced in Melbourne so far. We sailed up to Whitsundays Beach, apparently one of the top beaches in the world - and I can believe that! It is on Whitsundays Island, which is uninhabited and a nature sanctuary, no doubt majorly contributing to the beach's very pristine nature. We also snorkeled around one of the reefs off the yacht, but were really pressed for time, so we'll have to schedule a return visit.

Personally, I kept myself occupied with two primary passions, namely sailing once or twice a week on Barry's Zardos and cycling. The latter takes up a lot of time too, but I am slightly more in control, since I don't always cycle with our team - the 6am-ers. Still, a routine 40km ride before work in the mornings takes me about 80 or 90 minutes. The routine however makes up for good outings. In October I was seconding Brave Dave of the 6am-ers on his Melbourne to Warnambool quest - not an insignificant 260km ride: however on the day this was compounded with cold temperatures (below 10 degrees C), intermittent showers and a headwind in excess of 30kph for most of the way! However Brave mastered it well, and was rewarded with a prize for his effort! Just earlier this month I went with the team to ride the Tour of Bright (I had not actually entered the race), and this included an ascent of Mount Hotham (ascent in excess of 2000m). I rode both stages and was pleased to finish each of them well. It's probably worth a mention that Pearl and I skied Mt Hotham two years ago!

In between, Melbourne laid on its usual array of activities, but for me the highlight this year was the 2010 World Cycling Championships which took place in Geelong (80km southwest of Melbourne), featuring the world's top riders. (See separate blog post below if you're interested).

Now we're getting ready to spend Christmas at home for the first time in a number of years, hoping to take in some of the cricket, before getting ready for the state titles S80 sailing championships in early January, followed by the Australian Open tennis and the Tour Down Under in quick succession thereafter - and that is just the start of 2011! It will no doubt be at least as hectic as 2010. Bring it on!

08 December 2010

Itchy geeks

They do have a tendency to get under your skin, and irritate the s..t out of you! Those are the geeks that just think they know it all, speak in a dialect interspersed with meaningless acronyms, admittedly are more intelligent than the average; but they are at their most irritating when they've convinced you that they have been right all along!

Now, on a different topic, consider the following quote: "Countries that restrict free access to information, or violate the basic rights of Internet users, risk walling themselves off from the progress of the next century, ... " oh, how easy it is to slug someone else, one can be so smug and self-righteous, with the firm backing of reason and logic behind one! This was attributed to the US Madame Secretary, speaking in February 2010, and the object of her reference was China and their tendency to shut out voices, just like the above geeks, that are a thorn in their side. Now please don't get me wrong, I am no China apologist, but how ironical, now that the shoe appears to be on the other foot! Is there a hint of double standards? Would the same warning be applicable? Is access to all information indeed a right of Internet users? And whose decision is it anyway? The latest Wiki Leaks are indeed a thorn in the side of the US State Department, inconvenient, embarrassing and yes, even perhaps in a few cases a security threat, but is the reaction justified? Is it directed correctly? I, as I am sure is the case for the majority, have not got any information about the leaked cables from the Wiki Leaks site itself, but rather in the popular media - are they then at least not guilty of the same offence as Wiki Leaks in publishing sensitive information? If the popular press had been restrained, how many, in all honesty, would have sniffed the Wiki Leaks site for the information?

I am not sure of the answers to the questions which I have posed, but it does appear as if Madame Secretary's words, at least as far as john citizen is concerned, will be coming back to haunt her and her peers. I found the following survey on the web site of the local Melbourne daily - The Age. I don't think I have ever seen one with 18000+ respondents; moreover with such a large proportion in favour of one specific view.

This must be a real itch for the US Secretary of State and other leaders. The online world is watching their response with interest. As someone recently remarked: "I am not sure whether I am anti - Wiki Leaks, but I do know that I am anti- anti- Wiki Leaks". Somehow the public do develop a sense of what is right and wrong, and often it is not what they are told it to be.

Tour of Bright

Thanks to the 6am-ers cycling team who invited me along to the Tour of Bright this year! I got to ride two legs of the Tour with them: it was tough, but somehow enjoyable.

Although the weather was forecast to be wet, after a deluge on Saturday morning it cleared up, and was really ideal for the tour. Saturday's stage left Bright in a northerly direction towards Ovens, then heading south-eastwards towards Mt Beauty, before a final climb to Tawonga Gap, althogether just over 90km. I battled a bit towards the end, and especially up the climb to Tawonga, but was glad to have made it in a time of just under 3h25 - or averaging 27.5km/h - which is about right for me on that type of terrain, and combarable to some of those racing. Stage map

I did not participate in the time trial on Saturday afternoon, instead trying to get some pics of the team.

I was apprehensive about Sunday's ride. Only about 54km, but about half of the distance would be a climb, in parts in excess of 10%, up to Mount Hotham (1861m) - the last time I was up there, it was to ski. However the first part of the ride was easy, and an excellent opportunity to warm up properly. I rode with John and Lorry to the beginning of the ascent, and then made my way slowly but steadily up. I did not stop, was overtaken by the race pelotons and many individuals, but made it to the top in about 2h50, or 19km/h - again not too  shabby I thought, given that I had not done much hill training this year. Stage map

Anyway, I have now been issued the challenge of entering the race properly next year  - from a number of quarters. That will mean some more concerted training, and therefore dedication. Thanks to "Fabio" for posting the above pic on my facebook page. There is nowhere to hide these days!

07 December 2010

Winning and losing

Australians are passionate about sport, there is no question about that, and among them Melbournians are probably the most vociferous supporters. That is until the team or individual stops winning! This is at least my observation which was again reinforced this weekend just gone. Interest in the national cricket side, up against England at the Adelaide Oval, hit an air pocket, and did not re-emerge until this afternoon, when the disinterest finally turned to anger and ridicule - reactions more familiar in South Africans.

This is by no means unique. During the beloved footy season, supporters of the losing team, which does not give a good account of itself, clear out of the stadium way before the end of the match - adding to the poor players' dejection, when, I would rather have thought constructive support might be a better option.

On the topic of cricket however it does appear as if the decade plus of dominance of the game is nearing its end. A rebuilding phase is, or will need to start in earnest, very soon. The choice of personnel to be part of this phase will need to be one of the early, difficult decisions. There will not be another Warny, Gilly, Pigeon or Haydos, but in time the new team will, I am sure, make its own mark, and deliver its own set of heroes and role models. They will need support during this phase, but cannot be expected to win every match and series. This is good for cricket, no?

The cricket was not the only loss inflicted this past week, the other was the 2022 World Cup hosting rights! But the reaction was predictable: yawn and ignore it! The Australian bid did cost us (the tax payer) almost $45m, but we have our footy and league (not to mention super rugby, tennis, F1 GP, etc.) and the bunch of cheating FIFA execs can go and play where ever they choose. "Cheating" because how can someone look you in the eye the night before, pledge you their support, and then not follow through the next day? - this is something very foreign to the straight up and down Aussie. The fact that this was not the action of one, but at least six executives just demonstrates that their values are very different to the ones lived by here. (I had to laugh at one report, hidden in small print somewhere, that the single vote that Australia got for their bid, is now being claimed by two FIFA execs - i.e. even after the fact, they don't want to admit they lied to you!)

Again, my question is whether it is time to give up? South Africa hosted a successful World Cup this year, but can anyone remember that South Africa were done in when bidding for the 2006 World Cup? None less than Nelson Mandela sat where Frank Lowy sat on Thursday last (just found out that I have common heritage with Frank - he too was born in Czechoslovakia, only thirty years before I was), and who got it? GERMANY! To their credit, South Africa did not give up; probably wiser to the workings of FIFA, they bid for the next one and got that. But then, there is England, poor England - the home of the most popular and successful football league, where all players want to play, and the best do. England bid alongside South Africa and Germany for 2006, now they tried again for 2018, only to be denied yet again. It does not make sense to me, is it because they already have the best and don't need 'development'? Why then did Germany, France, and Italy get hosting rights in the last 20 years? However, England won't give up, they'll be there bidding again!

So in conclusion: Don't give up; and don't give up on your team!

Personal note: For years my Australian Super Rugby team were the Queensland Reds. Why? Probably because they were so awful for so many years and needed the support! And besides Victoria did not have a team. All that is changing in 2011. Victoria is getting the Melbourne Rebels, they are the real underdogs, and I am switching my allegiance from Reds to Rebels but then the Reds are so hot now (2010), they will have great support!

Just for the record:
The voting for World Cup 2006:

Three days before the vote was due to take place, in Zurich on 6th July 2000, Brazil withdrew their application to host the 2006 World Cup Final (some say because Pelé is a friend of Beckenbauer's).
This left England, Germany, Morocco and South Africa with competing bids. [NOTE: Was this a trade of votes between Germany and Brazil, who were eventually awarded the 2014 rights??]

First round of voting: The 24 members of the FIFA Executive Committee all cast their votes to decide who would host 2006 World Cup Finals; Africa for once, or Europe yet again.
Germany pulled 10 votes in the first round, South Africa 6, England 5, and Morocco 3.
No-one abstained and Morocco were eliminated.

In the second round of voting, three of those who voted for England in the first round seemed to desert them in favour of South Africa; surely they wouldn't switch to Germany? South Africa tied Germany with eleven votes each. England only attracted two votes and were eliminated.

There was great speculation as to where the last two votes for England would go. If the final ballot tied at 12-12, FIFA President Sepp Blatter was to decide who would have the honour of hosting the 2006 World Cup Finals - he was rumoured to be in favour of South Africa [NOTE: This is a common thread, he was rumoured to favour Australia for 2022?? - bad omen - don't get Blatter
The greatest chance to justifiably bring a World Cup Finals to Africa, for the first time, was squandered.
One of the two remaining votes went to West Germany and the other - in the hands of Charles Dempsey, the New Zealand President of the Oceania Football Confederation - was not submitted. [NOTE: Oceania?? they did not vote for 2022 either, having been disqualified on the grounds of corruption: Bad omen number 2, don't rely on Oceania's support for your bid!] The abstention as good as a vote for West Germany. The media attention Charles Dempsey received, once his inaction became known to the world, forced him to resign from the FIFA Executive Committee and all other FIFA committees of which he was a member. Whatever his real reasons for abstaining and eventually resigning, the World Cup Finals in 2006 were to be hosted in Germany. 

Voting for the 2010 World Cup:
Africa was chosen as the host for the 2010 World Cup as part of a short-lived policy, abandoned in 2007, to rotate the event among football confederations. [NOTE: The 'rules' do change .... there is hope!] Five African nations placed bids to host the 2010 World Cup: Egypt, Morocco, South Africa and a joint bid from Libya and Tunisia. Following the decision of the FIFA Executive Committee not to allow co-hosted tournaments, Tunisia withdrew from the bidding process. The committee also decided not to consider Libya's solo bid as it no longer met all the stipulations laid down in the official List of Requirements.The winning bid was announced by FIFA president Sepp Blatter at a media conference on 15 May 2004 in Zürich; in the first round of voting South Africa received 14 votes, Morocco received 10 votes and Egypt no votes. South Africa were granted the right to host the 2010 World Cup.

Voting for the 2014 World Cup:
Due to the rotation policy, it was already known that the 2014 World Cup Finals would be returning to South America and, being CONMEBOL's only candidate put forward to host the tournament, the announcement that Brazil would host the 2014 World Cup Finals (on Tuesday, October 30th 2007) was merely a formality.

Voting for the 2018 World Cup:
First round: Russia 9; Spain/Portugal 7; Belgium/Netherlands 4; England 2 (eliminated).
Second round: Russia 13; Spain/Portugal 7; Belgium/Netherlands 2.
Russia gets to host WC2018.

Voting for the 2022 World Cup:
First round: Qatar 11; USA 3; South Korea 4; Japan 3; Australia 1 (eliminated).
Second round: Qatar 10; USA 5; South Korea 5; Japan 2 (eliminated).
Third round: Qatar 11; USA 6; South Korea 5; (eliminated).
Fourth round: Qatar 14; USA 8. Qatar get to host WC2022.

Confusing? We may need some other consultants!