Archive for the ‘Rejoice! Rejoice!’ Category

England the best (nearly)

August 2, 2011

There is a tendency among English (and to a certain extent British) sports commentators and supporters to consider national teams either complete rubbish or world class. I’ve written an analysis of the England soccer team at the 2010 World Cup, compared with major rivals which goes into this in some detail. Some time (Real Soon Now, hopefully) I’ll publish it as a page here.

But for now, I want to take issue with Derek Pringle, a former Test player for England, and presently a commentator for the Daily Telegraph. He writes about yesterday’s England win over world number one India:

It was a pounding, delivered with the swaggering elan of the two finest sides of the last 30 years: the West Indies under Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards; and Australia under Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh.
They are not yet as consistently ruthless as those teams but successive wins against India appears to have given them an appetite for world domination judging from the one-sided nature of the cricket here.

Now I would bet that any English reader of the quote is going to assume that I want to criticise the comparison with the great West Indian or Australian sides. But that isn’t my complaint. It’s that Andrew Strauss, the South African-born England captain has already matched or surpassed the standards set by the four great captains listed above.

Here’s the record:

Andrew Strauss (England): Captained 37 times, won 19 (51.4%), lost 5 (13.5%), drawn 13 (35.1%).

Clive Lloyd (West Indies): Captained 74 times, won 36 (48.6%), lost 12 (16.2%), drawn 26 (35.1%).
Viv Richards (West Indies): Captained 50 times, won 27 (54.0%), lost 8 (16.0%), drawn 15 (30.0%).
Mark Taylor (Australia): Captained 50 times, won 26 (52.0%), lost 13 (26.0%), drawn 11 (22.0%).
Steve Waugh (Australia): Captained 57 times, won 41 (71.9%), lost 9 (15.8%), drawn 7 (12.3%).

Now it is clear that Strauss can claim to be more successful than Lloyd, in a near dead heat with Richards and Taylor and behind Waugh. But consider the starting point. The West Indies under Lloyd and England under Strauss did not start from a position of undisputed world’s top test cricket teams. And Steve Waugh’s loss rate is worse than Strauss’ even though he started with the top team in the world.

The simple truth is this. A team coming up against Andrew Strauss’ England does not expect to win (his loss rate is the lowest of the five). Which is precisely what it was like to face those other great captains. I think it’s time to recognise this fact and enjoy it while it lasts.

As a result of the 319-runs win in the second test, taking a 2-0 lead in the four match series, England are on course to take over from India as the top test playing team in the International Cricket Council rankings. Already, Strauss’ team is guaranteed at least second place, leap-frogging South Africa.

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Quote of the day

September 28, 2009

I suppose if one can bury bad news, one can also, conversely, unearth amazing news. Truly, this middanġeard is full of marvels, even now.

Fugitive Ink

The only person I know who would include middanġeard and charmingly forget to include the translation in a blog post. 🙂

Lest we forget…September 12

September 12, 2009

Today the continental breakfast was invented. It’s the only day of the year that I have a croissant and coffee (with milk) at home.

September 12th 1683 is the date of the raising of the Siege of Vienna by the Ottoman Empire, which represented the turning point for Turkish expansion in Central and Eastern Europe.

It is said that the armies of Poles, Germans and Austrians that drove the Turks and allies (notably some Hungarians) from the siege camp found curious crescent-shaped pastries and coffee. A Capucin monk is supposed to have added cream to soften the bitter taste of the unfamiliar dark hot drink to create capuccino.

I’m sure the more literate Turks celebrate the Battles of Manzikaert (1071), Myriocephalum (1176) and Hattin (1187)*. I don’t suppose, however, that they found anything from their defeated opponents of such lasting gastronomic influence as the capuccino and croissant breakfast.

* I apologise to Turkish readers wishing to celebrate the exact dates. I don’t have them to hand.

The case for wind farms #2: bird-choppers kill bats too!

June 15, 2009

Until now, I thought the only arguments in favour of wind farms was that they provide entertainment in the form of eagles being sucked into the propeller blades and turned into fast food for rats and foxes.

After all, they disfigure the countryside, they consume vast quantities of concrete. Does anyone know the carbon footprint of building a wind farm -including the trucks carrying the pieces and what BP executives spend their related bonuses on?

They often don’t generate energy at all: “too little” or “too much wind” so a back up oil-fired power station has to be built nearby to “top up” supply. They also explode.

But I was wrong.

Not only do bird-choppers kill birds (reducing the threat of avian influenza) and make a dreadful racket, they could exterminate West Virginia’s bat population too!

I want a wind farm next door to me right now, call me a chiroptophobe if you wish.

The peacock HAS landed

November 15, 2008

Not premature anymore.

The Chandrayaan moon orbiter, launched from India just over three weeks ago, has dropped off a moon impact probe. It landed at 3:01pm GMT (8:31 India Standard Time) on Friday November 14 2008.

India still receives overseas aid for supposedly being a backward, poor country. I’ve no doubt that there are people living in poverty, but the evidence is pretty strong that the world’s largest democracy is doing more than OK.

Am I surprised that Indian scientists and engineers have delivered the Chandrayaan? Not one bit. I remember in about 1983, when I was still at school near the Science Museum, in London, there was the casing of an Indian rocket displayed on the outside of the building. I think it was actually a long-range ballistic missile.

I remember thinking that India must be capable of building space rockets and wondering when we’d see lots of countries with space programs.

I am surprised the Indian government has become sufficiently unsclerotic to allow a project of this kind to succeed. Unkind people have suggested the vulture, not the peacock, would be a more apt national bird for India. Today, such cynicism can be binned.

France certainly has the technology and will (if needed) to match India’s space program. The Ariane is essentially a French rocket with other people chipping in cash, as far as I can tell. I may be knocking the U.K., but I can’t imagine this country getting a vehicle to the Moon without U.S. or European money and know-how.

Meanwhile, the private sector is finally having a go too.

The Peacock Has Landed*

October 22, 2008

Anyone who remembers the Six Million Rupee Man sketch from Goodness Gracious Me, will understand why I wondered if this was a joke. In my defence, I hoped it was for real. It is.

India is now ahead of the U.K. in the space race. Ahead of Germany and France. Could be level with Japan.

*The peacock is the national bird of India. Alright, I’m premature. Sue me.