Sport Critical Digest 18.12.11

Written by  //  December 18, 2011  //  Critical Digest, Sport  //  No comments

1. Dravid delivers a straight batted speech: Rahul Dravid became the first Indian to deliver the Sir Donald Bradman Oration, in Canberra, this past week. In a rousing speech of nearly forty minutes, Dravid touched upon a plethora of issues including the rampant corruption, the declining crowds in the stadia, and the cricketing relations that Australia and India share. While recognizing that all three formats – Tests, ODIs and Twenty-twenty have a place in the game – Dravid nonetheless advocated the importance of the sport’s longest form: “Test cricket is the gold standard, it is the form the players want to play. Test cricket deserves to be protected, it is what the world’s best know they will be judged by.” There were some who suggested that he crossed the line in virtually calling for cricketers to undergo lie-detector tests to keep the sport clean. While, this may be indeed be a step too far, the statement was clearly a product of his unbounded passion for the sport and his commitment towards maintaining its essential integrity. You can read the speech here (http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/current/story/545355.html) and watch it here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aF2r-ui47ow&feature=related.) Mile Selvey’s brief reaction to the speech in the Guardian World Cricket Forum is also worth a read (http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/blog/2011/dec/15/guardian-world-cricket-forum).

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2. The 3 and half at the back: Linear reporting can rarely do full justice to a football game. For a game, over the course of the 90 minutes will have countless ebbs and flows – there could be phases of seemingly dull irrelevance that are nonetheless crucial to the final outcome. This past week, Barcelona defeated Real Madrid 3-1 in the Clasico in a game that even if not stunningly thrilling from a lay viewer’s perspective was particularly fascinating from a tactical standpoint. Barcelona essentially started with a 4-3-3, but with Real beginning to press heavily into Barca’s half, Guardiola shifted Dani Alves further forward, pulled Puyol to the right and dropped Busquets even further back. Jonathan Wilson – the guru of football tactics – describes this as a three and a half at the back. Busquets, Wilson says, was crucial from so many different angles. “We are used to seeing Busquets dropping back from midfield to become a centre-back; but here he was doing the opposite, stepping out from the back four to become a midfielder. Perhaps this is the logical outcome for a side that flips so often between a back three and a back four: it ends up playing a back three-and-a-half.” Read Wilson’s piece here (http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/blog/2011/dec/13/the-question-3-1-4-2-formation-rise) and the ever-excellent Michael Cox’s post-match analysis here (http://www.zonalmarking.net/2011/12/11/real-madrid-1-3-barcelona-tactics/). Also read some of Sid Lowe’s reflections here (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/sid_lowe/12/13/clasico.thoughts/index.html). Only one word for Andres Iniesta, he says, and that’s “Astonishing.” Who would argue with that?

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3. On Boogaard and Enforcers: The former Minnesota Wild and New York Rangers left winger, Canadian Derek Boogaard died earlier this year from an accidental drug and alcohol overdoes while recovering from a concussion. Boogaard fulfilled the unofficial role of the Enforcer for his teams – he was one of the NFL’s most feared fighters, and over the course of his career, he suffered multiple concussions. In a superb three-part series for the New York Times, John Branch explores the life of Boogaard, the circumstances that led to his ultimate death and the ugly role of the enforcer – “The enforcer, sometimes mocked as a goon or euphemized as a tough guy, may be hockey’s favorite archetype. Enforcers are seen as working-class superheroes—understated types with an alter ego willing to do the sport’s most dangerous work to protect others. And they are underdogs, men who otherwise might have no business in the game,” writes Branch. Read the series here (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/04/sports/hockey/derek-boogaard-a-boy-learns-to-brawl.html?_r=1) and watch the corresponding videos here (http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/12/04/sports/hockey/boogaard-video.html).

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4. The Paul and Griffin axis: Chris Paul is, without question, the best point guard in the NBA. This past week he seemed to be on the verge of a move to the Los Angeles Lakers from the New Orleans Hornets, but after an intervention by NBA Commissioner David Stern, he moved instead to L.A.’s other team, the less fancied Clippers. While this ensures a mouthwatering partnership between Paul and the league’s most dazzling slam dunker Blake Griffin, as Bethlehem Shoals argues, in The Classical, the “Clippers are still the Clippers.” The best that Paul and Griffin can do, Shoals says, is make us forget that the team exists (http://theclassical.org/articles/blake-griffin-is-the-major-market). If you’re interested in knowing how Paul is going into fit into the Clippers offense, read Sebastian Pruiti in Grantland here (http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/7359902/how-chris-paul-fits-clippers-offense)

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5. Gustafson fighting a speech defect: Swedish professional golfer Sophie Gustafson, a five-time winner on the LPGA tour, suffers from a speech impediment. Watch this superb, inspirational five-minute video on Golf Channel in which Gustafson “opens up about her speech and her life. (http://www.golfchannel.com/media/golf-central-november-24-sophie-gustafson/)

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