All posts by Daniel Shalom

The IPL’s five most expensive signings for 2017

The Indian Premier League (IPL) kicks off again this April, as cricket’s most lucrative tournament returns for its 10th year.

The annual auction took place in Bengaluru, India, last month where the eight franchises battled it out for the services of the world’s best players.

We take a look at the five most expensive signings in this year’s IPL auction and predict how they are going to fare in this year’s competition.

1. Ben Stokes – 145 million INR (£1.7m)

Team: Rising Pune Supergiants

Ben Stokes described as “complete carnage” the moment when he became the most expensive foreign player in this year’s competition.

Pune spent the majority of their budget on Stokes, but the fact he can bat, bowl and field puts him in an extremely rare category of cricketer, and this convinced the Supergiants to pounce late on.

Stokes will offer immense power hitting in the middle to latter overs, as well as being able to bowl effectively. Not forgetting the fact he is one of the best fielders in the world, with a bullet throw and bucket hands.

He is charismatic, powerful and fiery and has all the ingredients needed to be an IPL hit.

Stokes does not have fond memories of India though thanks to a poor 2016 World Cup. But if he can cope with the pressure being Pune’s main man, then expect him to be back with a vengeance.

2. Tymal Mills – 120 million INR (£1.4m)

Team: Royal Challengers Bangalore

£1.4m seems a lot to pay for a man that almost quit the game two years ago and has only played four T20 internationals, but Mills’ form and his variation has earned him a life-changing IPL contract.

Mills was diagnosed with a congenital back condition in 2015, which led to the decision that the seamer would only play T20 cricket and not the longer format of the game.

This has allowed him to focus on the short game and become a real T20 specialist. We saw evidence of this when England were in India earlier this year as Mills really caught the eye with some superb short spells, picking up a wicket in each of the three matches he played.

Mills’ slower ball is currently one of the most effective deliveries in T20 cricket, with numerous batsmen struggling to pick it.

The Sussex man has the ability to turn his arm around just before release that sends the ball down at about 60 mph, instead of 90 mph, without changing his arm speed.

If Mills can cope with the pressure of India and reproduce some of the form we have seen from him in an England shirt of late, then RCB may have just signed themselves a trump card for this year’s competition.

3. Kagiso Rabada – 50 million INR (£600,000)

Team: Delhi Daredevils

Rabada is seen as the most exciting talent to emerge from South Africa in years and is currently one of the best young players in world cricket. So it was no surprise that Dehli made him the third most expensive signing in the tournament.

They had to fend of fierce competition from Kings XI Punjab for his signature. But at just 21 years old, he is already one of the leaders of the South African attack and is constantly in and around 90 mph, so it was easy to see why Dehli were so determined to recruit him.

For such a young man, Rabada has had plenty of T20 experience, including games against England and Australia, as well as leading the attack for South Africa at the 2016 World T20 in India.

His versatility will certainly play in Dehli’s favour; he can open the bowling well, bowl through the middle overs with control, or even bowl at the death if needed.

And with the help of his fellow South Africans JP Duminy, Chris Morris and Quinton De Kock, who are all in the Daredevils squad, he should be able to settle in and hit the ground running.

4. Trent Boult – 50 million (£600,000)

Team: Kolkata Knight Riders

Trent Boult’s hefty fee may have raised a few eyebrows considering he has not established himself as much in T20 cricket as he has in Tests and ODIs. He’s also injury prone, and  featured just once in the IPL last season.

However, Boult is still considered as one of the best new ball bowlers in world cricket, and if he can stay fit and perform to somewhat near his best then KKR can expect to have a good tournament.

The Knight Riders are another side that have invested heavily in their seam attack and have also added Englishmen Chris Woakes to compliment Boult.

Boult and Woakes have been tipped to be an effective bowling partnership for Kolkata, given their styles and right-hand left-hand combination

Manish Pandey, one of KKR’s star batsmen, is the latest to heap praise on the pair. “These two players, Woakes and Boult, will be really good and they will hopefully make the difference for us’.’

5. Pat Cummins – 45 million INR (£550,000)

Team: Delhi Daredevils

The lanky Aussie fast bowler is one of two big money signings made by Dehli and is sure to add plenty of pace and aggression with the new ball for the Daredevils.

Cummins is young and possesses raw pace, often above 90 mph, which is crucial in T20 cricket at both the start and the end of an innings.

The fast bowler was particularly impressive in his maiden Big Bash season, where he topped the bowling charts with 11 wickets at just 14.09 a piece.

This kind of form, combined with his raw pace and potential, were all culminating factors as to why Dehli paid 4.5 Crore Rupees for his services making him the 5th most expensive player in this year’s competition.

He will certainly be one to watch out for.

Retiree Rose ready to set sail for the adventure

Paul Rose, 65 from Essex, is retired and lives a fairly quiet life. However, that will change later this year when he takes part in the race of a lifetime. 

Rose will be competing in the 2017-18 Clipper Race – one of sailing’s most demanding events, but one that’s open to people of all ages and occupations. Check out Elephant Sport’s guide to its round-the-world challenges here.

He has recently been on various training courses set up by the Clipper organisation in order to prepare participants as much as possible for the adventures that lie ahead.

But from August this year, practice will be over and Rose will be embarking on a journey like no other.

Elephant Sport sat down with him to get his thoughts and views on his upcoming rendezvous with danger and exhilaration on the high seas.

How and when did you first hear about the Clipper race?

It was roughly six months ago. I was sitting on the couch and I caught the last five minutes of it on TV. It looked fascinating and I found out anybody could enter it, so I applied for the brochure and the rest is history.

You don’t just wake up and decide to do 40k mile race round-the-world on a yacht. What inspired you to consider it?

It just looked so exciting! It was an event on Sky and I started watching all of the episodes, and I sat there thinking ‘Yeah, I fancy a bit of that’. I Went on to YouTube, sent half a dozen people the clips that all came back to me asking if I were crazy!

Did that make you think twice?

Actually, it made me want to do it even more! I thought to myself I cannot back down now, although my physiotherapist was not too happy about it. ‘’With your back?!’’ he said.

You have a comfortable life at home; nice house, daily exercise, a lot of free time, eating out etc. How will you adapt without all that?

Well, I will start to see this week in training. No showers! I cannot function without having a shower in the morning. It is all going to be the complete opposite to what I am used to. The bed is not a bad it will be a bit of plastic, so I really don’t know what to expect.

How has training been going, and what have you been doing?

It has been tough but I have been coping, just about. The training gears you up so you half know what you are in for. We took it in turns to experience the different roles such as Pitman, Helmsman, Watch Leaders etc. All the things you usually wouldn’t have a clue about but I am an expert now!

What race are you doing specifically?

I am doing legs 5 and 6, which is Australia to Vietnam, and Vietnam to Qingdao in China. The good thing about the race I am involved in is that I am doing two legs for the price of one. Not a lot of people can take the time off work to do it, but I’m retired!

I have heard leg 5 is the toughest of the lot?

Don’t remind me.

Do you get time to get off of the boat?

I am in Vietnam for 10 days. You have to be on the boat 60% of the time, but I will have some off it, too. It will give me a chance to see was Vietnam is all about.

Who will be on the boat with you?

We have a big team, one pro and 21 amateurs. They distribute it evenly; height, weight, gender etc so it as even as possible.

And how important is working as a team in the race?

It’s probably the most important thing. These are guys and girls you spend days and days, or in some peoples cases months and months with. So it is important that everyone gets on well together if we want to succeed.

What about food?

The food is all on board, no three-course meals, I can tell you that!  There is something called ‘being the mother’ where everybody has to cook for the team at some point during the journey. A little tiny kitchen to operate in, it should be fun.

Do you think it will be more physically or mentally tough?

I am not sure. Considering I have some weaknesses in my back, I think that will make it harder. I am open-minded about this whole thing but ask me again after I finish training!

What are you most looking forward to about the face?

Coming home! But on a serious level, taking on such a big challenge genuinely excites me.

And the biggest fear you having going into the race? 

Going overboard. Call me negative but you have to be wary at all times and that is one of my fears. Sleepless nights is another, but I am expecting that from time to time.

What about the sharks or the storms?

As long as I don’t end up in the water then the sharks can’t get me! As for the storms, well I think that is pretty standard stuff.

Extreme events can also bring extreme circumstances. Two people died last year, does this compromise the event in any way?

I think with any sport or event you have to take the bad with the good. This is not the only sport/event where deaths have occurred, so I think you just have to accept it for what it is.

And finally, what is the main thing you want to get out of this whole experience?

Apart from getting back safe, then winning! But the main thing is to challenge myself. Getting out of my comfort zone and hopefully attempting something that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Everything you need to know about the Clipper Race

Fifteen different races, 40,000 nautical miles, across six oceans and calling at countries, lasting 11 months…..all on a 70ft yacht.  The Clipper Race presents one of the toughest mental and physical challenges in sailing, if not sport in general.

Given its daunting nature, you would assume only a pro, or someone with substantial sailing experience at least, would be suited to embark on such a journey.

Instead, the race is open to anybody, and that is the beauty of it. Whether you are a graduate, a 40-year-old policeman or a 60-year-old midwife, you are eligible for the race of a lifetime.

You’ll need a lot of time on your hands for starters, plus plenty of courage. The race starts in August this year and end in July 2018; it is an endurance test like no other, with countless obstacles encountered on the way.

The following is a breakdown of each leg and what competitors may experience on the way.

Leg 1: The Atlantic Trade Winds Leg 

London – South America / 5,968 miles / 33 days

The crew say goodbye to their loved ones and head into the Atlantic. The Doldrums, a low pressured area around the Equator, tends to serve up a stern test with its unpredictable winds and debilitating humidity.

A visit to the Court of Neptune is also a major highlight. Practiced in the Royal Navy, seafaring tradition dictates that any ship crossing the Equator must pay their respects to the Lord of the Seas, King Neptune, to gain his acceptance.

Over a month after departing from London, the teams are greeted in carnival style as the first leg ends in party mode in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

Leg 2: The South Atlantic Leg

 South America – South Africa / 3,932 miles / 18 days

The swells of the South Atlantic can bring boat speeds up to 20 knots (23 mph). As exhilarating as it sounds; it is a marathon, not a sprint.

As the yachts head to South Africa, they may get an Albatross swoop overhead or catch sight of giant blue whales.

‘’Night watches are what makes this race what it is. The challenge and the adventures, and the time to get to know one another and develop what will hopefully be long-term friendships. When the moon is out and the winds are good, there is nothing so beautiful and peaceful,’’ says Julia Ramsay, participant in the 2013-14 Clipper Race.

The leg ends in Cape Town, where a traditional African welcoming waits.

Leg 3: The Southern Ocean Leg

South Africa – Western Australia / 5,575 miles / 23 days

Maybe this leg should be renamed to something a bit more telling, considering the fleet encountered two hurricanes and gusting winds up to 100 knots (115 mph) a few years back.

As thrilling as it is, the Southern Ocean offers up its fair share of beauty, like double rainbows for example.  It is known among sailors as the place to experience Mother Nature at her most raw and beautiful.

The race ends in Perth where a warm welcome waits, courtesy of the Australian summer.

Leg 4: The Australia Leg

Western Australia – Eastern Australia / 5,015 miles / 28 days

The Australian continents sits above the cold Antarctic waters where icebergs flow north, meaning the crew pass through one of the most inhospitable seas on the planet.

Once you have battled through the adverse weather conditions, you are rewarded by the stunning sight of Sydney Harbour where the race concludes to the welcoming of thousands.

Sydney Harbour is a sight when 150,000 people see off the crew as they set off in the next race through the Tasman Sea, via Bass Strait, which has a dangerous reputation with its extreme conditions yet shallow waters.

Leg 5: The Asia Pacific Leg

Eastern Australia – East Coast, China / 7k miles / 53 days

After conquering Australia, the next race begins with the crew heading north through ‘Cyclone Alley’. Storms, squalls, winds, huge waves and blistering temperatures are all likely to be encountered at some stage along the way before ending in Papua New Guinea.

The second race in leg 5 sees the fleet leave Papua New Guinea and straight into the winds of the North East Monsoon.

Some say leg 5 is the most challenging out of all the legs; 7k miles, 53 days and temperatures anywhere from -5C to 30C, a real test of endurance, character, and mental strength.

A heroic welcome waits in China with Qingdao’s famous welcome ceremony attracting huge crowds.

Leg 6: The Mighty Pacific Leg

East Coast China – West Coast, USA / 6,637 miles / 33 days

There is a good reason why few people cross the Pacific Ocean. The closest you will get to humans at times, apart from your own crew members, will be those on the International Space Station.

After reaching Japan, a significant tactical dilemma comes into play: take the shortest or great circle route and risk headwinds or take the southern route which is longer, but with following wind.

Erratic conditions heading towards the American west coast can be challenging. The common sightings of sharks and whales tend to make it all worth it, as does the first sighting of landfall for about a month.

Leg 7: The USA Coast-To-Coast Leg

West Coast, USA – East Coast, USA / 7,115 miles / 38 days

After the fleet bypass the tricky Californian current, the speedy race down the coast of Mexico, via the dreaded Doldrums, could decide the finishing positions coming into Panama.

Panama Canal, one of the Seven Wonders of the modern world, is the iconic starting point the crew depart from as you head up north towards the gusty Caribbean Sea.

Thunderstorms tend to provide a spectacular backdrop as the crews head to the East Coast; the Big Apple waits.

Leg 8: The Atlantic Homecoming Leg

East Coast, USA – United Kingdom / 4,894 miles / 22 days

The crew head through the Grand Banks, known for its thick fog and light winds, passing close to the wreck of the Titanic – so they’ll be on ieberg watch.

After a final stopover in Derry, Northern Ireland, the race concludes where it all began 11 months ago. With the podium in sight and a warm reception to go with it, the race a lifetime is all but complete.

 

 

Struggling Blackburn stun Fulham with late leveller

Fulham missed the chance to move into the Championship play-off places as they were held to a 2-2 draw at home to struggling Blackburn.

A 94th minute equalizer from substitute Lucas Joao stunned the Cottage and ensured Tony Mowbray’s unbeaten run since taking over Rovers continued.

Fulham have been scoring for fun this season – only Newcastle have notched more goals in the division. But the potency that has been so apparent in recent games seemed to be lacking slightly.

After 40 minutes, the game’s best moment was referee Andy Davies stumbling to the floor as the hosts looked to counter attack, until Neeskens Kebano was hauled down for a free kick. Everyone was down, including Thomas Kalas, who kindly picked up the referee’s red and yellow cards and handed them back to him.

Slavisa Jokanovic’s side were patient and slick, without being particularly penetrative. Ryan Fredericks and Scott Malone both got forward with intent as Fulham started to step up the pressure.

Influence

Rovers looked like they were going to get to break all-square, until Tom Cairney found the one thing the visitors didn’t want him to find: space. He turned, he surged, and he found Stefan Johansen free on the left.

Sone Aluko came closest to putting Fulham ahead earlier in the half, and it was he who was on the end of the Norwegian’s cross to guide home his sixth goal of the season on the stroke of half-time.

At that point, Fulham looked on course for a win that would take them into sixth place, between Reading and Sheffield Wednesday, with the two scheduled to play each other at Hillsborough on Friday.

Only Mowbray knows the reason why Joao did not start, and it must have been a good one. The Portuguese striker was brought on with half an hour to play and looked a class above the rest as he started to influence the game.

Lively

The Cottagers have kept just one clean sheet in their last eight games, and that seemed to give Blackburn some encouragement. Chris Martin dallied on the ball on the halfway line which enabled Rovers to pounce.

Marvin Emnes, who was lively all night, was brought down in the area and Craig Conway fired home the resulting penalty with 10 minutes to go.

Fulham pushed for a winner, and Ryan Sessegnon had a few promising runs down the left side to no avail. The 16-year-old wonderkid has recently been linked with a move to Tottenham, but it was a former Spurs defender who was the white’s best player on the night.

Fredericks looked to get forward at any given opportunity and his endeavor was finally rewarded late on when he played the ball low across the six-yard box for substitute Cyriac to convert low past Jason Steele.

Stunned

Craven Cottage was rocking. The Hammersmith end went into party mode for all of about five minutes as their elation was cut short. The man that had the biggest influence for Blackburn on the night had the final say.

Joao fended off Tim Reem with ease to sweep home a Derrick Williams cross in the 94th minute, leaving the Cottage stunned. It was a third goal in two games now for the 6ft 3in forward as Mowbray’s side jumped out of the drop zone.

Joao was booked for celebrating with a little too much wild abandon. The only plus for Fulham was the draw extended their unbeaten run to eight matches, but this was definitely two points dropped for Jokanovic’s team.

A home win against lowly Wolves on Saturday would still see Fulham rise into the play-off places, but they cannot afford to drop too many more points, especially at home.

Elephant Sport Podcast – UAL Boxing Edition

In this episode of the Elephant Sport podcast Chim Ike, Tom Ballard and Dan Shalom discuss boxing at UAL and interview club coach Dougie John.

Dougie discusses the purpose of the classes and what students can expect to get out of them.

He also reveals his one main aim ahead of this year’s University Boxing Championships.

Also discussed are the benefits the classes can have beyond the ring, as you never know when self defence may come in handy…

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What’s it like to be branded an ‘idiot’ by Gary Neville?

When Arsenal lost 3-1 to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge recently, the Sky Sports cameras picked out a Gunners fan in the crowd with a ‘Time to go’ banner aimed at Arsene Wenger.

Former Manchester United and England defender turned pundit Gary Neville called the fan an ‘idiot’. This sparked plenty reaction, and the fan – Kane Hopps – suddenly found fame via social media.

Elephant Sport down with him to to get his side of the story, and his views on Neville, Wenger and Arsenal.

How the past few weeks been for you?

It has been pretty crazy. People have been calling me, texting me, tweeting me – even [Times football correspondent] Henry Winter, The Sun and TalkSport. It’s definitely not something I expected from just putting the banner up.

How have you dealt with being at the centre of a media frenzy?

It’s certainly been a bit of a rollercoaster ride. I’ve had to get on with my day job while it’s all been happening so it has been a bit difficult, especially getting calls left right and centre from various new outlets. But overall I think I have dealt with it pretty well!

You have received a lot of support from fellow fans. What does that say about Wenger’s current situation at Arsenal?

It shows the tide has most certainly turned and has become more vocal than it has ever been before. People who have previously been on Wenger’s side have even had enough now and it shows that more and more fans are not just going to sit there and accept it now.

Everybody knows about that banner now; will that recognition persuade you to bring it to even more games?

Definitely – that was the plan anyway. The Watford and Chelsea defeats have shown me nothing has changed. He goes on about how this squad is better and different this year, but it’s not. I don’t care what we do from now until the end of the season, we are not going to win the Premier League (which we were promised) so something has to change or the banner will keep on coming.

During games, has anybody come up to you in support of the banner?

Yes, quite often. At Chelsea I had people coming up to me and patting me on the back saying well done, who were in favour of the banner. We even managed to get a ‘Wenger out’ chant going for about 10 seconds or so. There are far more in favour of it than not, put it that way.

Has anybody come up to you who have not been in favour of the banner?

A few people approach me and ask me why I do it and tell me to ‘support the team instead’.  But they miss the point – I am supporting my team. I am supporting the club by doing what I believe is best for it! I respect their views whether I agree with them or not, so they should do the same with mine.

If you’d won at Stamford Bridge, would we have still seen the banner?

Yes. I know a lot of people will not believe me but win, lose or draw, that banner was coming out. The home game to Watford was the tipping point, and I cannot continue to sit here, pay all this money for the same mistakes to keep happening year in year out.

Can Wenger do anything now to prevent you from protesting/bringing the banner?

For me, no. That ship has sailed unfortunately. The FA Cups were nice but for a club like Arsenal to not win the league for over 12 years isn’t good enough and the manner in which we go about it. The way we capitulate year after year after year, nothing changes.

He goes into the transfer market and doesn’t buy the right players. We are short, again. Injuries hit us, again. We crumble in the big games, again. That will never change under him – otherwise, it would have changed already.

So when can we expect to see the banner next?

The next game!

Moving on to Gary Neville’s comment, what was your immediate reaction to being called ‘an idiot’ live on air?

First of all ‘wow’. I could not believe so much had been made of it. But I was quite shocked that he called me an idiot because  he has been quite vocal over Wenger, his failures, and how we are not title challengers.

So I ask for all that to change and all of a sudden he goes on the defensive and calls me an idiot! I thought it was very contradictory of him, especially from a top pundit to call a paying fan an ‘idiot’ for his own opinion, I was surprised.

Bearing in mind you didn’t take it personally, can you almost be thankful to Neville for the free publicity, even if it was unintentional? 

Yes, that would be fair. He has blown it up so much that it has ended up on the news, radio and national papers – the exposure it has had has been crazy. So I guess a small part of me does have to thank him for that!

Do his views towards fans like you change your views towards him as a pundit?

Not really. I still respect him as a pundit and think he talks a lot of sense when he is analysing the game. He is not biased and does not let personal views dictate that either. But this particular view makes me think he is less in touch with fans than I thought, that’s for sure.

If you were in a room with him in a ‘gloves off’ scenario, and he maintained his view that you or any Arsenal fan who brings a banner to a match to express their views is an idiot, how would you respond?

There are a load of things I’d love to debate with him – the main one being why he feels he can call me an idiot for having an opinion, and really press him to see if he actually feels that towards any paying fan, not just Arsenal fans.

I’d also like to ask him how he can continue to criticise Wenger (even throughout the Chelsea game) and then question me when I ask for the same things to be changed in a positive way! I also think managing Valencia has made him go soft on other managers – has he has seen first had how hard it can be?

He seems to sympathise with managers more nowadays after his experience at Valencia, so I would love to question him on that too.

Jamie Porter

Pacy Porter primed to thrive in the top flight

Fast bowler Jamie Porter played a big role in helping Essex gain promotion back to Division One of the County Championship last season.

The Leytonstone-born seamer, 23, has come a long way in a short space of time.

Having played for Middlesex under-17s and under-19s, he had almost given up hope of making it as a professional and was considering a career in recruitment.

But he had another crack at it with Essex and impressed with their 2nd XI before making his first-team debut late on in the 2014 season.

Porter took 50-plus wickets in 2015, and again in 2016 as Essex topped Division Two and returned to the top flight.

He sat down with Elephant Sport to talk about his career to date.

 

Essex won promotion from Division Two last year – what was it like to play a huge part in that?

Yeah, it was great! In previous years, the main focus was on white-ball cricket as we have always been a strong one day side.

But with the gap now between Division one and Two, and only one team getting promoted, we shifted our priorities to winning the Championship. So it was nice after really focusing on it for the first season to then go and win it. It was really special.

 

Is it your most satisfying moment to date?  

It’s up there, no doubt. But I think the real satisfying moment for me was signing for Essex in the 2013 season, and then I got capped towards the end of the 2014 season.

I started to realise how quickly things can change. Not only to receive my cap but to get it at the age of 22 and being one of the youngest players in the squad was really great for me.

 

You mention things have happened so quickly in such a short space of time; you must have worked extremely hard for that to happen….

The first season was real hard work. I signed but I had a winter where I hadn’t really trained, I was so out of nick. I didn’t even play a game for the first month!

I just had to focus on getting myself fit. I spent a lot of time with the physio trying to get back in shape to play. When I was fit enough to play, I started taking wickets and never looked back really.

 

You talked about there being more of a focus on red-ball cricket last year; was there a definitive moment where you thought to yourself ”Yeah, we are gonna win this’? 

It was amazing, actually. It was the first time ever I’d been in a dressing room where the belief we could win it was there from game one.

We beat Gloucester in the first game of the season and we had a big night out afterwards. We didn’t need many runs to win; Cooky [Alastair Cook] and Browny [Nick Browne] knocked them off pretty quickly, we had a few beers in the dressing room and then headed into town.

We were in O’Connor’s pub at about 11pm jumping on the tables and chairs singing ‘Were gonna win the league!’ But the real big moment was beating Kent, it was a two-horse race towards the end, so beating them was absolutely crucial.

 

On a personal level, you took 55 wickets for the year; out of 10, what mark would you give yourself?

Probably a seven. I thought it was a good season. I started well, I was leading wicket-taker in the country for the first few months, and then the middle of the season went a bit quiet for me.

I was not bowling as well as I would have liked and a few little injury knocks also didn’t help, but it was a good year for me on the whole.

 

You mentioned being leading wicket-taker in the early part of the season. Be honest, did you surprise yourself a little bit?

Maybe a little, but I always expect a lot from myself. I put myself under a lot of pressure. But it all happened quite quickly, in the Gloucester match I got seven wickets and then I went to Sussex and got seven again, and five in each innings against Northants in the next game.

The way it was coming out, I felt I was going to take wickets with every ball.

 

Are there plans in place for you to play T20 games?

I’ve been told I am going to play this year! I have played a bit of 50-over cricket but it was frustrating last year year because I was injured for the bulk of our T20 games and kind of missed my opportunity. Hopefully I feature more this year and take the role of being a specialist death bowler.

 

So what kind of things do you need to work on to be a ‘specialist death bowler’?

Well, I have always been a pretty good yorker bowler, and that is coming along quite nicely. I have also got three slower balls. I am comfortable with taking the pace off in the middle overs, and that is one of the keys to the short game, so hopefully it can work well for me this year.

 

Moving on to the upcoming season, a lot is made of the step up from Division Two to One, but just how big of a gulf is it?

We are aware of it but it is more down to the grounds we at play at rather than opposition. We will be playing more Test match grounds and pitches, turning wickets, bigger grounds so the spinners are more in play.

We know the opposition because we come up against them in various different competitions, so we know what we are up against.

 

Your aim last year from day one was to win the division, and you did that. What are the team goals for this season?

We don’t want to sit there and say we are going to win it. Obviously we want to win it, but the realistic thing is to try and get off to a good start and maybe surprise the other teams and get out of the blocks quickly.

Hopefully, we can get a few wins early on to put us in a top three position come the midway point of the season, then we can have a real push at it. But I think we will break it down a lot more this year and take it game by game.

 

And on a personal level, what would you like to achieve?

If I can get to 50 first-class wickets again for the season I would be delighted. And there is a lot more focus on the short form of the game nowadays, so hopefully I will have a role to play in the T20 side, too.

 

Finally, the majority of cricketers dream of playing for their country; has there been any contact from England as yet?

Yes, there has been funnily enough, the ECB stay in contact constantly. I just missed out on the Lions tour this winter but I am on the fringes and they are constantly looking at me.

Hopefully I can have a good year this year, and playing in Division One helps, so who knows what might happen!

Check out our quick-fire questions with Jamie here

Q&A with Essex bowler Jamie Porter

Jamie Porter made his first-class debut for Essex against Kent in September 2014, and has established himself as a seamer with great potential.

In 2015, he took six wickets against the touring Australians, bowling opener David Warner for just four runs in the second innings.

The 23-year-old paceman is currently preparing for the new campaign with his home county, having helped them gain promotion to Division One last season.

Here, he gives us some quick-fire answers on to our questions about his team-mates and more…

Team-mates…

Biggest joker? Tom Westley

Hard man? Me

Hardest worker in training? Alastair Cook

In a biggest six hitting competition, who wins? Ashar Zaidi

Best fielder? Callum Taylor

Worst fielder? Matt Dixon

Prankster? Anthony McGrath

Biggest moaner? Callum Taylor

Most intelligent? Ryan Ten Doeschate

Least intelligent? Me

Who thinks they are better than they actually are? Matt Dixon

 

General…

Best moment in cricket? Getting my Essex cap.

Worst moment in cricket? Against Leicestershire in a county game last year coming back from injury. I ran in four times and couldn’t let go of the ball. The fifth time, I lost my run up but bowled it anyway. And the sixth time I got a wicket! It was a bit embarrassing…

Toughest opponent you’ve bowled to? Kumar Sangakarra

One batsman you would like to bowl to? Sachin Tendulkar – let’s see what the fuss is all about.

Score a century or take a 10 wicket haul? 10-wicket haul

Win the Ashes or World Cup? Ashes

And the best thing about being a pro cricketer is…? Having October off!

Why the FA Cup needs to be protected

The idea that the FA Cup is losing its status is more than just a theory; it has become an indisputable reality. Even the most extreme of romantics would admit that football’s oldest knockout competition is not what it once was.

Muscled out by the twin behemoths of Premier and Champions Leagues, and with even Championship clubs downgrading its importance, it is in the lower leagues where the Cup now finds its strongest allies.

Smaller clubs do their upmost to compensate for the neglect shown by the bigger ones, and that is why they need to be protected.

Wycombe Wanderers players reacting to getting Tottenham away in the fourth-round draw on Monday did the rounds on social media.

Ball number 18 was drawn out and they were off their chairs and into party mode. As a trip to the Lane beckons later this month, try telling the Chairboys that the magic of the Cup has faded.

Back seat

“The Cup is only devalued for Premier League clubs. The excitement is still there from the Championship down,” said Sutton boss Paul Doswell, manager of the lowest ranked club left in the draw, and it is hard to disagree with him.

Especially when Southend v Sheffield United in League One attracted more supporters (7,202) than the all-Premier League third-round tie between Hull and Swansea (6,808).

Admittedly, this was in part due to the ongoing battle between Hull fans and the club’s owners, but Premier League clubs just don’t care for it and it evidently rubs off on the supporters.

The absurd amount of cash at stake thanks to the current £5.1bn Sky-BT Sport TV deal dictates that Premier League clubs’ priorities lies with their league form.

Throw in European commitments for some of those clubs as well, and it’s not hard to see why the FA Cup has taken a back seat.

Squandered

And yet… Take Bournemouth for example, perched nicely in mid-table, seemingly safe from relegation fears but well adrift of a European place. Surely, the Cherries were in a perfect position to have a crack at the Cup.

“Premier League clubs just aren’t bothered unless they reach the latter stages”

Instead, manager Eddie Howe rang the changes – the whole starting XI – and they lost 3-0 away to League Two side Millwall.

Howe was berated by fans and the media for squandering what could have been a promising Cup run, but it was apparent that his and the owners priorities lies elsewhere.

Merit payments are due to every Premier League club based on league position at the end of the season, on top of their £85m equal share payout. Bournemouth currently sit in ninth place, which would secure another £24m.

To put that in perspective, the payout would yield over 12 times the amount the winner would receive for winning the FA Cup outright (£1.8m). Even nudging up to eighth would itself be worth more than that. This is huge for any club, not least for one of Bournemouth’s size.

No coincidence

Premier League clubs just aren’t bothered unless they reach the latter stages, so more needs to be done to protect the clubs that keep this competition alive.

Not scheduling Fulham away to Cardiff in an 11.30am kick-off when the earliest train arriving there from London was at 11.10am, with a 25-minute walk to the stadium.

“Man Utd got the payment instead, and it will probably just be enough to cover Paul Pogba’s wages for a week”

A club’s fans are its most valuable asset, but they given scant regard by the FA and their broadcast partners who, let’s face it, call the tune over such scheduling madness.

It is no coincidence that all of Manchester United’s past 55 FA Cup games have been aired live on TV – a big audience is guaranteed.

But 15 minutes into their third-round tie with Reading, they were 2-0 up and the game was pretty much over. Surely other ties had the potential for more excitement and upsets?

No-win situation

Take Sutton United v Wimbledon – a ‘proper’ Cup clash that saw two smaller clubs dreaming of a lucrative fourth-round tie. But then again it wouldn’t have pulled in millions of viewers from Asia, Africa and the Far East like Jose Mourinho’s team do.

The money that  Sutton could have made had their game been televised would have been like winning the lottery for the National League outfit.

New changing rooms for the kids, suggested Doswell, along with a general revamp of the facilities and a healthier-looking budget. Man Utd got the payment instead, and it will probably just be enough to cover Paul Pogba’s wages for a week.

Of course, broadcasting – like football itself – is a business, not a charity. The BBC would argue it has a right to chase for high viewing figures in return for their investment in the FA Cup.

In their defence, imagine if they had not aired the United match and Reading had won at Old Trafford. But hindsight is a wonderful thing and it’s impossible to please everyone all the time.

Replays

But the BBC is a publicly-funded organisation that should not be all about numbers; there needs to be a compromise. Live coverage of Sutton’s replay with Wimbledon is worth £75,000 – a quarter of their annual budget.

It should not be perceived as them doing Sutton a favour, it may not pull in a mass audience, but they would be airing a good old-fashioned cup tie with history behind both sides.

“The Goliaths are somewhat to blame for the magic being lost, so the Davids need to be protected for the competition’s sake”

Replays have been on the forefront of debates and continue to divide opinions. The small teams love the revenue they generate, but the big clubs would banish them in an instant.

They bemoan the fixture congestion replays cause, hence why there has been talk of them being scrapped – further evidence of finding ways to protect the interests of bigger clubs.

Surely, a better idea would simply be to put out a strong team, which would more than likely save a tie from going to a replay in the first place.

That replay away at Old Trafford or Anfield could be the biggest day in a lot of clubs’ season – or even history – the biggest game their players have ever played in and the biggest their fans have attended.

That should not be in jeopardy for the sake of shaving a game off an elite club’s schedule. The Goliaths are somewhat to blame for the magic being lost, so the Davids need to be protected for the competition’s sake.

Spurs are blunted yet again at Old Trafford

“Tottenham at home. We all know what Tottenham is about, they are nice and tidy but we’ll f*cking do them,’’ said Roy Keane, back in the days when he, Scholes, Beckham and Co. would ensure that Spurs wouldn’t even see the ball on their annual Old Trafford trip, let alone have it long enough to do anything with.

This season was different as Spurs saw too much of the ball, if anything, and still didn’t know what do to when they had it.

Tottenham helped themselves to over 60% possession, which may come to a surprise to some but in reality this is a regular thing for Pochettino’s side. The North Londoners have out-possessed all but two of their opponents so far this season but often lack ruthlessness in the final third.

Passing was again the theme and for all the 429 passes they attempted, over double that of United, it was one simple, piercing ball by Ander Herrera that breached the Spurs backline and unleashed Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

The way Danny Rose and Kyle Walker maraud forward as wide midfielders is indispensable to the way Spurs build their attacks.

But for all the undoubted positives this entails comes one fatal negative, as Spurs found out when Harry Kane gave the ball away in the middle of the park, leaving Rose helpless halfway up the pitch.

Inconsistency

Mkhitaryan was allowed a clear run through on goal and two touches later the ball was in the back of the net. One measured touch to take it into his stride, and another to lash home high into Hugo Lloris’ goal, and a reminder to Spurs that £26m can actually buy you a half-decent winger.

“Christian Eriksen’s bad spells seem to last longer now, whilst Spurs fans have waited three years to see the best of £26m man Erik Lamela, and are still waiting”

Spending wisely has been a problem at White Hart Lane for a number of years now. With the absurd amount of cash floating around in the Premier League, Spurs have used their budget about as sensibly as the Greek government did.

Even with the second best defence in the league and the rare luxury of having a 20-goal-a-year striker in Kane, Tottenham still look short compared to their competitors.

And that is down to the inconsistency, as the attacking midfielders who support Kane blow hot and cold far too often. None more than Heung Min Son, whose overall game was epitomised at Old Trafford.

He had two shots of note, one fierce left-footed drive from 25 yards that was well tipped over by De Gea, and the other cutting in from a promising wide left position, as well as having other options, blazed high and wide into the Stretford end, a stark contrast. He was then hauled off just shy of the hour mark.

Timid

If Son was in those box of chocolates Forrest Gump was referring to, he’d be the exclusively wrapped up one, with little to no chance of knowing what your going to get. But to single out the South Korean would be harsh.

Christian Eriksen’s bad spells seem to last longer now, whilst Spurs fans have waited three years to see the best of £26m man Erik Lamela, and are still waiting. Record summer signing Moussa Sissoko has failed to make the matchday squad at times this season, let alone warrant a place in the starting XI.

“The sun set over Manchester and as the light started to fade, so did Spurs’ chances of getting anything out of the game”

Tottenham’s flair players are too timid and patient, so it was no surprise to see them prancing around the edge of the United box, creating the impression that something promising was about to happen. It didn’t.

The one time Dele Alli managed to break through late on, like a man shot of confidence, he cut back, stalled, and the chance was inevitably squandered.

United manager Jose Mourinho was animated and agitated simultaneously, like a harried wedding photographer haplessly ordering for everyone to squeeze in the picture that bit more.

Pochettino appeared calmer on the touchline which could have only been his very best poker face, as he would have been far from impressed at what his team were producing in the final third.

Conviction

The Argentine spent a lot of time motionless scratching his chin, like we all used to do back in school to gain more time attempting to answer a teacher’s question.

He had the look of a man who knew he had three defenders and Georges-Kevin N’koudou to choose from to somehow change the game around.

“In many ways it was indicative of Spurs season; plenty of huff and puff but not enough to break the door down”

Plus Sissoko, who must have fancied it in training this week, as Pochettino brought him on to run at makeshift left-back Matteo Darmian who looked about as convincing as those Walls of Jericho.

Wladimir Klitschko was present in the crowd and the Italian looked like he’d just gone 12 rounds with him as he was beaten on a number of occasions, but Spurs lacked the conviction to land a knockout blow.

The sun set over Manchester and as the light started to fade, so did Spurs’ chances of getting anything out of the game.

Paul Pogba berated Marcos Rojo like a strict father for going to retrieve the ball for De Gea after winning a free kick deep inside his own half late on. Gone were the days where United would go for the kill but they knew they had done enough to blunt Spurs here.

In only three of their last 13 games have the North London side scored more than a single goal, so limiting them to scraps was not one of the world’s toughest of tasks.

In many ways it was indicative of Spurs season; plenty of huff and puff but not enough to break the door down. Rose claimed afterwards that they are ‘still in third gear compared to last season’.

Spurs have to start delivering over the Christmas period as they are already 10 points off the league leaders Chelsea.