Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A week(ish) of sport – Mimitig

There is so much going on at the moment that it is getting very very difficult to keep track.

The weekend just passed saw Roger Federer – the nice, Swiss man – equal Pete Sampras’s (not so nice and definitely not Swiss) record of 14 Grand Slam wins in tennis. Federer now joins a pretty exclusive club of gents who have won each of the Grand Slams – Wimbledon, US Open, Australia and the French Open (I think when I was young that there was also something important in Italy – at the Foro Italico, but we don’t hear of that these days). Swiss Rog received his trophy at Roland Garros from Andre Agassi – the last gent to have done the same. Apparently it was all rather emotional but beautifully done and very nice. So that’s tennis.

On Sunday there was some motorsport. Noticeably none in the Isle of Man – despite this being the first weekend of the TT races, the maverick/predictable weather on the island precluded any racing. Sadly, although the racing will go ahead as soon as conditions allow, last year’s Superbike winner Cameron Donald won’t be competing. A very nasty, and unlucky (hole in field), crash in practice resulted in a dislocated shoulder. Cameron said post-crash that he’d easily do a track race, but admitted that the TT roads are too tough.

Guy Martin, the TT racer and repairer of vans in his working life, has little time for the prima donnas of Formula One: “as for Formula One, Jesus!” See his take on things here

I’ll be following his progress over the next few days and also interested to see what MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi makes of his first (and non-competitive) visit to the island.

I understand Martin’s views on Formula One, but on Sunday there was a race, in Turkey, and the F1 circus pitched up with all it’s public washing of dirty laundry. It is a circus.

However, politics and dirty underwear aside, it remains a globally popular and mightily watched sport and while the race was not hugely exciting – a mistake by pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel on the first lap allowed Jenson Button through. Button then drove magnificently to take an almost lights to flag victory and make it six from seven wins.

He now joins the same sort of exclusive club as Federer. Taking six out of the first seven wins in a season puts Button in the company of Fangio, Jim Clark and some German – what’s his name?

Brawn GP come home in a fortnight to compete at Silverstone – the home of motor racing – probably for the last time. Next year, finance and court-rulings permitting, Donington will take on the job of hosting F1.

In the meantime, after a dream start in the season for Button and Brawn GP, Silverstone will welcome a British hero home. Not the one they thought they would. Last year it was Lewis Hamilton getting the wins and headlines. This year the championship has been turned on it’s head. Button, long written-off by nay-sayers has been proved to be the race-winner many of us had always thought him capable of being, and Hamilton, last year’s media darling has struggled in a dog of a McLaren.

BBC pundit and former Jordan team boss Eddie Jordan has described this season’s McLaren as the worst car they’ve ever designed. While experts and historians might argue that there have been worse, I think Hamilton would agree. He is having the season from hell – perhaps gaining some insight into the seasons from hell that Button has had before the almighty engineering guru who is Ross Brawn hoved into sight for first Honda and now with his own namesake team.

In the wake of British triumph in Turkey, interest, in some homes, has turned to another summer sport.

Cricket. And this is an important summer of cricket for fans. A feeble start for England with a poorly timed and abbreviated series against the West Indies didn’t give much indication of how we would go in the following weeks leading up to the Ashes.

Winning a two Test series and some one-dayers taught us nothing. What is starting to show something now is the World Twenty20.

England lost the opener. Against minnows – the Netherlands. Chaps who have to work for their livings not just play cricket. But after that humiliating defeat, England roared back against Pakistan. Won their way to the Super Eights. As did Ireland. As did NOT the powerhouse of cricket that is Australia.

While England, Ireland and other nations get to hone their skills at the very short version of the game, Australia will be spending the next fortnight in Leicester. No doubt a lovely city, and one that has a very fine cricket ground for the Aussies to get to know very well. One can only hope that the groundsmen will not be open to an Australian dollar and prepare a wicket any way similar to the ones Australia will be playing on during the Ashes.

England fans will no doubt be gloating over Australia’s drubbing by Sri Lanka, but should be minded to remember that there is nothing as dangerous as an angry Aussie with his back against the wall.

It would be so easy to think back to 2005 and see the similarities – Andrew Symonds sent home in disgrace after an “alcohol-related incident” (tick, Cardiff 2005), Australia humiliated in Twenty20 (tick Hampshire 2005), but that was then.

Now England does not have the pace attack we had in 2005, we don’t have a captain with the devious cunning of Michael Vaughan, and we don’t have the devastating weapon and talisman that is Andrew Flintoff.

What we do have is a team that has a wee bit of self-belief (getting through to the Super Eights), a solid captain in Strauss, a fielding demon (Collingwood) and a devious spinner (Swann).

This is enough for England fans to go hopefully into contest against Australia but as a betting woman (which I’m not), I’d put more money on Button winning the World Championship that I would on England winning back the Ashes.

There’s a fest of sport to come this summer. Not just the rest of the World Cup and the Ashes for the cricket.

We have all this week of the TT, We have the rest of the season for MotoGP – all to play for. F1 – go Jense. Wimbledon – can Murray challenge? Will he be a Scot in failure or British when he wins?

The Tour de France starts in a wee bit more than a month – there is real British interest. Cav is going for the Green Jersey, Wiggo will be going for Time Trial wins and stages and there will be a media circus to rival F1 because of Lance Armstrong.

And while I’m thinking about my love of the leather on willow and rubber on tarmac, our boys are in South Africa being lions.

I haven’t given a line to the exploits of our rugby boys – how is Shane holding up against those rhinos of Saffers? I simply don’t know. There is a limit to the number of sports I can keep track of.

Please god someone else here will do the rugby, and will keep us abreast of the transfer window.

All I’ll be doing for the next few weeks is keeping my eye on cricket, cycling, F1, MotoGP and out of the very corner of my eye, tennis.

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