Archive for August, 2009

Mark Vermeulen, a career with no lack of incidents

August 19, 2009 Leave a comment

Most cricketers careers don’t tend to generate as much attention or controversy than that of Zimbabwean player Mark Vermeulen, and being that he has only just turned 30, there could still be more twists and turns to come in the patchwork of the troubled sportsman’s career.

Vermeulen was captain of the Zimbabwe Under-19 side, and in 2002 he was called up to the National side for the second test match against Pakistan, and since then he has had his fair share of disciplinary problems, serious injuries and criminal charges to contend with. Firstly, he was sent home from Zimbabwe’s tour of England in 2003 for disobeying the managements instructions to travel with the rest of the squad. This incident occurred after the second test match at Chester-Le-Street where, having made no runs in both innings, he left the ground on his own. The then team manager, Babu Meman, said “Mark has been warned about his conduct on a number of separate occasions during the tour but unfortunately has not heeded that advice”, and after he ignored the orders to travel with the team, he was sent home from the tour.

Mark Vermeulen after being struck on head in match against India.

On the 2003-04 tour of Australia, Vermeulen  suffered a fractured skull during a one-day match with India when he top edged an Irfan Pathan delivery which struck him just above the eye. It was the second time in a year that Vermeulen had suffered this exact injury after an incident in a net session in February 2003.  Successful surgery has allowed Vermeulen to continue to play the game.

2006 was without doubt the year of huge controversy for Vermeulen. The first major incident took place one Sunday in the September of 2006 when Vermeulen was playing as a professional for Werneth against Ashton in the Central Lancashire League. After coming on to bowl and starting out with being hit for a boundary and bowling a wide, a member of the crowd yelled ‘If you take your sunnies off you’ll be able to see where you are bowling.’ After he completed the over, Vermeulen walked over towards the crowd and appeared to hurl a ball at the spectators, but missed everyone. He then went and picked up a boundary marker, a disc with a steel spike, before being restrained by a Werneth member and marched back to the pavilion. No criminal charges were filed against him, but he was banned from playing first class or league cricket in England for 10 years, which was reduced to 3 years after a successful appeal. Part of this incident can be seen in the video below. 

Mark Vermeulen

Vermeulen arriving at magistrates court in Harare

Vermeulen didn’t stay out of the newspapers for long because, on 1 November 2006, he was held by police after apparently fleeing the scene of a suspicious fire at the Zimbabwean Cricket Academy in Harare. The next day, Vermeulen was charged with arson.

After a delay, the trail began and Vermeulen admitted to setting fire to both, the Zimbabwean Cricket Academy and the Zimbabwean Cricket Headquaters, but he pleaded not guilty to arson on psychiatric grounds. He added that he “suffered from partial complex epilepsy and impulsive behaviour disorder” after the head injury he suffered against India.

In the end he was cleared of arson due to mental illness in January 2008, and his lawyer stated that the Judge had “delivered a “special verdict” which meant Vermuelen had not been in control of his actions when he carried out the attacks.” If he had been found guilty, Vermeulen would have faced up to 25 years in prison with hard labour. A month after being cleared, he announced he was going to make a comeback to cricket.

In May 2008, Vermeulen offered to help rebuild the academy he had burned down by giving a percentage of his earnings from playing for Zimbabwe again, but nothing came of this. However, his comeback gained momentum when he was called up to the Zimbabwe A squad for the tour of Namibia in February 2009. And in July 2009, he was selected to the Zimbabwe squad for the One Day International series against Bangladesh, where he played in 4 of the 5 matches with a highest score of 92.

So it seems Vermeulen has come through all his trials and tribulations to make a surprise comeback to the international cricket stage, however it remains to be seen how long his comeback can last and how successful he can be after his chequered past, and if he can finally leave his troubles behind him.

Jumping on the Bandwagon, Goalpost technology now please?

August 17, 2009 Leave a comment
We are only into the second week of the football season and already there is national discussion and debate about whether technology should be employeed to determine if the ball has crossed the line or not. There are of course arguments for and against the introduction of technology in this area and this is probably the main reason for it still being a discussion point and not a reality.
Ball clearly shown in the goal where it would then bounce back out and not be given

Ball clearly shown in the goal where it would bounce back out and not be given.

After the Crystal Palace ‘goal’ that never was at the weekend (see left), once again managers all across the country have called for the governing bodies to introduce goalline technology to help out officials and eliminate the possibility of contentious decisions continuing. Crystal Palace manager Neil Warnock has demonstrated his feelings on goalline technology, firmly stating that it should be introduced. “If they can’t spot these injustices they have got to have help.”

Those who back the idea of implementing technology to solve this problem will argue that it wouldn’t interfere with the flow of the game for the referee to look at a monitor for ten seconds to determine if the ball has crossed the line or not. Also, some of these wrong decisions could lead to big repercussions for the teams and managers on the wrong end of them.

For people who oppose the idea of technology, be it television replays for officials to look at or something that indicates the ball has crossed the line instantly, would claim that these mistakes are human error that has to be expected and add to the interest and charm of the game and that if these talking points were removed from the game it would become a more mundane game. There are also fears that if technology to solve this issue came into the game, would it stop there? Would the governing bodies decide to employ technology to determine penalty decisions or offside decisions during the game? Would technology invade every aspect of the game and potentially ruin the sport by providing no possibility for debate or contention?

I know if a wrong decision were to affect my team, Crewe Alexandra, I would be screaming for the technology to be there and shouting to everyone who would listen that it should already be in use. However, I do find it interesting and fun to talk about when it happens to any other team in the country, so for this reason I would quite like things left as they are. In addition to this I do fear that if technology were to be used succesfully at dealing with goalline issues, it would become appealing to governing bodies to try and eradicate all wrong or even slightly debatable decisions with technology, taking a lot of the intrigue out of the game.

So after thinking about this whilst writing, I have decided I am undecided on the topic, for now.

Why the Premiership is still the best league in the World.

August 16, 2009 2 comments

Many people may argue that, since the summer spending of Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona, that has seen some of the world’s top players in Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Xabi Alonso and Karim Benzema arriving in Madrid and Zlatan Ibrahimovic moving from Inter Milan to Barcelona, that the Spanish La Liga has become the greatest league in the world. Assuming of course they didn’t already hold this belief before the big name imports. With Ronaldo leaving current English champions Manchester United for Madrid and Xabi Alonso leaving last seasons  second place finishers Liverpool, it will clearly have a detrimental affect on both teams and, arguably, the overall quality of the league. Combined with the loss of  some of its top players, there has been very little transfer activity where players have been brought into the Premiership from other international leagues. The majority of transfer activity has been players moving clubs within the league and cannot compete with the blockbuster moves from the two Spanish sides.

However, i believed that before these transfers in the summer, the Premiership was the best league and I still believe that to be the case. Although La Liga can now boast the names of Ronaldo, Kaka, Messi, Iniesta, Xavi, Ibrahimovic, Villa, Silva and Fabiano to name a few, the Premiership can still name  players such as Lampard, Gerrard, Fabregas (Although rumoured interest from Barcelona), Torres, Drogba, Rooney, Robhino and Tevez who are all at the top of the world game. There is no doubt in my mind that La Liga has the three best players on the planet, Messi, Ronaldo and Kaka, playing within it, but this doesn’t automatically crown it as the top league. In terms of the number of truly world class players, I think the Premiership easily has the beating of La Liga. And this is one of the main reasons that the Premiership is still ahead of La Liga.

Secondly, the competitiveness of the Premiership is much more intriguing and compelling to watch than La Liga which does ultimately come down to two teams. Of course people will say that this is not the case and teams like Sevilla, Valencia and Athletico Madrid can challenge as well and that the Premiership is always the same with Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal streets ahead of the other teams. Although this statement about the top four is pretty much correct, it means there are twice as many teams challenging for the title than in La Liga and consequently a more interesting competition.

The performances of English teams in Europe have also shown a period of great strength for the Premiership. In the last five seasons, the European Champions League final has consisted of at least one English team and in the last three season, three of the four semi-finalists have been English teams. Only Barcelona have made the final from Spain in the last five seasons, although they did triumph on both occasions. However, the consistency of the top English teams to continue to succeed in this competition also confirm the current dominance of the Premiership.

This is of course only my opinion, and being that i can watch the Premiership every week and see La Liga only occasionally, may leave me uninformed to make a proper judgement, but with all that I have been exposed of both competitions, I still firmly believe in the Premiership’s status as the best league in the world.