Quality not quantity.......
I have been blessed this week. At the Royal Festival Hall, I had the immense pleasure of witnessing one of the great modern singer-songwriters, Ray Lamontagne. Those of you familiar with the shy man from New Hampshire will already be hearing his extraordinary voice in their mind’s ear as you read this. To those who are yet to experience him, I’d suggest buying one of his albums immediately. Such is the power and emotional range of his voice, he could sing one of Gordon Brown’s speeches on the Tax Credit system and draw a standing ovation. Both he and his band, The Pariah Dogs, cooked up a stew of soul, blues and country but in truth, such categorisation doesn’t cover it. I’d call it music from the heart and it did mine the world of good!
The only thing that put a slight downer on my evening (and there’s always one!) was having to listen to a couple of discerning punters complain about the lack of ‘personality’ Ray showed between numbers- “…all he said was thank you!” “… I know, a real let down!” May I suggest that the two ladies purchase tickets to the X Factor next time, if it’s what goes on after the singing that’s of importance. The Cricket World Cup got underway over the weekend amidst some controversy. The wrangling is not about this year’s competition, but the next one in 2015. The ICC has decided that cricket’s showpiece tournament shall be contested between 10 teams as opposed to 14, meaning that there will only be room for one of the associate member teams, as 9 places will go to the Test playing nations. I have to admit that I am in favour of this stance. Whilst it is important that the game is spread far and wide, it is also of equal importance that the game at the highest level is exactly that - the pinnacle of the sport.
So whilst I have sympathy for the likes of Kenya and Canada, seeing them dismantled by New Zealand and Sri Lanka was neither good for cricket nor their development. The 50 over format is under huge pressure as it is. The previous World Cup in the West Indies was an unmitigated disaster. At 6 weeks the current one will be stretching the patience and interest of the most ardent fans. 20/20 in all its current guises is becoming more and more popular and powerful. The ICC has been forced to make a decision to protect the integrity of its most high-profile tournament and, in my view, has acted correctly. It would be interesting to hear readers' views on the subject though.
England launched their campaign against one of those associate teams, the Netherlands and got themselves off to a winning start. It wasn’t the cakewalk they would have liked however. Thanks to a stunning century from Essex all-rounder Ryan ten Doeschate and some comedy fielding from our boys, the Dutch pushed the World T20 champs all the way. Having gone into the competition in a familiar state - untried and untested combinations at the top of the batting order, a genuine all-rounder short (which will mean going into games either a batsman or a bowler light) and an overall strategy which smells of “it’ll be alright on the night”), I guess we should be thankful for the two points. However, against the big boys it’s hard to be over optimistic. In the words of the great Ray Lamontagne, I sense Trouble.
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