Articles of the week, 9 Jan

This week’s edition of Articles of the week, with notes on Chris Gayle, Ben Stokes and some Munster analysis.

Russell Jackson, The Guardian: It’s not just Chris Gayle: sport media’s blokes world mindset needs to change

This issue is something I feel quite strongly about, and while it is clearly not one limited to the world of sport it is exposed clearly by the treatment of female journalists such as Mel McLaughlin, Neroli Meadows and Melinda Farrell. It was good to hear a prominent cricketing figure like Chris Rogers speak out so honestly about Gayle the person on the ABC Grandstand podcast, and many insightful pieces were written in the wake of the incident (in particular this from Jonathan Liew on the relationship between fan and sporting idol). However, the picture which Jackson paints – along with, most tellingly, the laughter which came from the commentary box as the interview was being conducted – is ample evidence of the depth of sport’s issues with sexism and equality.

Matthew Syed, The Times: Ben Stokes brilliance shows the rewards of risk

This is a paywalled piece, but one which I would urge you to read if you can. Jonathan Liew (link above) made a good point this week about the problematic extension of professional sports figures as moral paradigms, and evident in Syed’s discussion here is another facet of the same issue. The dashing, aggressive strokeplayer is almost never lauded for work ethic, effort and investment in the cause, while the unfussy, workmanlike grinder is extolled for extracting every ounce of ability and product from his talent. But this is a point of view which Syed deftly dispels:

“Stokes, then, cares deeply about cricket, just as he cares deeply about his wicket. But he also recognises that the value of his wicket relies on the extent to which he can use it to further England’s cause. And, given his strengths as an attacking batsman, that means scoring fast, cowing opposition bowlers and igniting the crowd. If he were to protect his wicket or approach the crease in that mindset, he would be far less effective. To put it simply, Stokes’s aggression is not about derring-do; it is about a rational calculation of risk and reward.”

Daniel Schofield, The Telegraph: Monumentally successful All Blacks facing up to a challenging new era

The line that defines this piece is from NZR Chief Executive Steve Tew: “if they copy what we are doing today then we would have moved on to the next thing”. The roots of this All Black side – as James Kerr’s excellent book Legacy attests – lie in a non-negotiable commitment to questioning the way they do things and constantly seeking new ways to improve. It’s also worth stopping to think about their win-loss record in the previous RWC cycle – 3 defeats in 4 years is simply staggering, and however things develop between now and the Lions tour in 2017 the peaks to which this side have scaled must be fully appreciated. Schofield also briefly mentions the possible development towards the institution of a global calendar, something which would have a lot of benefits for player welfare were it to be properly introduced.

Murray Kinsella, O’Donoghue and O’Donnell shine in Munster’s back row

Kinsella’s analysis is always fantastic; the former Irish U-20 international excels at putting his understanding of the game into print (and .gif), and here he looks in detail at Munster’s back-row play against Ulster last weekend. He notes the balance that Tommy O’Donnell brings to the unit, and whose early departure was undoubtedly a factor in their poor second half effort at the Stade Jean Bouin this evening. O’Donoghue’s work at the ruck which lead directly to Ian Keatley’s crucial drop goal and O’Donnell’s passing ability are two subtle yet important elements of the match which are highlighted brilliantly, and this kind of detail typifies Kinsella’s work.

Dan Leo, ESPNScrum: Alama Ieremia and the issues he must solve as Samoa coach

Leo’s insights into the Samoan camp as a former player are invaluable, and he presents the political issues which any Samoan national coach must address clearly. The most intelligent observation he makes is of the role in which Samoan, Fijian and Tongan players are often cast for their Northern Hemisphere clubs:

“Here in Europe we see burly islanders drafted in by the dozen for the x-factor quality and power games they possess. Clubs don’t require endurance, discipline or even a full 80 minutes out of these men so long as the individual moments of brilliance, those game changing off-loads or line-bursting breaks keep coming. Clubs have confidence in their ample supply of less gifted but higher conditioned, technically expert players who can cover for the odd mistake or the odd moment of laziness their star Samoan or Tongan ‘impact’ player may have.”

When players used to filling these roles come together in one team, there are inevitable issues; Ieremia will certainly face an uphill struggle in attempting to unite the enviable talent he will have at his disposal behind a coherent vision.


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