Five Things I've Thought This Week

1. Brendan McCullum should not be putting out a book

2. This Tour de France has a reasonable chance of being one of the best ever.

3. I don’t think I’ve anticipated a non-All Blacks game of international rugby as much as this weekend’s Tri-Nations game in a while.

4. Jesse Ryder’s career might already be over.

5. Brendan Telfer and Dale Budge worked far better than I thought they would.

Read more detailed analysis of the above after the jump.1. Brendan McCullum is a talented cricketer. On his day (158* anyone?) he is as ferocious as any batsman in the world. That’s a fairly tawdry cliche, one which is also true of everyone from the sublime (Srivnarine Chanderpaul and Yuvray Singh) to the ridiculous (John Davison and Shakib Al Hasan). The problem with the expression is that it pays no attention to how frequently those days come about. After eight years as a Black Cap he still averages less than 30 in ODIs and less than 35 in tests. He remains the most maddening player in our national side, and until he can stop playing like a precocious, headstrong teenager (at nearly 29 years of age) he will remain a name which inspires more frustration than awe, and certainly not a man whose intellect and deeds require a freaking autobiography. Give me Sachin Tendulkar’s $110,000 one written in blood  and weighing nearly as much Jesse Ryder any day.

2. When luck cursed the Schleck’s for second time this tour and Andy’s chain fell off at the worst possible time it gave Alberto Contador an opportunity to reveal his true character. Even in a sport riven by drug scandals, one in which seeing riders headbutting in a sprint didn’t feel all that shocking, there remain codes to live by. Contador’s decision to attack while Schleck scrambled to become mechanically able again showed two things. Firstly, that he has a touch of the Kobe Bryant’s, and will do anything to win. And secondly, that Schleck has him shook. And from the icey hug the pair exchanged, to Schleck’s public vows, to Contador’s limp denials of culpability, this incident gave us a hero and a villain in this terrific rivalry. And as Greg LeMond prepares to testify in the case which could tear Armstrong’s legacy down for good, the action on the road provides a good reason to keep your eyes ahead with this great sport, and this great race. PLUS – tonight’s stage will be a f***ing beast. The Tourmalet will find the truth.

3. Schadenfreude isn’t the most charitable emotion, but I’m enjoying feeling it. Watching Morne Steyn kick penalties from over halfway while our lineout falls to pieces is just a great advertisement for league. So the last two tests, which have been both fantastic games of rugby and monster All Blacks victories are the best kind of succour going. Now the battered, suspended and psychologically-damaged Bokker have to head across the ditch and face an Australian side which has the chance to get them really depressed. Weird to be cheering the Wallabies, but in this instance it also seems to make perfect sense.

4. Did anyone else hear Mark Greatbatch on Radio Sport today? He was talking about Jesse Ryder’s omission through injury for the upcoming Sri Lankan tour, and while he talked about an improvement in his work ethic, it was very faint praise indeed, and the strong implication was that the dude has been up to his old tricks. I just have this awful feeling about Ryder, the sense that he’s like our answer to a guy like Chris Washburn, who Mark Spears just wrote quite movingly about for Yahoo!, or might end up lost and distant like a Keith Murdoch. When he has the talent to be our Andrew Symonds, a guy whose temperament and tendency toward self-destruction need mentoring and management. But the guy needs to be in the bosom of the team for that to happen. Right now, he’s adrift, and there’s every chance he might never come back.

5. I don’t want to go on too much about this, both because my adoration of Brendan Telfer is well documented (first page of google!) – and because I really didn’t hear enough of this duo to comment with any certainty. But what I heard of the Dale Budge/Telf partnership was great, cerebral sports radio, between to two guys who really knew their sport and were unafraid to display the depths of their passion and obsession. I remember being deeply suspicious when Glenn Larmer left the fold, because he seemed such a large part of what made the show great. Holding it together, keeping the grand old man on track, and providing an essential counterweight to his more polemical moments. But Budge was his equal, keeping my favourite NZ radio slot humming. The way they said their goodbyes without affected ‘yeah mate’ stoicism, with real emotion and genuine affection was very sweet. I’ll miss it, I have to say.

– Duncan

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Filed under Basketball, Cricket, Cycling, Dead Ball Icons, Fandom, NBA, Rugby, Rugby league, Tri-Nations

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