Tag Archives: absent

Rafael Nadal back in practice in bid to regain fitness for Australian Open

Nadal gets back on the practice court in bid to regain fitness for Australian Open

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UPDATED:

13:39 GMT, 20 November 2012

Rafael Nadal has returned to the training court and started hitting balls again for the first time since the latest in a series of knee injuries forced his withdrawal from the U.S. Open.

The 11-time grand slam champion, who has not competed since being stunned by Czech Lukas Rosol in the second round at Wimbledon in June, completed a session under the supervision of coach and uncle Toni Nadal at an indoor facility in his home town of Manacor on the island of Majorca.

Nadal, 26, hopes to be back to full fitness in time for the Australian Open in January.

Absent friend: Rafael Nadal hasn't played since losing at Wimbledon in June

Absent friend: Rafael Nadal hasn't played since losing at Wimbledon in June

Shock: Nadal was beaten by Lukas Rosol

Shock: Nadal was beaten by Lukas Rosol

The Spaniard, whose athletic, aggressive playing style places huge demands on his muscles and joints, has been sidelined several times by knee problems during his 11-year career.

His latest injury was diagnosed as a partial tear of the patella tendon and an inflammation of the Hoffa's fat pad and after the shock defeat at Wimbledon he was unable to defend his Olympic title at the London Games.

As well as the U.S. Open, which he won in 2010 and lost to Novak Djokovic in last year's final, Nadal missed the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London and Spain's Davis Cup final defeat to Czech Republic at the weekend.

His absence deprived tennis of one of its 'big four' (Nadal, Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray) for the second half of the season.

Nadal had played some of his best tennis in the first six months of 2012, losing narrowly to Djokovic in the final of the Australian Open and winning a record seventh Roland Garros title on his favoured clay.

Kevin Pietersen still the focus while England lose to South Africa

Still talking about Kevin… Pietersen the topic of discussion again as England flop

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 8 September 2012

England fans carried placards asking ‘Kevin who’ at the Emirates Cricket Ground on Saturday.

But England’s management and players
need no reminding of their absent friend, Mr Pietersen, who continued to
dominate discussions while a low-key Twenty20 game, which South Africa
won at a canter, went on in the background.

Stuart Broad and his team depart for
Sri Lanka on Thursday to begin their campaign to retain their World
Twenty20 crown, without the exiled Kevin Pietersen. They start against
Afghanistan on September 21.

Feeling blue: Skipper Stuart Broad suffered as England were beaten

Feeling blue: Skipper Stuart Broad suffered as England were beaten

Fluent: JP Duminy (47no) and Jacques Kallis (48no) shake hands after steering South Africa to a comprehensive victory

Fluent: JP Duminy (47no) and Jacques Kallis (48no) shake hands after steering South Africa to a comprehensive victory

Chief selector Geoff Miller and coach
Andy Flower, who watched Broad’s team lose by seven wickets in Durham,
want to announce the Test squad for next month’s India tour on Thursday
to prevent the Pietersen saga dragging on through the tournament.

With Pietersen understood to be
standing firm in his belief that senior England players were in some way
involved with the spoof Twitter account @KPGenius — set up by Richard
Bailey, a close friend of Broad’s, before being hastily shut down — it
is hard to see a way back in the short term.

Unbeaten: Both Kallis (top) and Duminy (bottom) were in fine fettle, punishing some loose England bowling

Unbeaten: Both Kallis (top) and Duminy (bottom) were in fine fettle, punishing some loose England bowling

Safe hands: JP Duminy hit an unbeaten 47 as South Africa chased down England's total with ease

That makes it unlikely Pietersen, left
off a list of 10 players awarded ECB central contracts on Friday, will
tour India under new Test captain Alastair Cook. Cook’s willingness or
otherwise to include a potentially divisive player in his squad will
determine Pietersen’s long-term fate, but with discussions on-going it
is hard to see how he can return in time for India.

One theory was that with Tim Bresnan
struggling with an elbow problem, Pietersen could yet be drafted in to
the World Cup squad if he shows more contrition. But with an ICC panel
required to ratify that any replacement is ‘like for like’, that is
unlikely. Besides, England’s management have already told players who
are on standby and Pietersen is not believed to be one of them.

In a rut: Ravi Bopara's woes continued, with England's No 4 making six off 11 balls

In a rut: Ravi Bopara's woes continued, with England's No 4 making six off 11 balls

There is no doubt that England will miss his batting both in Tests and the Twenty20 format.

On Saturday the man charged with
filling his No 3 spot, Ravi Bopara, contributed just six as England
reached their third-lowest total in Twenty20 history before Jacques
Kallis (48 not out) guided South Africa to victory in an unbeaten 90-run
partnership with JP Duminy (47 not out).

‘Ravi’s struggled the last couple of
weeks but he’s working very hard to put that right,’ said Broad. Craig
Kieswetter (25) and Alex Hales (11) got England off to a decent start
with a stand of 27 before Hales was run out and the wheels rapidly came
off.

Jade Dernbach and Steven Finn bowled with pace and hostility to reduce the tourists to 29-3 after four overs.

But then the incomparable Kallis hit cruise control to see South Africa home with six balls to spare.

Bumble at the Test: No Gayle, Sarwan, Dwayne Bravo or Taylor… it"s a crying shame

Bumble at the Test: No Gayle, Sarwan, Dwayne Bravo or Taylor… it's a crying shame

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UPDATED:

20:57 GMT, 18 May 2012

Absent friends
West Indies' Jerome Taylor

The toast on Friday was to absent friends. No Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan or Dwayne Bravo here and also no Jerome Taylor (right), who bowled West Indies to victory over England in Jamaica three years ago but has disappeared from the scene. It's a crying shame…

Van's the man for us

Happy to say that my football club, Accrington Stanley, are in good hands after my London meeting with new chairman Peter Marsden. I can reveal we might make a bid for Arsenal's Dutch striker Robin van Persie and can offer him a good package – as many pies as he can eat and a weekly ticket to the local Odeon.

My tweet hell

Plenty of abuse on Twitter from India – and all because of my support for Chennai Super Kings in the IPL! It's not my fault they haven't reached the final! Some of these keyboard warriors would be candidates for A&E if they met me face to face…

Fashion victims

Lots of fashion statements among the West Indies players. Opening bowler Fidel Edwards has stars shaved into his hair, while his new-ball partner Kemar Roach has some serious gold round his neck. Lots of ear-rings, too, but I'm old-school on these sorts of things. They should only go with high heels.

Delicious Danni

England's Danni Wyatt

Great to see the launch of The Cricket Paper featuring the Mail on Sunday's very own Peter 'Reggie' Hayter. I've had a brainstorming session with him and reckon there should be a 'crickette' on page three. Who better to start with than Danni Wyatt (right), England's feisty all-rounder

Tuf to remember

Phil Tufnell's new book Tuffers Tales was on parade and I asked him what was in it. 'Lots of stories,' he said. 'What about, Cat' I replied. 'Can't remember,' said Phil. Reminded me of when Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones said: 'If anyone knows what I've been doing for the last 10 years, let me know…'

The Top Spin: West Indies without Chris Gayle dampens series

Forget the rain… the lack of Gayle-force Windies dampens series

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UPDATED:

09:35 GMT, 1 May 2012

Top Spin

A team purporting to represent the best
West Indies has to offer arrives in England on Wednesday for three
Tests, three one-dayers and a Twenty20 international. Had the Olympics
gone to Paris, they would probably have been given only two Tests. They
are, in truth, beneficiaries of a quirk in the schedule.

As recently as 2000, when the arrival of a side led by Jimmy Adams coincided with West Indies' 27th year in possession of the Wisden Trophy, their visit came complete with a frisson – which sounds like a shot only Brian Lara could have played.

They were awarded five Tests that summer (but never since), plus six one-dayers and numerous other matches. The tour averages tell us that opener Sherwin Campbell got through 20 first-class innings. Leg-spinner Mahendra Nagamootoo was given only one Test, but still bowled 328.4 first-class overs.

Absent friend: Chris Gayle (left) shares a joke with Royal Challengers Bangalore team owner Vijay Mallya

Absent friend: Chris Gayle (left) shares a joke with Royal Challengers Bangalore team owner Vijay Mallya

Gayle force: The opener is plying his trade in the IPL rather than joining West Indies in England

Gayle force: The opener is plying his trade in the IPL rather than joining West Indies in England

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For more cricketing musings, please follow us on Twitter: @the_topspin

They were in the days when a tour had a
rhythm of its own – and a subplot outside the Tests that could be
engrossing in its own right. This time West Indies have a three-day
game at Hove and a four-day match against England Lions at Northampton
before the first Test begins at Lord's on May 17. Move along, seems to
be the message – nothing to see here…

Of course 12 years ago it helped that
they still had names to conjure with: Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose,
Lara, even Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul. And but for a
collapse to 54 all out in the second innings of the second Test at
Lord's, they would have taken a 2-0 lead with three to play. The summer
that kickstarted Duncan Fletcher's reign as England coach could easily
have been as miserable as the previous one.

Forgive, please, the nostalgia – but that is what we are left with.

If West Indies go out and a nick a rain-affected series 1-0 in the weeks ahead, this column will be suitably contrite. But we are talking about a team that has won only two Tests out of 30 since seeing off a rabble of an England side in Jamaica three years ago. And one of those two victories was against Bangladesh.

Changing allegiance: Dwayne Bravo (right) is more a part of Chennai Super Kings these days than West Indies

Changing allegiance: Dwayne Bravo (right) is more a part of Chennai Super Kings these days than West Indies

But the decline and fall of West Indies
is about more than a chance to moan about the fact that things aren't
what they once were. It is one of cricket's modern morality tales.

Absent from the 15-man Test squad will be Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Sunil Narine and Dwayne Bravo. Gayle has not played international cricket since the World Cup a year ago after falling out with the West Indies Cricket Board, while Sarwan – who averages 40 in his 87 Tests – believes he has paid the price for being too close to the WICB's arch enemies, the West Indies Players' Association.

Narine, a 23-year-old Trinidadian unorthodox offie, recently took 11 wickets in five ODIs against Australia at an average of 14 and with an economy-rate of 3.32. But the lure of the IPL meant he played no part in the Tests, where Shane Shillingford promptly overtook him with a 10-wicket haul in Dominica.

As for Bravo, the more he plays for Chennai Super Kings, the less he feels a part of West Indies.

Those were the days: West Indies no longer boast cricketing superstars such as the legendary Brian Lara

Those were the days: West Indies no longer boast cricketing superstars such as the legendary Brian Lara

As a quartet, these men provide their own reflection of the state of the game in the Caribbean: a world in which communication is poor, administrators are at each other's throats, and funds are so scarce that talented cricketers are forced to place faceless franchises ahead of regional prestige.

We are often told that West Indian cricket has been the victim of circumstances beyond its control, and no doubt there is some truth in this. Sporting dynasties cannot last for ever, the lure of American sports is undeniable, and the post-colonial rage that burned inside Viv Richards may have flickered its last.

But let's not patronise West Indian cricketers too much. Because they could, if they got their house in order, field the following XI at Lord's: Gayle, K Edwards, Sarwan, Darren Bravo, Chanderpaul, Dwayne Bravo, Ramdin, Sammy, Narine, F Edwards, Roach. No world-beaters, perhaps, but strong enough to give England at least a scare.

Instead, we will have to make do with a watered-down approximation of the real thing. And that is a source of regret – not just for the Caribbean, but for everyone who cares about cricket.

THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS

More from Lawrence Booth…

The Top Spin: Come what May tortured batsmen will weather cruel April's storm
24/04/12

Top Spin: Time for Twenty20 to pay some of Test cricket's bills… it's what families do
17/04/12

The Top Spin: Chastened, not disheartened – why England can afford a smile again
10/04/12

Top Spin at the Test: Spinner Swann on song for England
04/04/12

Top Spin at the Test: Mahela makes the mathematicians earn their keep
03/04/12

The Top Spin: Colombo is England's chance to nip the doomsday Test scenario in the bud
02/04/12

The Top Spin: Testing times ahead as five-day game could be reduced to Ashes
27/03/12

Top Spin: Two Indian greats… but only one Little Master: Why Tendulkar outshines Dravid
19/03/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

What a washout

So, not a single one of last week's eight county championship matches achieved a result. Two were abandoned without a ball being bowled, and only one reached the third innings. Four of the 20 rounds of games are now complete and the real winner has been the rain.

The ECB can't control the weather, but the BBC's Philip Eden, writing in this year's Wisden, pointed out: 'Sooner or later… a very wet April and May is bound to come along which, with the present scheduling regime, will mess up the Championship.'

Five more rounds are scheduled to take place or start this month, and the forecast isn't great. The authorities can't say they weren't warned.

Flower speaks sense

Was it a 'witch-hunt' or wasn't it Were the questions put to Andrew Strauss about his future during the tour of Sri Lanka legitimate lines of enquiry or just media muck-raking

Graeme Swann and Kevin Pietersen made it clear they took the second view, which probably said more for their loyalty to Strauss than any objective interpretation (incidentally, in Colombo, Swann admitted he DID read the press, which flies in the face of years of player protestation – but we digress…)

Anyway, last week Steve James asked Andy Flower what he thought. His reply should settle the matter. 'I think the description of it being a witch-hunt is inaccurate,' said Flower in the Sunday Telegraph. 'I don't think anyone is wanting to burn Strauss at the stake. But I think people are questioning him for not scoring heavy enough runs, and I can understand that.'

One to bear in mind next time the players mount a witch-hunt against the press…

Speaking sense: Andy Flower (left) admits that Andrew Strauss is not the victim of a media witch-hunt

Speaking sense: Andy Flower (left) admits that Andrew Strauss is not the victim of a media witch-hunt

I said what

It was back to my old stomping-ground of Magdalen College School, Oxford, last week to conduct a Q&A for the benefit of the parents' association with two of the newest members of staff: John Crawley and Phil DeFreitas.

Before the evening got going, however, the headmaster Tim Hands read out a couple of entries on the players' Cricinfo profiles. Hands noted that Crawley was described on the website as 'heavy-hipped', while DeFreitas's action 'wouldn't win any beauty contests'.

Which was all fine and dandy, except that those profiles had been penned by none other than yours truly – years ago, it's true, but a useful reminder that the internet makes the past impossible to escape…

You may have missed it, but…

Congratulations to Shivnarine Chanderpaul for reclaiming top spot in the Test batting list after a gap of three years. But a glance at the rankings page turned up an anomaly in another, unrelated, table.

India, begetters of the world's richest and most glamorous Twenty20 tournament, are currently seventh in the T20 rankings, one place ahead of Ireland.

Back to his best: Shivnarine Chanderpaul (right) is the top-ranked Test batsman once again

Back to his best: Shivnarine Chanderpaul (right) is the top-ranked Test batsman once again

This is not a gratuitous dig at India, as some of you will choose to believe. It is a genuine question. How can the country that has become the home of Twenty20 cricket have slipped so far at international level from the peak of winning the World Cup in 2007 Or is it the case that the financial success of the IPL – even with dwindling TV audiences – is the primary concern

Answers in the comment section please.

Tony Pulis defends Stoke team to play Valencia

Pulis happy with strength of his team despite his absent friends

Tony Pulis launched a staunch defence of his selection policy after leaving nine of Stoke City’s recognised first-teamers at home.

The Potters’ boss robustly denied he was fielding a weakened team as just 15 players made the trip to Spain.

Regulars such as Matthew Etherington, Peter Crouch, Ryan Shawcross and Jon Walters were deemed surplus to requirements in the face of murmurings among the club’s travelling support.

No weak link: Stoke boss Tony Pulis has launched a defence of the team he has taken to Valencia

No weak link: Stoke boss Tony Pulis has launched a defence of the team he has taken to Valencia

Over three thousand fans from north Staffordshire are expected in the Mestalla to see if their team can overturn a one-goal deficit.

But if they do see Stoke defy the odds the club will have done so without a host of players from first-choice side and with a substitutes’ bench that will be three shy of its’ full complement.

It is not the first time that Premier League bosses have purposely omitted players in the Europa League.

Both Martin O’Neill and Gary Megson trod that path when they were in charge of Aston Villa and Bolton Wanderers respectively.

However, Pulis baulked at suggestions that he was not paying the competition due respect, citing a combination of tired legs and niggling injuries as justification.

No go: Matthew Etherington

Staying at home: Peter Crouch

Staying at home: Matthew Ethrington and Peter Crouch are two of the players who have not travelled to Valencia

This Sunday’s game at the Britannia Stadium will be the Potters’ fourth match in 10 days. All told, Thuesday's return leg is their 12th in the Europa League this season.

'Have a look at the team I pick and make your own minds up,' said Pulis, 'I’m quite happy with what I have brought over.

'If you look at the squad, every player I’ve brought over here is an international.

'So it’s not a weak team.

'I’ve looked at it and I’ve got a back four and everyone is a full international – plus the keeper.

Uphill struggle: Mehmet Topal gave Valencia a 1-0 lead at The Britannia

Uphill struggle: Mehmet Topal gave Valencia a 1-0 lead at The Britannia

'I’ve got three midfield players who are full internationals, two out of three forwards who are internationals and my captain has played for his country.

'I don’t think this is a weak team. I’ll have players out there we have paid 20m for.

'We picked up a few injuries on Sunday (against Crawley) so that's precautionary and there is one or two players who have looked over the last two days very tired and very empty, especially the front two, (Jon) Walters and (Peter) Crouch.

'We take a lot of notice of the ProZone stuff and there's one or two there who have been monitored and it's registering that they look empty at the moment, so they need a breather without a question of doubt.

The difference: Topal's goal separates the sides

The difference: Topal's goal separates the sides

'And, of course, we've got one or two injuries as well.'

However, not all of Stoke’s supporters seem pleased with the news.

O’Neill ended up apologising on the plane home to Villa’s fans for his action.

Valencia v Stoke

Sue Bryan, who drove from Madrid to Valencia for Thursday's game: 'I’m a Tony Pulis fan and I believe in him but this is disappointing.

'It’s difficult to say what his best team is, because we have not been winning with his first-team. I’m disappointed but I can see a lot of Stokies who will be more than that. They’ll be up in arms when they hear this.

'Swansea is going to be very difficult now. Supporters are complaining already but if we lose five league games on the bounce on the back of limping out of Europe, it’s difficult to see where he turns next.

'It’s a very awkward situation.'

Valencia manager Unai Emery however, did not take offence at any perceived slight.

'It’s true that there will be a lot of changes,' he said, 'the likes of Crouch and Walters are out. But their manager has taken it in turn this season and changed his players.

'Perhaps he wants other players in, quicker players up front rather than just crossing the ball to Peter Crouch.

'But I don’t think Stoke’s selection shows a lack of respect to the competition because I think this is very important to them. I expect to see the best of them.'