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Tom Maynard death: A sudden descent into the painful and brutal world of reality – The Top Spin

Maynard's shocking death is a sudden and painful descent into the world of reality

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UPDATED:

12:59 GMT, 19 June 2012

Cricket is full of scripts. You can usually spot them a mile off: the carefree debut, the two-fingers-up return to form, the sinus-loosening last hurrah. And in their familiarity resides a certain comfort.

It matters not that you may already know, to an unhealthy degree, the prescribed possibilities of this diversionary world. Because you also know that, despite your better judgment, you’ll never get bored of them.

They're always just different enough to keep you interested, and besides – they're a damn sight less troublesome than those we meet in real life.

Tributes: Fans left flowers and messages of sympathy for Maynard outside the Kia Oval

Tributes: Fans left flowers and messages of sympathy for Maynard outside the Kia Oval

More from Lawrence Booth…

Top Spin: There's still plenty to take from Edgbaston despite the rain
12/06/12

Top Spin: If Pietersen can afford to retire, we know where we stand
05/06/12

Top Spin: Forget 'competing', it's time West Indies had a touch of class…
29/05/12

The Top Spin: England must reacquaint themselves with what they do best at Trent Bridge
22/05/12

The Top Spin: Late bloomer Anderson is England's man for all seasons
15/05/12

The Top Spin: Come in No 6! Five pressing questions for England to answer this summer
07/05/12

The Top Spin: Forget the rain… the lack of Gayle-force Windies dampens series
30/04/12

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

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

So it feels shocking when sport departs from its unwritten pledge to distract us a little, and to do it in terms we can all understand, if not necessarily emulate.

Tom Maynard was tall, dark, handsome, and talented. He could hit the ball a long way, and he could hit it often. His script may have been highly promising rather than once-in-a-blue-moon exceptional. But it was his script, his life, and it was well under way.

Hell, he'd deviate from it from time to time. He had already done so the previous weekend. But there was fun to be had – his and ours. Sport shouldn't be so demanding as to ask for much more than that.

Tom's story has ended differently now, on the tracks of a tube station while most of us were sleeping through the dawn chorus of Monday morning. Family and friends mourn a loved one. The rest of us respectfully wonder what might have been.

Not many hours earlier, he had been playing for Surrey against Kent at Beckenham. The day before that, he had appeared on Sky's Cricket AM, full of mischief. He was going places.

And he was striking. My girlfriend,
no great sports fan, asked me not about the slightly shy figures of
Jason Roy on one side of the Cricket AM sofa and Stuart Meaker on the
other, but about the swarthy brunette in the middle. If he hadn’t played
for Surrey, you might be tempted to say he had a strut.

His death is an unmitigated tragedy.
It is no more or less tragic than if the body found at Wimbledon Park
station had belonged to a prince or a pauper. But the escapism of sport –
and the significance society ascribes it – is such that any sudden
descent into brutal reality can be especially painful.

Silence: The England and West Indies players paid a fitting tribute at Maynard's home ground

Silence: The England and West Indies players paid a fitting tribute at Maynard's home ground

Silence: The England and West Indies players paid a fitting tribute at Maynard's home ground

Sportsmen are not supposed to die young. They may lapse into premature decline once their careers are over; they may be taken too soon from us by injury. But to die young is the preserve of the rock star. It is not part of the sporting deal, with its emphasis on athleticism and gilded youth.

How else to explain the astonishing
response to the on-field collapse of Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba
Thousands perish every day in grim circumstances, yet it was the fate of
a man most of us knew only distantly through the prism of Match of the
Day that dominated the headlines.

Clearly,
there was a very human empathy in the outpouring of concern for Muamba
that day. But how much of it jostled for space with disbelief that a
supposedly inviolate world had suffered an intrusion more commonly
reserved for you or me When a footballer has a weak heart, what hope is
there for the rest of us

Muamba
survived, thank God, but Tom Maynard was less fortunate. A son, a
team-mate, a hope and a dream. And above all, a human being.

Tragedy: Maynard had a promising future with club and country to look forward to

Tragedy: Maynard had a promising future with club and country to look forward to

Tragedy: Maynard had a promising future with club and country to look forward to

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West Indies need to improve – Top Spin by Lawrence Booth

Forget 'competing', it's time West Indies had a touch of class…

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UPDATED:

13:49 GMT, 29 May 2012

TOP SPIN ON TWITTER

For more cricketing musings, please follow right here @the_topspin

Years ago, when England used to lose every time to Australia, the clue was in the verb. English cricketers would arrive Down Under, they said, hoping to ‘compete’.

The suggestion that they might actually ‘win’ barely came into it. And so they would play decent cricket for a session here, maybe even a day there. But the belief was missing. England would compete – and then Australia would win. The narrative became so predictable it got boring.

Which brings us to West Indies. As their coach, Ottis Gibson, spoke on Monday at length and with passion about the need for his top-order batsmen to sell their wickets more dearly – and to study the way Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook build their innings – you did not have to read between the lines to sense his frustration.

Lonely times: Darren Sammy departs after being dismissed at Trent Bridge

Lonely times: Darren Sammy departs after being dismissed at Trent Bridge

More from Lawrence Booth…

The Top Spin: England must reacquaint themselves with what they do best at Trent Bridge
22/05/12

The Top Spin: Late bloomer Anderson is England's man for all seasons
15/05/12

The Top Spin: Come in No 6! Five pressing questions for England to answer this summer
07/05/12

The Top Spin: Forget the rain… the lack of Gayle-force Windies dampens series
30/04/12

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

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

For Trent Bridge was yet more proof that West Indies have mastered the art of doing just enough to suggest they can win Tests without ever actually winning them. It is the culture of sufficiency. And it is some skill.

Their moment in Nottingham came when Darren Sammy – part of the problem, even while he strives whole-heartedly for the solution – had Strauss caught behind on Sunday afternoon. England were 363 for 7, and trailed by seven. A swift mopping-up of the tail and West Indies might even have been favourites.

Instead, Tim Bresnan and Stuart Broad added 53 before the pair of them tore in with James Anderson in the evening sunshine. When West Indies closed the third day on 61 for 6, a lead of three, there was no way back.

Recent history suggests that, if West Indies are intent on learning their lessons, they are learning them the hard way. At Lord’s, too, they kept knocking on the door. But 181 for 4 in the first innings quickly became 243 all out, and even though England then lost their last eight wickets for 154, it was only after they had reached 244 for 2.

West Indies recovered from 65 for 4 to 345 all out – further indication that their middle order possesses the technique so lacking in the top three. But after they reduced England to 57 for 4 in pursuit of 191, they never came close to sealing the deal.

Part-time Test cricket – and it was the same story against Australia in the Caribbean recently. In Dominica, they allowed the Aussies to recover from 169 for 7 in their first innings to 328.

In Trinidad, West Indies collapsed from 230 for 4 to 257. In Barbados, they made 449, then had Australia 285 for 8. Australia recovered to reach 406, then skittled West Indies for 148.

And it was the same in India. In Mumbai, West Indies were dismissed for 134 after beginning with 590. At Kolkata, they compiled 463 – but only while following on, having slipped to 153 first time round. At Delhi, they had a lead of 95, before falling to 180 all out.

What's going on West Indies' players watch the repairs to the wicket

What's going on West Indies' players watch the repairs to the wicket

Top Spin

I could go on. But the point is this: cohesion and team spirit and all the other good things Sammy and Gibson keep telling us they are trying to instil are of little use if the players switch off halfway through each Test.

Of course, this is where it gets tricky. Last week I interviewed Michael Holding and Jerome Taylor, Jamaican fast bowlers past and present and both disillusioned with what they regard as the unyielding nature of West Indies’ management and administrators.

Holding’s point – which he has grown sick and tired of making – is that, while team discipline is self-evidently crucial, so too is making every effort to accommodate talent. Taylor’s story suggests this may not be happening.

These voices are easy to dismiss as whinges. But where has West Indies’ determination to rid their side of supposed troublemakers got them Two Test wins out of 31 (excluding the non-event at North Sound v England) is the stark answer – one of those against Bangladesh, another by 40 runs against Pakistan on a lottery of a pitch in Guyana.

This is a humiliating set of results, and it cannot be assuaged by patronising pats on the head about team spirit and trying hard.

On what planet, for example, was a top three of Adrian Barath, Kieran Powell and Kirk Edwards ever going to thrive in England And if Taylor is being ignored for not being properly fit, where does that leave the perennially knackered Fidel Edwards

Duncan Fletcher used to speak of a ‘critical mass’ when it came to picking a cricket team. In essence, you didn’t want more than three feckless individuals out of 11: four or five, and they would start to infect the team.

West Indies seem intent on reducing that figure to none. But in the process they are depriving themselves of the touch of class which – if harnessed properly – could make a difference.

Now, if I hear the word ‘compete’ once more before next week’s third Test at Edgbaston, I won’t be held accountable for my actions…

THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS
Marlon’s magic

Has anyone made a faster transformation from so-called wastrel to coolest kid in class than Marlon Samuels It’s not just the runs (310 at 103 so far in the series) but his off-message gift of the gab, a patter to refined that he was able to tell England’s chirping slip fielders on Monday: ‘Shut up guys – I’m about to get back-to-back hundreds.’

Leading light: Marlon Samuels marks his century at Trent Bridge

Leading light: Marlon Samuels marks his century at Trent Bridge

He was in the 40s at the time, and deprived of his boast only by the ducks endured by Nos 10 and 11 Shane Shillingford and Ravi Rampaul. But his best moment in Nottingham came as he addressed the press at stumps on day one, his third Test hundred safely in the bag. ‘I can talk and bat all day,’ he said. ‘Bowlers can’t talk and bowl.’

James Anderson, he said, was ‘someone who gets frustrated very easily – he needs to get stronger’. As he said this, he noticed Anderson waiting just outside the squash court which doubles as a press-conference room at Test matches. With a broad grin, he changed tack: ‘He’s my favourite bowler – I told him that at Lord’s too.’

Strauss keeps racking them up

A word about England – and more specifically about the captaincy of Andrew Strauss. There are times when his leadership is branded unimaginative: the decision to post seven men on the fence while Samuels was batting with the tail was one such moment. But hang on one moment…

Strauss has now won all eight home series in which he has been captain (he stepped in against Pakistan in 2006, remember). Of the 27 Tests, he has won 19 and lost only two. And he’s now only one century away from equalling the England Test record of 22, held jointly by Wally Hammond, Colin Cowdrey and Geoff Boycott. Not bad for a bloke who was the talking point for most of the winter.

SLC’s USP

It’s instructive to see Sri Lanka Cricket showing absolutely no inclination to shed their reputation as the control freaks of the international boardroom. After attracting publicity of the wrong kind when they refused to allow Kumar Sangakkara to speak about his Wisden awards recently, they are now insisting that any journalist who wishes to interview a Sri Lankan player must get permission from SLC’s chief executive Ajith Jayasekera. Wonder what his favourite answer will be…

For God, Queen and franchise

‘Absolutely gutted…’ tweeted Kevin Pietersen at the end of the first day at Trent Bridge. And why not After all, West Indies had recovered from 136 for 6 to close the day on 304 for 6 – England supporters knew how he felt. But the tweet went on to refer to a different disappointment – Delhi Daredevils’ failure to reach the final of the IPL: ‘Sorry @DelhiDaredevils!!! To all the @DelhiDaredevils fans, thank you so much for your support through the season!!’

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Super Bowl 2012: New York Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes eyes New England Patriots scalp

Tynes sizes up second Super Bowl ring as Giants kicker eyes Patriots scalp once more

New York Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes took delivery of a personalised Scotland shirt this week, but is hoping to be sized up for another Super Bowl winners ring.

The Scottish-born kicker is aiming for his second Super Bowl title with the Giants, having been part of the team that stunned the New England Patriots in Arizona four years ago.

Can he kick it: Tynes practises before Super Bowl XLVI

Can he kick it: Tynes practises before Super Bowl XLVI

They will face the Patriots in a re-match in Indianapolis, finding themselves once again the underdogs, but the pressure is off for a man who has already achieved more than he ever dreamed of growing up.

'I really am trying to (enjoy it) because the last time, I told my wife, the last one was a blur,' the Greenock-born Tynes said.

'Let's really enjoy this one. I am 33 now and hope to play a lot longer, you never know when you are going to get back here. I am taking in everything. I have taken a lot more pictures since I have been here and kind of got the feel for the street last night.

'I walked around and felt the pulse of the city. It is exciting. Last time I didn't really get to do any of that.'

Tynes, who moved to the States aged 11 when military service took his father to Florida, was a late bloomer in American football, having initially been put off by the violence of the sport until he discovered he could be a specialist kicker and remain largely out of the fray.

Put your shirt on it: Tynes poses with his personalised Scotland kit

Put your shirt on it: Tynes poses with his personalised Scotland kit

He said: 'I didn't like this game
that I am playing on Sunday (at first) because it was tackling and
physical, and finally my senior year at school I realised I could kick a
ball and they had a position that required kicking a ball, and that was
something I was pretty good at it and here I am. It has been pretty
fun.'

Tynes is one of
only three Britons to have a Super Bowl ring, with Giants team-mate Osi
Umenyiora also on the list along with former Patriots back-up kicker
Scott McCready, although the latter never actually played in the
showpiece game.

Magic moment: Tynes sends the Giants into their second Super Bowl in five years with a 31-yard field goal against the 49ers

Magic moment: Tynes sends the Giants into their second Super Bowl in five years with a 31-yard field goal against the 49ers

Lawrence Tynes sizes up second Super Bowl ring as New York Giants kicker eyes New England Patriots scalp again

Tynes sizes up second Super Bowl ring as Giants kicker eyes Patriots scalp once more

New York Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes took delivery of a personalised Scotland shirt this week, but is hoping to be sized up for another Super Bowl winners ring.

The Scottish-born kicker is aiming for his second Super Bowl title with the Giants, having been part of the team that stunned the New England Patriots in Arizona four years ago.

Can he kick it: Tynes practises before Super Bowl XLVI

Can he kick it: Tynes practises before Super Bowl XLVI

They will face the Patriots in a re-match in Indianapolis, finding themselves once again the underdogs, but the pressure is off for a man who has already achieved more than he ever dreamed of growing up.

'I really am trying to (enjoy it) because the last time, I told my wife, the last one was a blur,' the Greenock-born Tynes said.

'Let's really enjoy this one. I am 33 now and hope to play a lot longer, you never know when you are going to get back here. I am taking in everything. I have taken a lot more pictures since I have been here and kind of got the feel for the street last night.

'I walked around and felt the pulse of the city. It is exciting. Last time I didn't really get to do any of that.'

Tynes, who moved to the States aged 11 when military service took his father to Florida, was a late bloomer in American football, having initially been put off by the violence of the sport until he discovered he could be a specialist kicker and remain largely out of the fray.

Put your shirt on it: Tynes poses with his personalised Scotland kit

Put your shirt on it: Tynes poses with his personalised Scotland kit

He said: 'I didn't like this game
that I am playing on Sunday (at first) because it was tackling and
physical, and finally my senior year at school I realised I could kick a
ball and they had a position that required kicking a ball, and that was
something I was pretty good at it and here I am. It has been pretty
fun.'

Tynes is one of
only three Britons to have a Super Bowl ring, with Giants team-mate Osi
Umenyiora also on the list along with former Patriots back-up kicker
Scott McCready, although the latter never actually played in the
showpiece game.

Magic moment: Tynes sends the Giants into their second Super Bowl in five years with a 31-yard field goal against the 49ers

Magic moment: Tynes sends the Giants into their second Super Bowl in five years with a 31-yard field goal against the 49ers