No need to discard Jason Holder as Test captain.

    How do we evaluate a captain? Do we use their win-loss record? Do we judge their on-field performances? West Indies Test captain Jason Holder should continue as the team’s leader despite calls for Kraigg Brathwaite to replace him at the helm.

The calls have come after Brathwaite led the squad to victory over Bangladesh in a two-Test series two weeks ago while Holder opted not to tour due to health and safety concerns.

 Changing captains is not the answer to the West Indies’ problems and if the selectors were to do so it would be a very rash and irresponsible decision. It would also amount to a knee-jerk reaction.

When Holder was selected to be Test captain in 2015, it was purported as a “long-term” appointment. By replacing Holder with Brathwaite after success in one Test series, the selectors run the risk of undermining Holder’s confidence by bringing into question his ability to lead. Nothing good would come from that.

 It would be inaccurate and quite unfair to say Holder has had no success as captain as he did win the Wisden Trophy in 2019.

The 29-year-old Holder has grown as a cricketer and is one of the world’s leading Test cricketers, ranked third on the all-rounder’s chart, 11th in bowling and 43rd in the batting rankings.

He has a lot to offer to the team and each player can learn from his exploits in different formats and levels of the game.

It is also key to note that just recently, Kraigg Brathwaite was stripped of the vice-captaincy and told to focus on improving his game.

The Windies will be confident going into their series against Sri Lanka. So instead of causing unnecessary division within the team by changing captains, each player should be encouraged to learn from the other and cooperation should be encouraged.

Both Holder and Brathwaite can work alongside each other. Holder could learn a thing or two from Brathwaite and vice versa.

 So instead of focusing on who should be captain, the focus should be on building around the core and planning for the future.

 

 The NBA All-Star Game should be cancelled.

 

The 2021 All-Star Game was initially cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic but the NBA has reversed the decision and decided to hold a one-night event in Atlanta on March 7, despite public objection from players.

Despite players like LA Lakers star LeBron James coming out and voicing his displeasure with the league’s decision saying that he will be there physically but not mentally, the NBA’s persistence in continuing with the All-Star Game, gives the impression that player safety and concerns are being overlooked in the name of profit.

The All-Star Weekend provides fans with the ability to interact tradition with their favourite players. However, the fact that Covid-19 has prevented fans from being at the games undermines the need this season.

We live in unprecedented times and the safety and health of the players should be of paramount importance, and it is not unreasonable to believe that the All-Star Game could trigger virus clusters that put even more players at risk.

 

Is all this worth risking the rest of the NBA season?

 Novak Djokovic is unstoppable!  Novak Djokovic extended his dominance at the Australian Open beating Daniil Medvedev 7-5 6-2 6-2 to secure his18th Grand Slam title.

The 33-year-old Djokovic dispensed of his opponent in an hour and 53 minutes to claim his ninth Australian Open title and move with two of the number of titles won by both Roger Federer’s and Rafael Nadal.

Not even an abdominal injury suffered earlier in the tournament could prevent the Joker from continuing his relentless march to catch up with his two contemporaries.

Congratulations!

On many a Sunday, I realize that people have looked at the stories they've seen throughout the week with different lenses. I have my own personal take on some of these trending issues and I will share them with you. Welcome to #INCASEYOUMISSEDIT the 2021 edition with Mariah

 

  1. Tough task ahead for Thomas Tuchel

Chelsea have given their new manager Thomas Tuchel 18 months to reverse the club’s fortunes after sacking Frank Lampard. Tuchel’s first match in charge ended in a 0-0 home draw with Wolves on Wednesday, a clear sign that the task ahead is not an easy one.  The big question looming is how can he avoid the same fate as Lampard? 

The 42-year-old German is more experienced than his predecessor having had spells at Mainz and Borussia Dortmund as well as two and a half years at PSG in France, leading them to back-to-back French league titles.

He also led the French champions to the 2019/20 Champions League final.

Winning cup competitions and making the top-four in the EPL would help him keep his job at the end of the season but going forward that will not be enough for team owner Roman Abramovich.

Notwithstanding his proven coaching acumen, Tuchel has developed somewhat of a reputation of getting into power struggles with club hierarchies. He was fired by Dortmund after falling out with officials there, similar to his exit from PSG. He would be advised to stay in Abramovich’s good books.

He would also do well to capitalize on his relationships with Thiago Silva who he coached at PSG and Christian Pulisic from Dortmund.

 The task at hand is not impossible and Tuchel seems ready to take on his latest project.

“I decided not to worry about that too much and to go to do it, to be brave enough to take this adventure. It’s my character to believe more in the chances than in the risks,” he said.

 

  1. Windies stars continue to shine in Abu Dhabi T10

The ICC T20 World Cup set for October in India is still some time away but the excitement in the Abu Dhabi T10 has reignited the hope that West Indies just might have a chance. The first week of the Abu Dhabi T10 was filled with brilliant performances both with bat and ball from notable Windies players.

Several Windies players have found form early in the tournament. The Northern Warriors’ Lendl Simmons blasted an unbeaten 54 in his first match. Evin Lewis also started off with a bang having scored 100 runs in three matches that included a top score of 55. He was also not out twice and is the third-highest run-scorer for this 2021 edition.

Nicholas Pooran has also been brilliant with the bat. After two matches he has 73 runs with a high score of 54. The Pune Devils Kennar Lewis in his first match scored a 28-ball 57 not out to lead his team to victory.

There have also been noteworthy performances with the ball as the Northern Warriors’ Rayad Emrit is ranked fifth for most wickets in the tournament. He has bowled 4 overs for 46 runs and taken three wickets. His teammate Fabian Allen has bowled two overs for 11 runs and taken two wickets. Deccan Gladiators Sunil Narine has grabbed two wickets from his two overs.

 

 

“Thank you, God for allowing me to enjoy Kobe Bryant for 20 years as a great basketball player, athlete, husband, father, philanthropist, mentor and teacher of the game to many men and women of all ages, best friend of Rob Pelinka, and brother to Jeanie Buss. He will always by my Lakers brother for life. Laker Nation we will always remember the brilliance, the legend, the Mamba mentality of #8/#24.”

Those were the words posted on Facebook on Tuesday by Los Angeles Laker legend Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson on the one-year anniversary of the tragic death of Kobe and Gianna Bryant and several others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday, January 26, 2020.

I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was sitting on my bed having a chat with my wife when the ‘breaking news’ alert popped up on my phone. Suddenly social media came alive. My wife’s alerts began to go crazy. I turned to Google and there it was, the beginning of a nightmare for fans of the Lakers and basketball fans across the world.

It was Magic, who reminded me that a year had passed; a year when the tears spilt uncontrollably from my eyes and the hurt of my sister’s passing a month earlier and Kobe’s tragic death became too much to bear.

It was Magic who brought me to basketball and then the Lakers.

Back then, in the late 70s, there was no cable but we had sports magazines and newspapers and in them, I developed a passing interest in college basketball and to a certain Earvin Johnson, who had just won the 1978 NCAA title for Michigan State University.

“The Magic Show,” said the headline of the Sports Illustrated magazine. The story inside made me a fan of Magic.

It was the start of what I came to see as the enduring rivalry between Magic and Celtic great Larry Bird, who representing Indiana State had gone up against Johnson in that historic NCAA final.

“While Earvin directed a balanced offence, and the defence deterred Larry Bird, Michigan State won the NCAAs. Magic, who scored 24 points in that final, declared for the NBA draft and became a Laker as the number one pick, the following year.

Bird was the sixth pick for the Celtics, the year before.

With Magic at the Lakers and Bird at the hated Celtics, the 1980s was a dream for me, the newly minted basketball fan of the NBA. Back then, the NBA wasn’t a big deal for my schoolmates, who were more interested in English League football and the FIFA World Cup.

The Lakers won five championships in the 1980s, the last of them coming in 1988 when they squeezed by the Detroit Pistons 4-3. In 1989, the Bad Boys of Detroit thrashed the Lakers 4-0 to win the title that year. They were then humbled 4-1 by the Bulls in 1991 in what marked the beginning of the Jordan era.

I drifted away from the NBA then, tired of the over-glorification of Michael Jordan and the corresponding failed experiment of Nick van Exel and Eddie Jones. The Lakers got so bad that I considered never watching the NBA ever again.

Five years passed and then news began circulating that the Lakers had acquired this teenager from Charlotte by the name of Kobe Bryant.

Magic Johnson revealed in an interview that Jerry West, ‘The Logo”, the Lakers great who suited up for the franchise between 1960 and 1974, that they had just signed the next Lakers super star. West, who was General Manager in Los Angeles at the time, had an eye for talent and he was sure that this kid, who spent a few years living in Italy, was the one.

So, it was Kobe that brought me back to the NBA.

My first impression of Kobe was that he was not very convincing. Yes, he was wet behind the ears but the incredible talent West had touted looked like a wannabe more than anything else.

A year later, I saw something that made me start to believe. It wasn’t a game-winning performance but if you were really paying attention, it was quite stark, and it came in the playoffs against the Utah Jazz.

Don Yeager writing for Forbes recalls:

“If you don’t know the story of that game, it was a pivotal moment in Kobe’s career. Most people remember it because of how spectacularly bad Kobe was that night: 4 for 14 from the floor (0 for 6 from three-point range),” he wrote.

“Now, the only reason he saw extended minutes was due to a cavalcade of Laker misfortune—Bryan Scott missed the game with a sprained wrist, Robert Horry was ejected, and Shaquille O’Neal fouled out with under two minutes left in the game.

After averaging around 15 minutes per game during the regular season, suddenly, the game belonged to Kobe.

He promptly launched four airballs in the game’s closing minutes.

After the game, as a bunch of reporters gathered around his locker, I remember several people questioning his unconscionable shooting. After all, it’s embarrassing enough to shoot one airball as a pro, much less two. But four? As your team let a must-have game slip away with each of your misses?

We all wondered how he would defend himself.

“I had some good looks,” he said. “I just didn’t hit the shots.”

That was it. He said it without a hint of regret or self-doubt; it sounded like something a decades-old veteran would say, a matter-of-fact statement about the sometimes fickle nature of the game. What he was saying, in effect, was ‘this is a chapter I have to get through in order to write a book worth reading.’

Michael Jordan would later remark that Kobe was the only one on that Laker team brave enough to take the shots.

Fast forward three years and Kobe would win the first of three consecutive titles and begin cementing his legacy as a Laker great.

Getting out of the West back then was so much harder than winning the Larry O’Brien trophy. The Lakers had to overcome stern challenges from the Sacramento Kings and Portland Trailblazers and San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals.

I remember Kobe taking over the third quarters of the series against the Tim Duncan-led Spurs. I remember how he and Shaq battled back from 15 points down in a must-win game against Portland. It was nail-biting stuff but watching Kobe and Shaq rising to the occasion in the face of elimination was the stuff of legend.

Two more titles in 2009 and 2010, ensured that Bryant would go down as one of, if not the greatest Laker ever but it came with a series of challenges that would have broken lesser players. It was one of the characteristics that made Kobe great. He thrived when facing challenges.

I remember exactly where I was when the Lakers defeated a talented Boston Celtics team with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Rasheed Wallace to win their fifth title of the decade. In a way, it mirrored the beginning of my connection with the Lakers versus the Celtics.

“Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity for me to rise,” Kobe once said.

“The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great in whatever they want to do. Winning takes precedence overall.”

You could argue that this mentality is what go him scoring 40 points a game each time he came back from a trial date regarding those rape allegations in 2003, a time when I was certain he was going to be jailed for a long time, but he survived that too.

He then went on to rescue his marriage to Vanessa and became a model dad to his girls.

That is the same mentality he displayed when nursing a bad knee, he scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors in a 122 to 104 victory. Bryant shot better than 50 per cent in the game in which the Raptors led by 14.

Only another Laker, Wilt Chamberlain has ever scored more in an NBA game.

And who can forget his final game for LA, 60 points in April 2016 to put the cap on a magnificent career during which he scored 33,643 points, won five titles, was a two-time NBA finals MVP (should have been three), and was an 18-time All-Star.

Walking away from a successful career and being recognized as an all-time great would have been enough for most players, but that was only just the beginning for the Mamba, who would go on to coach his daughter Gianna who became one of the best age-group players in the USA, win an Oscar and a Grammy Award.

One wonders what other wonders he would have delivered had lived. Why it is so painful is that we know he was going to do even greater things off the court but we will never see what those greater things are.

How good a coach would he have been for Gianna? How much better a dad would he have become? How much better a human being would he have evolved into.

I don’t know. I don’t have the words so I resolve to borrow from Jamie Foxx to express how it feels that Kobe Bryant is no longer with us one year on.

“I know God doesn’t make mistakes but this one leaves me numb still. After a year it’s still hard to wrap my mind around this. Rest in Power. You and your precious little one will forever be remembered and cherished in our hearts and minds.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On many a Sunday, I realize that people have looked at the stories they've seen throughout the week with different lenses. I have my own personal take on some of these trending issues and I will share them with you. Welcome to #INCASEYOUMISSEDIT the 2021 edition with Mariah

 

Kobe Bryant’s legacy is alive and well.

On Tuesday, it will be one year since the news broke that Laker legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, six other passengers and the pilot were passengers in a helicopter that crashed in the hills of Calabasas, California, killing everyone on board.  For so many, Bryant was an influential presence ripped away from his family and the world just as he was making a mark post-basketball career.

Bryant was an icon who won five NBA championships and two NBA Finals MVPs during his a 20-year career.  I was a child when I first saw Kobe play. I was utterly impressed. The other children I was around would launch paper balls at bins yelling “Kobe!”.  Everyone wanted to be him.

As a sports journalist his I was fascinated by his work ethic. The way he knew what he wanted and went about ensuring that he got it.  Even now, I find myself turning to old Kobe interviews and listening to him for self-motivation. I hope his family and loved ones continue to find the inner strength to deal with his tragic passing.

 

West Indies can take a page out of India’s book.

It is true that the West Indies’ poor form did not start with this Bangladesh tour. However, they can take a page out of India’s book following a second disastrous batting display losing to Bangladesh by seven wickets in the second ODI at the Mirpur Stadium in Dhaka on Friday.

A few days before this latest Windies defeat, India ended Australia’s record of being unbeaten at the Gabba since 1988 with a team that lacked key senior players.

Like India, coming into the Bangladesh series the Windies were not favourites. What worked for India was its ability to capitalize on their strengths. Much of their success can be attributed to the system that in place to allow new cricketers to emerge and thrive.

 Every successful team needs good structure and foundation. India’s “A” team programme has reaped its intended benefits. Take the case of Thangarasu Natarajan, who is the first Indian to make this international debut in all three formats on the same tour. He ended the Australia series as the highest wicket-taker.

There was also the case of 21-year-old Shubman Gill, who had been on the fringes of the Test side patiently awaiting his call and took his chance when it came

 He would go on to finish his maiden Test series with an average of 51.81. Rishabh Pant was another player that came through the Indian development system and is now reaping the rewards. The 23-year-old was left out of the first Test but in the series-decider was unbeaten on 89 and hit the winning runs that also won the series.

 

No Kohli, no problem.

Leadership is another area of India’s game where the Windies can look to India for inspiration. Like the Windies when Kieron Pollard opted not to tour due to Covid 19, India’s captain Virat Kohli returned home to witness the birth of his first daughter.

However, Ajinkya Rahane stepped up to the task at hand. Again, this reiterated the work being done behind the scenes to allow for ease of transition. I was impressed by how Rahane handled the resources at hand and worked with the team to unlock their full potential.

 

REDS-

 It is not too late for a Premier League turnaround. Liverpool has now gone four matches in a row in the Premier League without a goal. They are now six points away from league leaders Manchester United.  Despite struggling in the Premier League this season it is not too late for a turnaround.

Liverpool is a club that knows how to win and do so in style. Despite this, they have been lacking in confidence this season and it is evident in the errors that they are making on the field. There is a major lack of efficiency and energy. Once the club can find the rhythm that everyone admired last season they can get back to their winning ways.

It is evident that Jurgen Klopp is frustrated and not handling the pressure. Klopp’s frustration has been filtering to the players and emboldening the opposition. It is wise that the manager sticks to his principles and steers his players in the right direction. At this point, there is absolutely no need to make rash decisions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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