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Topics - Shahriar Mohammad Kamal

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Football / Albom: Missouri football team protest could start trend
« on: November 15, 2015, 02:04:42 PM »
For years, we've debated whether college football players should be paid. Their games bring in a fortune. Their TV revenue builds stadiums and libraries. Yet, the players get only scholarships and living expenses. The money and power, critics say, is highly tilted toward the school.

Recently, we saw a different tilt. The University of Missouri football team threatened to sit out its scheduled game against Brigham Young if Missouri president, Tim Wolfe, didn't resign.

Within two days, he was gone.

The debate over Wolfe had been brewing for a while. Some students and activist groups thought he wasn't doing enough to address alleged racially charged incidents.

But it wasn't until the football team — with the support of its coach, Gary Pinkel — threatened to sit out Saturday's game that Wolfe quickly stepped down. It's hardly an accident. Missouri would have had to pay $1 million in forfeiture fees.

Money talks. The president walks.

And players suddenly realize that while they can't draw paychecks, they can make schools pay.

How far does it go?

You wonder where this leads. Theoretically, if a team wanted a particular professor fired, could it threaten to sit until it happened? Would a school pay a million bucks to protect one job?

What about a commencement speaker? Would a school shell out a fortune, or opt to tell the speaker, "We've replaced you"?

It's a conundrum, created by a bloated sports system that has turned college ball into a multibillion-dollar business. It's such a huge machine, it can't stop to adjust. Critics argue that Missouri officials should have threatened the players' scholarships and told the coach he would be fired. But how many big football schools would dismantle a program midseason? It's not like you can throw together a team. Alumni would howl. Boosters would have a fit.

In some ways, they have only themselves to blame. Protests have long been a part of college life, but sports teams largely have stayed away. What if they don't? They are, after all, "student-athletes." Maybe if they drew paychecks, they'd think twice about what was worth losing them.

Taking a closer look

And that's the other side of this. While many in the media are hailing the Missouri players for taking a stand, a closer look raises questions.

The state of Missouri is clearly a racial tinderbox these days. And hateful environments never should be tolerated. But there are questions about the actual incidents that spurred Wolfe's resignation (and the chancellor's shortly after his). Payton Head, the Missouri student government president, falsely posted that the Ku Klux Klan was seen on campus; he later retracted it. He's the same guy who claimed someone in a red truck yelled a racial slur at him. Hasn't been proven — and it supposedly happened off campus — yet it was part of why Wolfe was ousted. What exactly does a president do about an off-campus driver?

Two other incidents — a swastika smeared in feces and one drunken person yelling a slur — reportedly were confirmed. That seems to be all the major claims. The football players didn't complain of specific racist incidents. Yet they stood squarely behind the demands of the group Concerned Student 1950, which insisted that Wolfe not only resign, but acknowledge, in a handwritten note, his "white male privilege," then read it to the world in a news conference. That sounds more like what captors do with hostages.

Does the team believe its white players should acknowledge their "white male privilege"? And now that the president and chancellor are gone, will nobody get drunk and yell something? If a player does that, will the team call for his expulsion — or rally around him?

Events like those at Missouri and Yale — where students shouted down a white professor over the issue of insensitive Halloween costumes — and a female undergraduate screamed at him, "Who the (expletive) hired you?" and "You're disgusting!" — lead some people to wonder, "Who's running these schools?"

Ironically, this has been the question long asked about big football universities, where coaches (including Missouri's coach) get paid way more than presidents.

If justice is at issue, it shouldn't take a football team to acknowledge it. And if issues are resolvable, a football team shouldn't sway the consequences. But when it costs a million dollars to cancel a game, that's a business. And these schools are in that business. The kids at Missouri figured this out. And it won't be long before other teams do as well.

Contact Mitch Albom: Check out the latest updates with his charities, books and events at Catch "The Mitch Albom Show" 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760). Follow him on Twitter @mitchalbom. To read his recent columns, go to Mitch Albom will sign copies of his new book, "The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto," Nov. 28 at the Barnes & Noble in Huron Village in Ann Arbor and noon Dec. 3 at the Chapters in Windsor's



It is not so surprising if the jihadists in Paris were targeting an international football match. There has for years been a strange relationship between football, Islam and violence in France.

The French football team, les bleus, have long been held up as an emblem of harmony and hope in an otherwise bleak multicultural landscape. The world cup winning team of 1998 consisted largely of the children of Muslim immigrants and was celebrated as a great symbol of how the modern multicultural fifth republic could work. Zinedine Zidane, a Muslim boy from Marseilles, was the star of that tournament. Eight years later, when he was sent off for headbutting Marco Materazzi in the final of the 2006 world cup, French Muslims inferred (wrongly, it seems) that he had acted nobly because Materazzi had offended the Prophet.

For agitated young Muslims in the banlieues, however, rejecting les bleus has become an act of defiance. Many youths in Paris show their loathing of their host nation by passionately supporting Algeria or Morocco instead — even if they are not descended from Algerian or Moroccan immigrants. They can be violent about it, too. In 2014, celebrations of Algeria’s world cup win against Russia turned into riots across France — which led Marine Le Pen to appeal for an end to dual nationality in France. French authorities were mightily relieved when Germany beat Algeria in extra time later on the tournament. If the Germans had not won, the Algerians would have played France.

Oddly enough, France were playing Germany last night at the Stade de France as the explosions went off outside, and they won 2-0. So vive La France!

PS: Some people on Twitter seem to be angry and/or confused about this post. I’m sorry if I was not entirely clear; it was a blogpost not an article, written in haste. The point I was making is that by attacking the French football team — if they indeed were — the Islamists may well have been deliberately targeting what was once considered a symbol of successful Muslim integration into France. Today, for extremists who live in France and hate France, reviling les blues has become a badge of pride. That is sad and true, and I make no apology for saying it.


The final indelible image of Alabama’s 2014 season was of Ohio State tailback Ezekiel Elliott bursting through a sliver of a hole and rocketing 85 yards to score a fourth-quarter touchdown that ended the Crimson Tide’s season. It provided the final piece of empirical evidence for the narrative that accompanied the Buckeyes’ 2014 national title—Urban Meyer built Ohio State in the mold of an SEC team and overpowered the Tide in the trenches on the way to the national championship.

In No. 2 Alabama’s 31–6 shellacking of No. 17 Mississippi State in Starkville on Saturday afternoon, the Tide put forth one of the most dominating performances by a defensive line in recent memory. Alabama sacked Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott nine times Saturday, with each takedown coming from a defensive line position. This performance came one week after the season’s signature defensive performance when Alabama put a speedbump in Leonard Fournette’s Heisman Trophy joyride by holding him to 31 yards on 19 carries. In other words, this Crimson Tide team is shaping up to have the salty defensive fronts that defined Saban’s title runs in 2009, ’11 and ’12.

College Football
Instant Analysis: Alabama looks like title threat, crushes Mississippi St.
by Pete Thamel
“They’re as good as the front four we had at Florida in 2006,” Mississippi State co-offensive coordinator John Hevesy told after the game. He later added the indelible impression of most who’ve seen Alabama the last two weeks: “I don’t know who is going to beat them.”

With No. 1 Clemson sputtering Saturday in the Carrier Dome in with an apathetic 37–27 win at Syracuse, Alabama put up a second-consecutive performance that made many wonder who will beat them. If you are wondering if Alabama is No. 1 right now, answer this question: Who would Ohio State or Oklahoma State or Notre Dame rather play right now? Slip any of their coaches truth serum, and they surely won’t answer Alabama over Clemson.

The root of that comes from Alabama’s menacing, suffocating and harassing defensive front. “I think our defensive front is the strength of our team,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said.

Hevesy’s background makes him uniquely qualified to quantify the strength of this Alabama defense. He worked as Florida’s offensive line coach back in 2006, which allowed him to see the likes of Jarvis Moss, Ray McDonald and Derrick Harvey everyday in practice. That group may not have become dominant in the NFL, but they would later be remembered for the rise of a near-decade of SEC dominance. Florida completely shut down Ohio State Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith in the 2006 BCS national title game, which began the SEC’s run of seven consecutive national titles. The common thread woven through those titles was the dominant lines of the SEC teams. (Remember Auburn’s Nick Fairley living in Oregon’s backfield during the Tigers’ 22–19 victory?)

Photo: Rogelio V. Solis/AP

Hevesy made it clear this Alabama defensive line is among the best he’s seen in his 11 seasons coaching in the SEC. What distinguishes Bama’s line is its depth. “The problem is that they have eight of them,” he said. “He has a conga line.”

Prescott got introduced to nearly that entire conga line while on the ground Saturday. Jonathan Allen led the charge, racking up three sacks and playing so aggressive that he accidentally ran into Saban running on the field and gave the coach a small, bloody cut on his cheek that looked like a shaving accident. “He didn’t seem too mad about it,” Allen said. “It’s football.” Saban would sacrifice an injury every time for his line to play this well.

Allen was joined in harassing Prescott by A’Shawn Robinson (2.5 sacks), Ryan Anderson (two) and Tim Williams (1.5). The most impressive part is that Allen, Anderson and Williams are listed as reserves. (Williams isn’t even on Alabama’s two-deep. He’s a pass rush specialist listed as a linebacker who lines up on the defensive line).

“We have eight or nine of them that can play, which in games like this is really important,” Saban said. “When big guys get tired, when their tank is empty, it usually stays that way. When little guys get tired, five minutes later they’re ready to go again.”

College Football
Instant Analysis: Oklahoma State narrowly dodges defeat vs. Iowa State
by Brian Hamilton
Granted, this performance comes with somewhat of a caveat. Mississippi State’s patchwork offensive line hasn’t adequately replaced the three starters it lost after last season. That’s been the team’s biggest weakness all year, but on Saturday Alabama’s waves of 300-pound freaks made the Mississippi State front five look like they couldn’t win a game of Red Rover against a team of Starkville middle schoolers. “My guys got punched in the face,” Hevesy said. “We didn’t respond one bit.”

While Alabama’s defensive front delivered the type of performance that gets the twinkle of a crystal football in fans’ eyes, it wasn’t the steadiest day for the Crimson Tide. On offense, Alabama was more opportunistic than overwhelming as the shortest touchdown they scored all game was a 60-yard strike. (Alabama got outgained 393-379, which is hard to do with nine sacks). The Tide also lost valuable reserve tailback Kenyan Drake to what Saban called a fractured arm. (He said postgame that Drake would miss about three weeks and admitted he’d be criticized for having Drake on special teams, where the injury occurred).

But overall this Alabama team further brandished its bruising identity, as the combination of the defensive front and soul-crushing tailback Derrick Henry (204 yards on 22 carries) could well be enough to carry the Tide to the title. Quarterback Jake Coker completed 15 of 25 passes for 144 yards, showing he’s unlikely to be anything more than a caretaker. If Alabama is going to continue marching toward the national title, it will do so by dominating opposing teams’ linemen, flummoxing their quarterbacks and eventually sapping their will. And the Tide can do all of that without blitzing. “I’d say physicality is the identity of this team,” Allen said.

In a new execution of a familiar SEC script, Alabama’s defensive front should push the Tide into the playoff. Don’t be surprised if this season they re-write the ending.


Football / Navy football players react to Paris terrorist attack
« on: November 15, 2015, 02:00:59 PM »
Ken Niumatalolo took a deep breath and shook his head.

He said he doesn't deserve to get paid as much as he does because the reason Navy is 8-1 and sitting at No. 20 in the College Football Playoff ranking is because of the leadership on his team.

Especially on a day like Saturday, which was emotional following the terrorist attacks in Paris.

"There are bad things happening in our world, and I feel good that we've got some great leaders on our team who are gonna go out and serve our country," Niumatalolo said.

Navy beat SMU 55-14 on Saturday, but before kickoff, the Midshipmen said a prayer in the locker room for the victims in France. And before the team ran out of its tunnel, the 16th Company carried a French flag during the traditional March-On of the Brigade of the Midshipmen. After the coin toss, everyone at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium shared a moment of silence.


Navy's Keenan Reynolds sets career rushing TD record

"Being in the profession that we're in, it definitely hits home a lot harder because you know that's a volatile situation," Keenan Reynolds said. "We don't really know what's going on and at any moment it could be you.

"It's definitely a somber moment and our thoughts and prayers are still with those families that are affected."

Other service academies like West Point and the United States Air Force Academy also paid tribute to Paris during their respective games on Saturday. Army took the field carrying a French flag, and an Air Force paratrooper bearing a French flag landed on the Falcons' football field.

"You're human," Niumatalolo said. "We're at the United States Naval Academy, so our kids and everybody in our program is cognizant of the things that are going on. We had to play the game, and we wanted to show respect. We had a moment of silence. We also had to press forward with our game. You cant help but notice what's going on."



It was intriguing to see the reaction the other day when Arsène Wenger talked about his suspicions that football teams were being doped and made it clear, not for the first time, that drug-taking within the sport was far more prevalent than most people want to believe.

It was not greatly dissimilar from the time, in early 2013, when Arsenal’s manager came out with the line that football was “full of legends who are, in fact, cheats” and the sport nervously shuffled on its feet and decided to look the other way. There was no sense of uproar. His latest claims didn’t receive a mention on the television news, even at a time when the revelations about Russia were leading the national headlines, and it wasn’t difficult to imagine some of Wenger’s peers rolling their eyes and wishing he would keep his nose out of it.
Arsène Wenger: Arsenal have ‘played many teams’ that were guilty of doping
Read more

In football, we often apply the rule that something cannot be true simply because we do not want it to be true. It is one of the reasons, no doubt, why high up at the World Anti-Doping Agency they think the sport smacks of complacency.

At least this time the Football Association is planning to arrange talks with Wenger to ask what he meant when he talked about having “never injected my players to make them better” but playing “against many teams that weren’t in that frame of mind”. This, however, is what the FA should have done years back, when Wenger first started beating this drum.

It is difficult to think there has ever been a modern-day manager to make such a statement, let alone one of Wenger’s standing, and it is strange the relevant people have left it until now before trying to find out whether it is merely industry gossip or he has heard something that should be looked at properly.

Can it be true? Wenger has also said he cannot believe the World Cup was clean as well as complaining that Uefa’s testing procedures after Champions League matches drastically need to be beefed up. A recent study, commissioned by Uefa, showed that 68 out of 879 professional players taking part in the Champions League, the Europa League and two European Championships, from 2008 to 2013, recorded drug tests that flashed up possible steroid abuse and, however much we might not want to contemplate it, it would be foolish to think the temptation is not there when there is so much money swilling around the game.

There is doping in athletics. Cycling is riddled with it. Other sports suffer. But not football, the biggest of all? Wenger might not be able to produce hard evidence but, with the tapes off, he is not the only high-profile manager, among them Sir Alex Ferguson, I have heard expressing reservations about what might be discovered one day.

Some people clearly don’t even want to think about it. Others seem to be labouring under the belief that there is no real history of teams being doped and, on the whole, it is certainly true that only a tiny percentage of all the drugs tests come back positive. All the same, it is strange that so many people think football has always been clean when the lesson of history should be something completely different.

Did you know, for example, the story about the former Arsenal manager who had a chapter in his autobiography entitled “I Dope Arsenal For a Cup Tie” and openly admitted keeping it quiet out of fears about the public reaction?

It’s some story. Leslie Knighton was manager in 1925 when the team were drawn against a superior and physically intimidating West Ham side in the FA Cup. He recalls being alone in his office “with my head in my hands wondering how on earth we could make sure of putting West Ham out of the Cup” when he was visited by “a distinguished West End doctor”. The doctor offered the team what he called “courage pills” – almost certainly amphetamines – and Knighton was assured they would give the players “hearts as big as bullocks”.

An agreement was made to keep it confidential because they presumably knew, deep down, how it would be seen and when Knighton tried one for good measure he felt a sudden urge to “run, jump, shout … there was something in those pills, I felt I could push down a wall with my fist.”

The problem was that soon after the players swallowed those silver tablets the game was called off because of fog and, as Knighton writes in his 1948 memoir, “getting the players back to Highbury that afternoon was like trying to drive a flock of lively young lions, impossibly restless and desperate for food and water” (in today’s parlance: the munchies). When the game was replayed his players “seemed like giants suddenly supercharged”. They “tore away with the ball and put in shots that looked like leather thunderbolts”. West Ham, he says, had “no defence against the pluck-pills”. Yet it ended 0-0 and West Ham eventually went through after a second replay when the Arsenal players refused to take the pills because of the way it left them with a chronic thirst. “I often wonder if we would have won if the boys had been doped for that game,” Knight says. “We did not lose when we took those pills, and did not win when we rejected them.”

A few days ago, the Liverpool Echo reminded its readers about the Sunday People exposé in 1964 when Everton’s goalkeeper, Albert Dunlop, alleged he and many of his team-mates regularly took amphetamines, in the form of pills called Purple Hearts, over a two-year period in which they won the First Division title. Everton’s board denied being complicit and Dunlop was discredited as an unreliable witness but there was an acceptance that pills had been popped. One report of a 4-0 win against Chelsea details how Everton “ran them into the ground”.

Then there is the story of the Wolverhampton Wanderers side in the late 1930s whose manager, Frank Buckley, became convinced that the best way to increase his players’ physical strength was through injections of monkey-gland extracts. Other clubs heard about the treatment and Portsmouth’s manager, Jack Tinn, put his players on it for the rest of the season. Fulham, Preston North End and Tottenham Hotspur soon became enthusiasts. Some of the more famous names in English football have, in effect, been involved with some fairly dubious practices.
Wembley to welcome France for England friendly in spirit of defiance
Barney Ronay
After the atrocities in Paris, the French Football Federation’s decision to go ahead with Tuesday’s game will provide the chance for a show of sporting solidarity
Barney Ronay
Read more

The point is that if clubs were doping then, is it outlandish to think that somewhere in the world it could be happening now? The events in Russia make it difficult to know if we can even trust laboratory results these days. Dick Pound, the chairman of the Wada commission that has exposed a state-sponsored doping regime, has already said: “It is probably the tip of the iceberg.” Russia, he says, is not the only country involved and athletics is not the only sport.

Football? Let’s hope Wenger is wrong, but it is an unnerving coincidence that Vitaly Mutko, the Russian sports minister who has been directly accused of being complicit in creating the conveyor belt of systematic drugs cheats, was previously the president of Zenit St Petersburg and the Russian football federation.

Likewise, it is certainly unusual that all 23 players in Russia’s squad for the last World Cup played in the Russian league, where there are apparently financial incentives to stay in the country. Perhaps there is a simple explanation but, for now, it is probably better to keep an open mind.

All that really can be said for certain is that Wenger needs to explain in more detail and when someone in his position says these things it is not good enough for everyone else to dismiss it with the wave of a hand.
Costa can be effective without macho act

Something rather unusual happened during England’s game in Alicante on Friday. Diego Costa did not play the entire 90 minutes but he still had more than an hour to pick a scrap, leave his scratch marks on an opponent’s neck or do that thing where he accidentally on purpose backs into a defender and manages to tread on their toes.

Yet there was nothing. No jabbering in the centre-half’s ear, no gesturing that someone was suffering from body odour, no theatrical attempts to win free-kicks or running up to the referee to demand imaginary fouls. This, perhaps, is what happens when a manager, in this case Vicente del Bosque, criticises the player’s behaviour and makes it clear he does not want to win matches that way.

Costa did not have his best game in the Estadio José Rico Pérez but he has not looked the same since his hamstring injury last season and at least he seemed more interested on this occasion in trying to play football, the orthodox way, rather than going through that wearying, macho routine when he is in Chelsea’s colours.

Del Bosque seems to have cracked it; perhaps José Mourinho should try something similar. If, that is, Chelsea’s manager wants Costa to change.
Mortensen is the real man to beat

Jamie Vardy has proved many of us wrong since his first England call-up and that raw, energetic style, combined with a stark improvement in his penalty-area finishing, makes it easy to understand why Roy Hodgson was planning to start him against Spain until an injury temporarily disrupted the Leicester City striker’s progress.

Vardy is on a scoring run of nine successive Premier League games and closing in on Ruud van Nistelrooy’s achievement for Manchester United of hitting the back of the net in 10 consecutive matches. One small thing, though: football, despite the Sky propaganda, was not invented when the satellite dishes went up in 1992. The more relevant record belongs to Stan Mortensen, who scored in 11 consecutive matches for Blackpool during the 1950-51 season.


Football / Man United eyeing Ritchie
« on: November 12, 2015, 10:51:56 AM »
Manchester United could turn to Bournemouth for their next signing. The Sun believe that Louis van Gaal rates Matt Ritchie highly and has told his scouts to watch him closely. Ritchie helped get Bournemouth promoted last season and has played well in the top flight so far. Man United are in the market for wingers, but signing Ritchie will not be easy. The Cherries turned down a £7m bid for Ritchie a year ago and he's signed a new deal since.
Bournemouth can't afford to lose Ritchie as they try to stay in the top flight, but that won't stop a club like Man Untied from chasing him if they want him. Ritchie would certainly add some depth to the Red Devils team and provide them with a dependable option, but he's not a typical Man Untied signing. He's neither flashy nor young so it's tough to imagine them making the type of pursuit necessary to pry Ritchie from the Cherries.


 Real Madrid aren't the only team trying to sign Eden Hazard anymore. The Mail understand that Paris Saint-Germain also want the Chelsea star and are ready to fight the Spaniards for his signature. Hazard is reconsidering his future and may want a move away from Stamford Bridge. Real had been considered the frontrunners for him and Hazard's preferred destination, but PSG are also willing to pay £80 million for Hazard and believe they can convince him to return to France.

Paper Round's view - Hazard played in Ligue 1 for Lille so going to PSG wouldn't give him a new challenge. He already knows he can dominate the league. But he has already shown he can be a great player in the Premier League and few doubt he can do it in La Liga too. The question is where he will be happiest. It's impossible for us to say where that is, but with two mega clubs willing to pay £80m, it's clear that Hazard will have choices. Chelsea won't want to sell their young star, but it may be wise to rebuild the squad with the money he brings in because the team needs help.

Manchester City would love to hire Pep Guardiola in the summer, but if they can't land him then they will try for Carlo Ancelotti, according to The Star. The Citizens have made Guardiola their top priority for years and with his contract at Bayern Munich expiring after the season, this will be their chance to hire him. But if he opts to stay at Bayern or go elsewhere, City will have a decision to make. Manuel Pellegrini has another year left on his deal, but a disappointing season will surely see him sacked regardless of what happens with Guardiola. In that case, Ancelotti is City's top choice, with the chairman already targeting him.


Cricket / Determined Al-Amin re-emerges stronger
« on: November 12, 2015, 10:48:29 AM »
 What does a team take away from winning five consecutive ODI series? In Bangladesh's case, their biggest gain has been the collective mindset over the last 12 months. On Monday, as they crushed Zimbabwe for a second time in as many games to take an unassailable lead in the three-match series, another Bangladesh player provided an instance of mental strength triumphing.

Al-Amin Hossain took the wickets of Sikandar Raza and Elton Chigumbura in the 34th and 36th overs, just when Zimbabwe looked to be on track towards Bangladesh's modest total. At the start of the over in which Raza got out, the visitors needed less than a run-a-ball for 17 overs, with six wickets in hand and two set batsmen at the crease. Al-Amin planned well at that point, bowling shorter and keeping Raza on the backfoot before giving him one to loft towards mid-on. It was an easy catch for Imrul Kayes.

It was Kayes again who took the catch of Chigumbura, this time at third man after Al-Amin got another to lift past the Zimbabwe captain. Al-Amin didn't do anything extraordinary but he smartly tested the batsmen with lengths. Nothing special, but quite effective given the circumstances. Those wickets signalled the end of Zimbabwe's challenge.

He ended with 2 for 22 from eight overs, to follow his 1 for 15 from five overs in the first ODI. These are not eye-catching numbers but it is important to understand what Al-Amin has gone through in the last 14 months; if he had thought that his career was over, it wouldn't have been a surprise.

From being the only bowler worth noting in Bangladesh's disastrous 3-0 loss in the ODI series to West Indies last year, Al-Amin quickly found himself giving a bowling action test after being reported for a suspect action. He was cleared by the ICC two months later but it left a scar in his psyche that was amplified after he was sent home midway through the World Cup.

While the BCB never really said that he was banned, there seemed to be an unwritten embargo on picking him since the World Cup. It seemed he had become a pariah amid all the people he knew in Mirpur. He spent months going through training sessions and trying to find out if he would be picked again. He played first-class cricket but wasn't noticed. Whenever he saw someone who was willing to speak to him, Al-Amin took time to explain his situation. If the authorities were testing him, they had every right to. From the details that emerged from the incident in Brisbane, fault seemed to have been with him.

But in a country where pace bowling is a rarity, Al-Amin had to be recalled in some capacity, and soon. He had done well in his first spell of international cricket, earning the trust of the senior players. He was included for Bangladesh A last month and he bowled quite well during the short tour to South Africa. The big recall then came when Rubel Hossain and Taskin Ahmed were ruled out through injuries. So far, Mustafizur Rahman, Mashrafe Mortaza and Al-Amin have not let Bangladesh miss Taskin or Rubel, who had proven to be two very effective bowlers.

Mashrafe said that Al-Amin showed mental strength to come back and provide the crucial wickets. "Before his action was questioned, Al-Amin was the best pace bowler in the team," Mashrafe said. "Then he had to come back from the World Cup, which gave him a break in his life. It is always hard to come back from such a break. One has to take a lot of mental pressure during these times. He went through a tough time but he was mentally strong. I think he understood his mistakes and he will take it forward from here."

Mashrafe said that pace bowling has played a huge part in Bangladesh's success, particularly in good batting conditions against India and Pakistan earlier this year. "Our bowling unit has helped us win most of the games for the last 12 months. We have a lot of variety in the attack. If everyone can perform their respective roles, it becomes hard for the opposition. The pitches were critical against South Africa [in July] but against India and Pakistan, we played on good batting wickets. Our bowlers did well in those two series."

The improvement in pace bowling is going to be an advantage for Bangladesh when they play abroad. What they now need to work on is having more depth in the pace attack, and by restarting the pacer hunt programme, the BCB seems to be serious about this.


Cricket / Mustafizur five-for seals Bangladesh's 3-0 sweep
« on: November 12, 2015, 10:47:36 AM »
In three spells that tested the skill of the Zimbabwe batsmen and drew plenty of oohs and aahs from the crowd at the Shere Bangla National Stadium, Mustafizur Rahman claimed figures of 5 for 34 to ensure Bangladesh's 3-0 sweep of the ODI series. He is the first bowler in history to have as many as three five-wicket hauls in under 10 matches played.

Mustafizur conceded boundaries from time to time but Zimbabwe's batsmen could not dominate him. There were many plays and misses, and edges that almost carried to the slips. There were several occasions when the ball missed the stumps by a whisker as he got the ball to swing and cut. When he ran in to bowl with Zimbabwe nine-down, Mashrafe Mortaza gave him eight slips.

Mustafizur's first two strikes upset the boundary-filled start that Zimbabwe made in the first seven overs. Off the second ball of the chase, Chamu Chibhabha had little clue as Mustafizur got the ball to swing enough to get past his driving arms. Craig Ervine and Regis Chakabva kept finding fours but in the seventh over again, Mustafizur removed Chakabva with a slower delivery that the opening batsmen could only lob to cover.

Ervine fell to Nasir Hossain in the ninth over when he played back to a delivery that didn't get up as much as he anticipated and he was trapped lbw for 21 off 25 balls.

Zimbabwe captain Elton Chigumbura then joined Sean Williams in an attempt to resurrect the innings and get a measure of the required run-rate. Williams was given a lifeline when the substitute fielder Anamul Haque dropped him at mid-off on 23. The two batsmen found boundaries, too, and Mashrafe started to look for his sixth bowler. Sabbir Rahman bowled an excellent delivery to get rid of Chigumbura in the 23rd over after he had added 80 runs for the fourth wicket with Williams. Chigumbura made 45 with six boundaries and was removed before he could open up in a big way.

Zimbabwe could have ended this ODI series without a single fifty from their batsmen had Arafat Sunny not trodden on the stumps in the 30th over when Williams - batting on 49 - was short of the crease.

For the next six overs, Bangladesh had to contend with a dangerous partnership between Malcolm Waller and Williams but Nasir intervened, taking a head-high catch in the covers to dismiss Waller. Next over, Williams fell to an easy catch at cover after he failed to time a drive off Mashrafe. He made 64 off 84 balls with five fours.

Mustafizur came back to remove Sikandar Raza, who was caught splendidly by Sabbir as he ran from mid-on to mid-off. Next ball, Luke Jongwe holed out at midwicket, but his hat-trick ball was kept away by Graeme Cremer. Later, Mustafizur took a return catch to dismiss Tinashe Panyangara and complete a third five-wicket haul in ODIs, figures that complemented the work of Bangladesh's opening batsmen.

Earlier, Bangladesh's innings was split into two parts after they opted to bat. The first part comprised the 147-run opening stand between Imrul Kayes and Tamim Iqbal. It was enough of a base to get close to 300 runs but it wasn't to be, and the second part saw them restricted to 276 for 9.

Tamim started the early rush of boundaries with a pull off Panyangara; it was his only four through the leg side as the remaining six fours were played through the covers. Tamim's only six came off a blast over the bowler's head. But by then Kayes had struck four sixes - three between midwicket and square-leg and, the best of the lot, one over extra cover. He also struck six fours, three on either side of the wicket.

Kayes was dropped on 35 and survived a stumping and caught-behind off the same delivery on 48 after Chakabva missed a stumping and replays showed there was an edge. Both Tamim and Kayes fell for 73 in the space of five overs, but Bangladesh still had their eyes on a bigger total with Mushfiqur Rahim in the middle after the fall of the first wicket.

Mushfiqur, too, fell before they reached 200, which meant much of the work depended on Liton Das and Mahmudullah, two batsmen who had struggled to get going in the first two matches. Liton gave a catch one to cover after making 17 while Nasir Hossain and Sabbir Rahman fell to Luke Jongwe in the space of three deliveries, Cremer holding on to easy catches at point.

Bangladesh slipped from 222 for 3 to 226 for 6 within 11 deliveries and were in danger of getting bowled out before 50 overs. Mahmudullah, who was on 32, then got mixed up with Mashrafe in the 45th over only for wicketkeeper Chakabva to knock down the bails seconds before Sikandar Raza's direct hit found Mahmudullah short of the crease.

Mahmudullah stood near the dressing-room while TV umpire Enamul Haque saw many replays and finally decided it was not-out. Chigumbura, however, protested the decision and the broadcasters then showed a replay in which Chakabva had uprooted the stump but did so after Aleem Dar had initially given out to the direct throw.

With the second decision also not out, Zimbabwe gathered into a huddle for a few minutes but both captains shook hands and the game resumed.

Mahmudullah added another 20 runs, and was run-out in the last over as Bangladesh scampered towards their highest score in the three-match series.

Jongwe and Cremer took two wickets each while Panyangara, Raza and Waller took one each. Among them, Panyangara bowled the best spells.


MS Dhoni's men fought back in the second ODI to beat South Africa by 22 runs. The five-match series is level at 1-1 with the 3rd game to be played at Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot. Catch all the live updates and scores: (Live Scorecard | News | Photos | Videos)

13:05 hrs IST: Here are the playing XIs of both teams. There are reports coming that David Miller could open the batting with Quinton de Kock. One must remember that Miller is struggling for form and this is an interesting move by South Africa.

India (Playing XI): Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni(wk and c), Suresh Raina, Axar Patel, Harbhajan Singh, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amit Mishra, Mohit Sharma

South Africa (Playing XI): Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock(wk), Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers(c), Jean-Paul Duminy, David Miller, Farhaan Behardien, Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir, Morne Morkel

13:00 hrs IST: A warm welcome to the third match between India and South Africa from Rajkot. The latest news is that the Proteas have won the toss and have chosen to bat first. No changes in their squad but for India, Amit Mishra replaces Umesh Yadav. So, on this deck, spin will be the key.

Having managed to level the series, a determined India will be eager to produce an improved performance in the third ODI against South Africa today. However, one major worrying factor for the organisers is the threat of disruption issued by Hardik Patel's Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) who have stated their plan to use the game as a platform for their ongoing agitation for reservation.

The hosts were propped up by a fighting unbeaten 92 by skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and a half-century from Ajinkya Rahane during the second ODI while the rest of the batting line-up fluffed their lines. The bowlers then produced a superlative performance to successfully defend the modest total of 247/9 and carve out a 22-run victory.

The Proteas had earlier taken the opening ODI of the five-match series by five runs in Kanpur. The Indian victory in Indore came after three consecutive defeats to the visitors as they had lost both the matches in the Twenty20 International (T20I) series as well.

The Indian top order has been inconsistent so far, specially Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina. The last time Kohli got a half-century was during India's opening match of the 2015 World Cup on February 15. Rahane has been the most consistent Indian batsman so far in this series. Dhoni's return to form will be another morale booster for the Indians.


Cricket / Pakistan v England: tourists fall short in agonising draw
« on: October 18, 2015, 01:51:52 PM »
 Pakistan seemed to be cruising to a draw before debutant Adil Rashid - who returned 0-163 in the first innings - turned the match with five wickets.

Needing 99 to win, England sent out Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes in the top four.

But they were eventually beaten by the fading light, finishing 25 runs short of a famous victory on 74-4.

The tourists could not find the boundary frequently enough before the umpires brought the teams off, with Joe Root 33 not out.

However, this was a hugely impressive performance from England and one that will fill them with confidence ahead of the second Test in Dubai, which begins on Thursday.


English / Literary Fiction vs. Genre Fiction
« on: October 17, 2015, 11:07:35 AM »
Steven Petite

Fiction, of course, is a work that is imagined from the mind, a different world than reality.
An argument can be made that there are two types of fiction when it comes to novels: Genre Fiction and Literary Fiction. The former includes many subcategories such as Mystery/Thriller, Horror, Romance, Western, Fantasy, Science Fiction, etc. The latter is more difficult to classify or break apart into subcategories. To put it simply, Literary Fiction is anything that does not fit into a genre.
There are certainly high brow literary readers who believe that genre fiction does not deserve any merit. Then there are the types who exclusively read one or two subtypes of genre fiction and automatically classify any "serious" works of literature as pretentious or boring.
While changing opinions on reading tastes is not easily controllable, the war between Literary Fiction and Genre Fiction is one that will probably continue for years to come.
The main reason for a person to read Genre Fiction is for entertainment, for a riveting story, an escape from reality. Literary Fiction separates itself from Genre because it is not about escaping from reality, instead, it provides a means to better understand the world and delivers real emotional responses.
All of the most prestigious awards for fiction each year are given to works of Literary Fiction, which makes it sometimes easy to say that writers who write literary sorts of books are better writers.
In reality, neither of the two categories of writers necessarily deserve the distinction of being better writers. Different writers is a better word choice.
Yes, across the bestseller lists there are novels that contain poor writing, and those lists are normally dominated by Genre Fiction. That does not mean that all Genre Fiction writers cannot form competent and engaging prose. The works of Stephen King, Thomas Harris, Michael Crichton, Neil Gaiman, George R.R. Martin, and many others are written with great prose that shows a sound grasp on the written word. Do these types of writers sweep a reader down into their fictionalized world? Yes. But do they provide a means to stay inside reality, through the trials and tribulations of every day life, and deliver a memorable experience that will stick with you emotionally for the rest of your life? In my opinion, no. The works that are well written by genre writers are the ones that provide the best form of entertainment and escapism that fiction has to offer.
On the other hand, works by writers such as David Foster Wallace, Jonathan Franzen, Haruki Murakami, Cormac McCarthy, Zadie Smith, Don DeLillo, a multitude of other modern day writers, and all of the twentieth century giants such as Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, and Joyce, touch the reader in a different way. There is a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment from finishing a "serious" book and the most important aspect in determining if the novel was indeed a remarkable escape not from reality, but into reality, is if a reader reflects on the words after the last page is turned. With really great pieces of Literary Fiction, this reflection can last for days, weeks, months, even years, until the novel pulls you back in to experience the magic all over again.
In essence, the best Genre Fiction contains great writing, with the goal of telling a captivating story to escape from reality. Literary Fiction is comprised of the heart and soul of a writer's being, and is experienced as an emotional journey through the symphony of words, leading to a stronger grasp of the universe and of ourselves.


Cricket / ICC ratify Bangladesh as U-19 World Cup host
« on: October 17, 2015, 10:57:30 AM »
 The ICC has shown faith in the Bangladesh Cricket Board by reiterating that next year's Under-19 World Cup will be hosted by the nation, but stressed on the need for a security plan that satisfies both the ICC and the member countries.

"The [ICC] board confirmed that the Bangladesh Cricket Board will host next year's ICC U19 Cricket World Cup from 22 January to 14 February," an ICC statement said. "As part of this decision, the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB), working in conjunction with its government, will be developing an appropriate security plan that addresses all security risks to the satisfaction of the ICC's security advisor, working closely with the security advisors for the other Members."

The confirmation should soothe nerves in the BCB as well as among Bangladesh fans, especially after Cricket Australia and Cricket South Africa postponed Bangladesh tours scheduled for this month due to safety concerns for foreigners.

The Under-19 World Cup is the next tour that raised doubts among many in Bangladesh. But neither the ICC nor any of the participating nations sounded any concerns about the tournament.

The BCB was awarded the tournament's hosting rights a couple of years ago and had already started preparation, particularly in redeveloping venues across the country.


Cricket / BPL 2015 to start from November 22
« on: October 17, 2015, 10:56:37 AM »
 The governing council of the Bangladesh Premier League has brought forward the tournament's opening game from November 24 to November 22 while the final will be held on December 15. The opening match, final and a playoff game will be held in Dhaka. The players' draft, originally scheduled for October 31, will now be held on October 26.

The players' draft will feature 196 foreign and 122 local cricketers. Each franchise can register 12 foreign players in total, and use a maximum of four such players in a match. England and Pakistan are the most well-represented among international sides with 53 players each, including Pakistan pacers Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif. Ismail Haider Mallick, the secretary of the BPL, said the ICC had provided clearances regarding Amir and Asif.

"Amir and Asif have been punished. We have kept them in the list because they got ICC's clearance," Mallick said. "There can be allegations against them like there was against many players in the IPL. But it didn't stop the tournament.

Mallick also stated that the BCB's own anti-corruption unit will be put in charge of this season unlike the 2013 edition when the Bangladesh board had to hire the ICC's anti-corruption and security unit.

The format for the BPL 2015 will follow the 2013 edition where finalists were decided through a four-game playoff. There will be two matches held from 2.00pm and 6.45pm, and most of the games will be held in Dhaka, with Chittagong hosting matches over four-five days.

The order by which the six franchises can pick a player will be decided through a lottery system, which will allot slots to the teams. A franchise can pick two players on its allotted slot before a lottery determines the order for the next two rounds. The draft will be shown live on television.


Cricket / BCB to substitute limited-overs games for Zimbabwe Tests
« on: October 17, 2015, 10:55:59 AM »
 Zimbabwe will play ODIs and T20s against Bangladesh in November, according to BCB president Nazmul Hassan, instead of the two Tests announced last week.

"It has been decided [on the sidelines of the ICC meeting] that Zimbabwe will fill up the slot that opened up due to Australia's postponement," Hassan said. "We have to finish the series by November 18 or 19. They have to come by the first week of November. Zimbabwe have confirmed they are coming. It will be ODIs and T20s. There will be four to five matches, though that hasn't been decided."

The Bangladesh-Zimbabwe series was originally scheduled for January 2016, when the sides were supposed to play two Tests, three ODIs and three T20s. But after Australia postponed their tour earlier this month, the BCB contacted ZC to bring forward the tour to early November. And with the Bangladesh Premier League set to start on November 22, the window for the series is about three weeks. ODIs and T20s would better fit that window, some in the BCB believed, hence the change in plans.

Hassan also said that Cricket Australia have committed to playing in Bangladesh in the near future, even if it is during a tour to India or Sri Lanka. The two Tests could likely be shifted to late 2016 or sometime in 2017.

"Australia regretted the postponement repeatedly, at one point in front of everyone. They postponed because the Italian national was killed. When everyone started saying IS was involved, they became worried.

"But they said they will make it up to us. The problem is, they have a very busy schedule. They can't come to play a Test before the end of 2016 or in 2017. They confirmed this in front of everyone. In addition, they said when they will tour India or Sri Lanka, they will play a couple of matches in Bangladesh to show that they want to come.

Hassan added that Cricket South Africa have asked the BCB to send over fresh schedule for the women's tour that was also postponed earlier this month. "Cricket South Africa told us that they will send the women's team. They have asked for a new schedule, which we sent yesterday. They will let us know soon."


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