Sunday, May 20, 2007

Monty and Joost

I've been quiet about Monty Panesar for months now. He was not selected for the team that lost to Australia in the Ashes Cup test match series last fall and has not been attracting much press notice all this season. You may recall that he's seen as relatively young and unpolished. He's a spinner at a time when that style of bowling has been out of favor (think knuckball pitcher in US palance). And his fielding is sometimes laughable.

The cricket press says things appear to be changing. In a test match against the West Indies team, he bowled the English side out of trouble, dismissing batters with deceptive throws. The umpire awarded Monty three lbws, that is he ruled that three bowled balls would have struck the wicket if the batter had not put his leg in front of it. Here's and extract from the account in the Times, first noting the erratic fielding, then celebrating his bowling:
Monty’s early contribution to England’s cause yesterday at Lord’s was typical. Stationed at mid-off, his geometry was so askew he headed right while the ball sped past his left hand to the boundary. Cue the usual chortles from the cheap seats. Monty was back and a good summer’s vaudeville was in prospect. But 10 minutes before lunch Andrew Strauss threw him the ball and the tempo of the match was transformed. In one ball. A ball that had flight and a deceptive loop and which turned and bounced outside the tentative forward prod of Devon Smith. The dismissal was an exact replica of Justin Langer’s in Perth and was greeted with similar disbelief by the batsman and with trademark jig by the bowler.

Inexorably, the West Indies were drawn into the plot as Panesar bowled unchanged from the Nursery End from just before lunch to late into the evening. By then, four West Indian batsmen had succumbed, three of them left in varying states of anguish by the raised finger of Pakistan umpire Asad Rauf. The dismissals were almost carbon copies, a front leg thrust forward, a bat tucked just behind the front pad and a ball which straightened just enough to persuade Rauf to give the lbw decision.

Darren Ganga, who had compiled a watchful 49, walked away holding his bat the wrong way up in a gesture of disgust.

Runako Morton left with the rueful smile of a man on the wrong end of a conspiracy theory. Brave umpiring? Hawkeye suggested all three would have hit the stumps.
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I've also been silent about Joost Posthuma. Recovering from an injury suffered in a race last month, he was hit by a car during a training ride. He bounced onto the hood of the car and fell onto the pavement. Treated in the hospital for deep bruises, he has been recovering from this injury over the past few weeks. The Rabobank web site has a couple of articles, in English: Joost Posthuma hurt during training and Posthuma takes a rest after accident. Here is the second of them:
Every cycling fan in the Netherlands was scared stiff after receiving the news that Rabo cyclist Joost Posthuma was involved in a major traffic accident near the Dutch-German border. He was obviously frightened as well after the crash, because that is what it was. "We were just about to take a left turn, when that car hit me. It was an 80 km-road and the police have already indicated that the driver was going too fast. One can imagine what sort of a gigantic blow it must have been." Posthuma hit the hood of the car and the windshield and was then launched. "My hat was still stuck to the windshield. The hat, by the way, looked terrible as well."

Hence, the outcome of the accident could have been a lot worse: a bruised body, strained ribs and a strained left ankle, and the most serious injury, a torn muscle in the upper leg. "It will take some time for me to be back at my old level. Fortunately, I do not feel any pressure from the team, and I am not going to put myself under pressure either, because otherwise your entire career might be at stake. There is no specific recovering time assigned to this type of injury, so I will need to listen to my body." The chances of him being able to compete in the Tour de France seem to be slim. "Never say never, but if you are realistic, you know that I will probably not appear at the start."

On the day of the accident, the Dutchman was having his second practice after suffering a knee injury a couple of weeks ago. Posthuma was just about to peak at that moment. He managed to finish second in the ranking of the three-day cycling stage race of De Panne-Koksijde. "I was in a very good shape. I was very focused on the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix. Everything that has happened over the last couple of weeks has been a major setback for me. But, of course, the accident has nothing to do with cycling. That could have also happened if I had gone for a ride with my girlfriend."

Posthuma usually lives in Lanaken, a village located in Belgium near the Dutch-Belgian border, but because he could not practice a lot, he decided to stay in his native region for Easter. He will now stay there a little longer. "I am not that mobile, so I can let people take care of me. It has its advantages," joked the time trial expert so as to put things into perspective. He will start his recovering process during the upcoming days at the facilities of the soccer team of FC Twente, in cooperation with the medical staff of the cycling team.
Joost's own web site has a link to a video interview with him in the training center of the FC Twente soccer team.
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