The Last word: Cricket crisis . . .

Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao (left) and Juan Manuel Marquez, of Mexico, pose with Miss Universe...
Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao (left) and Juan Manuel Marquez, of Mexico, pose with Miss Universe contestants Miss Philippines Janine Tugonon, and Miss Mexico Karina Gonzalez, during a news conference at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Pacquiao and Marquez...

Talk about a bitter pill to swallow.

You are the captain of a national sports team. You are a thoroughly decent bloke, if perhaps a little bland at times.

You clearly have talent, though perhaps you have struggled to consistently produce world-class performances.

You have been let down by senior members of your side. Not all of them rate your leadership ability. And your team has been thumped a lot in the last couple of years.

A new coach comes on board and - surprise, surprise - he wants his provincial mate to be the captain

• . . . and captaincy capers

But enough about Taine Randell, dumped as All Black captain by Wayne Smith and replaced by Todd Blackadder 12 years ago, to BARELY a murmur of discontent.

You'd forgotten, right?

A virtually identical situation in New Zealand cricket has led to days of hysteria and name-calling. Ross Taylor has been boosted by a surge of public support that Randell was never lucky enough to enjoy.

But it boils down to this.-Mike Hesson is the coach. He has a preferred captain. Who happens to be someone he knows, trusts and rates.

That's not really that weird, right?

Ross Taylor is a fine batsman. But it is extraordinary that one test win - one! - is being used as some sort of evidence the New Zealand team will implode if he loses the captaincy.

The Black Caps are ranked eighth in test cricket, eighth in T20 and ninth in one-day cricket. For which of those do we credit Taylor's magnificent captaincy?

Global Warne-ing

Both wore No 23. Both were acclaimed (in one case, near unanimously; in the other, by enough to create debate) the greatest of all time. Both loved the Nike swoosh, and gambling.

Is that where the similarities between Michael Jordan and Shane Warne will end?Jordan felt the strong pull of basketball after retiring in 1998, and came back two years later to play for the Washington Wizards. He was far from hopeless, but just seemed it because he'd been so great.

Warney has never really retired. He's still rolling that arm over in various forms of smash-bash.

So, when he let slip this week that he had ''absolutely no doubt'' he could bowl at test level again, it is no wonder everybody went bananas.

Warne later clarified his comments, saying he COULD play test cricket again, not that he WOULD.

But wouldn't it be utterly brilliant if the greatest spin bowler in history (sorry, Murali fans) gave it a crack? The thought of Warne appearing in the Ashes again sends shivers down the spine.

Hale and hearty

It is still a little unclear whether the New Zealand PGA is trying to become a serious golf tournament or an odd mix of celebrity-festival puffery.

But signing up a great like Hale Irwin is a smart and exciting move.

Dreams of attracting one of the world's elite players are simply not realistic. Far better to enlist someone like Irwin - and maybe Tom Watson in the future - with a package of golf/tourism/fishing/hospitality.

Irwin is a big name and still a heck of a player. It was nice work by The Hills to get him.

It's just a game

What a strange decision by the NFL to push on with the game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Carolina Panthers earlier this week.

The day before, Chiefs player Jovan Belcher murdered his partner and then killed himself at Chiefs headquarters.

Surely, the right thing to do was to abandon the game, out of respect for the murdered woman's family, and because the Kansas City players would have been in shock.

Sportswriter Jason Whitlock summarised it perfectly:''Football is our God. Its exaggerated value in our society has never been more evident than Saturday morning in my adopted hometown. There's just no way this game should be played.

''Twenty-eight hours after witnessing one of his starting linebackers take his life, [coach Romeo] Crennel will stand on the sideline as young men play a violent game. Twenty-eight hours after one of their best friends killed the mother of his child and himself, Chiefs players will take the field and play a violent game.

''Football is a game of emotion. Football is a game in which the coaches and players preach about treating each other as family.

''How can they play Sunday? Why should they?''Ear bashingThe Last Word has spent many happy hours at the Edgar Centre at work and play over the years, and appreciates the venue's value to this community.

A small brickbat, though, to the organiser of the sound system on Wednesday evening.

The kids playing futsal and the parents and carers on the sidelines were subjected to 25 minutes of the most infuriating noise, what appeared to be a loop of bass-heavy ZOOM-ZOOM-OONST-OONST-BOOM dance music. The sort of stuff that burrows into your brain.

Call me fusty but I'd much rather some easy listening or, you know, just the sounds of the sport itself.

Boxing blues

I quite enjoyed the Danny Green v Shane Cameron fight, even if our boy - while he tried hard - was thoroughly outclassed by a fighter a few years past his best.

But it is hard not to weep for the state of professional boxing.

Freddie Flintoff is in the ring, for goodness' sake. Quade Cooper might have a go. Mickey Mouse ''charity'' boxing events now get more attention than the real stuff.

Now, ye gods, we have Joseph Parker and his latest sacrificial lamb. Parker is the real deal, they say. Best since Tua yada yada.

So, naturally, the key to igniting his career is to line up a series of overweight bums for him to thrash.

Will I watch Parker v convicted criminal Richard Tutaki? Thanks, but no thanks.

Name of the week

Chelsea has just signed another Brazilian ''starlet'' with a good old-fashioned name. Wallace. Brilliant.

For some reason, all I can think of is that scene in Braveheart, and the vision of plastic fans at Stamford Bridge chanting: ''WALLACE! WALLACE! WALLACE!''

Birthday of the week

French rugby player Sebastien Chaaabbbbbaaallllllll is 35 today.

The ''Caveman'' has arguably been the biggest cult figure in the sport for the last five to six years. It was even rumoured he was the highest-paid player in the game.


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