The Art of Passing

When watching a football match, the average viewer will not fully understand the concept of just how the players on each team orchestrate swift attacks, and counter attacks against their opposition. The vital part of a football match, and what can truly epitomise the beautiful game, is the ability to pass and move.

Passing is often one of the most underrated and undervalued traits in football. If you are an amateur footballer playing at a lower level, most of the advice that the coaches will give to you will be the same: “Long ball upfield so the forward can run onto it”. Once the opposition team actually has a defence that can run at a more than decent pace, this thought process does become somewhat nullified.

This is where as a player, you must realise that the way in which you outplay and outsmart the opposition is by passing and moving. Simple. Or not so, as the case can quite often be. It is one thing to be able to pass along the floor to a player on your team and have it reach their feet. What many amateur players struggle with, and it is the most noticeable gap between an amateur player, and a professional player, is passing the ball, and moving swiftly into space, to not only open yourself up to a return ball, but to also possibly drag defenders from the other team into your space, allowing another member of your team to move into a space previously occupied by one of their defenders. It is this level of understanding and being able to apply it that will win you football matches. Many an amateur footballer I have played with, have possessed the ability to pass the ball on the floor no problem (others not so much), but then at the same time do not possess the ability, or as some would put it, the footballing knowledge to then move into space, and be able to read the game as a game of movement rather than just following the ball around, and trying kick it without really thinking.

For a midfielder, time is really the key when you are on the ball. As a midfielder in the middle of the park, you are going to be often closed down, in order to stop you from being able to distribute the ball to an attacking player, which needless to say, means you will have a very short amount of time to make a decision of what to do. This is where as a midfielder who controls and dictates the tempo of the play, you can be smart. Before the ball reaches your feet, you must be constantly looking ahead of you, assessing where your teammates are, prior to you receiving the ball, so that when the ball does reach your feet, you are already one step ahead of the defender on their team, because you will have a clear idea in your head of what your options are, and before the defender can adjust to get into position to close you down, you will already have picked out a pass, or made a run to further benefit your team. It is this footballing knowledge and awareness that will separate you from the other players on the pitch, and give you the confidence to play to the best of your ability. I know from personal experience that when I am playing in the middle of midfield, in more of an attacking midfield role, that I have to adopt this way of thinking if I am to be better than the other players. In the matches that I can remember playing from when I was younger, it would always feel like I was one step ahead of the defender, and that it was them that was playing catch up to me, because I had the awareness of my surroundings when I was not on the ball. Often, when players are off the ball, they drift in and out of their positions staring at the ball, hoping it will land at their feet. Not only is this lazy, but it will also give a simple advantage to the other team. Off the ball, you can anticipate where the ball will go, and more importantly, you can make runs into areas of space, that allow your team to have other options.

Obviously, it is not only the midfielder that bares the responsibility of passing and distributing the ball at a certain tempo to help their teammates. The defence, more specifically the full backs, are pivotal in linking up with the midfield to allow a rhythm of passing to ensue, and to put the opposition on the back foot. When the ball is with the central defenders, ideally they will either play it into a space in the midfield, or they will set it up to one of the full backs. From a full back position, they can press forward, and instead of the usual chipped pass that floats slowly into the path of the other team, which is all too common even in professional games, they can look into the middle of the park, and play central. It is far to common for the full backs to also just send the ball down the wing in hope of a winger running onto it and then making a run from there. This is infuriating to watch, as playing a much more narrow passing style will benefit the team much more. If the full back can pick out a player in the midfield, then the playmaker as it were, can move forward, and will find it easier to not only play the ball through the middle in a narrow passing style, as previously mentioned, but the midfielder will also find it easier to spot and pass the ball to wide men, if it necessary to play out wide.

 

Overall, in my opinion, passing really is what makes up the beautiful game, and one of the main reasons as to why English players are just not as skilled as a Spaniard or a German for example, is because of the complete ignorance to the passing and movement aspect of football by English coaches.

England squad for Bangladesh

A lot has been made of the upcoming England tour of Bangladesh. Questions have been constantly raised about whether or not the squad should go to Bangladesh, and with Eoin Morgan and Alex Hales both pulling out of the tour, it leaves room for at least two new faces in England’s team.

 

My England Test Squad Prediction:

Cook(c), Root(vc), Hameed, Ballance, Bairstow, Moeen, Woakes, Rashid, Broad, Anderson, Wood, Dawson, Buttler, Robson, Leach, Finn, Roy

 

My England ODI squad prediction:

Buttler(c), Root(vc), Roy, Duckett, Bairstow, Billings, Dawson, Wood, Finn, Rashid, Plunkett, Woakes, Willey, Moeen, Westley

England cricket young guns for India tour?

England’s latest tests series draw has left many people questioning their team selection-most notably their top order. James Vince has endured a horrendous start to his test career, yet to pass fifty, and has shown a huge weakness outside the off stump. Alex Hales hasn’t done anything to prove to the selectors and fans that he is to stay as Cook’s opening partner, and Gary Ballance has looked as abject against international bowling as he did last year before he got dropped. Among the county circuit, there is a plethora of young talent waiting in the wings to be given a go at international level, and to possibly be called up to England duty this winter, facing the number one ranked team in India.

Among all the young talent going around at the moment, Haseeb Hameed has to be the most unique. His technique and style of play are reminiscent of Geoff Boycott and the style of play that preceded one day cricket. It is completely refreshing to see someone like Hameed play the way he does, and be incredibly successful at it. Just 19 years old, Hameed already has 1000 first class runs at an astonishing average of just over 53. He has notched up 4 hundreds this year in Division One of the County Championsip against top bowling opposition. Such is the quality of Hameed, that he is already being mentioned as a potential opener for the upcoming series against India, and I for one, would be all for it. One thing is for certain, Hameed definitely won’t be giving his wicket away like Hales or Vince has, and it surely couldn’t be a bad move to include him on the tour.

Probably the most talked about name in County Cricket at the moment is Ben Duckett. At 21 years old, the Northants wicket keeper already has a one day double hundred this year, and boasts the second highest list a batting average of all time. A very unorthodox player, Duckett comes in at the complete other end of the technique scale to Hameed. He is a dominating player, and plays the reverse sweep so effectively against spinners. Duckett would be a perfect replacement for someone like Vince, because as they are both dominating players who like to play shots, one would imagine that it would be incredibly difficult for Duckett to replicate the immense failure that has been James Vince’s international career. 

My personal opinion on what the XI should be against India is as follows:

Cook, Hameed, Duckett, Root, Bairstow, Stokes, Moeen, Ansari, Broad, Wood, Anderson.

Some of the other names to look out for in the upcoming years in English domestic cricket are Daniel Bell-Drummond (23), Tom Curran (21), Sam Curran (18), Mason Crane (19), Joe Clarke (20)

Short Poem

With the world perhaps on its knees

Ignorance is still bliss

A world ravaged by an elitist disease

With the corruption so difficult to miss

A revolution is waiting

Wanted by the poor

The end result invigorating

To finally put an end to the class war

 

 

SHORT POEM

My first attempt at a poem, albeit a very short one!

I find that the short poems are often the ones which evoke the most feeling and thought, and most of the time can be the most inspiring.

 

 

IPL 2016 Predictions

Group Stage:

Royal Challengers Bangalore

Mumbai Indians

Gujarat Lions

Rising Pune Supergiants

Sunrisers Hyderabad

Kolkata Knight Riders

Delhi Daredevils

Kings XI Punjab

 

Winners: RCB

Runners Up: RPSG

Leading run scorer: Ajinkya Rahane

Leading wicket taker: R Jadeja

Most sixes: Chris Gayle

KXIP leading run scorer: David Miller

KXIP leading wicket taker: Axar Patel

Cricket t20 World Cup Predictions

Group A:

England

South Africa

West Indies

Afghanistan

Sri Lanka

Group B:

India

Australia

Pakistan

New Zealand

Bangladesh
Semi final: Australia beats England

Semi Final: India beats South Africa

Final: India beats Australia

Leading run scorer: Rohit Sharma

Leading wicket taker: Ravindra Jadeja

The best in the world?

Whilst the ICC rankings can give us a slight impression of who the best batsman in the world are, it does not often tell the whole story. 

The current number 1 ranked batsman in Tests is the Aussie skipper Steven Smith. While his record boasts a batting average of 55, he still has more weaknesses in his batting than others. It will be interesting to see how he plays in this current New Zealand tour, where the pitches will differ from the extremely flat tracks which constantly get served up in Australia. He has an obvious weakness against the moving ball, and his unorthodox technique offers the bowlers more of a chance to get him out. That being said, he is an incredibly prolific run scorer, and no doubt his batting will continue to improve. 

Then come the two young guns. Joe Root and Kane Williamson are the youngest players to feature on this list, both only 25 years old. They are undoubtedly the current stars of their respective teams, and will be for years to come. At the current time, Kane Williamson is quite possibly the best batsman on the planet. He simply has shown no weaknesses in his technique and no bowler has been able to dominate him. He has an incredible penchant for scoring huge centuries, and is the undeniable successor to the magnificent Brendon McCullum. Joe Root has shown his ability to carry his team on his shoulders many times in his relatively short career, and it is no wonder he has struggled with a back problem! Root has become an incredibly dominant batsman, and has demonstrated a great ability to score his runs at a great strike rate. This is just one of the many traits he possesses that makes him one of the best.

Both AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli have been around international cricket for a long time. While Kohli is 4 years younger than AB, he has a similar amount of runs to him in One Day Internationals. There is no denying that AB is the most sensational cricketer of the modern era. Numerous comparisons have been made between de Villiers and the West Indian master blaster Sir Vivian Richards. De Villiers averages over 50 in Tests and ODI’s, which is a feat only his fellow countryman Hashim Amla can boast. Virat Kohli plays with de Villiers for RCB in the IPL and both have called each other the best player in the world. Kohli’s recent form hs been reaching new levels. He is batting as though he has mastered the art, and his fiery passion makes him even more admirable. He now averages over 50 in t20’s-the only player to do so. With over 7000 runs in ODI’s, and aged only 27, Kohli is chasing his boyhood hero Sachin Tendulkar in terms of international runs. 

There is no doubt that batting is currently as good as it’s been in years, and these batsman are the pinnacle of this, and will surely continue to dominate the game for years to come.

South Africa vs England 4th Test Preview

A thrilling end to a thrilling series would be very much fitting of this match. It has been a series in which ball and bat have both dominated, and some outstanding performances have been displayed. England go into the match 2-0 up in the series, and with a lot of reasons to be be happy. Both teams are downplaying the “dead rubber”, with AB de Villiers saying that no test match is a dead rubber. It is expected that the pitch probably won’t give as much assistance to the bowlers this time, as well as the weather conditions.

South Africa preview:
South Africa don’t have much to lose, but they have a lot to gain. They are handing a debut to 33 year old Stephen Cook, a man who has consistently churned out the runs for his domestic side, yet has consistently been overlooked by selectors. The failure of Stiaan van Zyl has brought about this change at the top of the order, and Cook, similar to his namesake playing in the opposition team, is likely to bring stability and a determined mindset towards his batting. It remains to be seen whether Faf du Plessis will keep his place, or whether they will opt for the in form JP Duminy, fresh off a 260 not out for the Cape Cobras. A lot of pressure will be heaped on the shoulders of Temba Bavuma, for him to show truly whether he is Test match quality.

South Africa’s bowling still lacks that venom that it has come to be associated with in the recent years. That missing spark is Dale Steyn. The South African’s spearhead absence has definitely shown in their performances without him. The debutant Hardus Viljoen leaked runs in the previous match despite his first ball wicket. Morne Morkel has yet to take the wickets which reflect his bowling ability, and Chris Morris has also been wayward in his lines and lengths, causing him to be very expensive. Kagiso Rabada has been the definite shining light amidst Steyn’s absence, with his five wicket haul in the last match just another reminder that this young bowler oozes potential. South Africa might opt for the off spin of Dane Piedt this match, and questions still remain about his ability.

All in all, it remains an important match for South Africa to try and instil some confidence back into their side, and to win their first Test Match for over a year.

England preview:
This young England side are reaping rewards for fine displays at the moment. It isn’t hard to see why teams across the world are starting to fear England again, as they remind us once more just why they didn’t feel they should be considered underdogs in this series. Whilst neither of their opening batsman has made a big score yet, you feel one is just round the corner for Alastair Cook, as he looks in increasingly good touch, with each innings he plays. The same can’t quite be said for Alex Hales, with his flawed technique being exposed and exploited by the bowlers. Geoffrey Boycott made the comment earlier this week that he doesn’t think Hales has the quality as a Test Match opener, and currently, Hales is doing little to prove him wrong. England’s middle order is what is proving the most impressive so far. The amazing Joe Root continues to bat as though he is on a completely different wicket to every other player, and he hailed his hundred in the last match as his best yet. You feel as though a big score is coming for James Taylor as well, who although he doesn’t have the scores to back it up, has been impressive this series. Ben Stokes is on top of the world right now, and it will take some great bowling to stop him. His ability to take the game away from the bowler so quickly is what allows the momentum in the game to shift. He will enjoy the fact that an off spinner may play, and we saw what destruction he inflicted on the hapless Dane Piedt just a few weeks ago.

The best part of England has to be their bowling. Even with a slightly out of form Jimmy Anderson, England are still tearing batting line ups to shreds, with the immaculate seam bowling of Stuart Broad, Steven Finn and Ben Stokes. Finn will be unavailable for this match, and it is the opinion of many that Mark Footitt, the former Derbyshire, now Surrey bowler should be given a go. He will offer more variety than the other option in Chris Woakes. Footitt can bowl up to 90mph and is a left arm bowler who swings it. It would seem the obvious choice for England to go with him, as surely there can be more good than bad to come out of it. One of the top wicket takers in county cricket for the last two years, Footitt’s name has been consistently mentioned around England, but he is yet to get a game. Meanwhile, Ben Stokes is looking every bit of his Ian Botham comparisons, that everyone keeps mentioning. He is swinging the ball miles, and more importantly, picking up crucial wickets for his side.

It is going to be fascinating to see how England perform in this match, and it will also be intriguing to see which bowler they go with.

How England should line up:

1: Cook  2: Hales  3: Compton  4: Root  5: Taylor  6: Stokes  7: Bairstow  8: Moeen Ali  9: Broad  10: James Anderson  11: Mark Footitt

How South Africa should line up:

1: Elgar  2: Cook  3: Amla  4: de Villiers  5: Duminy  6: Bavuma  7: de Kock  8: Morris  9: Rabada  10: Piedt  11: Morkel

Religion

Let me start off by saying this is an extremely controversial topic. There is such a difference in opinion across everybody in the world about this particular topic, that there is of course, not going to be a complete understanding.

Firstly, none of this has anything to do with hatred, or uneducated, unreasonable aggression. I have thought long and hard, and come to an understanding in my own mind of where I am at. Religion comes in many different forms,shapes and sizes. It gives people an identity, and to many, it can allow them to embrace each other in their own community. But do we have to be religious to have these things? The way that I see religion may be coming from a different, more complex angle than most others. People argue, especially in Islam, that humans such as jihadists, and the members of Islamic State do not represent true Muslims. The problem is, that the encouragement of violence, and fear are extremely prevalent in the Qu’ran. It is all well and good to argue that “true muslims” should not take these literally, but the fact that they are there, allows them to be exploited and misinterpreted. It is all too common, not only in Islam, but in other religions too, for violence to be encouraged. This only serves as a reminder that what we are reading in these holy books, are books written from ancient history. Ancient history, which had a far less understanding of morals and ethics, and the way in which it is right to treat people. This is why religion served as such a purpose back then, as well as the lack of scientific knowledge of course. But in 2016, a year so far apart from 33 BC when Jesus Christ died or 632 AD when Muhammad died, it is a complete mystery to me as to why we still need these laws telling you how to live your life in such an archaic fashion.

Spirituality vs Religion:
I believe that a possible substitution for religion, for people who still wish to feel connected to a “higher” state of mind, is for us all to become more spiritual. While religion is an institution established by man for various reasons, to exert control, instill morality or to stroke egos, spirituality is born in a person and develops in the person. True spirituality will allow you to live your life in the exact same peaceful ways that religion tries, and often fails to encourage. It is not something that is forced down someone’s throat as a youngster, ensuring that there life will be subjugated to believing a certain way. There is not one religion, but hundreds, yet there is only one type of spirituality. While religion threatens and often terrifies, spirituality gives you inner peace, and a life devoid of the stress and anxiety that you may otherwise face. Religion often represses humanity, and returns us to a false paradigm, whereas spirituality transcends it all and makes you true to yourself. I think the statement which really made me think, and which really struck me the most was this: “Religion is based on humanity, an organization with rules. Spirituality is divine, without rules”. If you look at the very core of each religion, they all try to similarly convey the same message, of love and peace. However, the inhumane, ancient rules that accompany this one simple message is what causes religion to be such a cause of suffering.

Where do you draw the line of giving people something to believe in, with it also harming humakind in such a negative, non altruistic way?

I hope that one day, people do realize that the world would be much better off, and able to communicate and work together with one another so much better without religion and the cultural diversities it encourages.

I shall leave with one last picture which certainly made me think: http://imgur.com/a/FbIbq