BBC BLOGS - Ben Dirs

Archives for April 2010

Pakistan turn to 'crazy' captain

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Ben Dirs | 08:45 UK time, Thursday, 29 April 2010

What do you do with a man whose stated aim is to be remembered as the
"craziest cricketer" ever to play for his country?

If you're most countries, you ask your press chief to have a quiet word in his ear. If you're Pakistan, you make him skipper.

In January, Shahid Afridi moved closer to realising his ambition as a result of his ball-biting incident in Australia, but still has a way to go yet.

First he would have to usurp Javed Miandad, who once brandished his bat at Dennis Lillee in the middle of a Test match; and Inzamam-ul-Haq, who reacted to being called a "potato" by an Indian fan with a megaphone by wading into the crowd and attempting to turn him into mash.

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The Curious Case of Carl Froch

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Ben Dirs | 23:50 UK time, Wednesday, 21 April 2010

"Sooner or later your legs give way, you hit the ground... sooner or later you hit the deck, you get found out..." The Beat, Save It For Later

I'm not in the habit of quoting 2 Tone outfits from the 1980s - certainly not where boxing is concerned - but listening to The Beat's Save It For Later the other day, it occurred to me it could serve as an anthem for Carl Froch's career to date.

For as long as anyone can remember there has existed a vociferously anti-Froch brigade - the "sooner or later he'll get found out" contingent - but Froch keeps piling up the victims, each victory a two-fingered salute to the naysayers, a defiant "save your advice for later".

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Razzmatazz or bust for snooker?

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Ben Dirs | 08:40 UK time, Friday, 16 April 2010

One minute Mark Selby's baulking at the idea of taking snooker players out of waistcoats and dickie bows, the next he's saying he'd be up for entering the arena dressed as a jester. The mere mention of Barry Hearn and all of a sudden the possibilities are endless.

For the sake of the sport's self-respect, let's hope the Masters champion isn't asked to dig out the jingle-belled hat and floppy shoes any time soon. But it is a sign of the enormous belief in snooker's new boss that Selby is willing to entertain doing something quite so daft. As Selby told BBC Sport: "I love the game and I'll do whatever I have to do to."

Hearn, who took over as chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) last December, has been backed to the hilt by a raft of snooker's biggest stars, many of whom had been driven to distraction by the previous regime.

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Reihana thrives on Thomond Park factor

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Ben Dirs | 08:18 UK time, Friday, 9 April 2010

"One hundred thousand people say they were at Thomond Park that day - and 90,000 of them are liars." So said Gerry McLoughlin, a member of the Munster side that beat the All Blacks in 1978.

People continue to gild the Thomond Park legend to this day.

"The crowd is no mere 16th man," said Northampton captain Dylan Hartley ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup quarter-final in Limerick, "it's like a 17th, 18th and 19th man." Maybe it's best if Saints leave the team-talk to someone less melodramatic, say assistant coach Dorian West. "They've got a very noisy crowd," deadpanned the ex-police officer.

Munster have been beaten once on their own turf in 15 years of European competition, their marauding dogs of war seemingly umbilically linked to the fans they represent. "Desperate to play for that team and desperate to win for that team," says West, "players who stick together through thick and thin."

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McIlroy has eye on the Tiger

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Ben Dirs | 10:00 UK time, Tuesday, 6 April 2010

"I'd definitely rather have my lifestyle than Tiger's - not being able to go out is not my idea of fun. I'd still like to be as good as him, though..." Rory McIlroy

Sports writing is essentially a parasitic trade, as I was reminded on numerous occasions during my month-long pursuit of Rory McIlroy: desperately seeking a few words with a "wee lad" of 20, there were times when this old man questioned his own dignity.

I had to keep telling myself that this is a kid in great demand, a kid about to go stratospheric, and a nice kid, whose parents, according to Phil Mickelson at least, brought him up well.

McIlroy ended up being so open and polite that I felt the need to apologise to his agent after our chat, lest my texts and calls had become an irritant.

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Haye turns up heavyweight heat

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Ben Dirs | 03:44 UK time, Sunday, 4 April 2010

"It was drilled into me the whole way through training camp - keep hitting. If he takes it, great, hit him again, hit him again, hit him again..." David Haye

Nasa might want to think about doing some tests on John Ruiz, because having had a close-up view of what he went through on Saturday night in Manchester, I'm not convinced there's a harder substance on the planet.

"I could see he wasn't enjoying it," said the victorious David Haye after stopping Ruiz in nine brutal rounds, before realising the absurdity of his comment. Fighters have a habit of making the savage sound positively humdrum, so that Haye might have been talking about a shopping trip round the Arndale.

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Can Haye avert 'ground zero'?

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Ben Dirs | 17:39 UK time, Friday, 2 April 2010

To many fans of boxing, John Ruiz is a shuffling, grappling embodiment of everything that is wrong with the heavyweight division. No style, no slicks, no charisma, a bit like Britain's very own 'Quiet Man', former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith.

"The Quiet Man is here to stay," Duncan Smith famously bellowed at one party conference. You're not, but do go on. "And he's turning up the volume." Many boxing fans will be keeping their fingers crossed that Ruiz will be rendered mute on Saturday and, like Duncan Smith, not around for much longer.

Fans of any sport can be an uncharitable bunch - after all, Ruiz is a man who has fought, and held his own against, most of the marquee names in heavyweight boxing of the last 15 years, however tattered and faded the marquee. And if he beats David Haye in Manchester, he will join an illustrious list of three-time world heavyweight champions.

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