A Blog Debut: Rooney, India and the Grand Final.

Hello, and welcome to the first installment of my blog. The main sporting story this week revolves around Wayne Rooney, and a certain faux pas in Podgorica on Friday night. Besides football, England kick off their tour of India, and an eye opening experience from rugby league.

But firstly Rooney. I have a bit of a disliking for him, partly due to the fact he plays for Manchester United, but mainly because I, like many rival fans, envy his ability. He is one of the best players in the world undoubtedly, but he keeps giving ammunition to his critics with his random, brainless tendencies on the football pitch which show a complete lack of discipline.

One of the best natural footballers England has spewed out since Gazza, the game comes equally as easy to the United striker as it did to the lovable Geordie. I enjoy watching Rooney because he plays spontaneously, and has an effortless, natural talent for the game which any football fan can admire. Unfortunately it’s his petulant time-bomb temperament which is so frustrating, particularly for an England fan.

His red card in Montenegro on Friday night has somewhat dampened the mood on qualification, but with or without Rooney on the plane, England aren’t going to win Euro 2012. Without Rooney to spearhead what is a one pronged strike force, Capello’s men will miss the biggest lion in their pack for what will be a vital group stage. – But hey, at least it will give something for the England hierarchy to hide behind at the end of next summer.

Rooney’s impressive goal record for England (the last two major tournaments aside) makes him an absolute necessity if England want to even dream of ending a trophy-less dry spell, that will be knocking on 50 years next summer in Poland and Ukraine.

It’s not all bad, at least England will be travelling to Euro 2012, unlike in 2008, when Steve McClaren dismally failed to take the team through the qualification stages. Last week McClaren left Nottingham Forest after a disastrous start to their Championship season. It’s a funny old game.

Casting the cry-baby, prima donna attitudes aside, there is an England team that everyone can be immensely proud of. England start a return tour of India tomorrow in the first of five ODIs in Hyderabad. And after absolutely smashing his team around for the whole English summer, captain MS Dhoni will want the World Champions to dish out some revenge on home soil.

England’s turn around under current mentor Andy Flower has led to two Ashes winning series, a T20 World Cup crown and a rise to the top of Test cricket. An almost faultless two years has crafted a group with great team spirit, a huge amount of quality, and most importantly, a habit of winning.

The five match series will test England’s one-day resolve which seems the only unturned stone in English cricket. However, under the Test Cricketer of the year, Alastair Cook, England may fancy their chances of breaking their duck which dates back to 1985 in India. It will take some doing though, as Dhoni’s team haven’t lost a home one-day series since November, 2009.

England will have a few selection dilemmas, with young keeper-batsman Jonny Bairstow putting out a clear signal of intent to the selectors with a blistering unbeaten 104 off just 53 balls in their second and last warm up game against a Hyderabad XI, including eight sixes. With the returning Ian Bell, and the ever colourful Kevin Pietersen available, the selectors will have a decision who will accompany the team mainstay Jonathan Trott in the middle order. It’s a tough call, but under the pressure of 50,000 Indian fanatics it will be hard to leave out either Bell or Pietersen for the series opener. Ravi Bopara has probably done enough to warrant a spot at number six, whilst also providing some medium pace to relieve the quick bowlers in the heat of the sub continent.

It will also be a first time for both sides to sample the ICC’s new ODI rulings, which most notably include a new ball from either end, and the Powerplays being taken between overs 16 and 40. – All of which in my opinion sound stupid.

A game should start with a new ball that swings, then later in the match if conditions suit, skilful bowlers will get the ball to reverse swing. Using two new balls will eradicate reverse swing from many one-day games due to the pristine conditions of many pitches and outfields around the world. And I’ve never been a fan of Powerplays, which were just used as a batsman friendly tool and an ICC selling point, which ultimately makes a bowler’s job even harder than it already is in a limited overs game.

And as for DRS, the ICC continue to allow India to call the shots. What is the point in trying to integrate new approaches if there is no continuity? It should be one rule for all ODI  and Test playing nations, to create a level playing field for players and umpires. Personally, I would scrap DRS all together, but now many traditional values are being overlooked, they are being replaced on the flimsy promises of technology and ‘precision’.

Lastly this week, I want to talk about the spectacle that was put on at Old Trafford on Saturday night. Not being so hot on rugby league, I decided to sit down and watch a full game for myself and see if it was any good. St Helens and Leeds Rhinos created a fantastic game in the Manchester rain, as the game see-sawed from Merseyside to Yorkshire.

Leeds took home the crown as Saints lost their fourth final in a row, and that was largely due to the scrum half dynamo, Rob Burrows. He was named man of the match and scored an incredible try with feet that Lionel Messi would have been proud of. From a commanding position at half time, St Helens threw it all away in the second half as Leeds forced one of the greatest comebacks rugby league has ever seen! (probably).

I’m not going to promise that I’ll become a religious follower of rugby league though, I don’t like the TV technology, and the scrums are a waste of time.

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