21/03/11
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The 7th Inning Stretch: Don’t Let The Team Down

Can you remember being at school? There was always one kid that would always let the team down when playing sport. One kid that was always left standing when you picked sides for a game of footy. One kid who was always the miserable bunny that got picked first to run in bull-rush so that you could break his pathetic bones with a spear-tackle. If you don’t know who that kid was, you were that kid. Now, you probably have ‘moobs’ or have a ridiculous man-bag to carry your tampons or think that a back-stop and wicket keeper are the same thing. Most likely, a combination of the three.

But this recurring theme of letting the team down is not something that stops with children. Lately, I have noticed that even professional sportsmen are letting their teams down in unacceptable ways and circumstances. Most significantly, anyone who watched the New Zealand vs Pakistan cricket game the other night would have witnessed an atrocious display of wicket keeping by Kamran Akmal. Not only was his performance beyond poor, but it cost them the match as he gave Ross Taylor three lives by failing to dismiss him twice. Taylor went on to complete some of the most devastating death hitting that has ever been seen on a cricket pitch, belting 62 runs off the final 16 deliveries he faced. Thanks Kamran.

Perhaps this performance could be overlooked as a mere lapse, but unfortunately this is not the first time Akmal has performed in such a way. The Sydney Test last year was appalling and he has dropped 32 catches in his last 25 Tests. He cannot catch a ball, which is his primary responsibility. But his batting is not much better, constantly disappointing at the top of the order.

Another who disappointed this week, though it was out of the ordinary, was Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas. In a vital match against Barcelona in the Champions League return leg, he was basically invisible despite being their talismanic star player. The one time he did make himself seen, he would soon like to forget. An unnecessary back heel pass at the top of his own box led to the opening goal of the match by Lionel Messi. This was a game that if Arsenal had any chance of winning, they needed their captain to be at his best, but he lacked impetus after recovering from injury to be fit for selection.

At least he was fit for the game though. Real Madrid will not be so lucky next week when they host Lyon. They will be without their highly skilled Brazilian mid-fielder Kaka because he has injured himself once again. It seems as if since joining Madrid in 2009-for a then record £56M-he has spent more time on the physio’s table than he has on the field. In fact he has only managed to make 44 appearances for the club. He has not turned into a great investment so far as he faces more time off with his re-injured left knee.
Someone however, who definitely did not let his team down this week, is American teenager Wes Leonard. Wes (16) powered Fenville High School to a 20-0 unbeaten season with the winning lay-up in overtime. Sadly, shortly after he was hoisted high by his teammates, he collapsed and was taken to hospital in cardiac arrest where he died a couple of hours later. Wes was not only the school’s star on the court but also led the football team to the Southwestern Athletic Conference North Division championship, throwing seven touchdowns in the final game to clinch it. So here’s to the memory of Wes who was an amazing athlete and who I am sure will be sorely missed by his teammates, friends and family.

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