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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2011: race preview

Philippe Gilbert - Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2011 race preview 
The man to beat: Philippe Gilbert will be aiming to complete a hat-trick of Ardennes classics wins at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the fourth 'monument' of cycling on Sunday
Sunday, April 24
Race details: Liège - Ans, 255.5km
TV: British Eurosport 1.15-4pm, highlights 10.15-11.15pm
Last year's winner: Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz)
In pictures: best of the action from the Ardennes classics
Most wins: 5 Eddy Merckx (Bel); 1969, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975
Following a phenomenal classics campaign that has seen Philippe Gilbert triumph in the Strade Bianche, Brabantse Pijl, Amstel Gold Race and La Flèche Wallonne as well as a podium finish at Milan-San Remo it is difficult to see beyond the popular Belgian for Easter Sunday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Indeed, even Eddy Merckx, the most successful road cyclist in the history of the sport and compatriot of Gilbert's, has gone as far as stating that the Omega Pharma-Lotto rider "is better than Merckx."
"I'm really impressed by what he's done," Merckx told Het Nieuwsblad, the Belgian daily newspaper. "What he's done so far is better than Merckx.

"At Amstel, it was Gilbert who led the chase behind Andy Schleck before he attacked himself, but in Flèche he was even more impressive because he had nothing in his favour."
"The bunch was far bigger than usual at the foot of the Mur [du Huy] and the climbers were all very confident that they would get a result."
"But instead, Gilbert attacked at 400 metres from the line and blew them all away."
"He waited for his best moment and that's easy to say afterwards with the benefit of hindsight, but in cycling choosing the best moment to attack isn't so easy."
Gilbert, who was born near the foot of the Côte de la Redoute climb 35 kilometres from the finishing line of the fourth 'monument' of the season, will be desperate to give his supporters reason to cheer as he aims to win the 97th edition of the race known as La Doyenne, or 'the oldest'.
Although traditionally dominated by Belgians, locals have not celebrated a home win since 1999 when the late Frank Vandenbroucke triumphed.
However, the Walloons will feel confident following a run of results that has seen Belgian riders dominate the one-day classics.
Aside from Gilbert, Tom Boonen, Nick Nuyens and Johan van Summeren have won Ghent-Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders, and Paris-Roubaix respectively. Matt Goss is the only non-Belgian to have won a 'monument' this season after the Australian won Milan-San Remo in March.
Should Gilbert prevail on Sunday then he will become the first Belgian to win all three of the Ardennes classics in a single season. A feat that has only ever been achieved once - Davide Rebellin, of Italy, in 2004.
The Omega Pharma-Lotto leader, though, sounded cautious ahead of the race.
"I have to ensure that I don't go in there feeling over-confident," he said. "I know I will start in the hope I can win it and if I'm best on the day then I will."
Liège-Bastogne-Liège teams: Ag2r-La Mondiale, Astana, BMC Racing, Cofidis Le Credit en Ligne, Euskaltel-Euskadi, FDJ, Garmin-Cervelo, HTC-Highroad, Katusha, Lampre-ISD, Landbouwkrediet, Leopard-Trek, Liquigas-Cannondale, Movistar, Omega Pharma-Lotto, Quick Step, Rabobank, RadioShack, Saur-Sojasun, Saxo Bank-SunGard, Skil-Shimano, Team Sky, Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator, Vacansoleil-DCM, Veranda's Willems.

Stewards overreact as Timmy Murphy plays his cards late on Poker De Sivola at Sandown

At the end of the week in which the whip has been dominating the headlines, Timmy Murphy produced one of the outstanding rides of this or any other jump season to win the Bet365 Gold Cup on Poker de Sivola, but still incurred a two-day whip ban for 'excessive frequency and not giving his mount a chance to respond’. 

Stewards overreact as Timmy Murphy plays his cards late on Poker De Sivola at Sandown  
Waiting game: Timmy Murphy and Poker de Sivola (nearest camera) still have work to do as they jump the final fence in fourth place

On this occasion, however, though I dare say they went strictly by the book, it looked like a case of nit-picking by jumpy stewards, worried that they, too, were in the spotlight after Murphy, a past master of the waiting race, produced a superb tactical ride to get his enigmatic mount home by 2¼ lengths.
Murphy’s three hits before the last fence may have been in quick succession, but his use of the whip certainly did not look offensive and after the last he connected with some light flicks. This time the stewards’ action looked unnecessary and only served to add fuel to a fire that is in danger of getting out of control.
Poker de Sivola was five lengths adrift of the whole field at the Pond Fence with just over a circuit to run and trading at 95-1 on Betfair. The jockey then served up a master class to pick the field off one by one. At the Pond a circuit later, the third-last, he still had five in front of him and he only picked up his whip for the first time on the run to the last.
They landed in fourth at the last fence but collared the runner-up, Faasel, 100 yards from the line getting there, Murphy joked afterwards, “a bit too soon”. The Aintree Foxhunters winner Baby Run, who had been in the vanguard all the way, was a close third for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies and son Sam.
Afterwards Murphy, 36 and in the twilight of his career, revealed that but for winning owner David Johnson, by whom he is retained, he would have already given up riding, having registered only 32 winners this season, his lowest score since he was a conditional rider. “The rides have dried up and it’s hard to get up to drive three or four hours to ride one horse; it’s a bit demoralising” he explained. “We’ll go another season – as long as I’m riding for him.”
Johnson, previously one of jump racing’s biggest owners until hit by the recession, was openly critical of his trainers who would not let him put Murphy up but added that he hoped to have a few more horses again next season.
Last week Poker de Sivola, whose finest hour prior to yesterday was victory under Katie Walsh in the 2010 National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham, unseated Graham Lee in the Scottish National. Crucially, it was early on before they had gone a mile and both Lee and trainer Ferdy Murphy thought him fit enough and well enough to make the trip south from Middleham.
“You just never know with this horse,” said the jockey. “The times I’ve thought he’s going to win he’s run awfully and the times I’ve thought he’d run badly, he’s run well. He loves passing horses and, though it’s not politically correct to say it, your best chance on him is to go and ride him like a non-trier. With him it’s mind games.
“You can’t bully him over three miles five furlongs, you have to sit and suffer. You sit up on him, he grabs the bit and passes one, then you sit up on him and he passes another. Ferdy has done a fantastic job with him and I don’t think he’d have produced that form for many trainers.”
A P McCoy, who was presented with his 16th jockeys’ title by Denise Lewis after racing, was the only champion to get on the scoresheet at Sandown on jump racing’s last day. His ride on French Opera in the Bet365 Celebration Chase was in complete contrast to Murphy’s.
He harried the favourite Tatatiano all the way and the tactic paid off handsomely as, in a terrific finish to the race – five horses in the air together at the last – McCoy prevailed on Nicky Henderson’s chaser. That was winner was number 218 and when he returns from Fairyhouse’s Easter meeting McCoy will begin his quest for a 17th title on zero.

Luke Donald and Lee Westwood battle to be on top

Luke Donald and Lee Westwood battle to be on top of the world
Driving force: Lee Westwood has a five-shot lead to take into the final round of the Indonesian Masters Photo: EPA

It is over 10,000 miles from South Carolina, scene of Donald’s surge to a one-shot lead at the Heritage Classic, to Jakarta, where Westwood heads the leaderboard by five for Sunday’s final round of the Indonesian Masters. But Britain’s top two are united by their resolve to usurp Martin Kaymer as world No 1 on Monday morning.
Should both win, Donald would take the crown, since the Heritage carries greater ranking points than an Asian Tour event. The discrepancy ought to give Westwood, who provoked surprise by flying out to Indonesia rather than competing in the European Tour’s China Open this week, cause to re-examine his schedule.
Few could dispute that a Donald victory at Hilton Head, against such major champions as Jim Furyk and Stewart Cink, would be more impressive than Westwood’s dominance of a field fleshed out largely by local itinerants. His rise to the summit of the world order would also legitimise the rankings, designed as they are to reward the most consistent player.
None has been more consistently in contention this season than Donald. A man transformed by his February triumph at the Accenture World Matchplay, his first in the US for five years, the 33 year-old has never fallen out of the top 10 at any tournament since. Tied for sixth at Doral, he made another final-day charge for a share of fourth at the Masters.
Donald, who led American Garrett Willis by one at the start of the third round, has earned close to £1.5 million in prize money in the last two months alone. His closing 69 at Augusta, sealed by a chip-in birdie at the last, sparked the extravagant jig that defined his reinvention. Ripping off his visor and pumping his right fist, he gave the lie to those who complained he was too much a model of English reserve.
It was a reminder of the fearless competitor he could be at the Ryder Cup, and of a persona he had too often kept under wraps in chasing his wins on tour. On his own, he appeared too often encumbered by the expectations.
Asked if the incentive of being World No 1 informed his performance at Hilton Head, Donald replied: “I’m playing well, so I guess it’s always in the back of your mind. It’s hard to get away from knowing that, with Twitter and Facebook — you obviously know what’s at stake. It would certainly be an honour and a great achievement.”
It also marked a remarkable turnaround for a man who, not two years ago, had been blamed by a guest American columnist in this newspaper for generating “Luke Donald disease.” The journalist wrote: “Your man from Hemel Hempstead is the personification of what’s wrong with professional golf on both sides of the Atlantic.” The point was that Donald was content just to be remunerated for steady golf, securing top-10 finishes by the back door rather than challenging for titles. How premature that assumption has been made to look. Donald has yet to win a first major, but could never be accused of complacency. Usually a sanguine character, resistant to criticism, he admits to having drawn motivation from the article.
Westwood, though, is poised to take advantage of any slip. Moving to 16 under par at the Royal Jakarta Golf Club, he completed his lightning-delayed second round with a birdie, before adding eight more in a third-round 66. Encouragingly for his form, he managed to avoid his recent wobbles on the greens. “It feels much better, because every decent putt seems to go in and that made me more comfortable,” he said.
“I’ve been in this position before and I’ll try not to get ahead of myself.”

My School Sport: Paralympic gold medallist Danielle Brown hits the target

My School Sport: Paralympic gold medallist Danielle Brown hits the target
Straight shooter: rising star Danielle Brown in action Photo: PA
Interview: Syed Moiz

Where did you go to school and was sport an important part of life?
South Craven School in Cross Hills, North Yorkshire. PE was my favourite lesson before I was disabled. I'm not saying I was good at it, but I loved it.
My parents are very active and all our holidays were spent in the Lakes, walking and cycling. I ran cross-country, and played hockey and netball a few times for the school.
What happened?
From the age of 11, when I first started running, my feet hurt afterwards. I wasn't diagnosed with Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome [Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy] until I was 16.
I can't run now at all, my balance is terrible, and when I was 16, I had to learn to walk again. At the age of 13, I had to give up all sport on my feet, so I took up archery.
School didn't make it easy, at times. I think they believed I was trying to get out of PE. I'd gone from doing most sports, to doing very little.
Do Paralympians in Britain receive enough recognition?
The corporate sponsorship of BT and Sainsbury's has been amazing because the Paralympics has been playing second fiddle to the Olympics for so long. Such high–profile backing definitely helps our profile and pushes us into the mainstream.
How did your archery career progress?
I took part and won the National Junior Championships in 2004 and 2005 – it was just for fun at that point – but the first time I was put under pressure in competition, I amazed myself and shot personal bests.
I put in 10 hours a week of practice through my teenage years. When Beijing came, my first Games, it sounds really arrogant but I wasn't prepared to come home with anything less than gold – even though it was only my third international competition.
I had won at the world championships and had a taste for it. In a way, I went to Beijing with the wrong attitude, but got the right result.
Did sport interfere with your schoolwork?
I remember being told I had to get my priorities right at A level because I was in the GB disabled archery development squad then.
I finished with two As and a B. But I went on to study Law, deferred my dissertation because my final year was in 2008, but completed it a year later with a First.
Most memorable sporting moment as a schoolgirl?
I don't really have one ... because I did so many different sports. I beat my middle sister in a fell race. It felt good because I never saw myself as good at sport.
Looking back I just needed the right sport. When I'm competing now I turn into this horrible little monster. I didn't realise how competitive I was.
Did it mean a lot to win a team gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in an able–bodied event?
I didn't really understand what all the fuss was about in the media before the Commonwealth Games. Domestically, able–bodied and disabled train together, and compete against each other in archery. It felt normal to me.
What advice would you give to schoolchildren interested in a career in sport?
Variety. There are many talented juniors who we don't see later on in the seniors. I think if you get into one sport early, there can be too much pressure.
Who were your sporting heroes when you were growing up?
I didn't actually have any. I've found some really inspirational stories among the Paralympians in the British team. I hope the public gets to hear them next year.

Amir Khan shuns Britain to become Golden Boy in US following controversial defeat of Paul McCloskey

Acrimony and controversy, the loss of £1 million and a broken relationship with boxing’s principal television broadcaster marred Amir Khan’s ‘homecoming’ to Manchester to defend the World Boxing Association light-welterweight title after 17 months in the United States. 

In short, it was a public relations disaster for Khan Promotions. The 24 year-old might wonder if the MEN Arena has become a haunting ground, rather than a hunting ground, Khan confirming on Sunday that he may not come back to fight in Britain ‘for a very long time’. He will now fight in America, under the banner of Los Angeles-based Golden Boy Promotions.
Nor was this an impressive outing. Khan looked flat-footed and raw in his fourth defence of the World Boxing Association 10-stone title against Paul McCloskey, an unbeaten European champion. Khan was subjected to a chaotic denouement in the fight, as he had been in the fraught fortnight before the fight, when his purse was reportedly reduced by £1 million.
The championship contest was stopped in the sixth round by Puerto Rican referee Luis Pabon, and thereafter on the advice of the ringside physician, based on a vertical cut above the Irishman’s left eye. It looked, and felt, premature. McCloskey later showed seven temporary stitches in an upward line above his left eye.Thus, a contest which was intriguing, if one-sided, was over before it got started. McCloskey had moved well from the waist, swaying and ducking, causing many of Khan’s flying fists to whizz by him. But, by the sixth round, the champion was beginning to land more hurtful blows, and had drawn the challenger into standing with him.
Closure left an electrically-charged atmosphere of 16,000 baying spectators wanting more. Under WBA rules, the result went to the judges’ cards. Khan won every round on all three: 60-54. No issue there. But it felt premature.
Promoter Eddie Barry Hearn, head of Matchroom Sports, branded the officiating as ‘ineptitude of the highest order’. Hearn added: "This was Paul McCloskey’s world title dream, and it has been ripped away from him by the worst piece of officiating I have seen in 20 years involved in the sport. The referee, who is the sole arbiter, should be struck off and never allowed to step inside a ring again."
Khan added to the tension by wrongly stating that McCloskey no longer wanted to continue and at the post-fight press conference was less than generous in insisting that he would have knocked out his rival within two rounds.
Khan’s management team were also accused on Sunday of mishandling the entire event. Eddie Hearn, McCloskey’s negotiator, labelled the event ‘a shambles from start to finish, a fiasco'. "Boxing has never seen such a shambles. The sport needs to be run by people who know what they are doing.”
That was a reference to Khan’s management team, who have been accused by Matchroom of trying to pull together an event ‘on the cheap’.
Khan is believed to have earned around £1 million less than he would have done had Sky executives not taken it off Sky Box Office. Khan Promotions were offered a reduced purse for a switch to Sky Sports, but split from Sky to sign with the relatively obscure pay-per-view channel Primetime. It could have lasting repercussions.
Oscar De La Hoya, Khan’s American promoter, was accused of ducking a rematch with McCloskey by the fighter’s team and the Irish media in a post-fight news conference.
De La Hoya confirmed, however, that he was 'taking Amir to the United States, where we are making a unification fight with Timothy Bradley [holder of the WBO and World Boxing Council belts] this summer'. De La Hoya announced publicly that Golden Boy Promotions intended to secure relations with Primetime, the pay-per-view channel on the Sky platform which shows sporting events.
"We are the biggest promoters in the world and will do a deal with Primetime," he said. “Khan-Bradley is a fight we are going to make sure takes place.”
It was as good as a two-fingered salute to Sky, boxing’s main broadcaster in the UK.
Carl Froch, the WBC super-middleweight champion, who has been frozen out of a UK television deal, may be the beneficiary in the wake of Khan’s split with Sky.
Khan now follows a well-worn route grooved by former undisputed world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis. He fought only one of his last 16 fights in the UK. Khan’s destiny could now mirror that path, winning titles, and winning over the British public.

Durham v Sussex: Luke Wells ton guides visitors to tight win

The Sussex coach, Mark Robinson, sang the praises of Luke Wells after the young batsman guided his team towards a nerve-jangling victory against Durham with the first first-class century of his fledgling career.
Robinson paid homage to Wells, 20, after he rode his luck to record the game’s decisive innings, scoring a century that included 17 fours in 243 balls before being dismissed with the victory target in sight for Sussex.
Wells may have been dropped by Gareth Breese off Mitch Claydon’s third ball of day and he may have been fortunate that a few edges did not go to hand as he lived a charmed life but Robinson played down the role of Lady Luck.
“He might have rode his luck this morning but he definitely didn’t on Friday but then again this was a good cricket wicket and there was a lot of playing and missing so you needed a bit of luck,” Robinson told The Sunday Telegraph.
“One thing we have recognised in Luke is that he has got a lot of character, mental toughness and resilience for a young man. He is only a baby and he has had one massive injury last year that would have knocked a lot of people back but he came back strongly and got a ton in his first game back with the seconds.

“That’s because he has such a strong personality which is what we like as much as anything and he showed every bit of it here because he would have copped a few verbals for the way he was playing at times but eh just stuck to his task and he is the only player who showed that determination to stay put.”
Luke Wells hit his maiden first-class century as Sussex survived a late collapse to seal a two-wicket LV= County Championship victory over Division One opponents Durham at the Riverside.
Sussex resumed on the fourth morning on 237 for four and with Wells and Ben Brown ticking along they reached 277 before Brown (61) became the first of the four victims Ruel Braithwaite claimed in quick succession as four wickets tumbled for 17 runs.
Wells reached 103 before Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and Joe Anyon were dismissed in the same over only for Amjad Khan and Andy Hodd to secure a pulsating victory.
“To go down to the wire like that meant it was a great game of cricket but I think the team showed a lot of character because we were well beaten at Liverpool by Lancashire and we have been on the back foot for most of this game,” Robinson added.
“To turn it around with three young batters in the top six means you feel very proud as a coach. They were lovely bowling conditions today and Durham bowled exceptionally well all morning and we had to fight hard but we held our nerve. Ben Brown and Luke put us into a winning position and to get over the line was fantastic.”
Durham coach Geoff Cook added: “It was a tough four days’ cricket. We were in a strong position midway through the first day at 170/1 but then lost nine wickets for about 120 which is asking for trouble. Then we lost five second innings wickets very quickly which put Sussex tails up.”

Liverpool director of football Damien Comolli to lead the way in bid to refresh the playing staff at Anfield

Liverpool are planning a radical overhaul of their squad this summer with a source at the club revealing that they are planning “up to 22 deals” in and out of the club. 



Director of Football Damien Comolli has been working since his appointment to identify priority targets and will receive support from the club’s owners, the Fenway Sports Group, this summer as the club seek to build a squad capable of getting back into the Champions League.
Kenny Dalglish, who is hoping to remain as manager, has spoken of the need to complement the club’s emerging talent with investment and it is understood that Comolli and his scouting team located two or three targets for each position they want to strengthen.
Most of these are aged between 19 and 24 as the club wants to invest in players whose talent can be developed and whose value will increase.
Rennes winger Sylvain Marveaux is expected to be the first signing when the window opens on June 1.
The club are being described as “a long way down the road” to securing the Bosman free transfer of the former France Under-21 international.
Liverpool are looking at further reinforcements in the wide areas, another striker, a left-back and cover at centre back. If enough players can be sold, there could be as many as 11 signings.
As they showed in January, FSG are prepared to reinvest money received in fees into the squad – most of the cash received for Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel was put into signing Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez for £58 million.
Having a high turnover will also allow the club to address the issue of the excessive contracts that were handed out under the previous regime.
With the club’s commercial department landing some impressive deals – a record £25 million-a-year kit deal with Warrior follows a lucrative contract with Standard Chartered as shorts sponsor – and the club freed of servicing the debts that impeded them under Hicks and Gillett, Liverpool will finally be able to compete in the market.
The recent emergence of academy players Jay Spearing, Jack Robinson and John Flanagan means Liverpool can sell their fringe players with the confidence that they will not be left short next season, especially as Raheem Sterling and Conor Coady are also expected to be ready next term.
There will be great emphasis on trying to shift as many of the superfluous players as possible.
The club are working on trying to set up deals for the players out on loan – Paul Konchesky, Alberto Aquilani, Philipp Degen, Nabir El Zhar and Emiliano Insua – while there has also been interest in David Ngog, Sotirios Kyrgiakos and Milan Jovanovic, all of whom are for sale.

India's World Cup hero MS Dhoni sets the standard of behaviour for Manchester United's Wayne Rooney

Pasty white, squinting, chest out, shoulders back, face contorted in what — anger? Scorn? The Wayne Rooney of Saturday was not a comely vision, either for little hero-worshippers in red shirts or the Manchester United commercial department. 


His was the aggression of the “what are you looking at” variety that casts a wretched shadow over someone’s walk to school. He didn’t seem to have been provoked, he wasn’t muttering into his shirt, he couldn’t claim to have been caught behind the scenes –the plonker strutted up to a television camera and swore repeatedly into it.
Footballers don’t ask to be role models (though they are generally happy to take the endorsements that thrust them further into the public eye) and they should be cut a bit of slack in their personal lives.
They should be as free to jiggle lovers, drink flamboyant cocktails and generally make fools of themselves as the rest of us — and live with the consequences.
But they are paid such a grossly distorted amount of money — Rooney earns a basic £160,000 a week just from Manchester United — that they can be expected to do two things while on the pitch: play beautifully and behave like a decent human being.
A two-match ban handed out to Rooney seems fair enough, lax even. Any teacher who swore at her pupils would be swiftly suspended, as would a broadcaster daft enough to tell their audience to get lost or a shop assistant who squared up behind the counter and shouted at the people leaning over the freezer cabinet.

Of course, a shop assistant is not surrounded by 34,546 fans at Upton Park, many of them shouting vile abuse themselves. But from my recollections of working in a bakery, nor are you likely to be rewarded with mass adulation – though you do get the odd bun.
Testosterone can take you a long way, but it doesn’t defend you from looking like a thug. Especially if you are earning not far short of £42million over five years rather than £5.93 an hour (the minimum wage).
It doesn’t have to be this way. On the same Saturday, over on the other side of the world, another man was under more pressure than even Rooney could imagine.
A small town-boy, sturdy, stubbly and with a most magnificent nose, MS Dhoni was leading India in their pursuit of the cricket World Cup against Sri Lanka. India expected, the astrologers had predicted, it was now up to Dhoni to orchestrate victory.
This victory, it was said, would unite the nation, Hindu and Muslim, rich and poor and give Sachin Tendulkar his first World Cup trophy at probably his last tournament.
There was not a seat in the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, tickets had sold for 12 times the asking price, 67.6 million were watching on television in India alone. The din was transcendental, the weight on Dhoni’s shoulders oppressive. Yet there he was, ridiculously, unbelievably, calm.
He promoted himself up the order, above Yuvraj Singh, and from a run of poor form produced one of the greatest innings in World Cup history. That six that won the Cup, high into the exploding Mumbai sky, was icing so pink and delicious it was almost sickly.
Never will he play a more rewarding shot. And yet, though he gave himself perhaps a fraction of a second too long to admire the ball sailing into the night, there were no foul-mouthed celebrations to camera. Just embraces with team-mates and worthy handshakes with opponents. It is rumoured that he celebrated that night by watching the final repeated on television.
Dhoni is no puritan, he is paid handsomely for his endorsements, and has a fleet of steely motorbikes and an array of cars in his garage.
His rewards are many and varied — the village where he was born, Lwali in the Almora district, is now to have a new road because of his exploits. But in the pressure-cooker of Indian cricket, which can be as vituperative as any football-fan site in the UK, he has managed to keep his head.
Could Rooney learn from him? Who knows, but in the end his biggest punishment will be in how he is remembered. Only he can decide whether he wants his legacy to be that of a brilliant footballer who fulfilled his youthful promise or as a talent tarnished by his inability to control his temper.
And although he is only 25, time is running out.

I didn't permit players to prefer IPL over country : Former Sri Lanka Minister

The former Sports minister Gamini Lokuge on Saturday countered the allegation that his leniency had paved way for the Sri Lankan players to prefer IPL over national duties. 

Lokuge said he did not permit players to prefer IPL over national commitments. 

In 2009, when Lokuge was the minister, Sri Lanka cancelled their tour of England as the players preferred to play in the cash-rich Twenty20 league.

Lokuge's position was that the 2009 tour was not an item in the ICC's future tours programme. 

"There was no such problem then. This time the problem arose because the captain and vice captain resigned after the World Cup. So they had to pick a new team for the England tour. 

"The England tour was part of the future tours programme and hence the current administrators must take the responsibility," Lokuge told reporters here. 

His successor, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, in a complete U-turn today allowed the players to stay in India until May 18 and travel directly to England to join the squad. 

Aluthgamage had earlier ordered that players must return to Colombo by May 5 to prepare for the England tour. 

Aluthgamage's decision came under severe criticism from media, which demanded his resignation for his flip-flop on the matter. 

"Now that the minister has not been able to deliver what he promised why doesn't he seriously consider resignation," leading Lankan daily 'The Island' wrote. 

"We feel the sports minister has completely lost the point here," the newspaper stressed.

Pak vs WI 1st ODI : West Indies begin without their top five players -Live

Afridi and Devon Smith

The news from the first ODI between Pakistan vs West Indies which will be played on Saturday, April, 23, 2011 at Gros Islet in St Lucia is that top players Chris Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Kieron Pollard will be missing from the West Indies squad. The match will start at 09:30 a.m. local, 13:30 GMT.
The top five players of Wet Indies mentioned above are currently playing in the Indian Premier League in India. For Pakistan, Taufeeq Umar returns to the side and is likely to join Hafeez at the top of the order, Umar Gul, Younis Khan and Kamran Akmal have not been selected for this tour.
Pakistan is touring West Indies to play one T20, five ODI's and two test matches.

The only T20 game was won by the West Indies. West Indies have not beaten Pakistan in a ODI series since November 2011. It would be interesting to see how they play and win without their top five players.
The last time these 2 sides met in an ODI was in the recently concluded World Cup quarter-finals where Pakistan thrashed the Windies.

Facing Sania would be "dream come true", says Pak ace Ushna Suhail

 Pakistan no.1 Tennis queen Ushna Sohail confident to beat Indian Star Sania Mirza at Wagah Border
Pakistan's top-ranked woman tennis player Ushna Suhail has said that she is ready to face Indian tennis sensation Sania Mirza at the Wagah Border, if the Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) includes a women's event in the proposed Indo-Pak tennis series. Ushna said that although Sania was an experienced player and featured among the top 30 players at international rankings, yet she would like to play a tennis match with the Indian to gain exposure in the sport.
"Playing against Sania will be like a dream come true and it will be a great experience for me," The Nation quoted Ushna, as saying.
She pointed out that exposure is very necessary for players, as it helps them identify their weaknesses at the international level and improve their game and skills.
"Playing international tennis provides us the opportunity to play against top ranking players and improve our international rankings," she maintained.
"When asked about the rising level of Indian tennis, Ushna replied: "The Indian tennis body is spending a lot of money on their players for their international exposures and also provided them international coaches, while the main reason of their rise in the game is international events in their country."

"They feature in at least three to four international tennis events and a large number of well-organised national events. It helps in boosting their morale, finding out their weaknesses and improving their international rankings. But here in Pakistan, there has not been a single international event for the last two years. The PTF should organise at least one or two international events such as ATP or WTA," she added.

Badminton of the Sexy Athletes

Badminton is one of the most popular sports around the world. Just like lawn tennis, it needs a lot of accuracy and a lot of running too. But for female athletes who are serious with badminton, the little space confined by those lines means battlefield.

Singapore is proud to have produced a top-notch badminton player. Li Li won the singles category in the Commonwealth Games in 2002 and took home the gold medal. It was then that she made a great bang by defeating Tracey Hallam of England in the fourth set, which eventually upset the English team. Li also took part in the 2004 Summer Olympics but was defeated by Gong Ruina from China.

Another badminton superstar from Asia is Gong Ruina from China. A consistent Olympian, Ruina had swept the awards of almost all of the competitions that she had participated in. Ruina’s victory may be considered as a destiny. Why? It is because Ruina has a meaning in Chinese. "Rui" means clever and very wise while "na" is an character they use for a girl. It seems Ruina was born to be a champion. Even the legendary Susi Susanti was defeated by this girl in their match in Brunei Open.

Susi Susanti is one heck of a superstar Indonesia and in the world of badminton. She was awarded with a "Hall of Fame" award in 2004 by the International Badminton Federation. She was the very first Indonesian to take home gold medal in the single event in the 1992 Olympic Games.

Heading West, a very large star is shining brightly – Tracey Hallam. Considered as a top-seed badminton player in England, she has proven her talent to the whole world and became one of the public’s favorite players. In the 2004 Olympics, she defeated Julianne Scheck of Germany and another badminton star Camilla Martin of Denmark. However, she lost to another badminton pro, Mia Audina of Netherlands. Nevertheless, her trainings with male badminton players paid off and put her in her current status as a badminton superstar.

Get the information that you need to know; see and learn their moves for yourself without the hassle of getting your feet on the badminton court. By just visiting http://www.Sexy, you’ll see the real rush of how women conquer sports.

Beale v Cooper: the beat goes on

The rival five-eighths go way back, to a time when the Queenslander was making sweet music on and off the field, writes Jamie Pandaram.
SEVEN years ago Quade Cooper drew as much attention for the tricks he could do with his mouth as those he does with his hands and legs today. It was what Kurtley Beale first noticed about the skinny boy with the funny hair who would later become one of his best friends.
''I first met him at the under-16 championships in 2004; I played for NSW Schools and he was playing for Queensland Schools,'' Beale recalls. ''I didn't know many of the Queensland boys then; it was my first time playing rep rugby union.
''Back then he had curly hair down to his shoulders. I just remember he was a really good beatboxer. Back then that was the thing that was going around, and he was really good at it.''
Cooper's talent in producing an acapella rhythm caught Beale's ear, but it was that outlandish sidestep catching his full attention at the championships the following year.
''He wasn't starting; Ben Lucas was in front of him,'' Beale says. ''We played them in the final and he came off the bench and with his first touch got the inside shoulder on me, that's how I found out how good he was.
''He had the Benji Marshall step back then. He was the first guy in our age group to bring it out and show it off - and it worked on me.''
Their friendship developed quickly during a tour of Britain in 2005 with the Australian Schoolboys squad.
''We became pretty close, good friends, obviously being the same position we helped each others' games out,'' Beale says.
''I was trying to learn the step, but all I could invent was the emu goose-step, that was my trait and he had the Benji Marshall step. He called my little goose-step the emu, that kind of stuck.''
The two young Wallabies wear the No.10 jerseys for their respective states in the biggest game of the Super Rugby season between two Australian teams on Saturday night, and their attitude has evolved with the occasion.
''Over the years we have started to focus on the job ahead, not really having a little laugh jogging back from the lineout, having a nudge or wink,'' Beale says. ''Now we know what we have to do; there is no time for joking when you're out there in the heat of the battle.''
Yet it is difficult to tell whether this is not just fun and games for Cooper, who continually defies the purist logic by throwing no-look passes or kicking to teammates from inside his own in-goal.
''To me, it is not anything outrageous,'' Cooper says. ''I just enjoy playing the game, and those are things you do when you were a kid, and you are just having fun. If there is a guy unmarked, then why not just give him the ball? Whether you kick it there or throw it there, it is still about giving him the ball.
''You enjoy those things as a kid, playing backyard footy, and this is just on a bigger stage in front of a few more people than in the backyard, I guess.''
But pity the man who has to play outside him. Mike Harris has now formed a comfortable partnership with Cooper in Queensland's midfield, but hardly downplays the task of shadowing him.
''You've got to be watching him all the time, be on your toes the whole time out there, because otherwise you can get left behind,'' Harris says. ''It is exciting. He can do some pretty crazy stuff and most of the time it is spectacular and brilliant.''
Beale clears up misconceptions about Cooper.
''I got caught up going down the wrong track, and I think he went towards a similar path, and looking over the last year or so I think he has started to grow up, he has matured into a really good bloke,'' Beale says.
''You can see there is a lot of confidence in him, and standing up for what he believes in. Now he does have a noticed voice in the Wallabies, which is a key for his position. It is easier for him to play footy.
''Hanging around him at training, you can also see his knowledge of the game has improved dramatically. He knows his stuff, he does a lot of homework on the opposition and the little extras to be able to get on top. Probably a lot of people see him as 'the risky player', the show-off, the unorthodox kind of style, but I tell you what, and you can see over the last couple of games, he has matured into one of those directors of the game. He can slow the game down, play to another tempo and play for the team.
''He knows what the team wants in certain situations. If they want to amp it up he will start to deliver there, and if he sees his forwards needing a rest he'll put it into touch. He's very smart like that now, you can see that maturity.
''The last couple of years people have doubted him but now they'll say he's probably developed into a really good world-class player.''
Variation of tempo has been a much-vaunted addition to Cooper's arsenal, and will be a valuable commodity for the Wallabies in a World Cup year where the big games tend to favour simplicity over flash.
''You've just got to keep evolving with the game and the times,'' Cooper says. ''Last year, the game was a little bit different - there was a lot less kicking.
''If you go back a few years, everyone was just kicking the ball. Now there is a pretty good balance between kicking and running.
''If you get wound up with just one style of play, you are just going to miss the evolution of the game. As a team, we are doing well, following the evolution.''
Similar to his friendship with Beale, who says: ''I'm sure no matter where it is on the field, even if we're at the end of our careers, we're separated and don't see each other that often, I'm sure when we do we can always talk about some good memories.''

Live: Reds down Waratahs

Quade Cooper scored the only try as the Queensland Reds ditched the glitz and rolled up their sleeves to beat the NSW Waratahs 19-15 at Suncorp Stadium tonight. The victory was the Reds' first in seven years and cements their spot atop the Super 15 Australian conference.
Read on for a blow-by-blow account of the action.
Fulltime: Tahs win the ball back from the kickoff as the siren sounds. Their last roll of the dice comes to nothing though and the Reds beat their fiercest rivals for the first time in seven years. Final score: 19-15.
79th: Cooper lines up a penalty goal after the Tahs are pinged for offside. He's 45m out and to the left of the posts. He threads the kick for a 19-15 Reds lead.
77th: Genia kicks deep behind the Waratahs, who don't have a fullback in position. Giant prop Sekope Kepu becomes an unlikely hero for the Tahs, sprinting back to field the ball with Morahan bearing down on him.
73rd: Reds on the attack now. Beale kicked a penalty goal to bring the Tahs within a point and from the kickoff the Reds have won the ball back. Crowd taking its first chance to get excited in a long, long time. Cooper pushes a drop goal attempt wide.
70th: Crowd figure is in. Sort of. There won't be an official figure, but it's just over 36,000. Not sure why we don't get the exact number, maybe the crowd hasn't sat still long enough to be counted properly. Great result though, regardless.
69th: Tahs claim a pushover try, and it's going to the video ref. The verdict is a Reds scrum feed.
68th: The Reds forwards have earned their money tonight and it's paid off as Ben Mowen knocks on for the Tahs. Reds get the ball for the first time in five minutes.
66th:  Tahs make the curious move on benching skipper Waugh. Pat McCutcheon comes on for yet another scrum 5m off the Reds line. It has to be taking a toll on the home side.
62nd: It's turning into a scrumfest and the Tahs will be happy enough with that. They're working the Reds over in their own zone. Now there's a scuffle with Horwill at the centre of it all. Not sure what kicked that one off but it feels like it may not be the last.
59th: Errors creeping in for both sides now as Cooper sends another kick out on the full. Could be in for a frantic final 20 minutes.
55th: Reds concede a pair of penalties for collapsing the scrum. James Horwill tries to explain that it's because the turf is slipping but the referee isn't buying it. The srum is set and reset over and over and to be fair, pretty soon there won't be any turf left on that patch of field.
51st: Reds staring down the barrel of a 5m scrum but they are made to wait as Polota-Nau receives treatment. In the meantime Daley leaves the field for good. At least it seemed to be Daley, but it's hard to tell with his face in that condition.
49th: Phil Waugh shows why kicking duties rarely fall his way. He looks distinctly like your uncle kicking a ball at the family barbecue as he launches a wobbly kick for touch. He'll claim a victory though, as it's touched by a Red hand and the Tahs get the lineout throw.
46th: Referee Walsh looks despondent as he ices the injured calf on the sidelines. Gotta be gutting in a World Cup year. In more important news, Beale converts a penalty goal and the Tahs trail by four.
43rd: We've had a change of referees at the break. Whistleblower Steve Walsh has gone down with a calf injury and Ian Smith has stepped in to finish the game. No word on Walsh's status for next week but the Waratahs may be happy with the switch, given the first-half penalties slightly favoured the home side, 6-5. In worse news for NSW, Wycliff Palu limps from the field with what's believed to be a knee injury.
Halftime: Cooper shapes a shot at field goal after the siren, changes his mind and goes for a scoot instead. He hands off to Digby Ioane who charges up the middle and is brought down in front of the posts. Cooper gets the ball back from the breakdown and kicks his field goal from the very spot he was standing on previously. Reds go to the break leading 16-9.
34th: Hard to figure out if the crowd is going crazy for Cooper's magical 50m dash from the scrum base for the first try of the match, or for his celebratory actrobatics in the ingoal. The tumbling run got at least as many replays on the big screen as teh try did. Either way, he converts his own try and it's the Reds by 13-9.
32nd: Tahs flanker Phil Waugh gives away a penalty for a ruck infringement right in front and Cooper lines up from 24m out right in front. Kick's good. Waratahs lead 9-6.
28th: Reds prop looked to be trying to make snow angels on the turf before he groggily made his way to his feet. Close-up shot reveals blood gushing from his nose. As he's helped from the field, Beale kicks a penalty goal to take the Tahs out to a 9-3 lead.
26th: Reds pinch a lineout ball, but the Tahs get it straight back when Cooper puts his second kick of the night out on the full. Would be unlike the Wallaby number 10 to go into his shell though.
20th: As Mitchell disappears up the tunnel on a golf cart, the resulting backline shuffle sees Beale move to fullback, thus ending his head-on duel with Cooper at number 10.
19th: Drew Mitchell's right foot looks ugly from our vantage in the press box. The trainer was calling for a stretcher before she even got to him after he tangled with Reds number eight Scott Higginbotham as the Wallaby winger chased a kick.
16th: Reds skipper James Horwill pinged for being offside on a Cooper kick. Beale lines up from 46m out and and puts the Waratahs ahead.
13th: Reds winger Luke Morahan grasses a catch 10m off his line. The Reds give away a penalty from the scrum and the Tahs resist the temptation to go for maximum points. Kurtley Beale converts the penalty and we're tied at 3-3.
10th: What's an interstate match without some niggle? Both teams come together to exchange pleasantries on the Reds line after the Waratahs give away a lineout penalty. No harm done though ... for now.
7th: Cooper has another chance to get his eye in, this one from 23m out and pretty well in front. He makes no mistake and the Reds open their account.

5th: Crowd springs to life as the afros of Radike Samo and Tatafu Polata-Nau seem on a collision course. But the Reds backrower changes course at the last minute.
3rd: Quade Cooper lines up a penalty shot from 40m out on the left flank after the Waratahs give away an early penalty. Shot has plenty of legs but wanders wide.
1st minute: And we're under way and it takes just seconds for Reds half Will Genia to slice through out wide.
7.40pm: The stadium stands motionless to honour the Anzacs, as a stiring rendition of the last post rings out. Just in case there wasn'tr already enough feeling in the evening.
7.20pm: Decent crowd rolling in already on a balmy night here in Brisbane. The Reds lineup is as advertised, but the Waratahs have shuffled the bench a little. Pat McCutcheon and Daniel Halangahu are in for Chris Alcock and Sosene Anesi, while Dave Dennis and Kane Douglas have swapped jumpers.

Sri Lanka paceman Malinga quits Tests

Injury-prone Sri Lanka paceman Lasith Malinga on Friday quit Test cricket in a bid to prolong his career in one-day internationals and Twenty20 matches.
Malinga is playing for Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League and had recently made himself unavailable for Sri Lanka's tour of England, attracting criticism that he had chosen to play for club over country.
"In January this year I wrote a letter to Sri Lanka Cricket and released a statement to the media confirming that I planned to reassess my Test future after the World Cup," he said in a statement.

Sri Lanka paceman Malinga quits Tests

April 22, 2011
Injury-prone Sri Lanka paceman Lasith Malinga on Friday quit Test cricket in a bid to prolong his career in one-day internationals and Twenty20 matches.
Malinga is playing for Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League and had recently made himself unavailable for Sri Lanka's tour of England, attracting criticism that he had chosen to play for club over country.
"In January this year I wrote a letter to Sri Lanka Cricket and released a statement to the media confirming that I planned to reassess my Test future after the World Cup," he said in a statement.
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"I decided that I needed to make myself unavailable for Test cricket in an effort to prolong my career as a national cricketer for Sri Lanka.
"Although I am sufficiently fit to play both ODI and T20 cricket, I have a long-standing degenerative condition in my right knee that needs to be carefully managed."
The 27-year-old Malinga, known for bowling accurate yorkers, bagged 101 wickets in 30 Tests with his slinging action since making his debut against Australia in Darwin in 2004.
He took a three-year break from Test cricket until coming back to the format when he figured in a home series against India in 2010. He has three five-wicket hauls in a Test innings to his credit.
"I did try to return to Test cricket after a three-year absence last year following requests from the team management and the selectors, but it left me unfit nursing severe knee pain for two months," Malinga said.