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from India Insight:

A victory of defiance, not a dead pitch

(The views expressed here are solely those of the author, and not necessarily those of Reuters)

Cricket is a contest of attrition. The game is a lot more about skills and strategies than just the "condition of the pitch." It's certainly more cerebral than what a few contemporary commentators would have us believe.

If Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Shami put on a magnificent 111-run partnership for the last wicket, credit should be given to their extraordinary defiance, and the lack of it to England bowlers' inability to out-think the two tailenders and partly to Cook's captaincy.

It was disappointing to hear a few commentators blaming the "flat pitch" of the Trent Bridge instead. One can understand if fans resort to such logic, but when former international cricketers do the same, it smacks of a "going-through-the-motion" kind of effort behind the microphone.

from Photographers' Blog:

Water, water everywhere

Moorland, Britain

By Cathal McNaughton

It’s like a scene from a Hollywood disaster movie. The Somerset village of Moorland is under five feet of water. Wading along the usually bustling main street, I am struck by how quiet it is – everything has an eerie, post-apocalyptic feel.

The only sound I can hear is coming from the now breached flood defences moving backwards and forwards in the ebb and flow of the rising waters, creaking like a sinking ship.

from Left field:

Kevin Pietersen failed by ECB mismanagement

Cricket boards can ruin careers and no example demonstrates it better than the England and Wales Cricket Board’s treatment of their star batsman Kevin Pietersen.

The decision to retire is always best left to the player unless he carries on without form and fitness, and Pietersen, England’s highest run-getter across all formats, should have been allowed to make that call.

from Left field:

England cricket selectors have got it all wrong in the Ashes

It’s not only the on-field performances that let England down in the Ashes. The selectors too got it wrong starting from the initial announcement of the squad to the playing XI that was chosen for the third Test. The team management must also share the blame for going 3-0 down and losing the urn.

They made their first mistake in denying paceman Graham Onions a place in the touring party, a move that then came under harsh criticism in the English media. He has long been considered the second best swing bowler in England after James Anderson and his omission especially after a good season with Durham was baffling if not downright foolish. Instead, Onions is now in South Africa, playing for the Dolphins.

from Photographers' Blog:

Defiant smokers of London

London, England

By Olivia Harris

Smokers in dressing gowns and slippers, some in wheelchairs or with drips, are a common site gathered outside hospitals in Britain.

The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is proposing to ‘end this terrible spectacle’ and ban smoking and smoking shelters from hospital grounds. For patients determined to smoke, this means moving further away from the hospital.

from Photographers' Blog:

The fashion of Liverpool

Liverpool, England

By Suzanne Plunkett

The chances are you won't have heard of Liverpool Fashion Week. But if you have – or if you ever do in the future – it will likely be thanks to Amanda Moss.

Moss, an indefatigable mother of six children, is on a mission to transform Liverpool into Britain's first haute couture hot spot beyond London. She has some way to go but if anyone can do it, she can. I met her while covering Liverpool Fashion Week, an event launched by Moss five years ago and now proudly sashaying into the international spotlight.

from Photographers' Blog:

Shrovetide: a rough and tumble game

Ashbourne, central England

By Darren Staples

There are rules – even if there is no referee to enforce them. One of the ancient ones is said to be: ‘committing murder or manslaughter is prohibited’. Royal Shrovetide Football is not for the faint-hearted, either for players or the spectators who can quickly become caught up in the scrum.

On the face of it, the game played in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday each year will sound familiar to anyone who knows what happens at any English Premiership venue on a Saturday afternoon.

from John Lloyd:

England’s inevitable gay union

Earlier this week the British Parliament housed a restrained, sometimes mawkish and at times moving debate on gay marriage – and the bill passed the House of Commons, 400 to 175. The story was not that it passed, which had been expected. Instead, it was the split in the major governing party, the Conservatives, more of whose 303 MPs voted against the bill than for it. (Conservatives voted 136 in favor of the bill, with 127 voting no, five abstentions and 35 not registering a vote.) Prime Minister David Cameron, still intent on ensuring that his party is liberal as well as conservative, was emollient and understanding of those against the measure but presented his support in the context of a “strong belief in marriage. … It’s about equality but also about making our society stronger.”

His remarks signal that while there is division on the right over gay marriage – at least in Europe –and that while prejudice and bigotry still exist, the serious debate is between contending notions of conservatism. For liberals like Cameron and many in his party, gay marriage extends the benediction of an ancient rite upon modern couples, drawing them into the rituals of homebuilding and long-term affection that have so far been claimed as a heterosexual monopoly. For opponents, marriage must be just such a monopoly, since it is a union of one man and one woman for the purpose (if not always the practice) of procreation, of continuing society’s values in particular and the human race in general.

from Photographers' Blog:

The flood and the pub

Tewkesbury, southwestern England

By Andrew Winning

On a dull Monday morning in London, my assignment desk rescued me from a dreary assignment to travel to Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire to cover the effects of the second of two consecutive weather systems that brought flooding misery to many parts of southwestern England.

I arrived with about an hour of daylight left to work with and inquired if there was any flooding. Some helpful local people pointed me towards the White Bear pub, on the northern side of the town. As I arrived I found David Boazman, and his brothers Michael and Richard, pumping flood water out of his bar. They kindly invited me in, through the window, to have a look.

from Photographers' Blog:

Belles of the ball

By Olivia Harris

I had thought that 'debs' belonged to the pre-1960s days before the pill and equal pay. But at Queen Charlotte's Ball last week there were eighteen young debutantes who had volunteered for the London Season, the symbolic right of passage to mark their entry into 'society' as young women.

The ball was the high point of 'the season'; six months of parties where young women of money and class were premiered for the marriage market.

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