Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 15th 2013 Contents A39
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ZURICH---FIFA has extended bans for nine players
found guilty of match-fixing in Lebanon to apply
A Lebanese player has been banned from all soc-
cer-related activities for life, and eight Estonian players
each received one-year suspensions.
FIFA says the Estonian players received money from
a bookmaker in connection with matches in the coun-
try s top division and the Estonian Cup.
The Lebanese player s lifetime ban is the result of
betting and corruption which FIFA says was committed
by some Lebanese officials and players during national
team matches and other AFC Cup games.
The same Lebanese investigation has seen a range
of bans imposed on 23 players and one official. (AP)
FIFA extends bans for Estonian, Lebanese players
Matt Prior has increasingly been
hailed as England s ultimate team
man, but for once he is celebrating
an individual achievement. Prior has been
named as England s cricketer of the year and
received his award at a celebratory dinner
in the Long Room at Lord s.
It was fitting that a player who symbolises
the importance of the common cause should
look slightly guilty about receiving the award.
"It was fantastic when I found out, a huge
honour to be singled out as player of the year,"
he said. "But I feel slightly uncomfortable with
it because individual accolades are not really
the reason I play. I want this team to win. I
get much more out of the group winning a
Test or series."
Prior, the first wicketkeeper to win the
award, judged by members of the England
cricket media, likes the idea that it is in some
way recognition of his team ethic.
"I hope so although I ve not really given it
much thought. What I would say is anytime
I go out to play an innings the first thing I
need to do is to get into the best position to
win or save a game, or think what do I need
to do to get the scoreboard in the right place,
rather than how many runs do I need to average
50---I can t just perform like that.
"There have been times in the past where
people have said you need to look after that
bit, or get more not-outs, I just can do it. I m
not saying I m the ultimate team player; it s
just the way I play sport---to win. That s where
I get the enjoyment from."
There were many persuasive reasons to vote
for Prior as England s player of the year. The
most emotional justification arose from mem-
ories of his defiant hundred in Auckland to
save the third Test against New Zealand and
salvage a drawn series. But there were broader
reasons, too. There was the knowledge that
he is the only England batsman apart from
the captain, Alastair Cook, to average more
than 50 in Tests in the past two years. There
was the recognition that his wicketkeeping
has improved by leaps and bounds - sometimes
quite literally - under the tuition of a former
England wicketkeeper Bruce French.
Mostly, though, it was his reputation as
England s heartbeat that won him the accolade
ahead of other deserving claimants such as
Alastair Cook, for the remorseless run scoring
that turned the India Test series, and James
Anderson, skilful and indefatigable, a fast
bowler at his peak as he proved that he could
bowl in the most discouraging circumstances.
Prior looked mildly stunned. "You look back
on the year and look at the amount of quality
in the dressing room," he said.
"Jimmy Anderson s performance in India:
for a seam bowler to perform like he did was
phenomenal---that s worth a player of the year
award. Cooky: the way he led from the front
in India. There are a number of guys who have
put in huge performances. They ve obviously
just pulled a name out of the hat, so I m hugely
honoured but it could have been a number of
But it was much more than a name out of
a hat. All Out Cricket magazine did not just
stop at describing Prior as England s "heart-
beat". In this month s issue, they hailed him
as the team s moral compass, the protector of
their spirit, a dressing room confidant, and a
tactician and cheerleader---as vice-captain, he
offers a more instinctive, noisier flavour to
Cook s reflective and conservative approach.
He was also the player who phoned Kevin
Pietersen, when the extent of his stand-off
with the England dressing room became
known---ignoring the political niceties at the
time and relying instead on a faith in the team
ethic and a few home truths. He is embarrassed
that his call has passed into English cricket
folklore---after all, he just picked up the phone
and said what he thought---but, not to put
too fine a point on it, it cut the crap and
English cricket was all the better for it.
His continued omission from England s
one-day side, and memories of his sudden
dropping from England s Test side in 2008,
have taught him not to overreact to the plaudits
that now, more than ever, will come his way.
"Not playing ODIs certainly keeps you fresh,"
he said. "I ve said before that it s a bit of a
catch-22, the whole matter of playing one-
day cricket or not. From a positive point of
view it gives me these windows of opportunity
to fully prepare for each Test series. Not just
from a physical point of view, but also mentally
being able to switch off.
"Also you can prepare completely on each
team you are up against. That certainly allows
me to go into each Test series at 100 per cent,
giving it everything until the last ball then
duck out again and have a few weeks riding
These days, he gets equal satisfaction from
wicketkeeping and batting. If his hundred in
Auckland is understandably his sharpest bat-
ting memory of the year, his catch, standing
up to Jonathan Trott, to dismiss New Zealand s
captain, Brendon McCullum, in the same Test
was also a source of great satisfaction, proof
of how much his game has advanced.
"It was only two or three weeks beforehand
that I had been working with Frenchy away
from everyone, having arguments about
whether we should do it this way or whether
that way will help you. Frenchy got his way,
which I hate to admit, and suddenly I got that
catch. When you do the work, put that extra
time to gain one, two, three per cent and you
see it work in the middle it s hugely fulfilling.
"There has been a lot of stuff said. It s a
fickle world, if I punch one on Thursday I ll
be rubbish again. Everyone else can say their
bits, I ll just concentrate on catching as many
balls as I can and keep working hard. In years
to come, when hopefully I ve played a few
more years and caught a few more catches
we can see where I sit."
He loves Lord s, where this summer gets
underway against New Zealand on Thursday,
and can smile now at the dressing room win-
dow he accidentally smashed two years ago
as he fumed over being run out in a Test
against Sri Lanka as England chased quick
runs for a declaration on the final day.
"I love this ground: home of cricket, to drive
in and get your little spot next to the window.
They ve safeguarded it, double-glazed, smash-
proof, it s all good. I m allowed back in that
corner. It feels like coming home."
Prior celebrates own success
England's Matt Prior pulls during his match-saving century against New Zealand on the fifth
day of third Test in Auckland, on March 26. Prior saved England in Auckland with his seventh
Test hundred. PHOTO: COURTESY ESPNCRICINFO
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