India Versus Australia Border-Gavaskar Trophy

The Australian team pose with the Border-Gavaskar Trophy after winning the series 4-0 against India in Adelaide

2012 Border-Gavaskar Trophy Winners, Australia Crush India to Stop a Three In A Row Conquest by the Indians.

The Border-Gavaskar Trophy will be up for grabs again when Australia travels to India for a four-Test cricket series running from 22 February 2013 in Chennai to, if the final match in Delhi goes the full distance, 26 March 2013.

The piece of silverware for which Australia and India have competed since 1996 is named after Australia’s Allan Border and India’s Sunil Gavaskar. Border scored 11,174 runs at an average of 50.56 in 156 Test matches for Australia, hitting 27 centuries and a top knock of 205. Gavaskar scored 10,112 runs at an average of 51.12 in 125 Test matches for India, hitting 34 centuries and a top knock of 236 not out. Both men captained their countries and, at some point in their career, held the record for the most Test runs scored.

Below, the unavailing of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy

India won the first Border-Gavaskar Trophy match, beating Australia by seven wickets in what was Sachin Tendulkar’s first Test as skipper. India has held the Border-Gavaskar Trophy more often than Australia but Australia has won more individual games, leading that ledger by 14 victories to 12, helped in no small way by its 4-0 home win in 2011-2012.

Aura Surrounding India Has Gone

Bookmakers have installed India as the favourite not only for the four-Test series but also the First Test in Chennai, with the home team trading at odds of around 4-6 to regain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and 5-4 to get off to the best start with victory in the city formerly known as Madras.

Betting on Test series played in India used to be what is politely called a no-brainer. After South Africa’s Test series win in India in 2000, India won 15 and drawn five of its next 21 home Test series before going down to England towards the end of last year. The only side that had won a Test series in India in recent memory was the all-conquering Australia team featuring Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne.

But times have changed. Sides used to fear touring India and usually they were happy to return home with some of their pride intact. That is not the case anymore. England fought back from 0-1 down to comprehensively outplay India in the last three Test matches of its 2012 series. The aura surrounding Indian cricket has gone away and, therefore, bookmakers are taking chances in quoting India at short prices to get the better of Australia this year.

Test Records For Each Venue

Chennai’s MA Chidambaram Stadium will stage the First Test between India and Australia, starting on 22 February 2013. India has won 12, drawn six, tied one and lost six of its 30 Test matches at the ground, while Australia’s record reads one win, two draws, one tie and two losses. The tie occurred in 1986 when Australia set a target of 348 runs for India to win and the home team fell one run short, Greg Matthews trapping Mahinder Smith leg before wicket for a duck.

Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium is a fairly new Test venue, with India having won one and drawn the other of its two matches there, both versus New Zealand. Therefore, punters betting on the Second Test, scheduled to begin on 2 March 2013, will have to do some guessing work.

Mohali’s Punjab Cricket Association Stadium will be where the Third Test will take place from 14 March onwards. India has played 10 Test matches at the ground, resulting in four wins, five draws and one loss. Australia has lost both of its Test matches at the venue, although recent statistics suggest that the pitch is likely to be less spin-friendly than some of the others that the away side will encounter.

The Fourth Test is set down for Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium, with the action programmed to get under way on 22 March 2013. India knows the ground like the back of its hand having played 31 Test matches there but it has registered just 11 wins, with 14 draws and six losses. Australia’s numbers stand at one win, three draws and two losses.

Clarke To Star For Australia

Even allowing for India’s home advantage, which is not inconsiderable, the favourite is under the odds to beat an Australia team that one must not forget won the reverse Test series 4-0 little more than 12 months ago. Put aside one’s concerns about Australia’s inexperienced batting line-up and maligned spin bowlers and take the odds-against price about Michael Clarke’s side either winning or drawing the series.

Speaking of Clarke, the Australia captain is a phenomenally good player of spin bowling so back the man known as Pup to be the away team’s top scorer across the four Test matches at odds of around 9-4. Clarke is the only Australia or India batsman ranked in the world’s top 19 currently. Next best is Tendulkar in 20th position and the second highest ranked of Clarke’s compatriots is David Warner down in 25th place.

Bad Batting Should Equal Positive Results

Neither India nor Australia appears to have a killer batting line-up – the world rankings speak for themselves and are pretty condemning – so be mindful of backing the draw in any of the four Test matches. Indian punters love to back the draw so often it trades well below its true level. There are more grounds for expecting positive results than stalemates.

Rugby League World Club Challenge

Bellamy

The Brains of the Operation: Melbourne Coach Craig Bellamy is a huge advantage in this clash.

The 2013 World Club Challenge will be the 14th consecutive annual match between the kings of the world’s top two club rugby league competitions, with Super League title winner Leeds hosting National Rugby League champion Melbourne.

All of the last 13 World Club Challenge games have taken place in the United Kingdom and many of them have occurred after that year’s Super League season kicked off but before the start of the National Rugby League equivalent.

That goes a long way to explaining why Super League teams have won eight of the last 13 World Club Challenge matches even though no impartial rugby league fan would claim that the Europe-based competition is superior to the one played out in Australia and New Zealand. The gap may have closed substantially in recent years but a gap remains. For the record, since 2000, Bradford (three times), Leeds (three times) and St Helens (twice) have won the World Club Challenge for the Super League, with Melbourne (twice), Manly (once), St George Illawarra (once) and Sydney (once) doing the National Rugby League proud on foreign soil.

Visitors Firming As Favourites

Some bookmakers have been betting on the 2013 World Club Challenge ever since rugby league officials confirmed that Leeds and Melbourne would go to war in the Yorkshire city and, slowly but surely, the Storm have firmed as the favourites for the Headingley Carnegie Stadium match.

Generally available at odds of around 8-11 at the beginning of the year, one will be hard pushed to get better than 4-7 about Melbourne defeating Leeds for the second time in four years now. The Storm beat the Rhinos 18-10 in 2010 but rugby league chiefs stripped them of that World Club Challenge title as a result of their serious salary cap breaches.

Redemption is a powerful motivator for Melbourne and its outstanding coach, Craig Bellamy. As far as rugby league administrators are concerned, the Storm did not win three National Rugby League minor premierships, two National Rugby League Grand Finals and one World Club Challenge between 2006 and 2010. Everyone associated with Melbourne views it differently and is 100 per cent committed to proving that it can triumph over adversity. Overcoming Canterbury Bankstown 14-4 in last season’s National Rugby League Grand Final was the first step on the Storm’s road to recovery. Beating Leeds in this year’s World Club Challenge is the second.

Storm Superstars To Put Boot Into Sinfield

Another factor driving Melbourne’s will to win the 2013 World Club Challenge is the result of the 2012 Golden Boot poll that saw the Rugby League World-backed award go to Leeds skipper Kevin Sinfield. No-one is saying that the Rhinos captain is not a fine player and he has played a pivotal role in all of his side’s six Super League Grand Final victories since 2004 but he is not the world’s best. There are not one or two but three Storm players who would have been more deserving recipients of the prize.

Indeed, Melbourne superstars Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk are all in the top 10 in the first 2013 Golden Boot betting market, trading at odds of 4-1, 9-2 and 12-1 respectively. Sinfield is a 25-1 chance and not value at that price. One could put a zero on the end of the Leeds forward’s odds and still find incredibly few takers.

Brilliant Bellamy is Melbourne Mastermind

But, above all other things, the major reason why Melbourne is worth backing to overcome Leeds in the 2013 World Club Challenge is this: the Storm are a bloody brilliant team managed by one of rugby league’s sharpest minds ever.

The three most important positions in any rugby league side are fullback, halfback and hooker. Melbourne has the world’s best fullback in Slater, the world’s best hooker in Smith and one of the world’s halfbacks in Cronk. Slater is a once-in-a-lifetime fullback, a freak of a runner towards whom several teams have decided to stop kicking the ball, choosing to put it out of play. Like Slater, star hooker Smith could be the finest player in his position ever. And Cronk is a halfback who invariably makes the right calls.

Melbourne coach Bellamy is terrific at finding 14 players, at the right price, to play alongside the magicians called Slater, Smith and Cronk. And Bellamy’s recruitment going into the 2013 season appears, once again, to be really, really clever. Bellamy has recruited Brett Finch, most likely for peanuts, because the larrikin playmaker loves the Storm culture and he really, really, really wants to win a National Rugby League premiership. And Bellamy’s capture of Junior Moors from Wests Tigers is smart if one digs deep into last term’s statistics. Of all the National Rugby League’s front-row forwards, Moors was ranked fourth for effective tackles with a 94.1 per cent success rate. And Moors would not have astronomical wage demands, either.

Storm To Win and Cover Spread

Melbourne will be up for the 2013 World Club Challenge and, if the Storm plays to even just 90% of its potential, the National Rugby League side will take a lot of holding.

Forget that the Super League teams have won more World Club Challenge games than their National Rugby League opponents in recent years. Some of the visiting sides have not taken the match all that seriously and suffered the consequences on the scoreboard. Melbourne will not have a poor attitude and it could be the most motivated away team in ages.

If win odds of 4-7 do not float your boat, back Melbourne to cover the handicap – there are 2.5-point and 3.5-point lines out there at close to even money – and/or the Storm to win by 1-12 points at odds of around 13-8. Five of the last six World Club Challenge games have been won by that margin.

Barney To Turn Mighty Mike Into Rubble

Finding false favourites is the key to successful betting and there is one in the third week of the Premier League Darts when two of the sport’s biggest names go head to head at the Bournemouth International Centre.

van Barneveld and van Gerwen

The all-Netherlands match between Raymond van Barneveld and Michael van Gerwen tops the bill on England’s south coast, with the game see the Dutch master going up against his compatriot apprentice over the best of 12 legs. Neither van Barneveld nor van Gerwen has lost in this year’s Premier League Darts, with van Barneveld on two wins and van Gerwen on two draws ahead of their 21 February 2013 blockbuster.

Bookmakers have installed van Gerwen, the 23-year-old from Boxtel who burst on to the world darts scene at the tender age of 17, as the match favourite at odds of around 13-10, with van Barneveld and the draw trading at odds of around 6-4 and 7-2 respectively. It is going to be a great game.

Van Gerwen will have his supporters at his favourite odds but the value lies in backing van Barneveld for any number of reasons, including recent form and head-to-head data.

Let us start with the recent form. Both van Barneveld and van Gerwen ran into the unstoppable juggernaut that is Phil Taylor in the 2013 World Darts Championship, with the old stager losing 4-6 in the semi-finals and the young upstart going down 4-7 in the final. What is interesting is that van Barneveld ended the tournament with the best average (99.29 per three darts) ahead of van Gerwen (98.83), Kim Huybrechts (98.79), Terry Jenkins (97.63) and Taylor (97.46).

And in this year’s Premier League Darts competition, van Barneveld has averaged 100.19 and 102.02 in his two wins, whereas van Gerwen’s averages in his two draws have been 97.93 and 98.28. Admittedly, there is little to choose between the Dutchmen on all of those statistics but van Barneveld has whatever numerical edge does exist.

The head-to-head data between van Barneveld and van Gerwen is more compelling. It appears that the Dutchmen have met a dozen times in professional events, with van Barneveld well out in front on nine victories to van Gerwen’s three. Now one may expect van Barneveld to lead van Gerwen because of their relative levels of experience. But what is amazing is the dominance of van Barneveld in his most recent matches versus his countryman with the darts world at his feet.

Van Barneveld has won each of his last eight games against van Gerwen, with three of those matches taking place in the last two years. One has to go back to January 2007 for the last time that van Barneveld lost to van Gerwen and it is not outrageous to suggest that the 45-year-old from The Hague has a psychological edge over his youthful rival.

One has to remember that van Gerwen grew up watching van Barneveld winning world championships and that he may have an inferiority complex when it comes to playing the man who has done more than anyone to grow the sport of darts in the Netherlands. Everyone has their heroes and van Barneveld was and probably still is one of van Gerwen’s greatest idols.

The last three games between van Barneveld and van Gerwen have been relatively close – 8-5, 10-9 and 16-14 – so there may be more value to be sucked out of their Premier League Darts encounter than supporting the veteran at 6-4. Several bookmakers are quoting prices about the score, with van Barneveld 7-5 at odds of around 13-2, van Barneveld 7-4 at odds of around 10-1 and van Barneveld 7-3 at odds of around 10-1 also. Backing van Barneveld to win either 7-5 or 7-4 works out at just under 7-2, while throwing in 7-3 as well reduces the potential odds to just under 11-5. The smartest score play looks like van Barneveld by two or three legs.

With more than 50 betting markets on most Premier League Darts matches, punters who love their arrows are spoilt for choice. Continuing with the van Barneveld love fest, there are lines about his average versus van Gerwen, with the common over/under point being 98.5. Playing van Gerwen appears to bring out the best in van Barneveld so the sensible play is a bet on him averaging more than 98.5, something that he has done in two of his last three wins over his compatriot. The line is just a little too low.

The other headline game in the third week of 2013 Premier League Darts action is Taylor’s match against Australia’s Simon Whitlock. The Wizard of Oz is trading at odds of around 5-1 to inflict a rare defeat on the Power. Taylor has won 31 of his 36 professional games versus Whitlock.

History Favours United Over Real

Ronaldo Goal vs Man Utd

Incredible jump and hang-time; Ronaldo waits in the air to calmly head the ball into his former club’s net.

Opinion is divided as to whether Real Madrid or Manchester United is the favourite to qualify for the quarter-finals of this season’s UEFA Champions League following the 1-1 draw between the European heavyweights in Spain last week.

Many pundits, including BBC’s Robbie Savage and ESPN’s Robbie Earle, believe that Manchester United is in the driving seat after the first leg in which Danny Welbeck headed the Red Devils in front and Cristiano Ronaldo equalised for Real Madrid with an incredible header, seemingly hovering above Patrice Evra for an age.

Bookmakers, however, are sticking solid with Real Madrid, albeit by the finest of margins in some instances. The Meringues are odds on across the board to make the last eight of European club football’s top tournament, with Manchester United trading at odds of around 11-10.

One group that is no doubt as to which team is on top going into next month’s second leg at Old Trafford is Infostrada, whose statistical nerds have spent too much time with their heads in the history books of European club competitions.

If history is any guide – and the data that Infostrada has analysed includes more than 50 years of ties in the various European tournaments so it should be meaningful – Manchester United ought to be very short odds to eliminate Real Madrid.

Historically, 75.8 per cent of sides that have drawn the first leg of a European club knockout tie away from home by a 1-1 scoreline have ended up triumphant. So, according to the history books that Infostrada have dusted off and gone through with a calculator, Manchester United should be trading at odds of around 1-3 to oust Real Madrid.

Interestingly, Manchester United versus Real Madrid is the only one of the four UEFA Champions League last-16 ties that got under way last week in which the current qualification odds of bookmakers differ much from the historical data.

Juventus beat Celtic 3-0 in Glasgow and the Italian Serie A table topper is trading at odds of around 1-500 to eliminate its Scottish opponent. According to the historical data, Juventus is a 99.4% chance to make the next round.

David Beckham’s latest employer, Paris Saint-Germain, upset Valencia 2-1 in Spain, a result that saw bookmakers slash their odds about the French Ligue Un frontrunner qualifying for this term’s UEFA Champions League quarter-finals. PSG is trading at odds of around 1-8 to knock out its Spanish adversary and the historical data suggests that it is a 96.0% chance of reaching the competition’s last eight.

And Borussia Dortmund, the German Bundesliga giant that forced a 2-2 away draw versus Shakhtar Donetsk, is trading at odds of around 2-9 to progress. The historical data suggests that Dortmund is an 82.2% chance to go through.

The historical data suggests that Manchester United is a value bet at 11-10 to knock out Real Madrid. But are there other interesting wagers pertaining to the tie of the UEFA Champions League round that are worth striking? The answer is yes because of how the second leg is likely to pan out.

Real Madrid has to score at least one goal at Old Trafford if it wants to keep alive its UEFA Champions League dream so Meringues boss Jose Mourinho will be hoping that Manchester United play the role expected of a home side, attack from the opening whistle and commit numbers ahead of the ball.

So What Does This Mean For The Utd vs. Madrid Game

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson is not the sharpest tactician in the world game – his successes have been the product of his brilliant man-management skills – but even Fergie knows that the Red Devils should play conservative football if they want to eliminate Real Madrid. The Scot got Manchester United’s tactics absolutely spot on in the first leg, instructing Phil Jones to harass Ronaldo and getting good value from Wayne Rooney and Welbeck in wide midfield positions. One would be shocked if the Red Devils deviate too far from its Madrid plan that worked pretty well.

Therefore, it is worth checking out the odds available about a low-scoring first half at Old Trafford. Manchester United would be happy if the half-time score was 0-0 because it would put the pressure on Real Madrid to come out and play like a de facto home team after the break. The bottom line is that both the Red Devils and the Meringues are at their best when they are able to counter attack. So a goalless first half could lead to a goal-packed second half.

One can get odds of around 27-10 that neither Manchester United nor Real Madrid scores in the first 45 minutes at Old Trafford and odds of around 11-10 that the second half at the self-styled Theatre of Dreams features more goals than the first one. Both bets appeal given the state of the tie.

Nordic World Ski Championships

Nordic World Ski Championships

The 2013 Nordic World Ski Championships, a biennial winter sports event that brings the Nordic region and other parts of Europe to a standstill, will take place in the Italian region of Val di Fiemme from 20 February to 3 March.

Val di Fiemme fended off competition from Falun in Sweden, Lahti in Finland, Oberstdorf in Germany and Zakopane in Poland to get the nod from the International Ski Federation to host the 2013 Nordic World Ski Championships. Val di Fiemme hosted the 1991 and 2003 editions of the event.

As one would expect given their name, the Nordic World Ski Championships have been dominated by Norway, Finland and Sweden. The Norwegians top the all-time Nordic World Ski Championships medal table with 107 gold, 89 silver and 89 bronze. The Finns are second on 62 gold, 69 silver and 62 bronze, while the Swedes are third on 41 gold, 33 silver and 40 bronze. All up, Norway, Finland and Sweden have won 56.2% of the Nordic World Ski Championships gold medals and 52.8% of the Nordic World Ski Championships medals of any colour.

A record-breaking 23 events are on the 2013 Nordic World Ski Championships program, so it is time to pick out what look like the best bets across the dozen days of competition.

Kowalczyk In Pole Position

Justyna Kowalczyk is going to take a lot of beating in the women’s individual cross country races. The 30-year-old Pole leads this season’s overall World Cup standings by a wide margin, topping the distance ladder and occupying second position in the sprint standings. Not only that but the two-time world champion has an impressive Val di Fiemme record, winning the 10-kilometre classic mass start competitions there in each of the last three years.

Interestingly, most bookmakers trading early 2013 Nordic World Ski Championships markets are favouring Norway’s Therese Johaug over Kowalczyk so the Pole represents excellent value. Johaug is ranked second this term. (Prices are from Bet365.com).

Petter Northug is a warm favourite for many of the 2013 Nordic World Ski Championships men’s individual cross country contests but there appears to be some value in backing this season’s World Cup leader, Dario Cologna, to upset the Norwegian. The Swiss heads both the distance and overall World Cup competitions and he has raced well in Val di Fiemme recently, placing third in the 20-kilometre mass start race in 2012 and second 12 months earlier than that.

Franco-American Is Nordic Combined Man To Beat

Eric Frenzel and Jason Lamy Chappuis won the 2011 Nordic World Ski Championships men’s individual Nordic combined gold medals and the German and the Frenchman are first and second respectively in this term’s World Cup competition.

Lamy Chappuis has the superior Val di Fiemme form – the United States of America-born 26-year-old won an event at the Italian venue last year – so he is the man to beat.

Of the longer priced competitors, Mikko Kokslien could be worth a nibble at big odds. The Norwegian is seventh in this season’s World Cup rankings but he was on the podium in both of the World Cup contests staged at Val di Fiemme in 2012.

With Germans filling four of the top 12 positions in this term’s World Cup standings, Germany is the obvious pick to take out the men’s team competitions. In addition to Frenzel (first), Tino Edelmann (sixth), Bjoern Kircheisen (eighth) and Johannes Rydzek (12th) are flying high this season.

Schlierenzauer And Takanashi Worthy Favourites

It is difficult to look past Gregor Schlierenzauer for the probable winner of the 2013 Nordic World Ski Championships men’s ski jumping gold medals. The Austrian has won five titles since making his debut at the 2007 edition in Sapporo and he leads this term’s World Cup competition as a result of his Four Hills Tournament performances. Schlierenzauer placed first in Bischofshofen and Innsbruck and second in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Oberstdorf to overhaul Anders Jacobsen and run out a convincing champion. A man for the big occasion, Schlierenzauer had won the 2011-2012 Four Hills Tournament in equally impressive fashion.

Women’s ski jumping is a relatively recent addition to the Nordic World Ski Championships schedule, debuting in 2009 when Lindsey Van won the women’s individual normal hill title. Daniela Iraschko is the defending champion but it would be a surprise if anyone beat Sara Takanashi, Japan’s teenage ski jumping phenomenon. The 16-year-old has won this season’s World Cup title – she is so far in front that he cannot be caught – and she knows how to handle the pressure associated with a major event, striking gold at the Innsbruck 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games.

Bullish About Turkish Bid For Olympics

International Olympic Committee

The International Olympic Committee will spend four days in each of Instanbul, Madrid and Tokyo before deciding where the 2020 Games will be held.

With the International Olympic Committee voting to drop the sport of wrestling from the 2020 Olympic Games, now is time to turn the spotlight on the race to host that event.

What began as a five-city contest has been reduced to one between three cities, with Baku in Azerbaijan and Doha in Qatar failing to make the first cut, leaving Istanbul in Turkey, Tokyo in Japan and Madrid in Spain to compete for votes ahead of the 125th International Olympic Committee Session that will take place in early September 2013.

Believe it or not, there are two websites devoted to news pertaining to the Olympic movement and both of them – Around The Rings and GamesBids – boast indices that rate the worth of bids for summer and winter editions of the Games.

Based in Atlanta, the United States of America city that hosted the 1996 Olympic Games, Around The Rings has been reporting on the International Olympic Committee for more than 20 years, with its 2020 Power Index rating the bids of Istanbul, Tokyo and Madrid across 11 categories, nine of which are worth a maximum of 10 points and two – ambience and last Games hosted – are worth a maximum of five points.

According to Around The Rings analysts, Tokyo is the 2020 Olympic Games frontrunner, scoring 77 points of a possible 100 in January 2013’s edition of the Power Index. Istanbul and Madrid both scored 73 points, although one should note that it was the Turkish bid that made the biggest gain.

Around The Rings assesses bids almost exclusively on their technical merits, with its 11 categories being ambience, accommodation, bid operation, finance, last Games, legacy, marketing, public support, security, transportation and venue plans. Naturally, bad technical bids do not win Olympic Games hosting rights but there is more to the process than simply having the best technical bid.

GamesBids, the brainchild of Canadian journalist Robert Livingstone, has been publishing Olympics news since 1998 and prides itself on the accuracy of its BidIndex, which is not intended to rate bids solely on their technical quality but on how they will perform based on International Olympic Committee voting patterns. According to GamesBids, history has shown that the best technical bids often do not win but other factors such as geopolitics usually have a big impact.

According to the latest BidIndex published on the GamesBids website, Istanbul leads the 2020 Olympic Games race on a score of 60.20 from Tokyo (59.92) and Madrid (55.10). Now, one should note that the latest BidIndex is nine months old but, if anything, the case for the Turkish bid has improved since May 2012 following the announcement of UEFA that the Euro 2020 football tournament will be staged in 13 cities across the Europe rather than in one nation such as Turkey.

The BidIndex picked the winners of the races to host the 2016 Olympic Games (Rio de Janeiro in Brazil) and 2018 Olympic Games (Pyeongchang in South Korea) so it has excellent recent form in the book. All that is missing is a recent update, something that cannot be all that far away.

But one should not wait for GamesBid to crunch the numbers for the second time. There is a clear value case for backing Istanbul at odds of around 11-5. Madrid is too short at odds of around 11-2 – the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games is a major negative against the Spanish bid, as is the poor state of Spain’s economy – and Tokyo is too short at odds on when Turkey’s largest city offers the chance to bring the world’s biggest sports event to a secular Muslim country for the first time, something that is central to Istanbul’s pitch.

Next month, the International Olympic Committee Evaluation Commission will visit Tokyo, Madrid and Istanbul in that order, spending four days in each of the cities. July will see the candidates brief International Olympic Committee members in Lausanne, with the vote occurring in the Argentine city of Buenos Aires on 7 September.

Crusaders False Favourites, Brumbies To Capitalise

Super Rugby Final - Chiefs v Sharks

Last years winners The Chiefs will be hard pushed this year. They can expect stiff competition in the New Zealand Conference.

Super Rugby more than lives up to name, a 15-team rugby union competition that enjoys a well earned reputation for producing the most exciting product of the 15-man sport.

Established in 1996 as Super 12 with a dozen sides, it became Super 14 in 2006 and Super 15 in 2011. Marketing executives have dropping the numeral in recent years so Super Rugby it is, with 15 teams – five from Australia, five from New Zealand and five from South Africa, including the Kings that have replaced the Lions in the Super Rugby fold.

The Kings will play out of the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, with their catchment area comprising the Eastern Cape and parts of the Western Cape. Bookmakers are tipping that the Kings will have a dismal debut Super Rugby season, with the Matt Sexton-coach newcomers short odds to finish at the foot of the ladder. The Rebels ran last in their debut Super Rugby campaign in 2011 and the Force, one of the two Super Rugby virgins in 2006, collected the dreaded wooden spoon in their first crack at the title.

The kings of Super Rugby have generally been sides from New Zealand, with Kiwi teams taking out 11 of the 17 finals, including the first five and the last one. The Crusaders have not tasted Super Rugby success since 2008 but they boast seven gold medals and three silver medals, a tally that puts them head and shoulders above their rivals.

The Crusaders are one of six sides that have won a Super Rugby tournament, with the other triumphant teams being the Blues (three titles), the Bulls (three titles), the Brumbies (two titles), the Chiefs (one title) and the Reds (one title). One has to feel sorry for the Sharks, Super Rugby finalists four times but yet to experience the ultimate high. The Sharks lost 6-37 to the Chiefs last year. Source: Wikipedia

Conference-based Regular Season

Because of the format of the Super Rugby competition – it has gone from being a round-robin tournament in which every sides plays either a home or an away match versus every other team before the top four enter the play-offs to a conference-based competition similar to that of, say, the National Football League in the United States of America – the most sensible way to analyse the event is to look at the three conferences and how they may end up playing out. You can see the schedule here.

Brumbies to Capitalise in Australia

BrumbiesThe Australian Conference is the first alphabetically and, as luck would have it, the first place that value-conscious 2013 Super Rugby punters should go. That is because the Australian Conference features two sides that are out of their depth but not priced accordingly by bookmakers and another team that is trading well under its true odds.

Punters should be able to write their own tickets about either the Force or the Rebels qualifying for the 2013 Super Rugby play-offs as the Australian Conference winners but the lightweights are listed at odds of around 20-1 and 12-1 respectively, while the Waratahs are offered at odds of around 3-1 despite winning only one-quarter of their 16 games last year. The Sydney-based Waratahs are Australia’s glamour side, which explains why they trade at short prices every season, often for no logical rugby union reason.

The Brumbies and the Reds are the Australian Conference teams on which to concentrate and, once one does some analysis of their draws and squads, it becomes apparent which of the 2-1 shots warrants a bet. The Brumbies have been given a very good draw and, in Jake White, they have one of the smartest coaches in the sport. The Reds have a much toucher schedule and they will have to play at least half of their matches without Will Genia, their Wallabies halfback who sustained a very serious injury in 2012.

Kiwi Section Too Close To Call

The New Zealand Conference is the most difficult to solve, with four of the five sides holding realistic domestic and international title claims. Just 14 points separated the first-placed Chiefs from the fourth-placed Highlanders in the 2012 Super Rugby tournament, with the Crusaders and the Hurricanes sandwiched between them and the Blues nowhere.

The Chiefs are going to be hard pushed to improve on last season’s championship triumph, with multi-sport star Sonny Bill Williams returning to rugby league and leaving a gap in their midfield. And the Crusaders will be without arguably the world’s most influential rugby union player, All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, for most if not all of the 2013 Super Rugby tournament as the 2011 Rugby World Cup-winning skipper enjoys a well earned sabbatical. If one had to have a bet on the New Zealand Conference it would be the Highlanders at odds of around 11-2 but this is a section to leave alone.

Sharks Top of the South African Food Chain

The South African Conference is similar to the Australian Conference insomuch that it contains a couple of no-hopers – the Cheetahs and the Kings – making it a three-team race between the Bulls, the Sharks and the Stormers. The Sharks represent the value play at odds of around 2-1 because they have a draw every bit as benevolent as that of the Brumbies, with the Durban-based side facing their biggest rivals at home and their easiest opponents on the road. However, the 2-1 about the Sharks is not quite as appealing as the 2-1 about the Brumbies if one had to place only one wager.

Crusaders False Favourites Without McCaw

As far as betting on the 2013 Super Rugby title goes, there is value in supporting the Sharks at odds of around 8-1 as bookmakers have fallen into the trap of quoting the Crusaders as the favourites at around the 9-2 mark.

The Crusaders are the side whose name pops into the head of Super Rugby punters ahead of any edition of the tournament but they will miss McCaw badly – possibly for the entire season – and the fact remains that they have not won the competition in any of the last four years. Yes, they have gone close but close is not good enough for punters. One would have to be a fool to write off the Christchurch-based team but they are worth taking on given the early market.

Have Fun With The Grammy Awards

The 55th Grammy Awards will take place in Los Angeles on Sunday 10 February 2013 and, while bookmakers are offering up no value in the Album of the Year race, there are good opportunities for punters in the other major categories. The best opportunity was seeing Rihanna’s nipple ring though.

Rihanna Grammys

Seriously though, bookmakers are correct to have Mumford & Son’s sophomore effort, Babel, as the warm favourite to win Album of the Year. The folk band’s long player is trading at odds of around 1-3 to make it back-to-back wins for the United Kingdom in this race after Adele’s victory last year.

Of the 15 editors and experts polled on GoldDerby, the top awards analysis website in the world, 10 of them are tipping Babel to win Album of the Year, with three going for El Camino by The Black Keys and two for Some Nights by Fun.

Babel’s odds are probably a little bit on the short side but it is difficult to make a case for backing either El Camino or Some Nights at the available odds. Album of the Year is the most prestigious of the Grammy Awards category but that does not mean that punters have to place a bet on it.

Besides, there is plenty of value for Grammy Awards punters to vacuum up in the Song of the Year, Best New Artist and Record of the Year races because people who spend their lives assessing these events disagree with the odds.

Let us start with the best value option of the three, which is We Are Young at odds of around 6-5 in the Song of the Year category. Number one in the United States of America for six consecutive weeks across the months of March 2012 and April 2012, Fun’s biggest hit to date is the pick of a dozen of GoldDerby’s 15 analysts, with the other three tipping Carly Rae Jepsen’s catchy Call Me Maybe. Twelve out of 15 equates to an 80 per cent probability, whereas odds of 6-5 represent only a 45.45% chance. If the GoldDerby boys and girls are correct, We Are Young should be around 1-4.

Not very far behind We Are Young in the appetising stakes is the offer of odds of around 7-4 that Fun wins the Best New Artist category. Some bookmakers are favouring Hunter Hayes even though the young country star has picked up just three 2013 Grammy Awards nominations and none of GoldDerby’s 15 sages thinks that he will receive the prize. Ten of them think that Fun will triumph, with the other five in the Frank Ocean camp. One could back both Fun and Ocean at odds of around 7-4 and 2-1 respectively for a payout of roughly 4-9 but it makes more appeal to back Fun on its own.

Record of the Year seems to be the most competitive of the major 2013 Grammy Awards races but one could argue that bookmakers do not have sufficient percentage in the two betting market leaders, Fun’s We Are Young and Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know. Both tracks are trading at odds of around 7-4 in spite of attracting 14 of the 15 thumbs up from GoldDerby’s 15 analysts. Lonely Boy by The Black Keys is getting the nod from the one dissenter. We Are Young is outpolling Somebody That I Used To Know by eight votes to six currently so punters should be interested in getting their hands on any quote that is odds against.

One may have to shop around to find a wide range of 2013 Grammy Awards betting markets because, unfortunately, a lot of bookmakers have taken the precaution of suspending their lines in the lead up to the glamour event in Los Angeles.

However, as one can see from the 2013 Grammy Awards analysis posted above, it is worth one’s while exploring the websites of online bookmakers because this is one event on which they tend to make mistakes. The Grammy Awards are a lot harder to assess than, say, the Academy Awards because there are few, if any, significant precursors for the music prizes. Finally, play this song and let the cash roll in 🙂

Profit From Rekindled Bromance

Well, David Beckham is a Paris Saint-Germain player and a lot of punters are kicking themselves for not making money out of what, in hindsight, was an obvious move from Major League Soccer to the French Ligue Un for the Englishman.

Beckham received mind-blowing offers from teams all around the world, including sides in Australia, England and the oil-rich Middle East, and one gets the feeling that Queens Park Rangers manager Harry Redknapp would have swam across the Atlantic Ocean to sign the former England captain from Los Angeles Galaxy. But once Paris Saint-Germain made its interest known, Beckham was likely to be France bound.

Paris Saint-Germain ticks a lot of boxes for Beckham. It is top of French Ligue Un after 23 rounds, three points clear of its closest challenger, so a championship looks on the cards. Certainly bookmakers agree with PSG as short as 1-7 to win what would be only its third league championship.

The lure of UEFA Champions League football – something that Redknapp could not offer with Queens Park Rangers – played a part in getting Beckham to Paris Saint-Germain as well, as did the French city being the world’s fashion capital. That would not have gone unnoticed by his wife, Victoria. And being just three hours from London by train is a bonus.

But the major reason why Beckham picked Paris Saint-Germain is that Carlo Ancelotti is the French Ligue Un table-topping team’s manager. Beckham has many friends in football but few people have formed a tighter bond with him than Ancelotti.

Good times, David Bechman was first signed by Carlo Ancelotti at AC Milan.

Good times, David Bechman was first signed by Carlo Ancelotti at AC Milan.

The 53-year-old Italian was the coach of Milan when Beckham, acting upon England manager Fabio Capello’s orders to stay fit if he wanted to play in his country’s FIFA World Cup qualifying matches in 2009, joined the Italian Serie A powerhouse on a short-term loan from Los Angeles Galaxy.

Ancelotti and Beckham hit it off immediately, enjoying each other’s company away from the pitch. Famously, Ancelotti drove Beckham more than 200 kilometres just so that they could have dinner at one of the Italian’s favourite restaurants. It was a spur of the moment thing but absolutely typical of their close friendship.

Beckham was 33 years old when he joined Milan for the first of his two loan spells with the Rossoneri but Ancelotti did not have any qualms about putting the veteran Englishman in his side’s starting line-up. Beckham joined Milan during the winter break of the 2008-2009 Italian Serie A season and was eligible to play in the last 21 rounds of the championship. Ancelotti named Beckham as a starter in 18 of those games.

Ancelotti had fled Milan by the time that Beckham returned to the San Siro at the midway point of the 2009-2010 Italian Serie A competition, with Leonardo filling the void created by Ancelotti’s move to English Premier League giant Chelsea. Beckham made seven league starts for the Rossoneri under Leonardo and came off the bench on four occasions.

News of Beckham’s charity-focused five-month deal with Paris Saint-Germain made worldwide headlines and bookmakers did not stand on ceremony waiting for an invitation to frame exotic betting markets. Consequently, punters are able to bet on, among other things, the number of times that the Englishman scores for PSG in French Ligue Un this season. Already a fans favourite, Beckham’s press conference below revels his generous charity donation.

However, the Beckham exotic betting markets that represent the best opportunities for punters are the ones regarding his number of French Ligue Un and UEFA Champions League starts this term. Bwin and BetVictor are the bookmakers whose odds should grab the attention of value hunters.

Bwin is offering odds of just under evens that Beckham starts more than six French Ligue Un matches for Paris Saint-Germain this season. The front-of-shirt sponsor of Real Madrid has probably read too much into Beckham’s mediocre Milan statistics under Leonardo and not placed sufficient emphasis on his superb numbers under Ancelotti. If Beckham stays fit and healthy – and no-one looks after oneself better than the 37-year-old superstar – then one should expect Ancelotti to pick him more often than not. There are 15 rounds of the French Ligue Un championship to go so Beckham has plenty of time to get to seven starts.

If Bwin has made a small odds-compiling error then BetVictor has made a big one in offering odds of around 4-1 that Beckham starts a UEFA Champions League game for Paris Saint-Germain this term. PSG’s tie against Valencia may occur too soon for Beckham to feature from the start but every bookmaker has the French side as the favourite to qualify for the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals, with BetVictor quoting it at odds of around 4-7. Surely if Paris Saint-Germain makes the last eight, there is an excellent chance that Beckham will start one of the two legs. Anything over 2-1 seems like value about this particular proposition so BetVictor is going way out on a limb with around 4-1.

The bromance between Beckham and Ancelotti is back on and there are opportunities for punters to profit from it.

Intense Guide to Premier League Darts 2013

Premier League Darts Girls

Bullseye! Premier League Darts is back with a few chnages.

Premier League Darts has a new format for the 2013 season, with PDC World Championship runner-up Michael van Gerwen just one of three players making his tournament debut following its expansion from eight to 10 participants.

Wes Newton, Robert Thornton and van Gerwen are the new Premier League Darts faces, joining old hands Gary Anderson, Andy Hamilton, Adrian Lewis, Phil Taylor, Raymond van Barneveld, James Wade and Simon Whitlock for the ninth edition of a weekly competition that is wildly popular throughout Ireland and the United Kingdom.

The 2013 Premier League Darts format will see the 10 players face each other over nine round-robin rounds, after which the two lowest ranked men will be relegated. Then the top eight players will compete against each other in the final five rounds for the four play-off places, with the title being handed out at The 02 in London on Thursday 16 May.

Taylor is the undisputed king of Premier League Darts. The Power has won six of the eight Premier League Darts titles and strung together a 44-match unbeaten run before Wade defeated him 8-6 in the first match of the 2008 season.

Wade and Gary Anderson are the only non-Taylor champions of Premier League Darts, with the Machine beating Mervyn King 13-8 in the 2009 decider and the Flying Scotsman defeating Lewis 10-4 in the 2011 final. Basically, if the Power reaches the final, he takes out the top prize.

Taylor Favourite As Usual

Premier League Darts Phil TaylorIreland- and United Kingdom-facing bookmakers have gone to town on 2013 Premier League Darts, capitalising on the sport’s surge in popularity in recent years. Major Darts competitions attract capacity crowds and one would struggle to find spectators who have a better time at a live event.

As Taylor has been for every Professional Darts Corporation- organised tournament in which he has competed, he is the championship favourite before a dart is thrown. Bookmakers are offering odds of around 13-8 that the Power tops the 2013 Premier League Darts ladder going into the play-offs and odds of around 9-4 that he wins the title decider.

The arrival on the scene of van Gerwen has provided Taylor with the motivation to keep practising for several hours a day even though he is 52 years old and, unless one has a very good reason, he is the default betting option.

Power To Top League Ladder

It is not a question of whether to back Taylor; it is a matter of how is the best way to go about it. There is a feeling among some darts fans that the Power is vulnerable in matches played over short distances. Proponents of this theory say that most of Taylor’s major championship losses have taken place in the early rounds and that is true. But what they ignore are the Power’s numbers in the Premier League Darts round-robin games that are short and sweet.

Taylor has played 106 Premier League Darts round-robin matches for 86 victories, 14 draws, six defeats and a positive leg difference of 410. Six losses in eight competitive seasons is not the record of a man with a weakness in best-of-14-leg games. It is a myth that the Power is vulnerable in short matches. A complete myth.

Therefore, the most appropriate form of 2013 Premier League Darts betting action for one to take appears like a bet on Taylor qualifying for the play-offs as the top seed. Odds of around 13-8 about the Power doing something that he has done eight times out of eight seems generous in the circumstances as he bid to put van Gerwen and others in their place.

Anderson To Hit Most 180s

Gary Anderson Premier League DartsTaylor is the greatest player in the history of darts but the Power is not the most prolific hitter of 180s so one should not view one bookmaker’s offer of 14-1 odds that he scores the most maximums in the 2013 Premier League Darts as a rick. It represents okay value but nothing more than that. Taylor is often seen as better because of his high profile wins. See the video below!

Bookmakers have plumped for van Gerwen as the 2013 Premier League Darts tournament 180s favourite at odds of around 7-4 and that is fair enough. However, there may be a better value bet hidden elsewhere in this exotic market.

Anderson, trading as short as 3-1 odds but available in one place at 11-2, is the Premier League Darts competitor of interest. The Flying Scotsman holds the tournament record for maximums in a match – 11 versus Australia’s Simon Whitlock in 2011 – and he hit more 180s per leg/set than anyone else in the recent 2013 World Darts Championship.

Premier League Darts officials have only granted Anderson one of the places in the 10-man field because he won the competition two years ago, otherwise he would be watching the games unfold on television. The Flying Scotsman is ranked outside the world top 10 and bookmakers, quite rightly, do not consider him a serious title contender.

But Anderson’s smooth throwing action is the envy of many darts players and he is famous for his heavy scoring. One would rather back the Flying Scotsman at 11-2 than, say, Taylor at 14-1 or van Gerwen at 7-4 in this market.

Nine-dart Finish Statistics

Many Premier League Darts punters will want to have a bet on the 2013 tournament featuring at least one nine-dart finish and bookmakers are pretty much offering the same odds about the yes and no options. For the record, there have been six perfect legs in the previous eight Premier League Darts competitions – van Barneveld in 2006, van Barneveld on 2010, Taylor in 2010 (twice in the same match), Taylor in 2012 and Whitlock in 2012 – while there were two nine-darters in the 2013 World Darts Championship at the Alexandra Palace.

Watching this video from 2010 of Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor is a sure-fire way to get pumped about Darts.