2015 World Cup – Game 22 – England v Sri Lanka

Wellington. Eight days ago. Annihilation.

Welcome back England, for an important game in the qualification process. Win, and we may get South Africa or India, lose and we may get South Africa or India. There’s a lot riding on this one. Actually, that’s being facetious. The big game in this group may not be this one, although winning it would help, but the one against Bangladesh. I’m looking past Afghanistan which may not be wise, but the Sri Lankans have alread buried Bangla and struggled past Afgha, so they have their two wins out of the way.

This thread is for comments as the game goes on. Also, follow my other alter ego, you know what it is, on Twitter for comments through the evening.

The past form guide isn’t good. We lost in 2011, in the quarters, in a stuffing. We lost in 2007, in the Super 8s, when Ravi and Paul Nixon came so close to snatching a win, which I was trying to listen to while at the same time listen to my future wife in the car back from Heathrow Airport, having not seen her for around 2 months! She still doesn’t understand this obsession with cricket. In 2003 we didn’t meet, whereas we did in 1999 when we won a low-key damp opening day game (I had a George Sharp anecdote re no play at The Oval, then found out it was another time – probably 2004… only five years out). Then there was Faisalabad in 1996, memorable for the brainstorm of picking Phil de Freitas and getting him to bowl spin! Brilliant times. Oh those Illingworth years….

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All You Can Cook – Selfey Service

Selvey Downton

Once again, let me set the scene by referring back to Alan Tyers most famous tweet around these here parts…

As we all know, the man we think this refers to most appropriately, even if Mr Tyers might not, is Mike “Selfey” Selvey. His attitude to the great unwashed over the past year has been reprehensible, and if he doesn’t feel loved back, well that’s his fault. He has written articles praising Flower and Gooch despite the disastrous Ashes series, and most memorably for me, telling us all how great Paul Downton would be as MD of the ECB. We all know how that has gone. I’ve not seen one word of contrition on his part for that load of old hogwash.

So if there’s benefit of the doubt going around on a comment or two, the inclination in this parish is not to give to Selfey, because he gives none to any critic. Or at least it appears this way. So when he writes something like this, we’ll grab probably the most obvious end of the stick:

There is a familiarity to it all. Since the back end of November, England have played 15 ODIs and the first seven of those were against Sri Lanka in that country. The result of that series – Sri Lanka winning it by five matches to two – is largely irrelevant when it comes to this match given the entirely different conditions it will be played in.

It is true to say that had Alastair Cook opted to take a break by missing it rather than using it as a team bonding session, he would almost certainly still be leading the squad here now. Such is fate.

Let me do a bullet point breakdown of all this. It needs a decent examination:

  • The tone – throughout this is laced with “I know the inside track and you don’t”. That is, we can’t possibly get to the full story because we are mug punters and they are journalists. The art of journalism is to act as our representatives in that room, not as some sort of privileged conveyor of the establishment’s screed. So results don’t matter, the English wanted a bonding session and Cook was/is possibly a case for special treatment. How else could we think? Because we don’t know….
Invaluable. To be protected at all times.
Invaluable. To be protected at all times.
  • History – Re-writing it is cool. If Cook, as Selvey supposes, chose to miss the Sri Lanka ODI tour, does anyone here seriously think he/the toxic brand would have got away with it? Do you actually think it was an option on the table? Even the toxic brand couldn’t pull that one on us. So, frankly, even raising this is bunkum. But it implies he knows something we don’t. I’m sure he does, but raising it in late February when selection for the ODI tour to Sri Lanka was in September, was it not?
  • Results are irrelevant – Clearly they weren’t. If Cook had struggled, but we’d won that series, then he’d still be in place. The fury would still be there, but losing the series 5-2 combined with the lack of form Cook showed meant he was dead. Results weren’t irrelevant.
  • The Sri Lanka tour as team bonding session – International cricket as a practice match, as something not to get up for, as something that it doesn’t matter how you play. To use the over-rated, and overused, quote by Steve Archibald, team spirit is “an illusion glimpsed in the aftermath of victory” and bonding in defeat rarely ends well. I don’t know, you don’t have to look too far back to see how that defeat thing helps team mates get on. The fact is that while some games are defintitely more important than others, and we are not ignorant of that fact, if these games were “largely irrelevant” then more shame on the England team for taking that approach. They were equally irrelevant to Sri Lanka, after all, because surely England don’t have the monopoly on not giving a shit, and they still roused themselves to stuff us. Fans cannot tolerate being told international sport doesn’t matter. Do you think an Aussie takes the field thinking that? They are the standard we are aiming for. New Zealand certainly didn’t think their preparation cricket was largely irrelevant. Maybe, by bonding session, the press thought they might get another Ian Bell as crap leader leak….
  • Oh, I’m sorry. I’ve ranted about a largely irrelevant when it comes to this game. Well, yes, it is. But you can’t tell me that the Sri Lanka series is treated as an irrelevance by the media. They tell you that by their team bonding nonsense. So no, I’m not giving them that out. After all, prior to that series, anyone remember the journalists weather forecasting abilities when citing how stupid this tour was?
  • The cult of Cook – opinion is divided as to whether Selfey, who has claimed for a while that Cook should pack in ODI cricket, meant with his line that if Cook had missed the tour it would be good or bad that he’d be here. Undertones of the good servant reek through this piece, and I’m inclined to believe that Selfey believes Cook perished through his own good intentions rather than any masterplan. Well, there was no masterplan. Cook was dropped because his presence was not tenable. He wasn’t making runs. He wasn’t scoring fluently. He looked miles off the pace. He was losing ODIs as captain. He was the story. If he’d missed this series and gone straight to the Tri-Series and cocked up there, the fury would have dwarfed the level it reached in Sri Lanka – and that was hot enough. The story of the whole tour would have been Cook, even if he hadn’t been there.

The comments section on the below thread have remarked on Fred’s comment. In case it gets modded, I have copied it here.

That’s it, I’m done. I’ve officially passed the point where I think the shallow and xenophobic cricket press in Australia is worse than English cricket writing. English journalists use longer sentences and more adjectives, but stripped of that it comes to the same thing. Bollocks. 
The above sentence is just breathtaking in its delusion. If only Cook hadn’t played, he’d still be selected now for the team? What a fool he was to walk on to the cricket field! There was no problem at all with Cook, just that he chose to play the wrong series, but of course did it for noble reasons. 
“Such is fate”: he could have been leading England to glory now if he hadn’t come unstuck in Sri Lanka?
He used it as a “team bonding session”? A seven match ODI series against Sri Lanka, the country that just beat them at home? A fucking bonding session? 
By way of comparison, every Australian who speaks about playing cricket for Australia has awe in his voice when he talks about playing for his country. Doesn’t matter who, where, when or what, it’s playing cricket at the highest level, for their country, and they all jump at the chance, and they want to win. They’re not there to bond. 
This sentence, and the editorial tone of Guardian cricket, indicates the malaise of English cricket.

Here’s another one not giving Selfey the benefit of any doubt. I don’t blame him. Not in the slightest.

On another paper our old favourite, the nomination for Cricket Journo of the year pocketed, has been having his say on Eoin Morgan not singing the national anthem:

The anthem issue is a contentious one because it throws up the whole dynamic of national identity, which is more complicated in cricket than most sports. Morgan is not the first nor the last international sportsman who has chosen not to sing (Darren Sammy was the only player to sing Rally Round the West Indies before the match against South Africa) but it has been noted in Morgan’s case because is a Dubliner now at the helm of the England side.

‘It’s pretty simple,’ said Morgan. ‘I have never sung the National Anthem whether I’ve been playing for Ireland or England. It doesn’t make me any less proud to be an English cricketer.

‘I am extremely proud to be in the position I’m in and privileged to be captain of a World Cup side. It’s a long story but it’s a personal thing.’

Morgan chose not to tell that long story which is a shame because it leaves him open to conjecture as to why he will not exercise his vocal cords.

It’s because he’s Irish, Paul. We’re not stupid. If we’re going to have a pop at people for not singing the anthem, then watch our football team. They don’t have a dual nationality issue to offer as a reason. Maybe we should focus on those born and raised on these shores for their “failure to show enough national pride”.

But the bottom line is that it is his choice and it is better surely to be true to yourself rather than, as some dual nationals in England’s recent history have, belted out the anthem for effect.

Or you could just have a go at Kevin Pietersen.

Finally, I couldn’t let go of the little nugget in George Dobell’s article on the proposed changes to English cricket.

Other suggested changes includes a rebranding of the ECB – the current brand is seen as toxic – as Cricket England & Wales.

Because this will change all of our views.

Mr Toxic Brand
Mr Toxic Brand

Unless Paul Downton and Giles Clarke are excommunicated then you could call it Late For Dinner and you aren’t going to fool any of us. It is an insult to all of us who pay such close attention to what is going on that you could actually imagine this being something that would calm us. How about doing your jobs properly, apologising for your stupidity and adopt a real new approach and we will be accommodating. Having a coronation for a Chief Exec, shunting the bete noire upstairs where he can dip his snout in the trough, and keeping the disaster that is Downton isn’t the way.