In the early hours of tomorrow morning, in Adelaide, England face the first of up to five win-or-go-home matches. It would be typical of this team to lose this one, but the odds have to be on us winning the next two and meeting India in Melbourne in a quarter-final next week. But this is England, and nothing is certain.
As usual, when we get to this sort of position, I hear and read the usual load of old shite from those who think they know best about those of us not totally enamoured with the way the game is run in this country. Let me put it this way, so it is easy to comprehend. Those of you out there who think that a Bangladesh (or Afghanistan) win is the only way we’ll get the root and branch examination of the game, its structures and its ruling body that has been overdue for nearly 14 months now, I have sympathy for you. I understand precisely where you are coming from. I am almost totally on board with that.
Those of you who slag those people off as being “unpatriotic” or some such other load of old crap, I understand why you want England to win. I do too. But I don’t feel it an either / or equation, and like most things in life, there is nuance. A win today, and it’s on to tomorrow. A win against Afghanistan, and it’s on to India. A win there and we are in the Semis. This would all have been worth it, then, in many eyes. The pain, the agony, the division, the spite, the nastiness, the despair. Semis is better than anything since 1992 (when our group defeats have been a damn sight worse).
That’s what pisses me off. If we do fluke this, somehow, those who have ruined the last 12 months will be vindicated. “So what”, say those England till I die merchants “it’s improvement”. I say it will be bad in the long run. But I want England to win, still. I just don’t care as much, which is obvious to anyone who has read my rantings over the last 13 months.
I’m in my mid-40s. I get the fanaticism of wanting your team to win regardless of the long-term. I was a fanatic of a football team. For 15 years I went home and away, saw their only ever game in a European competition abroad, saw them in their only two years in the top division, saw their glory day in the Cup Final (the biggest anti-climax ever) and saw two particularly legendary players in their developmental days (one English, one Australian). Three seasons ago, I walked away. I’ve been to one game in three years. We are going down this season. We survived by the skin of our teeth in the last two seasons. I don’t see a sport any more, I see businesses. I see the soul taken out of the game by over-coached, over-priced, under-enthused players, who don’t have an affinity with your club (how can they when you get loan players making up so much of the team) and a lack of hope. I still want them to win, I just don’t care as much. I feel the same about our national football team. I am beginning to feel this way with my cricket team.
I get devotion and fanaticism and I also see how those in charge use it to hold you over a barrel. You criticise those in the authority, those in management, and you are undermining your national team. How dare you. You traitor. What does it matter who runs the game, it’s those out on the field that matter? Why are you bothered?
Well, as you know, I’m not one of those. Those in authority with “successful business careers” often have a lot to answer for. In my experience many of them suffer from some sort of superiority complex. Often, they have no substance. To a person, I believe they are over-rated. They over think, they project manage, they make a living out of making the bleeding obvious bleeding complicated. One is to hope that Colin Graves and Tom Harrison are not two such individuals, but it is early days and that think-piece paper does not augur well.
The other thing these people do is to latch on to success, any success, and sing it louder than an opera diva. Yes, we are guilty of talking down any achievements, but good grief, you’d never guess we’d beaten India at home, would you? The Sri Lankan defeats, in all formats, were much more a pointer to our World Cup fortunes than beating an Indian team that packed in the series after the first two days at Southampton. A quarter-final place, for all that we cleared the decks for this, will be seen as that expected during a transition phase (so how did we get to a transition phase in a World Cup year should not be asked) and these lot can carry on. Success will be measured in whether this allows the top brass to keep their jobs.
It’s comments like this, interpreted by George Dobell, that mean I don’t care as much..
While it is understood that Graves and Pietersen have spoken in recent days, it increasingly appears as if the ECB’s chairmen is regarded by others as having exceeded his authority and spoken out of turn and that his views are not those of his executive team.
They speak as if they are in a position of strength, not as abject failures in one of our key measurable objectives thus far. As if their decision making deserves no scrutiny. They’ve been abject and yet the “executive team” are getting prissy over someone having a word about a policy they decided upon. I admire their chutzpah.
Because thus far this coaching of our World Cup campaign has been wretched. People like Warner, Maxwell, Finch, McCullum, Sangakkara, Williamson, Dilshan, DeVilliers, Kohli et al are playing a different game. Meanwhile we are settling for 309 in an ODI, and it shows how we are just not on the same wave length as the others. We don’t seem to know how to maximise our potential, which is a damning indictment on our coaching staff. But still, we have the same old, same old. We’ve blown a chance to give Hales a go, we’ve gone to the old ways, we over-praise Root and Moeen, we under utilise Buttler, we mess Taylor about. It’s awful. It’s truly mind-blowing. Don’t even get me started on the bowling – hey, let’s play two blokes just over major injuries, and with little white ball form in the big tournaments and see what could possibly go wrong…
So far I’d barely five this coaching staff 1/10, and the back-room boys and officials even less. But, as is always said, we have a chance, still. Starting tonight in Adelaide.
It’s a feeling of dread all right. I dread the recriminations should it go wrong. I dread the justifications if we somehow fluke it. Dread. No wonder I’m not a fanatic any more.
Other House News:
You may be pleased to know that the old archive on the old site is up. The old blog has a new URL, which can be accessed by clicking the link on the right in the Blogroll section. Somehow the head picture disappeared. The old link DOES NOT WORK. I will be staying on this site as the host from now on.
As always, thanks for the comments on the games and other things. Not been as busy on this as I should have been (lots on, not being too chipper) but rest assured, we’ll see more activity if England goes downhill.