Although I am not, and never have been, a Chelsea fan, I thought I’d use one of their buzzwords for the title of this post in honour of another edifice with a reputation based on perception rather than reality. Much like the Premier League’s vainglorious battle cry that it is “the best league in the world”, the machinations and spinning of England’s cricket team approach to tournaments and series as being the most advanced, the most professional and the most thorough is becoming as laughable a mantra. Work hard and the results will come. Everything comes through hard work. Perspiration rather than inspiration.
It seems, from the tone of some (not all) of the articles that I have read, and I have most certainly not read them all, is that although this is a calamitous World Cup, and another opportunity gone begging, (a) it doesn’t matter; and (b) if we win the Ashes, who gives a stuff. This sort of attitude drives me round the bend. It is not, and it has never been a quid pro quo. Let me take you back to the year 1987. Australia had been on the end of some chastening test losses, including losing at home to New Zealand and a beating in the Ashes both home and away. Lore is that Border got sick of it, and turned it around by being nasty. I contend that winning the 1987 World Cup was the real start. They stuck with players that had disappointed, believing in their talent (Steve Waugh, David Boon) and started to build on that. What they needed was a boost, and winning the World Cup was it. They did not look back. They came over in 1989 and thrashed us to pieces – without rain helping us in tests 3 and 6, it would have been 6-0 – and our complacency was matched by our Dexterian stupidity. Australia have never thought in terms of either/or, yet we sit here watching people say that only the one thing matters to us. Who the hell do we think we are?
Mike Selvey’s article posted last night, and which was summed up beautifully by SimonH as a “continental-sized piece of dung” is an example of our condescension to ODI cricket in particular, and to fans as well as it insults our intelligence. It talks about how fate was cruel to England in terms of the run-out. If Jordan had stayed, if he’d seen us home with the impressive Woakes, and if we’d beaten Afghanistan (notice how this was just assumed) and we got to the Quarter-Finals then anything could happen is not clever. It really, really isn’t. A lot of money goes into the game through Sky and our ticket fees. This, in turn, is used to set up all sorts of facilities and amenities to the top level that their predecessors could only dream of. Increasingly, I’m seeing more of this “if only….then this” philosophy permeating English cricket. I see it in the thoughts around the Ashes. If only Australia’s aged players break down like ours did last time around, then we have a brilliant opportunity. Seriously, is there anyone out there who thinks Australia aren’t going to beat us handily. Since 2013-14, we lost a test series at home to Sri Lanka, and yes, beat India, who we all blithely assume checked out once the going got tough in Southampton. Australia lost in UAE, yes, but they won in South Africa. They then comfortably saw aside India who had Kohli in form. There’s this assumption that this 3-1 win against India is some sort of indication that the test team is flying. It isn’t. It hasn’t faced high pace yet. That elephant in the room is never really mentioned.
I can’t make people care about ODI cricket, but I’ll bet these players really care. If anything they may care too much. I don’t know, but the fact that this winter was all ODI cricket and the only focus was the World Cup may have hindered our chances. The format of the game we are least worst at is test cricket, and a good number of the ODI squad play for our test team. Perhaps there was an opportunity to have a quick two test series against Bangladesh, or maybe stick a test in somewhere against Sri Lanka, but we chose not to. We were the only full test nation, I think, to take this clear the decks approach. Every media man or woman thought this was a good idea. Hindsight will probably show that instead of formulating a team ethic, a viable game plan and a familiarity with the game, it entrenched a cosy squad with little to be cosy about, downloaded and installed a flawed game plan which seemed to actively discourage innovation and flexibility until specific moments, and our familarity turned into a inability to adapt. Nothing screamed that more to me when that waste of vocal chords, Paul Downton, cited as an element of progress that we’d “made 300 a couple of times”.
The writings of George Dobell throughout this debacle have been interesting as they strike a different tone. There is always a suggestion, a comment, a positive proposal gained through his love and interest in county cricket and his observing the game. We don’t see this anywhere else. Mark is always on here going on about the cosy cabal between the ECB and the press, and these stories about Downton speaking to various members of them to get back in line and back the boys is worryingly backing up our Mark! The theme of this blog, and it’s angry fore-runner (HDWLIA is still available from the links on the right) has been to hold those in authority to account. It is also to hold those who report on it to similar account. That sounds pompous, but it isn’t.
I’m also not fooled by this turning on Moores by certain elements of the press. These are not new men, persuaded by the evidence just presented to them. They are following not leading opinion. Downton was toast ages ago in the eyes of many. I was getting messages from people who had that view privately but were not expressing it in public. To many the machinations and deliberations in the corridors of power are an arcane irrelevance to the public, those “outside cricket”. But they aren’t in this modern age of social media and blogging. Everything is under scrutiny. The one thing an individual with the hide of a rhino like Giles Clarke brings is the convenient pantomime villain, who shrugs off this stuff like it is normal to him, and doesn’t care a jot. So the media push and prod him, but the executors of his plans stay under the radar. This blogger was at Downton from Day 1. Yes, because he fired KP, but more because he hadn’t the balls to come out, in public, and say why while I was being told how damn great he was by members of the media. I noted the other day Selfey said he wasn’t part of the plan to bring Downton in, but he certainly wasn’t missing an opportunity to big him up when he was appointed.
This carefree attitude to ODI cricket, to those inside the halls of power and towards the people who pay for it has shown in the spin after the event. The players must be sick as dogs, but all I hear is how nice they are, how they are a group of men who you can’t help to pull for. Lovely. We have nice losers. Nothing sums our country up more than that when it comes to sport. Don’t be a single-minded winner, an obsessive, a freak, a natural talent, a boat-rocker, because we find those uncomfortable in sport. Funny how those are always the ones in business though…. If only we turned the tables.
Carefree about ODIs once we’ve lost, carefree about people in power, carefree about our attention span. The selectivity is what grates.
Just another moan on my day off. What’s new….