Carefree

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….

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34 thoughts on “Carefree

  1. Mark Mar 12, 2015 / 1:33 pm

    If you wan a proponent of this fantasy that we our still great at Test match cricket I give you exhibit A. Mr J Agnew. Who even on Momday night after the debacle of the World Cup exit was telling us that if we win the Ashes all will be forgiven. Worse. He really believes it will be quite straight forward.

    Englands Test decline started in the dreaded match up against South Africa. We started the series as number 1 they number 2. By the end the positions had been reversed. A thrashing of 2-0 and without KP heroics would have been 3-0 (even then before the big 3 was formed we were not playing 5 test series against our biggest challengers.) that series was written off as “all about KP and textgate” (where would we hear that again?) soon after Strauss was gone. And the high water mark of the Flower regime was over.

    Of course it didn’t decline in one steep line. There were highlights. Namely India. We hadn’t won there for 30 years. So the 2-1 win was seen as fantastic. But it was down to really 4 men. Cook, KP, Swann, Monty. 3 of the 4 are now gone. Only Cook remains and a shadow of his former self. Test draws against New Zealand and a worring in ability of our batsman to put 400 on the board batting first was all glossed over.

    So we arrive at Ashes 2013. A broken and joke side from Australia arrive with all the homework jokes ringing in their ears. ” 5-0 was the cry followed by another 5-0″ the experts proclaimed a 10-0 back to back Ashes thrashing. Oh dear. Australia changed their coach, and England were shaky. It ended 3-1 , but for the rain in Manchester would have been 3-2 England Semite urinated on the pitch at the Oval, and the English media thought it was hilarious.

    We all know what happened next. 5-0 followed by the first home defeat to Sri Lanka, and then 1-0 down to India. Thank God for Southampton!!!!!

    Like

    • LordCanisLupus Mar 12, 2015 / 1:39 pm

      Re that India series, Dhoni always mentions Anderson’s contributions to that victory, and he should not be forgotten.

      Like

      • Mark Mar 12, 2015 / 3:08 pm

        Fair enough my Lord. Although I think the point is that so many of the stars of that tour are either gone or pale impressions of themselves.

        I better go back to going ” on about the cosy cabal between the ECB and the press, ”

        I think people may be getting a bit bored with it though.”

        Like

    • OscarDaBosca Mar 12, 2015 / 3:06 pm

      Yes, an entirely true encapsulation of our test side of recent history.

      I remember being at the Oval for SA (I think it was the first game in the series), and we were really looking forward to it. Day 1 was okay but we lost too many wickets (and at silly times). Day 2 we had collapsed just before/after lunch, took 1 wicket and then it was the Amla show. We suddenly encountered a team who had bowlers that were better than (or at least as good as) ours and a batting team who could ignore the tactic of bowling dry and wait for the bad balls. Instead of learning from that series defeat it was all the fault of a man sending a text.

      The defeat of Australia at home seemed to hide the winter NZ results (even though Prior clearly used all his luck for a year in batting out the last day of that series for a draw (I think he was even bowled but the bails failed to dislodge)) and the fact that for about 8 or 9 tests in a row we couldn’t score 400+ in a first innings.

      Bring back Fletcher when he leaves India this year.

      Like

      • Arron Wright Mar 12, 2015 / 3:18 pm

        Talking of the 2012 SA series, and just to show everyone that a certain article from last night was by no means an aberration:

        http://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2012/jul/18/england-south-africa-test-series

        I mention this because the only thing I would add to Mark’s description is that the decline began the winter before, in the UAE. Several of us were trying to point this out even before the SA series, but were faced with a tide of “number one in all formats” complacent guff.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. hatmallet Mar 12, 2015 / 1:34 pm

    “Australia have never thought in terms of either/or, yet we sit here watching people say that only the one thing matters to us.”

    I’d would say that it’s impossible for England to not care about ODI cricket (as some are suggesting they should) and be a ruthless winning machine in Tests.

    You can’t sandbox the two attitudes. The apathy would affect the Test match performances.

    Like

  3. Boz Mar 12, 2015 / 1:45 pm

    What England cricket needs is Mel & Sue.
    I’ve thought for a long time that this impervious pair, who keep getting tv ‘work’, no matter how dire, no matter how stupid, could arguably replace the entire ECB personel, including the website twerps, and run the show on the lines of – let’s have a game, let’s build the Great Wall of China out of lego, let’s relieve the original Ashes cricket match, bring your kids and we’ll have a picnic – sort of way. The chat would be inane and endless but you know they will see things through with a tenacious spirit and plenty of giggles. Who would care what a ‘googly’ is, who’s got a long leg, anyone fancy a ‘third man’????? Don’t laugh, this is where England cricket is bound …………………….

    Like

  4. SimonH Mar 12, 2015 / 1:46 pm

    LCL, have you had a chance to look at the (in my deluded mind anyway) evidence that a KP return is moving from the impossible to the possible?

    I posted links to most of it in the second half of the Game 34 thread. The Collomosse article in the Standard is Exhibit A. There are the De Menzies’ article in the Indy and the Hayward article in the DT. There is KP’s tweet and also some tweets from Collomosse and Legsidelizzy. There is that line from George Dobell about KP meeting Whitaker.

    The Guardian and the BBC haven’t carried anything – they are either clueless or ignoring it. There are some coded messages in the DM but nothing explicit yet.

    What do you think?

    Like

    • LordCanisLupus Mar 12, 2015 / 1:59 pm

      Thoughts are it is brutally hard to read at this stage. Tried to catch up with the ebb and flow, and am a bit behind. Facts are thin on the ground.

      That’s waffle for I haven’t got a scooby. From this distance I am finding Graves hard to read. I don’t believe this “professional Yorkshireman” bollox, because he was there throughout this twisted farce. Harrison (keep thinking he’s Tom Middleton, which is the name of a great DJ who produced a brilliant tune called wvy auw chi) has been low profile. I just can’t fathom them, especially in the light of Downton’s almost crazed response to Monday, which was out of character.

      I think there’s a post in there somewhere!

      Like

      • Mark Mar 12, 2015 / 3:02 pm

        Since the “KP may return” rumours started there seems to have been a counter attack along the lines of Moores is ok, and Downton is ok so let’s blame some of the players. The media who propped up Downton are desperate for him to stay long enough to see KP into retirement.

        Graves I think is playing to the gallery. Trying to keep all sides in the mix. My guess is he will give Moores enough rope to hang himself by letting him stay for the Ashes. Then if the result is as expected in can be dumped with no backlash.

        Appalling to think English cricket is being administered for only one priority. To keep a certain player out.

        Like

      • OscarDaBosca Mar 12, 2015 / 3:09 pm

        I think Graves and Harrison are giving Downton the rope he needs.

        They will keep letting him hang himself with his incoherent incompetence by hiding behind the ‘we haven’t started officially yet’ ruse.

        Once they officially start I think it will be time up for a lot of the unsavoury mob at the ECB in the coaching and management team.

        ‘Hope springs eternal in the human breast’ – I am feeling much more confident than I was this morning that they are all soon to go (apart from the Odious Clarke)

        Like

      • SimonH Mar 12, 2015 / 4:28 pm

        Thanks LCL – any thoughts on the veracity of Collomosse and Hayward? I’m aware of both but wouldn’t say I’ve much knowledge of their track records.

        Like

        • LordCanisLupus Mar 12, 2015 / 4:42 pm

          I’ve quite liked Tom C’s stuff, when it has come up. Hayward was once hilariously accused by someone who should know better about having an angle on the KP issue, and has sided, though not totally, on the KP was wronged part of the debate. Hayward is in that legion of senior sports writers, inhabited by the likes of Martin Samuel, Oliver Holt, Patrick Collins who, quite frankly, take themselves far, far too seriously.

          Like

      • Vian Mar 12, 2015 / 4:48 pm

        Hayward jumps on the latest bandwagon. Every time. Just because he happens to have a point over this stuff doesn’t mean you can hold him up as a paragon of the press – next article he writes will be about how Chelsea are terrible and deserve nothing, entirely forgetting all his articles earlier in the year about how brilliant they are.

        Like

        • LordCanisLupus Mar 12, 2015 / 5:13 pm

          I’m not a fan, but then. as you know, there are few that I am a fan of. Reading his gibberish tweets last night on the footballing equivalent of Fletch and Blanco’s monopoly game in Porridge, is confirmation.

          Incidentally, on Twitter at the moment I’m having a word with Paul Frame about Mark Nicholas. His latest article slags off county cricket. Not six months ago he has a review of the English summer starting off… “The English summer began with some terrific county cricket.” I despise that man with every fibre of my being. A walking monument for wonderful hair.

          Lie down time!

          Like

      • Vian Mar 12, 2015 / 5:16 pm

        Every time I read what Mark Nicholas has to say, I get the feeling there’s something very good in there, but I’m not sure what and I don’t think he is either.

        Not many of the former players are really. Few of them seem to have firm opinions that they stick to. Boycott does, which at least makes him worth paying attention to. Hussain does too. And um, that’s about it.

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        • LordCanisLupus Mar 12, 2015 / 5:27 pm

          “Many suggested Cook must go and be replaced by You-Know-Who himself. (For those readers who do not follow the journeys made by Harry Potter, Voldemort is his mortal enemy. In the first book, the Philosopher’s Stone, Voldemort – or You-Know-Who, for even the witches and wizards dare not say his name – is thought to be dead but the gripping climax to the tale reveals him to be living in the skin of, or to be precise attached to the back of the head of, another character, Professor Quirrell.) One former England captain chose Eoin Morgan to replace Cook.

          But Alastair Cook being Alastair Cook chose the path of redemption in situ. He fought on and did so to spectacular effect. During perhaps the hottest week of the year at the Ageas Bowl, just outside Southampton, England played a truly great match. Cook made runs in both innings. Ian Bell (who some, incidentally, thought might be Quirrell) fashioned a gloriously attractive 167, and Gary Ballance had the air of Ken Barrington about him as he collected 156 of his own. Then Moeen bowled like Graeme Swann and all the we-miss-Swanny-as-much-as-You-Know-Who squeals were quietened.”

          I’m one eyeball down as I’ve scratched it too hard.

          Like

      • Vian Mar 12, 2015 / 5:31 pm

        He must consider the view that far up his own arse to be worthwhile.

        Like

  5. geoffboycottsgrandmother Mar 12, 2015 / 4:12 pm

    Graves seems to be a canny political operator.

    He needs a lightening rod to remain for the Ashes.

    If England lose, which seems likely, and there’s no-one left because Saker, Downton, Moores etc have already gone people will start questioning his role. He needs to drag out the inquiry.

    Downton seems toast, the jungle drums seem to be saying his time is up. His role doesn’t really appear to be exist anyway. He’ll be paid off.

    Saker’s apparently already on his way having given in his notice before anyone noticed how badly our bowlers have gone backwards.

    Moores will be given a bit longer. It gives Graves chance to search for a successor (I don’t believe Gillespie can get the job as he’s Australian, our major rivals) and for his successor to start with a blank sheet as England’s cycle still revolves around the Ashes. An away defeat in South Africa is out of sight out of mind, but a home defeat to Australia clouds everyone’s judgement. At this moment in time there’s still long enough for their appear to be a chance to do something before the Ashes but not long enough for a new man to reverse a long-set decline. If Moores loses in the West Indies or England get obliterated by NZ the change may happen before the Ashes with maybe Farbrace becoming caretaker.

    After that Whittaker and Cook are the next men in line of fire. Both are disposable. It will be easier to replace Cook after Root, Ballance, Buttler etc have a bit more experience under their belt.

    All change, but not all at once.

    Like

  6. SimonH Mar 12, 2015 / 4:18 pm

    I was so cheesed off by that crock from Selvey that I’ve fired off another ‘Newly Revised Anglo-Saxon Chronicles’ comment on the thread if anyone is interested. It is on page 2.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vian Mar 12, 2015 / 4:45 pm

      9th century setting with 16th century English? Poor. 😉

      Like

      • Vian Mar 12, 2015 / 4:49 pm

        I don’t know. Being youthful slim and gorgeous I’ve no idea what you’re on about.

        Like

      • SimonH Mar 12, 2015 / 6:55 pm

        All’s fair in the cause of taking the piss out of Selvey!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Vian Mar 12, 2015 / 4:35 pm

    I doubt very much Graves gives a stuff whether Pietersen returns or not and nor should he. What he was signalling (assuming it wasn’t just PR, which is an assumption you can’t make with this lot), is that teams should be selected in cricketing merit and not petty dislikes.

    And that’s exactly right. I couldn’t care less if Pietersen plays or not. I do care that he should be eligible to play, and then it’s down to him. If he plays well he gets in, if he doesn’t, he won’t. That’s how it should always be.

    Having said that, it’d be foolish in the extreme to believe the words of any of them. We shall have to wait and see.

    Reading some of the stuff that’s been in the press from the usual suspects is highly amusing, though I’m not sure anyone should be at all surprised by it. I’m more in Mark Butcher’s camp that this summer should be watched from behind the sofa. Not just the Ashes either, we may well get stuffed by New Zealand too. And bear in mind that without radical surgery the same is going to happen in the ODIs.

    So what the craven pathetic likes of Selvey, Agnew and Brenkley write is neither here nor there, reality is going to intrude.

    As for Graves, what he has done is give himself wriggle room if and when that happens. It’s quite clever and quite canny. He can’t be accused of going back on himself if he decides to swing the axe, but if by some miracle it all went brilliantly then he basks in the glory too.

    Basically we’ve actually got someone coming in who knows what he’s doing for once. Just don’t assume what he’s doing is what we want.

    Like

    • SimonH Mar 12, 2015 / 5:32 pm

      “teams should be selected in cricketing merit and not petty dislikes”.

      That’s such a revolutionary notion in English cricket that at least three senior administrators would have to lose their jobs to make it possible.

      Like

      • Vian Mar 12, 2015 / 5:34 pm

        Exactly why his very deliberate (had to be, he then repeated them) comments were so interesting. Nothing to do with Pietersen per se, everything to do with that radical and new concept.

        Like

  8. Silk Mar 12, 2015 / 4:51 pm

    I geuinely can’t believe Graves/Harrison will let Moores hang on for the Ashes, just because they expect us to lose the Ashes.

    That would be utterly despicable.

    Let me be clear, I don’t think changing coach will win us the Ashes. But I do believe the to rebuild English cricket the new man needs time. Leaving Moores in charge for another 6 months will leave the new man with an impossible job, ahead of trips to UAE and SA.

    I’m praying we lose to the Afghans. I actually think we might, as I’m pretty sure the reason we lost of the Netherlands was because, subconsiously at least, the players didn’t want to play under Giles anymore. And if that was true of Giles, it must be true of Moores.

    As for Mike Selvey. That latest article was beyond paraody. I’m not posting BTL on the Graun until Moores is gone. What’s the point? There’s nothing new to say. We just go round in circles.

    Like

  9. Mark Mar 12, 2015 / 5:05 pm

    Yes I think that is a very good analysis. Players will now be picked on merit with no sinister side deals by Downton.

    It will be interesting to see how our much lauded batting line up copes with genuine pace bowling in the summer test matches. It may not be pretty, and any relief Cook may be feeling right now having avoided this World Cup is about to be put centre stage.

    Like

    • SimonH Mar 12, 2015 / 6:53 pm

      If Mitchell Starc can bowl with the red ball anything like he’s been bowling with the white ball he’s likely to be the key figure.

      Like

      • Pontiac Mar 12, 2015 / 9:27 pm

        Beware Nathan Lyon. He thrives on being slightly better than anyone thinks.

        Like

  10. Annie Weatherly-Barton Mar 12, 2015 / 10:22 pm

    Not sure there is a sofa big enough for all of us “outsiders” to hide behind for the Ashes or any other games for that matter. I don’t think I could bring myself to watch it especially if Cook is leading the team. I just get so anxious. Just too much.

    There are some bloody awful pieces floating around. Most of them say nothing much or they blame Bell for everything that’s gone wrong or blame the senior players.

    To me it seems as though there is lack of clarity from the whispering gallery from Hotel ECB to ringside Australia. The “insiders” seem to not know exactly what is going on. Perhaps because their lead leaker, Mr Downton, doesn’t know himself. The other day he was saying that KP hadn’t talked to him about his maybe chance of getting to play for England again. As many Tweeters reminded him: “Hey Mr Downton, you don’t count anymore!” It does seem as though there is a bit of power game going on. Or perhaps it is all smoke and mirrors.

    Noted for his continuing absence and silence and of course sneering, is Mr Clarke. Where is this old miscreant hiding? I loved the bit that George Dobell said about Clarke. Keeping his head below the parapet? Worried about his ICC position. Just maybe the miserable old git is concerned about England becoming a “minnow” – bloody hell I hate that condescending description.

    Still Downton is ring side making himself look like the clown he is whilst usual suspects in the press carry on carrying on talking garbage or saying nothing worth mentioning. Mr Lew has moved on to who he thinks will be the next ODI players in next WC. Well I suppose he has to do something to fill in empty space. I wonder if he realises that England is now part of the second class cricketing nations?

    I’m feeling very sorry for Mr Moores at the moment – never happy when someone who the team really seem to like is being made into the “scapegoat!” I’m just a sucker for a hard luck story. Anyway my hubs has been at it again and here’s his take:

    Said Moores to the clamouring crowd
    ‘My proposals will make England proud.
    Who needs balls and bats
    When it’s all about stats.
    So in future we’ll play in the Cloud.’

    Like

    • Vian Mar 13, 2015 / 12:55 am

      To be fair, blaming Bell for something counts as balance once a certain person has gone to work.

      Like

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