Ashes Panel #001 – Sledging, Scheduling, Sentimentalism, Sky

Welcome to a new idea, which I hope will work. TLG and I will come up with five (could be more, could be less) questions and selected volunteers (and I might try some of the regulars who didn’t) will answer them. It’s a format blatantly copied from the Daily Mail, but with bilious inadequates rather than professional writers and broadcasters. I’m grateful for all volunteers.

I will wait for the first four responses, and it would be great if you could turn any answers around in 48 hours if you are requested (and let me know if you can’t as I have plenty of volunteers).

Let me introduce the panel for the first of these – we have stalwarts Keyser Chris (@keyserchris), our resident Yorkie, metatone, @EoinJPMorgan on Twitter (known as Hillel) and our reasonably infrequent, but very welcome to be here OscardeBosca. We are waiting on one more (our man in Finland) and will add his answers when they arrive. He did warn me of internet problems in advance. UPDATE – I’ve added PaulE’s comments, so all five are now here.

A second set of panel questions will be e-mailed tonight. TLG and I might even answer them ourselves.

As I say, I hope it works.

1. What do the Ashes mean to you?
KC – The Ashes for me started as a legend, specifically Beefy at Headingley. I was only 5 at the time so didn’t experience it, but as I grew up later watching what seemed like endless summers of TMS, Richie on the telly, Viv Richards, Windies bowling & Gatting/Gower/Gooch, it was always there in discussions. But it came alive for me with the Warne ball. I had never seen anything like it, and it was the portent of pain up until 2005. God, ’05 was GOOD! The Ashes is generally expected pain at the hands of a gritty Border or Waugh, with intermittent huge highs, 2010/11 particularly (I was at Adelaide in 2006 and 2010 – yin and yang indeed).
OdB – There is a lot to admire about Australians and their attitude to life and sport.  It’s why beating them at cricket is satisfying.  I was 9 in 1981 and didn’t really get cricket, 86/87 was when I have vivid memories of my dad telling me we’d won when I was waking up for school.  So then fast-forward to 2005 having got into cricket post 87 and I really, really wanted to beat the Aussies and 2004 showed me we had the team to do it.  I have loved the past 10 years even though it included two away whitewashes as we have beaten the Aussies at home.  For me it should be the epitome of test cricket and it is the one team I want to beat.  Hayden epitomises the Australian cricketer i want to beat (and potentially see cry 😀) not enough of the current lot have an element of Hayden about them (Warner excepted) which is unfortunate.  I like some of them (such as Harris and Lyon) and I feel dirty saying it.
Metatone – When I was young, the big Test was the West Indies. Greenidge and Haynes, Richards, Marshall, Ambrose and Patterson all stick in my mind. And (biographical alert!) my Dad is Indian, so India and Pakistan loomed large. When you get down to it, the Ashes were just another series at first. There was a mythology about Botham and 1981, but I was only 6 at the time. Then came 1989… The Ashes became a ritual reminder of how low England cricket had sunk. There’s an irony that in some ways I didn’t really notice how good the Aussies were (the new dominant team across the world) because I knew how bad we were. 2005 was a joy not just because of victory, but because we’d turned a corner, we were no longer inept.
Hillel – Like most English fans, my interest in cricket was sparked by the Ashes. Specifically, my epiphany came in 2009 when I wandered off from the physical exertion of tennis camp (don’t ask) to find solace in the wicket-taking antics of Stuart Broad. In fact, I even managed to maintain from 2009 to 2011 that I was a cricket fan who “only followed the Ashes”, before I too was eventually sucked in to the spiralling vortex of hipster cricket, attending county out-ground fixtures and desperately refreshing live scorecards of affiliate T20 games. To me, the Ashes are not simply another Test series but a cultural outpost which England and Australia share. The competition is as old as modern cricket itself, and unrivalled by any perhaps besides that of India/Pakistan. Whilst there remains a certain magic to the country becoming enchanted with the Ashes every couple of years, I am always reminded by the specialness of the contest when chancing upon a random Australian abroad, and without hesitation jumping into an in-depth Ashes discussion as if we’d been buddies for years.
PE – The Ashes means different things at different times. It means of course, victory and defeat, and gloating rights. It means heroic narratives; Botham and Brearley, Bob Willis and Graham Dilley, David Gower in the sunshine and Allan Border kicking back. But most of all it means 2005 and a nation briefly at peace with itself: positive, comfortable and progressive, it felt like the nation and the cricket team were as one, ready to embrace the future. Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be (relatively) young was very heaven! Sadly it wasn’t to last, and England as a nation and a cricket team hasn’t been as likeable since.
 
2. We all agree (say if you don’t) that three series in two years is overkill, but do you think this is damaging the brand that is the Ashes?
KC I had no problem with back to back series, the one-off idea really excited me & separating it from the WC is still essentially good. And there is precedent. This series though is the one I don’t like, blatant filler even pre-ICC stitch up. Should stick to its cycle from now on. Not optimistic though…
OdB – the ashes test series should be the epitome of test cricket, but there has been too much if it.  It now feels that Eng v SA or Eng v Pakistan is now a more important/interesting series, and that is due to its scarcity.  The ECB has milked this goose.  I went to Edgbaston to watch the Ashes in 2001 and my ticket was £28 for the Eric Hollies stand.  The same ticket for 2015 has cost me £81, now I may be wrong but I don’t remember 9-10% inflation over the past 14 years.  The lack of free to air coverage and the rising costs mean that whilst I will continue to go and watch test cricket in England, it will be an older and older audience watching and the younger audiences won’t be interested in the game.
Metatone – It’s not all the scheduling (the ECB has done plenty else to put those “outside cricket” off) but I’m basically bored of playing Australia. I’m much more looking forward to the SA and Pakistan series. Of course, a close series could reignite some enthusiasm. Part of the problem has been that since 2009 things have been rather lop-sided. Still, familiarity has left me jaded and yes, the media hoopla around the Ashes now rings hollow. I don’t think the damage is permanent, if we get back to a proper schedule – but right now it is hard to get excited.
Hillel – People tend to forget the enormous benefit of playing the Ashes with such frequency, inasmuch as it allows a narrative to be constructed. Usually the length of time between one Test series and another is so long that it virtually disconnects the two from each other. The beauty of the Ashes being played every two years is that we can remember the last and the anguish or triumph it brought. All of the vendettas, the rivalries, and the storylines that surround individual players exist because the Ashes are played so often. We would not have witnessed the complete evolution of Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke or Mitchell Johnson if the Ashes were played more sporadically. It is also worth pointing out the majority of the British public only witness the Ashes every four years, for it is only the diehards who are prepared to risk the cycle of poverty initiated by being caught napping at work. Whilst the last few years have brought us more exposure to the Aussies than is recommended in a lifetime, normal service of England’s most popular cricket competition will resume, bringing the Ashes frequently enough to be brilliant, and yet infrequently enough to avoid devaluing the contest.
PE – Not the ‘b’ word again! Yes and no. The real damage was done in 2013 when the venal ECB and it’s draconian coach demanded far too much of the players. All the reports say that the England camp was in a good place until around 2011. The ECB and Andy Flower damaged England’s ‘brand’ more than any Ashes series.
 
3. Do you think the media are making too much of this sledging issue? Do you see it as a psychological ploy to get under the skin of the Aussies?
KC – I’m not sure. Aussies sledging is not news. England it seems we’re worse than I thought at it, hadn’t realised how bad their rep was. Agnew using the Hughes speech against Clarke was contemptible though. Ultimately it’s mostly boorish, but adds some theatre to a series. Though I reserve the right to poke endless fun at Shane Watson.
OdB – It will backfire.  The Aussies don’t give a shit what others think of how they conduct themselves, and Agnew sermonising to Clarke about Hughes is not something I want to hear.  I don’t care about sledging, it goes on, it works for some and not for others.  What I don’t like to see is the moralising that goes on after, especially regarding the ‘spirit’ of cricket.  The ridiculous nonsense regarding whether to walk or not (don’t, the Aussies don’t (when in Rome dear boy)) that became the meme of the last home series, it would appear that until the series start and proper incidents occur, the MSM Ashes preview meme is player behaviour.  When you are paid to write you need something to occupy your pen.
Metatone – Yes, it’s typical media froth. It’s not against the Laws of the game, so the Aussies will continue the way they always do. (I lived for a while in Perth, WA – and if you think they’ll do anything other than play up to the very limit of the laws, you’re a fool.) If it is an ECB ploy, it’s an inept one. (Tautology alert?) If anything it helps build the AU siege mentality. Worth noting that their fast bowlers will be looking to hurt the batsmen – and I’m sure there will be plenty of verbals. The way to respond is to get ahead on the scoreboard. The verbals always start to look silly then.
Hillel It is generally impossible to understand the workings of the British media, and this case is no exception. The tour of an exceptionally pleasant New Zealand team have left the media banging a ridiculous drum of worthless stupidity requesting that the Australians replicate the behaviour of their neighbours, naturally forgetting that such a cause makes no sense whatsoever. Whilst New Zealand are simply an international team with no cause for us to hate, the Ashes brings genuine competition between England and Australia. When an Aussie sledges an Englishman (or South African for that matter), it represents the wider rivalry between the two nations. In my mind, one hasn’t understood the purpose of the Ashes if they don’t want to throttle an Aussie by the time it’s all over. If this is a psychological ploy to irk our Australian cousins, it is a horrifically awful one. Rather than splashing our complaints all over the back pages, we should think about sledging the Aussies back: Meet fire with fire.
PE – Yes, and yes. We know how the ECB and their lapdogs in the mainstream media operate. File under cant and hypocrisy, next to smear and Operation Pietersen. Vic Marks did a wonderful job of lampooning his fellow scribes, Darren Lehmann, proved himself a wily operator today. No-one’s fooled by media spin anymore, are they? (Don’t feel the need to answer).
 
4. I’m not a fan of Sky’s coverage of cricket, but I’m a notorious curmudgeon. What do you think of it?
KC Technically, Sky’s coverage is superb, near-flawless. Most of the commentators are really good value (Holding, Nasser & Atherton especially) bar the likes of Knight & Strauss. It’s nowhere near as sycophantic as Channel 9, but you do have to listen with a pinch of salt at times (Botham…). Declaration speculation in particular is crap – play the time left in the game, not the weather. Sorry, bit of a personal bugbear that!
OdB – Channel 4 went to racing regularly and unless you had satellite or cable you missed cricket.  The BBC were similar.  Sky’s coverage is at very least committed to covering it properly.  The problem is the commentary team is hit or miss, for every Atherton there is nick Knight (anodyne),Botham (awful) and Warne (best taken in small doses).  However the smugness of Lovejoy and ficjam (Ed ‘fucking’ Smith) make TMS unlistenable at times (although I do like Boycott, Alison Mitchell, and Charlie Dagnall).
Metatone -Commentary teams are a matter of taste, I don’t mind most of Sky’s collection overall, but it rarely thrills me. Some of that is the passage of time – we lost Ritchie Benaud and it makes a big difference. Technically, it’s good camera work – but you can look at the highlights from 2005 and it’s obvious that it’s not actually that much better than the Channel 4 coverage. (I’ll note as a former professional with sport photography that some of the recent NZ series camerawork was below par.) Sky’s defenders always invoke BBC coverage from days gone by (we had some good youtube of 1971 Boycott in a comment thread, you can see the very big technical limitations there) but compared with Channel 4 of 10 years ago, the improvements aren’t large. Key point, I don’t think the technical advances remotely make up for the fact that I now have to go to the gym or the pub to watch coverage.
Hillel With the exception of Nick Night, Shane Warne complete with endless anecdotes about strip clubs and golf courses (kill me now if the word mulligan is mentioned once during this Ashes), and just about all of their pundits, Sky actually do a rather decent job. They employ some rather excellent voices of reason, Mike Atherton chief among them, and whilst we take it for granted in the modern game, the picture quality and coverage is actually incredibly good. With the exception of the odd silly gimmick (what’s the point of the rev counter if every spinner from Xavier Doherty to Muttiah Muralitharan is going to be in the orange zone), the analytical supplications they provide are genuinely quite insightful. Although I do begrudge the concept of handing over the rights of all English cricket to such an expensive TV package such as Sky, that is no-one’s fault but the ECB, and Sky themselves must be commended on excellent coverage.
PE – Don’t get to see a great deal of it here in Finland, but, from what little I’ve seen it does seem to have embarked on a road marked ‘despair’. The cricket itself is good, the adverts and commentary less so. I’m more disappointed by TMS to be honest. It was a lifeline for many years, charming, eccentric but vaguely inclusive and often very funny indeed. I find it excruciating now, patronising, craven and humourless. Thank goodness for Geoffrey, one of the few credible voices in the game.
 
5. The question on all lips it seems is the transfer of the ODI attitude over to the test team? Is it important, and if yes, do you think it will happen?

KC If they can transfer it, yes, it could be very important. But Cook is the skipper, and I trust him with the team’s attitude even less than I would with a spinner, so it in short, no it won’t happen.

OdB – Yes, the ODI series in 2005 was important as the attitude shown then was crucial and it carried forward to the test series, however the test and ODI squads were very similar then.  Unfortunately I think it will be lost in translation.  Cook hasn’t the capacity to play in that fashion, and whilst he should be the perfect rock for the more attacking players to perform around (and I hope he plays like he did against NZ as he appeared back to his unhurried best, it may be slow, there may only be 3/4 scoring shots, but it is mightily effective).  My issue is that he is a reactive defensive captain.  He makes poor decisions on the field which appears to permeate into the team and then as more things go wrong the worse things get.  Our fielding during the ODI series was average (which is a vast improvement on the test side  who’s fielding has been mediocre at best (Jordan apart)). Is this the fault of poor captaincy and poor decisions leading to lower morale, more frustration, and ultimately sledging the opposition?  Einstein once said that madness was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  Since India away, England have been in control of a lot of games in winning positions and thrown them away, day 4 at headingley (pick a year either 2014 or 2015 will do).  Cook appears incapable of learning from his mistakes and I genuinely think his captaincy will be the difference between the two sides.  Their bowlers are good but these are our home conditions, and I think both batting lineups are potentially brittle.  As with most 5 match series there will be a number of key points, if Cook has an ordinary day we might win some, if he regresses to the mean we will lose those and subsequently the Ashes.

Metatone – Of course it is important. Vaughan said it before 2005 and he proved it on the field (as indeed other teams have) – Australia are out of their comfort zone when the opposition don’t back down. Test cricket is not just about skill, it’s a mental game too. Will it happen? Probably not. Cook is by nature a grinder. We have some batsmen who can do it differently (Root, Buttler, Stokes) but our bowling doesn’t look set up to attack.

Hillel – It wasn’t too long ago the media proclaimed the same should be applied in reverse, and that England should carry forward their momentum from the Test series victory against India to ODI’s, and onward to the World Cup. We all know how that turned out. Not only is it not important to carry over the ODI attitude to the Test team, it is vitally imperative not to. There is no intrinsic flaw in the conservative methods employed by our Test team, and the media banging on about how Cook must be as aggressive as the ODI team will put undue, unnecessary pressure on him. The problems which the English Test squad encounter are those of poor tactical decisions during the game (such as field settings) and inconsistent performances of batsmen and bowlers, not the attitude to Test cricket itself. Whilst some will point to the radical development of how Tests are played, as exhibited by New Zealand, it is worth remembering that England did win that Test series. The sooner international teams are able to divorce the longer and shorter formats from each other, the better they will perform in both.

PE – I’m delighted by the transformation undergone by the ODI team. Demonstrable evidence that those criticising the decisions of the last couple of years are right. It just goes to show what can be achieved by a group of players with the right captain and the right coach. It’s all about mentality. I’d be very surprised if the form is transferred: to paraphrase Bill Clinton ‘it’s the captain, stupid.’

So – there you have it. A number of voices, with some great points (they rate Sky a lot higher than me). Chew on it and think along. Because you might be next…..

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41 thoughts on “Ashes Panel #001 – Sledging, Scheduling, Sentimentalism, Sky

  1. metatone Jun 28, 2015 / 5:20 pm

    Hmm – not a lot of divergence there. Maybe I was a bit too polite.

    Like

    • Arron Wright Jun 28, 2015 / 5:41 pm

      You were bang on about Sky. There is no way the (highly questionable) marginal gains since 2005 are worth a marginal cost of £46 per month or whatever it is now.

      Like

      • metatone Jun 28, 2015 / 5:48 pm

        I’ve been known to get pretty angry about this point BTL on The G.
        Key to me is that neither the gym or the pub welcome my 11 year old.
        So the future isn’t happening.

        Liked by 1 person

      • d'Arthez Jun 28, 2015 / 7:10 pm

        I am always reliant on streams to get my cricket in. I don’t pay for it. And, sadly, if you are not quite wealthy, it seems to be the only way to introduce your kids to cricket is to hook up a computer to a television, and stream the game that way. Yes, in order to get the next generation of regular kids into cricket, the ECB actually needs you to break the law. It should never have come to that.

        The only reason I prefer Sky (over say Ten Cricket), is that Sky is not constantly interrupted by the cricket. So annoying when you watch commercials. Usually it is the same three commercials. Try sit through that for 7 hours, and you know what subcontinental fans have to put up with, to get their cricket in.

        A fair number of commentators have nothing to say (Nick Knight can be fired, and replaced by a mix tape; it may also reduce the ECB seepage).

        These commentators are surprisingly (considering that they are paid to follow the game) often quite ignorant about non-England teams, that are not played every three months (i.e. anyone but Australia). And the endless propping up of Captain Calamity does not do them any favour either. Coverage of everything means, you can’t hide behind “I did not see that”, kind of defenses. I don’t keep count of how often the pundits have flip-flopped on Cook. But needless to say, the Russian gymnasts would have tough competition staving these pundits off.

        Through the muscle of the ECB, Sky is bringing the game in disrepute, by taking the supporters for a bunch of amnesia-suffering goldfish. It is nothing but a common side-effect of having a monopoly.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. OscarDaBosca Jun 28, 2015 / 5:37 pm

    I enjoyed that LCL put your sledging comments directly after mine and your comments followed perfectly as if in reaction to my last statement. Excellent editing!

    Like

    • metatone Jun 28, 2015 / 5:50 pm

      Indeed – good flow.

      Like

    • Rooto Jun 28, 2015 / 8:44 pm

      It’s also pretty cool that he’s morphed you into ODB – Ol’ Dirty Bastard

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Mark Jun 28, 2015 / 6:06 pm

    The Ashes don’t mean as much to me as they once did. But then sport in general doesn’t mean as much to me anymore. Maybe it’s my ageing or the commercialisation of sport who knows?

    When I was a kid in the sixties I loved the original Star Trek series. There is a particular episode. (I believe it is called Mirror Mirror. Or fans call it “the one when Spock had a beard.”) anyway they come across a parallel universe where there is a another Star Ship Enterprise. Except this is an evil pirate ship. (To our Aussie friends I am really not trying to do convict jokes)

    Of course all the parts are played by the same people,they look the same, and sound the same, but are just meaner and more ruthless. It’s a kind of a metaphor for the Aussies. In those pre Internet and pre satellite TV days when the world was a much bigger place the Aussies would intrigue me. They looked like us, they spoke in English (albeit with a whine.) But they were just way more cool. This was in the middle of the Vietnam war. Protest and long hair and big moustaches were all the rage. There was a brashness about them. Rather like American tennis players and golfers. They played to win, and they were quite blatant about it. Our guys seemed more cucumber sandwich. (Looking back that’s a bit unfair but it seemed like that)

    I remember one night on Sports night with Coleman they had gone to Australia to ask Lille and Thompson about the up coming series. These two cool dudes just sat there and joked about what they were going to do to England. Apparently one of them (I think it was Thompson was introduced as a window cleaner) I thought this was way to cool. Our guys would have had to gone to private school or at least grammar schools. In 1977 when Ian Botham burst onto the scene we seemed to have our own version of the take no prisoners, in your face Aussie attitude. I loved it.

    All that has taken up one question I will leave it there.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. SimonH Jun 28, 2015 / 6:07 pm

    Hillel – I’ll grant Warney half a dozen mulligans if he doesn’t tell that Rockin’ Rod Stewart anecdote again!

    Liked by 1 person

    • paulewart Jun 29, 2015 / 7:37 pm

      Spot on, I mentioned this in The Guardian t’other day. *i called him Rockin’ Rod Stewart’….gah…

      Like

  5. Boz Jun 28, 2015 / 7:55 pm

    I feel rather billiouis

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  6. SimonH Jun 28, 2015 / 8:45 pm

    Oh, minutes must have passed since the last Alastair Cook puff piece so here’s another one (anyone keeping count?) –

    http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/cricket/ashes-2015-matt-prior-tips-class-alastair-cook-to-top-score-in-ashes-10351258.html

    Chris ‘Laughing’ Stocks quotes Matt Prior – well, this is going to be balanced…..

    ““Alastair Cook is just a class human being”. (Yes, I love Big Brother).

    “I wouldn’t be surprised if Alastair Cook was top runscorer in the Ashes”. (Like he was the last two times?)

    “In England, with good outfields and good batting decks he’s going to score a lot of runs”. (Like he did the last two times?)

    And, hold the front page, he likes Strauss as Director, Comma –

    ““Strauss is the perfect man for this job”.

    Why?

    “The way Andrew came in as captain and turned things round was so impressive. Of course Andy Flower was involved as well as coach but you can’t underplay Andrew’s hand in how he turned things round.OK, he’s in a different role now but it’s the same job really”.

    Director, Comma and captain are the “same job really”? And what’s not to like about putting it all down to Strauss and Flower and not some of the blokes who were scoring the runs and taking the wickets?

    Only nine more days of this to go…..

    Like

    • Mark Jun 28, 2015 / 9:22 pm

      It’s dire isn’t it?

      Apparently Cook has said that If England win the Ashes this year it will be his greatest ever achievement as captain. Notice how they are building up this Aussie side as the greatest of all time. Better than the Warne McGrath vintage.

      It’s pathetic, and its like living in North Korea.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rohan Jun 28, 2015 / 9:57 pm

        He is a plonker. There is a BBC article about him taking the ashes squad off to Spain. He spouts off about not needing to practice batting and other rubbish…. I can’t bear to listen to him anymore. For those who can, here it is http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/cricket/33293448

        Just have to add one quote from it. “We don’t need to constantly train, we don’t lose it in two or three days of not picking up a bat,” said Cook.

        Is that not the type of comment KP was sacked for, surely not! Cook you are a two faced so and so, nicking KPs ideas…..of team bonding. Oh hang on, not KPs ideas just common sense, but no, 4 nil down (or whatever it was) and facing a whitewash in 2013/4 and what does captain Cock do, order more fitness training. Oh well at least he might have learnt his lesson, only 2 years late.

        Liked by 2 people

    • dvyk Jun 28, 2015 / 10:47 pm

      “Turning things around” must be the new term for “spin”, I think.

      This Ashes will go down in history as “Cook’s Legacy” no matter what happens.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Boz Jun 28, 2015 / 9:21 pm

    enjoy

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    • Fred Jun 28, 2015 / 10:28 pm

      I don’t believe you. You just made that up with photoshop, it didn’t actually happen.

      Like

  8. Rohan Jun 28, 2015 / 9:46 pm

    Some great comments. Really enjoyed reading that and good to see a range of opinions on off discussed topics.

    With regards to Sky, I find much of the commentary pretty poor, it winds me up quite a bit actually. I like insight that only someone who has played the game at the highest level can provide. I want to be told something that I would not know or not be able to glean myself, from watching the game. Yet many of the sky commentators, who were incredibly successful international cricketers, spout rubbish. Comments like ‘if that had hit he would have been run out!’. I can do better than that and I only played cricket at middle school. What about telling us about what the batsmen might have been thinking, why he thought a run was available. What happens in the mind, that leads to a run out situation. Provide us with an intelligent insight.

    Anyway this leads me to the point of my comment. Ian ward. I think he is underrated. The way he coaxes intelligent insight from high class internationals, in the ‘masterclasses’ is superb. He asks thoughtful questions. Picks up on the small nuances that need more explanation for the general public. He gets the players to reveal some amazing and often highly interesting aspects of their individual approach and preparation, for playing top level cricket. This has been a part of the Sky package I have really enjoyed and highly rate, it really is fantastic stuff.

    I wonder if Ward could turn his hand too conducting the kind of searching interviews our MSM seem so unable to do, with the ECB, Cook and other types we want answers from/who are given an easy ride.

    Anyway, very much looking forward to the next round of panels and well done, really enjoyed today’s!

    Like

    • Andy Jun 28, 2015 / 10:06 pm

      Agree 100‰ about Ian ward. I feel he has a very natural & watchable style. As you say, he gets incredible stuff from people who have need to be so forth coming.

      I wonder if he would take the gower ‘host’ role once he (gower) decides he’s had enough.

      Like

    • Mark Jun 28, 2015 / 10:11 pm

      Sky’s commentators are very good I think. Certainly Nasser, Mike Atherton are very good. Bumble provides the comedy, and some good insight. Michael Holding provides a little balance to the plethora of ex England captains. Bothams rants are quite funny.

      Strauss was a big failire for me. I wonder if Sky really wanted him or if he was forced on them by the ECB. A Jobs for the boys thing.

      Uncle Bob Willis is quite funny on the verdict with Charles Coleville who is a better presenter than Gower. As has been said above its not the quality of the broadcast that is the problem, but the monopoly of Sky over all English cricket.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. dvyk Jun 28, 2015 / 11:18 pm

    Thanks to the panelists — interesting read!

    I’m glad to see several people objecting to Agnew’s disgraceful sledge against M Clarke. I’ve said before here (several times probably) that I’ve heard plenty of sledging over the years, in Australia, but I never heard anything as contemptible as “You’ve let down your dead mate”. To hell with you Mr Aggers. And for something as pathetic as sledging. Anyway, if Strauss saying c— “humanised him”, then the press must also accept that sledging humanises the Australians to the same degree.

    Just to be clear, I find the whole thing ugly and stupid, but I also think if there’s a hot-head in the opposition who easily loses it, then use it. But not this constant stream of idiotic babble they carry on with.

    However, England have been, in my opinion, worse than Aust in the past on this count. And off the top of my head, I can think of several cases where it backfired on them spectacularly — jellybean-gate was one. Flintoff sledging Yuvraj Singh was another (he immediately hit Broad for 6x 6’s in an over).

    And I also remember as a young lad being in a group of teenagers watching Botham playing a tour match in Tasmania. We put up a sign that made a joke about his weight — we had also put up the same sign for Boon, who came out later and got his photo taken in front of it. Botham, however, made a big detour in our direction after he got out, waving his bat at and telling us he’d bash our heads in in the carpark. We just laughed about it of course, but what kind of fool threatens teenagers with a bat? (I bear no grudges, incidentally. I only just now remembered it after after all these years.)

    So that’s my banter for the evening….

    Liked by 1 person

    • metatone Jun 29, 2015 / 8:01 am

      Important points.
      England have taken to constant yapping and it’s just as ugly and stupid as when anyone else does it. And it makes the media froth all the more hypocritical.

      Like

      • d'Arthez Jun 29, 2015 / 9:24 am

        Yeah, if it is supposedly unsportsmanlike to sledge, then why is Anderson more often than not seen with his hand over his mouth after taking a wicket? I assume it is not out of a sudden realization that he, contrary to promises to the Mrs., has shaved off his mustache. What did Mr. Cook say as he shook hands with Angelo Mathews after the fourth ODI in England? Jadeja-gate? And that is to say nothing about the incessant yapping.

        The press are even worse. They can’t tell Watling apart from Guptill. How insulting. They think using c**t to refer to a former England captain is a cricketing highlight. They persistently refuse to investigate bullying claims (whether made by Pietersen, Kieswetter, or even Broad; yes, I assume that sh*tting your pants when you notice Mr. Andy Flower is calling is not caused by a sudden onset of diarrhea).

        Like

      • SimonH Jun 29, 2015 / 9:34 am

        It isn’t just ‘the old guard’ who sledge for England. In the third WI Test Root, Ballance, Jordan and Buttler gang-sledged Brathwaite at the start of the 4th innings. The likes of Selvey didn’t even mention it in their match report – but Atherton for one could clearly hear what was going on through the stump mics and commented on it.

        I’m not getting at those players in particular who I suspect were carrying out team orders (from those nice men Moores and/or Cook). Of course it back-fired on England and not the least problem with England sledging is that usually they’re just not very good at it.

        By the way, speaking of Jordan the BBC were reporting he’ll be out for six weeks with a side strain.

        Like

      • d'Arthez Jun 29, 2015 / 10:10 am

        Not wholly unrelated to Jordan, but can the umpires please put a stop on allowing specialist fielders on the field, almost all the time? It is one thing if a player carries a major injury, but another thing if a bowler has a desire to talk to the coach after bowling a spell. Seriously, if it is not a serious injury, I’d rather see the fielding side down to 10 men for the first 10 minutes / 3 overs.

        Liked by 2 people

      • metatone Jun 29, 2015 / 10:32 am

        @D’Arthez – great point.
        In Test matches there isn’t the issue of fielding restrictions, so if the bowler wants a comfort break, or to change his boots or whatever, why should he get a sub?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ian Jones Jun 29, 2015 / 12:08 pm

        I’m seeing lots of graun articles with no comments open so the writers can get their digs in without being called to book.

        Ali Martin had a go a day or so ago where he was lauding England’s pristine and choirboy like behaviour in the recent NZ series and then had a go at Australia’s Boorish baehaviour (his words) in the world cup final.

        Now I watched all the world cup games and particularly the final and I just can’t remember the behaviour he was talking about and I’ve seen Selvey write about it too. So it must be true and the alcohol has finally burnt out my memory.

        But the point is that the journo’s (alleged) who profess with their hands on their hearts to abhor this behaviour are the ones that keep dragging it up and more often than not misrepresent it in an out of context manner or simply lie about it.

        Like

      • Arron Wright Jun 29, 2015 / 12:25 pm

        That page is like a bloody pep rally at the moment. Three years or so ago, in the days of the World Cricket Forum etc, they would not have dreamed of ignoring key ICC developments for a whole weekend. I pity anyone who still considers themselves, ahem, “well-informed” on the basis of reading the Guardian’s cricket coverage.

        Like

    • Ian Jones Jun 29, 2015 / 12:31 pm

      Quite bloody right Arron, it’s disgraceful.

      Like

  10. d'Arthez Jun 29, 2015 / 6:21 am

    Sri Lanka making light work of the chase of 153. Currently 121/3, just after Karanuatne got out. Sanga got a golden duck, and Vithanage was a useful pinch-opener. Rain is not going to save Pakistan, but you do wonder what would have happened, if Reiffel actually had given Silva lbw for 21 (on the Pakistan review, and he did not bother to check for it).

    Like

    • SimonH Jun 29, 2015 / 8:13 am

      SL completed a seven wicket win. A combination of the threat of rain and Riaz’s injury maybe helped them blitz the smallish total but it was still some achievement to pull it off so comprehensively (only three teams have chased down 150+ at a higher run rate in Test history). After a horrible-looking first innings dismissal (bowled reverse sweeping) and with the selectorial axe poised that was some hitting by Vithanage. Most encouraging for SL must be the character the team showed to come back after a poor First Test (and on a ground where they have a poor recent record). That young or relatively inexperienced players contributed while old stagers Sanga and Herath did very little must be a close second. Mathews rediscovered his mojo after a lean spell since the ODI series in India – his junior teammates probably won’t be all over the press saying what a fantastic captain he is because anyone with eyes can see it. Good to see a bowler, Prasad, getting MotM.

      Pakistan remain maddeningly inconsistent, especially abroad. Being bundled out by Kaushal on the first day when the ball turned big off a damp wicket was always going to be difficult to come back from. Misbah hasn’t contributed with the bat and age may finally have overtaken him. The balance of their bowling looks a problem. They didn’t enjoy the rub of the green but were undoubtedly outplayed by the better team over the five days.

      Generous highlights from ‘Sri Lanka Cricket’ are available on Youtube. The Third Test starts in Pallekele on July 3rd..

      Liked by 1 person

      • d'Arthez Jun 29, 2015 / 9:15 am

        Fully agree with that assessment. Pakistan lost the game yesterday, when they lost their last 5 wickets for 28, (and the last 7 for 95). Up to the moment that Misbah got out, Pakistan were really in with a shout to make a real fight of it.

        Junaid Khan has been disappointing this series so far. Wahab is out with an injury, and I doubt that Pakistan will draft two replacement quicks in. I think (but I could be wrong), that Hafeez is going to have his bowling action assessed between the second and Third Test. If he gets banned, he’ll have to play as a specialist batsman. And while his stats in Asia are decent, outside of Asia they are abysmal (21.80 from 14 Tests, with a high of 95 in England, in the forfeited Test of 2006; his highest scores in West Indies, New Zealand, and South Africa are 32). Which may mean that Pakistan will have to bite the bullet and look for a new opener as well.

        Like

      • SimonH Jun 29, 2015 / 10:53 am

        Is Irfan available for the Third Test? Otherwise who might Pakistan call up? Rahat Ali? Ehsan Adil? Mohammad Talha? Someone else?

        Zulfiqar Babar’s bubble seems to have burst. Nine wickets at 64 in his last four Tests while Yasir Shah has been piling up the wickets.

        Like

      • d'Arthez Jun 29, 2015 / 11:32 am

        Don’t think he is available due to an injury. Imran Khan and Ehsan Adil are part of the squad. Between them, they have six Tests of experience. And I am really not sure how such a pair can be the only quicks Pakistan pick. That would simply resemble too much of a risk.

        Babar has had a pretty poor series (though 6/219 is not an absolute disaster).

        But so has Herath. Not sure if that is an issue with regards to batting lineup (Pakistan is heavily dominated by right handed batsmen). Plenty of lefties in the Sri Lanka lineup though.

        Like

  11. Mark Jun 29, 2015 / 11:22 am

    On the issue of sledging I can’t imagine England are very good at it. When the best they can come up with for nicknames for their own players is to just add a y on the end. Cooky, Broady, Belly, Rooty etc,etc. and it never changes down through the decades. Lamby, Goochy, Corky, Goughy, Hicky.

    There have been some more intelligent ones. Michael Athertons “when in Rome.” I think that might have gone over the head of the Aussie wicketkeeper mind. Seeing as he is so one eyed. The Sledge against Mark Waugh was very good when he was questioning how bad an England players ability was. “mate your not even the best in your own family.”

    I can’t remember the gist of it but Swanns sledge against Ponting was also quite good. It made the other Aussies in the slips laugh. “Mind the windows Tino” was good and of course poor old Tino fell for it almost immediately. So that gives it greater strength.

    England have this fake niceness about them. It runs through the Cook captaincy of stabing people in the back, and running to the coach to tell tales. And is continued through the fake niceness of certain media/supporters. People like Agnew and Selvey, and their weird followers who demand decency from everyone but themselves.

    Most sledging just seems to be abuse, and that should be stamped out by the umpires and governing bodies. But how do you define abuse? Some lea way has to be given to bowlers in the heat of the moment when they have just seen the batsmen play and miss yet again. One thing I don’t agree with is the notion that you should have to take shit all day from opponents and then be forced to have a drink with them afterwards. Some people are not wired that way. Fine if you are, but just saying it’s “the Aussie way ” and everyone must follow suit is wrong.

    Like

    • d'Arthez Jun 29, 2015 / 11:34 am

      Abuse is difficult to define. If a comment can cause a pub brawl, it is probably abuse. If it does not, it is probably fair comment.

      Like

      • Mark Jun 29, 2015 / 1:06 pm

        I think there has been plenty of abuse on the field of play but it does not lead to a brawl. The reason being that the player throwing punches would probably be banned for life. It’s the old thing about retaliation. They guy that retaliated gets banned, and the one that instigates it gets off scott free.

        Like

    • paulewart Jun 29, 2015 / 7:46 pm

      You can’t beat Botham’s legendary/mythical response to Rod Marsh’s query about his wife and kids.

      Like

    • paulewart Jun 30, 2015 / 8:03 am

      ‘England have this fake niceness about them. It runs through the Cook captaincy of stabbing people in the back, and running to the coach to tell tales’.

      It’s the English disease and why so many Aussies have so little time for us. It was ever thus, we looted the world under a banner marked ‘civilising mission.’ We’d all benefit from a little more honesty.

      Like

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