We Know Nothing – Part 1

At the moment, we are researching a series of posts on the cricket media, so I thought I’d kick off with a little (ha ha, as if) historical perspective as regards this blog, and the predecessor that was HDWLIA in relation to comments on the media. Let us begin around ago….

In the middle of the furore over the Hong Kong cricket match, many of you on here will remember this tweet from a member of our press corps which said:

“You have no idea how cricket media works. I’ve offered to meet to explain but you prefer to spout nonsense form (sic) anonymous blog”

I’ll keep that one.

My frustration with much of the cricket media has been a common, and some would say (very) repetitive theme throughout the last two years. Of course, it was principally sourced from the incidents in the fallout from the Ashes whitewash, but it’s beyond that. It really is, and this scene setter seeks to explain why and how.

The predecessor to this blog, How Did We Lose In Adelaide (still available if you know where to look) had rumbled around for quite a while before it got noticed. For six or so months, probably from around April to November of last year, it hit its peak in terms of the pique it derived from the cricket media. While I would not be as so bold to admit I know entirely how cricket media works, my heavens, I had gained a jolly good taste of how it did, just by watching their reporting, their behaviour, and in some cases, their arrogance. Back then I would take an article, and tried to dissect it (fisking). I was angry. I may well have been off target, but it was from the heart. That blogging captured the drive within me. Sometimes I wonder where that has gone.

(I’ve always said my aim was to get to within three universes of the sort of stuff Fire Joe Morgan did for baseball, where journalists were routinely targeted. They were talented professional writers doing that. I was a sole muppet, with an anger issue…. whatever I did, it seemed to work)

Things died down in the New Year, as HDWLIA closed down and Being Outside Cricket started. There was a brief renaissance of interest during the KP furore of May and the Ashes, but the tone then was completely different. We were aiming at the ECB, and had, actually, been doing that for quite a while. After all, the press weren’t really trying.

But here’s a fact. I was absolutely more excoriating of the cricket media last year on HDWLIA than I have ever been on Being Outside Cricket. I read back my attacks on the big beasts of journalism not hiding behind a paywall from those days last year, and I go full on. Now, maybe that’s because I didn’t really believe journalists would read it, because hit rates then were less than 100 a day and very few people were picking up on it. I was just one of those annoying gnats that you could shoo- away. In many ways, that has not changed.

So, let me go into the way journalists have interacted with me. I had occasional tweets answered early on, and put comments on line. I had a regrettable debate with Jonathan Agnew after a “convivial evening”, which ended up with someone threatening me with physical violence, which was nice (I’d called Agnew obsequious, which  was out of order and we made peace). I think the starting point of more interest was at the test match at Lord’s against Sri Lanka last year.  On that test match night, Jarrod Kimber let me know that he was reading out the “10 Worst Journalists” column to the attendant media. In his words, some were mad at being on the list, some were mad at not being higher. What he did say, was that many there read the blog, including those I’ve been told by others never do.

It’s a bit intimidating really. But I tried to be fair, and probably didn’t succeed. So while I am by no means an expert on the cricket media – we’ll delve into this a little later – the opposite applies. The cricket media’s overall knowledge of social media is laughable, in my experience. They rely squarely on the comfort blanket offered by social media’s lunatic fringe, by lumping those in there trying to make a point as trolls. Ed Smith, in particular, is good at that one. Others ignore the well-made salient points made to them on Twitter, and just pick on a ranting one to have a pop. I’m not saying it’s easy seeing your work dissected by the hoi polloi, but if you go on Twitter, you know what you are going to get. I got some fearful abuse over the KP post last year. I got some this Ashes summer too. It’s not nice. But that’s the price you pay.

One thing struck me from when Jonathan Agnew tried to break bread with Maxie Allen last year on a podcast. He said something along the lines of “if you come into my house and started calling me names, I’d chuck you out. That’s my approach on social media.” Well, yes, fair enough, but how many people with serious points to make are totally ignored without kicking up a fuss, and I’m referring to a number of the selective tweet responses in the para above? I’m a case in point. I called him lamentable and obsequious, and got blocked – entirely up to him, but it came with consequences for me. He then made peace the following day, so we called it quits, and have got on OK since, although our paths do not cross nearly as often. But I wouldn’t have got to that point without being forceful to start off with. I’m not as down on Agnew as others on here, but that’s their right.

My raison d’etre is not to become in with the in crowd. I’d much rather be friends and get along with people than have steaming rows with all and sundry, but I’m not courting anyone. It’s not good for me to be angry and arguing, and after a while, screaming and shouting becomes annoying and self-defeating. So let me strike down casual myth number one about my interaction with the cricket media. I do not want to become a journalist / reporter. That is not my aim, and I don’t know how many times I need to say it. It is also not attention seeking (although I can do it very well as this blog proves), and the clue is in the use of a pseudonym and my unwillingness to meet people. Some people call this cowardice. Don’t bother with me then, because it isn’t changing any time soon. That is the antithesis of “attention seeking”. So my lack of knowledge about the cricket media isn’t keeping me going to get into the game. So perhaps we’ll leave that sorry canard alone, eh? Others have got into journalism, to newspapers etc, and got contacts along the way by blogging. Fair play to them. That isn’t for me. At Lord’s, this summer, I was stood five feet away from Agnew. If I was an attention seeker, I’d have said hello.

What this (Being Outside Cricket) blog did less than the last one was to hold the cricket media to some sort of account in my own style. Again, Jarrod has said to me “why do you blog about people the vast majority of the cricket world don’t give a shit about?” Because it was fun. Yes. Fun. I adored the way they tripped up over themselves in knifing a cricketer they clearly did not like (and if they did, they did a passable impression of hating him), while being on the same side as an organisation headed, at the time, by a bloke I’m confident many of them can’t abide, bigging up charlatans, propping up a captain who, on form and captaincy ability at the time should have been dropped, and giving a passable impression, as Mark frequently comments, of being the ECB’s “stenographers”.

What I got to understand rapidly, is that the one thing that got cricket in the papers was something to do with Pietersen – look how many times his Tweets are converted into news stories. In their own way, this was their attention seeking. Even now, KP makes the papers. I’d wager he’s still the most famous cricketer in England, and only Cook might rival him. His exploits in over-the-way T20 competitions still get mentions. I understood this about the cricket media. A story with KP got hits, got comments below the line where applicable and sold advertising. It still does. Vic Marks alluded to him in his recent piece on Jason Roy. Fomenting antis were over it like a bad suit (remember, we’re obsessed). So chalk that down as something I know about cricket media. And you didn’t have to be Einstein to work that out.

The cricket media have their own jobs to do, and it was something that I was criticised for in Brian’s review in Wisden Almanack (and jeez, I will always have that little gem….) in not seeing their side of the story. Well, I’m awfully sorry about that, but when an organisation (ECB) treats its own fans with such utter contempt, it’s hard to see their side when they won’t see our’s. Our hopes were pinned on at least some of them asking the right questions and having a feel for what a good constituency of their readers might be feeling, at the right time. At the time he was sacked. Instead, they slept. Or stuck the knife in. I never sensed that they cared about that sacking, and said so. Suddenlt there was a wave of people who came along for the ride. Those that read, or read (in past tense) the blog over the past 18 months felt, and still feel incredibly let down by our fearless press have, in some instances, turned their back on England. This doesn’t matter in a world of small-minded administrators. Those that care a lot can be disenfranchised. I can’t watch England in the same way again.

The ECB are never going to give access to bloggers (not sure that I’d want that, but Chris, perhaps, would be more  up for that as it suits his personality better than mine), so our hopes were pinned on the cricket media. We were appallingly let down, whether they like being told it, or care. How we saw the cricket media work there was putting access above adjudication, prejudice above pressure, long-term comfort over short-term revolt. Coming to mind, especially, was the fact it took 10 questions to get to KP in Downton’s first conference when we’d been waiting two months for any answers. Then, hilariously, more than one of the media were falling over themselves to tell us how great JPM’s finest was. The re-writing of history over Downton has been to see how the cricket media works. Not many of them were thinking “blimey, he’s out of his depth” until the end of the summer of 2014 at the earliest. A fair few of us were. We recognise that sort in our daily lives.

Since then, the pressure has died down on the media, and I’ve not been doing the fisking I used to. That’s fisking (analysing an article line-by-line). Why? Well, for the first thing they are quite time consuming and some newspapers make doing it a real tedious affair. Second, I’ve not felt the need to. Much of the fisking was because people were pretending there were no leaks (hence the repeated use of the “good journalism” meme on here – as in here’s another piece of good journalism “such and such is set to be dropped, we understand”) and also that ridiculous contentions were being put up about KP in particular without tangible evidence to back it up. The relationship between the journalist and reader should be that we either enjoy their style, or we trust what they say, and I was pointing out that I (me, and I write for me alone) liked neither their style nor trusted them in many ways.

I’ve also not issued the results of polls on the worst journalist, and thus not added comments to them. Why not? Because, to be frank, I don’t read much of what they write any more. It used to be fun picking up on their contentions blatantly accessed from sources we’ll never be a party to, or some of their ideas they’ll stick to come hell or high water, but it gets a bit repetitive (another Wisden criticism). The name of our recent winner is at the bottom of the post. It’s no surprise.

A few weeks ago we saw them, briefly, at their finest. A piece of good journalism here, a breaking of an embargo (an embargo, for heaven’s sake, it’s not a top secret report for God’s sake) there, and all round tut-tutting about it. These are the last throes of the dinosaurs. An ECB edict, issued under embargo to a press in need, protected from the punters of course, who don’t need to know before someone with a commercial imperative, and it’s leaked on social media. They haven’t a bleeding clue. Then, hilariously, the big story (Bell’s exclusion) was missed.

You see, the reason I like reading George Dobell and Jarrod Kimber and Gideon Haigh is that I trust them. They have their opinions, and I will listen to them and decide based on what they say. Sure, they have their favourites, because they are human beings, and we all have biases. I don’t believe (well, in some cases I have no doubt) they take dictation from the ECB or other authorities. They call it as they see it. This blog regularly votes them in to the best journalist poll, and we waxed lyrical about George in particular last year. Indeed, I think a sign of how highly he should be regarded is that in some cases, people were disappointed in some of his stuff, and voted him in the worst poll this year. That’s interesting to me.

TLG and I will be talking more about the media in the short term. In the years I’ve been doing this blog the reactions to a couple of recent events really piqued my interest. The golf day stuff, which I stayed out of by and large, and the Hong Kong game. It piques Tregaskis’s enough to write his epic published yesterday.

So be prepared for some more nonsense, and I hope you enjoy it.

Finally, I can exclusively reveal here the winner of this summer’s worst journalist award, as voted for by the readers of Being Outside Cricket. It’s Mike Selvey. No shock there. The rest will follow…. a new entry at number 2, and at number 4 for instance.

Selvey was a landslide winner because he exemplifies how we see the cricket media “working”. In the past 18 months he has been contemptuous of those who dare to challenge his view, has undertaken some of the most appalling briefing against a player I’ve seen in ages (Adil Rashid – it went beyond opinion on the pace he bowls at when he went after him at Lord’s this summer) and his world class tweeting. Just recently Tim Wigmore alluded to something a little more concerning, and no, we didn’t miss it, and nor did you, commenters. He’s number 1 for a reason.

This post was written, mostly, a fortnight ago. I’m sharing it now in the light of Tregaskis’s piece. We’ll be discussing that for days to come, an important blogging milestone of undoubted depth. It took a chance, and his style of writing, leaning towards FICJAM but without the ego, and thus superb in its nature, is beyond what I could possibly achieve. He has sought to be honourable when no such honour is reciprocated by most. I wonder where we go from here. TLG and I will pick up on it more and more, because it has not gone away.

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The Next T20, The Pink Ball, And Tregaskis

Comments on today’s T20 should be included below. An impressive win against what looked like an over-matched Pakistan team gives us that little bit of hope when it comes to the next World T20. I’ve been on the Billings Bus for a bit, and like what I see so far, but he doesn’t seem to fit in to a first XI which has Buttler in it. Indications are that other players are going to be rested (suggesting Morgan might be) so we’ll see the depth of the line-up.

I have to say that I didn’t see much of the day-night test. I have time off work and wanted to sleep…. I love sleep more than cricket. I did see some parts though, and the round-up at the end from Cricket Australia TV was drinks all round, wasn’t it wonderful, everything was amazing, and mulitple bruising from patting each other on the back. The important stat was 44,000 in the crowd, and the game not being a farce. One would suggest a normal test match where one team is out for 202 and the other was 50 odd for 2 would not get much of a glance – a game in the balance, an average amount of runs, and the game being more than a cakewalk for batsmen – but this isn’t a normal game. If you’re looking for hyperbole, then Shiny Toy is your man.

Vaughan has form for going over the top, but what was needed was something like today. Adelaide is a batting wicket at most test matches, and it’s clear the ball has had some effect, or there is something else going on with the pitch. I haven’t studied it, seen what they’ve done, but Selfey was intimating that the pitch had a bit more grass on it to protect the ball. The fear with the ball would be an abrasive surface tearing it apart. But there’s nothing wrong with that pitch preparation, and indeed a normal day’s play was just what was required. It has been a success, but the problem is when the Cricket Australia TV gush so much. If I’m agreeing with them, then there’s something wrong.

Let’s see how the match plays out. One observation from me is I hate watching the pink ball on the TV. It is going to take some getting used to.

Then there’s Tregaskis’s piece. From where I’m sitting, the press lost my trust 18 months ago. They were conduits for leaks, gleefully on many occasions, printed a number of stories that were pro-ECB no matter how often they complained about how this monolith had put up a bubble to keep them out, and their judgement on certain characters was found wanting. T’s piece makes many very good points, and in some regards I think he over-reaches a little (but hey, don’t we all), but he’s got certain journos talking to a blogger and in the main, that can’t be a bad thing. T has a cache that I don’t have. He’s a respected writer, winner of a tremendous award, and also got to write a terrifice article in The Cricketer. He’s also a charming fellow to talk to on the phone, on the one instance I got that chance. He approaches his subject with diligence and with a clear idea of the right way to go about it. He affords many of the journalistic community a respect I cannot do, and for that, he’s a much better man than I.

John – the answer is still no.

I come at this issue as a cricket fan, and yes a fan of one player I felt was treated very badly. I hold the media very responsible for letting us down. For turning the other way. For taking one side of the story and putting it that way. I have a piece on the stocks that I’ve just not had the heart to put up summing up the interactions over the last 18 months. While some have sought to build up some trust since, it isn’t working across the piece.

As for Nagpur, well….. if you want to kill off the sport, keep doing that. Harsha Bhogle, not known as a critic of the BCCI, isn’t exactly enamoured with it. http://indianexpress.com/article/sports/cricket/india-vs-south-africa-pitches-are-diluting-the-joy-of-success/