I Think We Understand

Peter Hayter has an interesting piece up on ESPN Cricinfo.

His finale sums up the issues. Those out there think we don’t understand. We do. But only you are in a position to do anything about it….

The finale…..

The standard of reporting remains excellent, but the desire of the cricket authorities in general, and the ECB in particular, to manage the news, manipulate the media and, on occasions, be downright obstructive, is unhealthy and unhelpful. So is the complicity of those journalists who have allowed the daily news briefing to form the basis of their coverage. Aiding individual requests for access is almost impossible. But if anyone has bothered to buy all the newspapers after non-match days in recent summers, they would quickly have realised they were reading the same story, featuring the same quotes, in the same order. The reader will also be told at the end of such a piece, and sometimes halfway through it, that so-and-so was speaking as a “brand ambassador” for whichever sponsor’s turn it was to have the use of an England player – information that will mean nothing to readers. Those who work in public relations call it churnalism. Journalism, it is not. We have all dined at the same trough. But it did come as a shock to be told by an ECB media officer, soon after I had secured an interview for the first issue of The Cricket Paper with England captain Andrew Strauss (by ringing him up and asking him nicely), that in future I would not be allowed access to any England cricketer unless the piece was arranged in conjunction with a sponsor. I admit I have not always stuck rigidly to the rules.

Players are now well versed in the art and science of media training, to which they are subjected as soon as they show the slightest sign of being good enough to represent England one day. This is conducted by professionals from newspapers, radio and other media, and is intended to teach the poor wee lambs how to talk to journalists – by opening and shutting their mouths without actually saying anything.

In my experience of talking to younger cricketers, media training is the last thing they need. Some may think their time could be better spent being trained to bat, bowl and field. It is interesting to note how much more fun than the English the Australians are to interview, and how much better they come across in public, even while they were losing the 2013 Ashes 3-0. Could this be because, in the main, they said what they actually thought, and not what they thought their media relations department told them to say? If you are looking for answers, don’t bother: I haven’t really posed any questions. But, as well as feeling a profound gratitude for having had such a ball while doing this for a living, I am a little saddened that the next generation of journalists will spend more time glued to the internet than having a beer or two with friends who happen to be cricketers.

And one thing I do know. A bored player talking to a bored reporter in controlled laboratory conditions, sometimes with a sponsor or ECB blazer on their shoulder ready to intervene, usually equals a boring interview for all concerned. The real victims are those who have to read it.

This is why blogs can thrive. We do our best to fill the gap. We don’t need quotes from players, but we look at what happens and do our best to fill in the blanks. It makes us wonder why journalists churn out the line fed to them with little analysis, and in some cases, blind support. They can change it by refusing to comply. The sponsored interview is an abomination, an absolute indication of the utter contempt the powers that be hold us in. You are enablers. You can make it stop. Don’t turn up.

This leads me on to the next Dmitri……..The one journalist to make it in this year for reasons of contempt. You know who it is. I’ve already done 1000 words and feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface.

UPDATE: I was watching Sky last night and they had this teeth-itchingly awful piece with Hussain (RIP his integrity) picking some commentary XI with awful inserts including Eoin Morgan, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow. It was everything wrong with the modern media relationship in a nutshell. It was neither too close (but interesting how Sky managed to get England players to indulge in a puff piece for their station) nor distant enough. It may seem like a little harmless fun, but to me it just spoke volumes. It’s a business relationship. Pure and simple. There’s no soul, no passion, no vivacity. It’s strictly effing business.


Dmitri Award Number 2 – 355*



It was either Tickers or Miller who said that Kevin Pietersen was the greatest ever exponent of the “Fuck You” innings. There was the infamous 149, full of anger, full of bravado, full of full blown confidence. That’s a legendary knock. But there’s nothing quite like timing your career best, the fourth highest score ever made at The Oval, the second highest by a Surrey player to coincide with Andrew Strauss’s annointment as the Director Comma. I think if you had to put something forward for a Dmitri, that dominated the landscape of the blog, that fuelled a record month of hits, then to leave out this innings would not be right. As I said in my previous post, it’s time to be true to what I think the blog should be, and not what others want me to write.

Kevin Pietersen still dominates the landscape. Even today he’s playing in a T20 Final in South Africa, and although he failed today, he was the story of the early stages with back-to-back hundreds. It was KP in a nutshell (I apologise). Selvey called him a fruitfly back in the day, but it’s not Pietersen’s job to make things cosy for the powers that be and their enablers in the print and TV media. It is not his job to be quiet. He is playing T20 cricket and that’s so depressing. Because on that day back in May, we saw what he could do. He was dropped a few times, it wasn’t the strongest of opposition, but he was doing as he thought he was told. Go out and score runs in county cricket. He did. 355 of them.

I was in the States at the time. I’d managed to buy a £15 data roaming card which gave me around 500MB data. I’d started the day following the increasing level of his score as we drove up the Parkway to Atlantic City. I have to say I was chuckling heartily. I could sense the bile of those who loathed him from 3500 miles away. You could hear the nonsensical arguments to decry the innings. They had a spectacularly bad tempered Dominic Cork to hide behind if they so wished. But you don’t ignore triple hundreds. You just don’t. This innings made a statement. Pietersen could still bat, so it put to bed that magnificent nonsense that people were putting out there that he was finished. It left them now with the only line left – England would not be picking on cricketing merit. They would be using other criteria, as if any sentient being believed otherwise. The fig leaf was removed. Note – next highest scorer in that innings was 36. By some muppet called Sangakkara!

If KP had not made that innings, then he could have trundled on, and the can could have been booted down the street. “He’s not making enough runs, and he’s at Division 2 level. There are no vacancies in the middle order.” The elephant in the room always was that KP couldn’t be allowed back in because too many people would have been wrong. By making 326 not out at stumps that day, he’d rammed the nonsense back down their throats. “Not enough runs?” Well…..

History has treated Strauss kindly after this decision. An Ashes win was the end justifying the means. The ODI renaissance paints a youthful verve rather than a look-back to past times. But the test batting is now an effing mess, and the only trust we have is in Dmitri #1 to keep the middle order in any reasonable functioning order.

But let me tell you what it did for this blog in May. Being Outside Cricket had its record day, week and month. Pietersen is box office. Those who come here to snark on their own little private echo chambers know this. I know it. I know of people who are sick that they didn’t go to the Oval that day. I know of people who are glad to see the back of him, finally. But what you can’t deny that he is a compelling cricketer. The 355 runs he made in May set up the Director Comma era, and there will be more of that later….

So, as, under my own silly rules, I can’t put KP in, the number 355 will be put into the Dmitri Award annals…..

Here are some interesting links on that time….

https://beingoutsidecricket.com/2015/05/15/statement-of-the-oblivious/ — on Colin Grave’s pathetic justification.

https://beingoutsidecricket.com/2015/05/13/a-matter-of-life-and-trust/ – TLG’s wonderful piece on matters Strauss

and this line…

“That Pietersen has been treated dreadfully is a given even amongst those who are not remotely his fans – and let’s nail this particular straw man argument right here, there are a tiny number of people who are proper, out and out Pietersen fans.  Most of the others are England fans who may or may not think the side would be better with him in it, but believe a team should be selected from its best players, and who know a stitch up when they see one.

https://beingoutsidecricket.com/2015/05/12/trust-1/ – On Trust. We’ll be looking at that in due course.

https://beingoutsidecricket.com/2015/05/12/strauss-press-conference-live-blog/ – TLG’s behemoth post (most hit this year) on the press conference.

So – 355*. Dmitri Award #2.