Last year I put the whole of the UK media in to the Hall of Dmitri, so it leaves me open to start picking them off individually. So while Jim Holden’s article might have had a place all of its own, or Paul Newman might deserve true consideration for his commitment to anti-KP wordsmithing and excessive pro-Cook prose, or Stephen Brenkley could take his arslikhan to a new dimension, there is only one who can really walk through the hallowed portals this year. That man is Mike Selvey.
Often hard for journos to remember they are read by many many more people online than few bilious inadequates who dominate comment section. – Mike Selvey, 8 May 2015
During the KP business last year, Selvey was annoying because he seemed to have a firm feel on next steps in front of others, and when he didn’t, he’d been seen to bolster credentials of people who later got jobs. There was the “how Downton was an inspired appointment and he was a good and safe man on the tiller”. No-one remind him of that one, eh? Then there was how Andy Flower was the second coming, and that the 2013-14 Ashes debacle really could’t be pinned on him. How about his wailing against the dismissal of Graham Gooch, gnashing his teeth at players who had stopped listening to him as if that was all he needed to do – talk? But most of all it was the proposing, repeatedly, of Peter Moores as the obvious choice to replace Flower. He was unshakeable in his contention, firm in his belief. Not forgetting, of course, how he was good friends with our bowling coach in the face of evidence that our bowling was regressing alarmingly, maintaining support as you would for a friend (and that still rears its head – see “the enforcer” comments which, as our readers showed, came from Saker and weren’t a “media construct”).
So the judgement is sound, but what got worse is that as these contentions looked more and more ridiculous, Selvey got more and more hardline, and that has upset a lot of readers on here. It’s easy for me because I’ve never really liked him as a writer or broadcaster, but to see people on here who thought he was a top journo and a decent TMS man turn on him was revelatory. When it came to the crunch, after a debacle of an Ashes series, Selvey, writing for the putatively sceptical of authority Guardian, revelled in the role of the Company Man. A more loyal scribe to the powers that be you could not find.
This year he has grated on the commenters on this blog like no other. He has made his position abundantly clear. He has no time for the likes of us. Hence the bye-line on the blog. We are “bilious inadequates”, “vile ignoramuses” or “social media zealots”. I’m not asking for an invitation to the Cricket Writers Christmas Shindig, but what I am looking for is someone who is there to represent all shades of cricket supporter, not just those who think the sun shines out of the ECB’s backsides. Because if you are looking for critical dissemination of the running of England cricket, you’ll be seeing Selvey’s heels, but anyone upsetting the applecart will get it with both barrels. I’ll let others determine the motivation, because there is one major theory doing the rounds.
So this year he is our journalist emeritus idioticus for a number of reasons. Contempt is top of the list. Now I get people will not exactly invite their critics in for a cup of tea, but Selvey’s attitude is remarkably dismissive. I have looked at this post a lot (it was originally going to be the third Dmitri, but I wanted to be fair) and can understand being riled by nonsense. But I don’t think he’s tackled by stupid people.
There was this quote around the time of Moores’ dismissal:
Too many people here do not understand how journalism works. And too many look for conspiracy where there is none. And do you seriously think we would give up the sources of our stories? Get real, as Farage once said.
There’s that theme again. “You don’t know how journalism works” as if the securing of information is some sort of complex, unsolveable equation that only those with the special gift can solve. Your job entails watching cricket, analysing cricket, listening to anodyne press statements and indulge in gossip and intrigue to find out what is happening as background. How you do it and who your sources are is your stock-in-trade, and probably requires you to be slightly ruthless but also not backward in coming forward. But to me, the only special skill you need over the likes of us is the ability to develop contacts while not betraying them. So save that £5 for the first pint, journos. If they really mean keeping in with the ECB while maintaining enough of a link to provide stories, then that’s not a skill I’d be singing about.
But the last part of his dismissal above sums up how far up their own arses some have gone. “Do you think we would give up the sources” he wails. What the fuck is this? Nuclear secrets? Industrial espionage? It’s bloody gossip and it relates to the future of OUR England team, not some cosy cabal of journalistic purveyance to maintain THEIR relevance. For without the backstories, they become us with a paid ticket in a shady stand. No wonder they wail when people try to pin them down on who stabbed who in the back in OUR team…. without their “access” it’s Wizard of bleedin’ Oz time. They would be virtually irrelevant.
The piece could go into many things this year, but to me two items really summed up Selvey’s year of antagonism and they are:
The Attitude to the issues raised in Death of a Gentleman – Selvey made, it seemed, a virtue out of the fact that a cricket correspondent for a major national newspaper did not bother to watch a film which tried to expose the workings of international cricket (as he revealed on CWOTV). Now, whether he thinks Sam and Jarrod are a couple of chancers who love to indulge in conspiracy theories, the sort of which Selvey would never indulge in, is by the by. It’s the sort of story the Guardian should be lapping up. Potentially corrupt officials governing an international sport in naked short-term, corrosive self interest. To our shame our board is part of this disgrace. Our toffee-nosed, dismissive, disgraceful ex- ECB head, who manouevred himself into the role of our international representative has committed these acts in our name. An important, widely discussed in cricket circles film is out there, and he’d not even watched it? If that is acceptable to you, fine. I think it’s pretty shoddy. As I said above, there are reasons out there that seek to explain this nonsense. Let them stand until they are disproved. On the key topics he seems to have reasonably well developed views. He’s clear that the Olympics won’t work, instead of seeing the massive advantages of trying to do so – that seems remarkably similar to another key individual – and talks the way he does to anyone who disagrees.
Adil Rashid – I have not seen anything like it. Selvey has been waging a one man campaign against Adil’s selection the likes of which is unprecedented in my memory. That any number of 80 mph trundlers have been selected for overseas tours that were going to be played on flat decks with a Kookaburra ball passes with little comment, but a leggie with success in county cricket who bowls under 50 mph is beyond the pale? I may be being unfair, but really? If you’ve been told once that he bowls too slowly, then you’ve been told dozens of times. No-one here believes that Adil is the answer to our spinning woes, but we should at least give him a try. He can spin the ball, the wrong way for many English players, and he can also hold a bat (as he proved when nearly saving the Dubai test). But he was briefed against:
There is a view, though, one held within the England set-up, that Rashid bowls too slowly for Test cricket where the demands of batsmen are not to try to score at seven an over with fielders round the boundary.
There are also doubts about how comfortable he would be in a Test environment.
Although I am struggling to find the smoking gun at present, I do believe he was also scathing about his injury at the time of the Lord’s test. But that one above is just odd. Who had those doubts? Why are they telling you? Why are you putting this out there?
Then there was the Abu Dhabi collapse by Pakistan which Selvey put down to him increasing his pace (not discernibly, according to my scribes here). It has been a bizarre campaign against a new player to the squad (relatively). I have no idea what this is about.
Selvey’s dismissive attitude towards his critics is, in some ways perfectly understandable. There’s been quite a few sightings recently of “he’s a good bloke, really” statements by people we speak to and read. They are aware how a group of people feel about him. The censoring of comments to his articles, the wonderful responses to tweets, all the received wisdom and sniffiness. Of course, he doesn’t care. Why should he? All I can say is that I read the Guardian a lot less now, due to him.
I have a huge amount of anger towards the press corps, yes for Pietersen, but also for what they did in 2014 to prop up a corrosive, rotten edifice because of reasons they’ve never quite explained, but no doubt will form a chapter in the elusive tome “How Cricket Journalism Works”. The anger is derived from that, it will take a long time to go away, if, indeed, it ever does. This year Selvey gets the nomination, aided by Pringle’s demotion to virtual irrelevance and Newman winding his neck in. The readers here are the reason why – as I said, I try not to read too much of what these people say now, but I’ve seen enough – because they feel let down.
No doubt this will be filed away as another attack. I think there are messages in there. But hey, they don’t really care. Why would they? We just want to be them, don’t we?
So Selvey wins the Dmitri. That is all.
The question is, of course, who’s ‘Deep Throat’ to Mike’s Bob Woodward? Fnirp.
Or perhaps it might be better described as who is Harry Corbett to Mike Selveys Sooty
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Rod Hull to his Emu.
If there’s any Deep Throating going on, I suspect Mike is the receiver and Giles Clarke is the giver, If you see what I mean.
So Mike is Linda Lovelace?
Selvey is symptomatic of The Guardian’s decline, sadly.
I could better understand if Selveys style of reactionary, establishment brown nosing found a home at the Telegraph. (Actually The Telegraph on cricket has been positively rebellious. Even giving KP a column.) but the Guardian?
The paper of the anti establishment allowing this person to dismiss the critics of one of the biggest English pillars of the sporting establishment as no nothing morons is too much. Does the editor of the Guardian like cricket, and get nice free tickets delivered to his desk?
And what’s worse, to protect Selvey they have purged the BTL comments section of his pieces in a desperate attempt to stop the rebellion growing. Stalin would have admired the purges of his critics.
Don’t get me started on football jounalists in this country. Dmitri and I share a loathing of the Hold the back page generation of wide boys, but at least many of them have criticized the governing body of Wordl football. FIFA. Even to the point where England’s own spineless governing body, the FA criticized the British media for pointing out the corruption. They were more concerned with trying to win a World Cup bid that had no chance. The FA only relented when they lost so badly for the last bid, and realized they had been played by the suits at FIFA.
At least the football media attacked the powerful elites at the top. Some are doing the same in the field of Atlhletics, and the behavior of Seb Coe, and his conflicts of interest. But The ICC? Nothing. *SILENCE* CRICKETS* SILENCE*
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A couple of points about Rashid:
1) Amusingly, Selvey did advocate selecting Rashid for the NZ Test at Lord’s. At the expense of – Stokes! That was rather forgotten after the Root-Stokes’ partnership became the TM of the new era. Also rather forgotten is Selvey’s constant sniping at Stokes during the WI tour.
2) Rashid is slower than most successful international spinners. It is reasonable for Selvey to point that out. What isn’t reasonable (apart from the tedious repetition) is not mentioning other things. Steve James mentions in ‘The Plan’ that in trials at Loughborough Rashid put more revs on the ball than any other England spinner. Has Selvey ever mentioned that? It’s classic “let’s focus on what he can’t do”. When Rashid then enjoyed some success, and Selvey tried to bend reality by arguing Rashid was only successful because he’d followed Selvey’s advice by bowling more quickly, he just showed his true colours. The Hawkeye data is easily available and it showed Rashid bowled all of 0.2 mph quicker in that second innings.
I’d add on DOAG that his comment on not watching it was the all the worse for it being made on CWOTV when the film was being discussed. I don’t know how journalism works and it’s guesswork on my part but I reckon that those appearing may have some idea of what’s going to be on the agenda.
My biggest problem with Selvey is that he is so one-eyed (Mike Cyclops as Arron dubbed him). He eulogises England players (or certain England players) while down-playing, ignoring or showing sheer rank ignorance of players on other teams (except a tiny handful who he’s decided are ‘good men’ like McCullum or Ryan Harris). The nine paragraphs on Cook’s double century compared to the one on Shoaib Malik’s (most of which was about his good luck) was merely one example among many.
One of his worst piece during the year was the one about batting at No.3 being some supposed “badge of honour” which was nothing more than a thinly-veiled accusation that Clarke was a shirker and letting his team down. For once, Selvey bothered to give some supporting evidence – which then hilariously turned out to be riddled with errors (like Richards and Lara not batting at No.3 or Amla having moved and he hadn’t noticed). Strangely, in the two series since then, Selvey doesn’t seem to have had any sort of a problem with Misbah or ABDV who have spent most of their careers at No.5 (indeed ABDV has batted at No.6 quite often).
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Selvey is proof positive of the Dunning-Kruger effect. Because he’s an effective enough writer about cricket as a game, he imagines himself an excellent journalist about cricket as a multi-billion dollar industry.
In my opinion, the reality is that he’s very good at repeating what “sources” tell him without wishing to analyse what he has been told. This may be because he’s an ex-player and still has a sense of loyalty and duty to the administration as a result or it may be because he’s found his groove and doesn’t want to jeopardise the life he’s built for himself. Or maybe he just doesn’t understand the anger that exists more widely towards those in charge of the game.
In cricket there are things that matter a little and there are things that matter a lot. The Ashes matter a lot to some people (including me) but matter a little to many more, even those inside (or “outside”) cricket. How the sport is run however matters a lot to everyone and Death of a Gentlemen made too many excellent points for any sports journalist to ignore. Selvey owed it to himself and his audience to at least watch the film and the accusations it leveled against Clarke, Srini et al before he spoke about it on television. Anything less ought to be considered a dereliction of duty and should have seen him laughed off the set. That it didn’t only gives evidence to every “zealot” that the industry is crowded with yes men and “jobs for the boys” types.
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And he’s taken to lying to his readers, of course. The cardinal sin. Revisionism taken to extremes.
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It’s marvellous that jno’s comment is still there. Imagine if thw were on a selvey article?
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Can anyone share details of “one major theory doing the rounds”?
If it’s what I think it is, you’ll find a major hint in here:
If not, it’s a good read anyway!
Thanks Simon. I had read that article. I thought LCL might be referring to something more salacious rather than the Byzantine politics/power struggles (and associated self interested journalism) of the ECB/ICC. Hey ho…perhaps another day.