Danger Signs

I’d like to thank Sean B, aka The Great Bucko, for his excellent post and all of you who contributed to the discussion. Sean even got some old faces back! Really pleased it went down so well. I’m not sure a post coming up linking events of yesterday together is going to work, but that’s the joy of this. More importantly, anyone noticing the new photos on the Header?

I write this blog, in conjunction with my co-editor and guest posters, as a personal record of both my attitudes to the sport and also to the developments within the game. It is also here to reflect a little on what is going on with me (other writers can feel free to do the same) and events related to the blog that I experience.

Yesterday there came news that Giles Clarke would have to resign his role at the ECB in order to complete the end game of his master plan for world domination. I was reading an old edition of The Wisden Cricketer which contained the news of Clarke’s appointment. It was not without rancour. He went up against Surrey’s Michael Soper and the initial election finished 9 votes each. When it was re-run, Soper was bitter that three people who said they would vote for him turned and voted for Clarke. I wonder if those three would want those votes back right now! Of course, within a year of this election we’d be going through Sanford and all that and Teflon Giles was born.

Reading yesterday’s news was interesting. India are clearly changing the rules of the game just as the prize is at hand. The machinations that came about from the so-called stepping down from the head of the ECB last year look to be in jeopardy. A view from a source I speak to said that Clarke knew he would lose, Graves knew he would win, but both knew it would be a bloodbath to get to that spot. The messy compromise was that Graves knew next to nothing about the international organisational foibles, and that if he stepped down he would take that part of the job on – unpaid of course – while Graves could be the new man at the helm. This was, of course, very true. Clarke knew the then head honcho of Indian cricket extremely well. He was there to be Srini’s partner, and a new man might not have the chops to take the situation as it was. We should be grateful for the man’s foresight and equanimity.

Of course, this means some interesting organisation watching coming up. Clarke is going to gauge if he is going to win. If he thinks it is hopeless, then he’ll not put himself forward and keep his nice position at the ECB. If he does think he’ll win, he’ll resign (but probably as late in the piece as he can) but one thinks he needs India on side first and foremost and I don’t think many people know which way things are going. There are promising noises about ending the big three stitch up, but I’ll believe that when I see it. The U19 World Cup is proving, in a small way, the nonsense of the World Cup carve up.

The fact is though, with poor ticket sales on first viewing, for this year’s test cricket in England, the need for the big three revenue (we include South Africa who have been a big attraction over here) remains. In their own annual report they talk of the four year cycle. That revenue from tests is almost taken for granted by our authorities. The support of the England paying public will provide the revenue for the national game, and our prominence world wide should be rewarded on the global stage.

Sean’s piece on Friday night, and as I mentioned in Schism last weekend, emphasises that despite our despair at the ECB we still love the sport. But is that love taken for granted and would people walk away from the game if it became too much. Maybe yesterday for me proved that you can. DeNiro’s character in Heat comes up with that line about never getting involved in something/someone you couldn’t leave in 30 seconds. It’s not quite like that, but when the split is made, it’s hard to get back.

I was a football fan. Absolutely besotted by it for over three decades of my life. As soon as I got on a payroll, it was used to watch football. I went home and away. I’ve been to most grounds in the country, many of them no longer with us, including my team’s old home ground in 1993. I had the same seat in the new stadium from its opening until 2013. There were great highs – seeing my team run out against the great Liverpool team of the mid-to-late 80s and take the lead at Anfield would be one – and awful lows (Stern John, riot) but it was a story of life. We produced top talent and it was sold on, as the laws of economics dictate. But it was fun. It was really brilliant. It didn’t matter if we were on the up, or on the way down, I went. During that time I could never envisage packing it in.

I packed in my season ticket for a number of reasons. The traffic getting to the game was a nightmare. My brother, who went with me, had four kids and it took a fair bit of cash out of his pocket (and although he wouldn’t want me to use that as an excuse, it was a part of the decision). It wasn’t expensive but what we weren’t getting was entertainment at all. It was defensive, boring crap, played with a large coterie of transient footballers getting an end of career payday or loanees, and without that one thing any club needs. Hope. We were defeatists. Not for us Bournemouth… we didn’t have the nous for that. And no, I don’t quit on clubs not playing well, I quit because it was becoming an ordeal. I didn’t enjoy it.

I went to my team’s home game yesterday. Since I gave up my season ticket in 2013, I’ve returned to the ground once. My mate had a ticket for £5 and so, for reasons I still can’t quite fathom, I went (well, good to see some old mates was the best one). I found it sad. It’s the same old sport. Same old team walk-out of the tunnel. Same ground. Same turgid football, but I found it bereft of hope. 90 minutes dragged. I’d lost the connection to the team and it was never going to return. I still follow all their results, but it’s not got my emotional investment any more. I don’t think it ever could. Ironically, as I’m writing this Cristiano Ronaldo has just scored an amazing goal for Real Madrid, and they are hammering one of the cannon fodder in that league. It’s fine if you like these teams, the top ones, but the rest exist just to provide the entertainment for the show. If the understudies get too good, the big ones just nick their top players. There is no connection with clubs.

So could that happen to me with cricket? Well, I’ve taken an initial step and stopped getting test tickets for England matches at the Oval. We’ve been down that road before. The county game is still great fun if you get the right day. I can’t be arsed with T20s. But there’s the international game, and this blog, that keep me going. I have a Sky subscription for the cricket and NFL – I can take or leave the football – and now they have all the Majors, the golf. BTSport cover my baseball and basketball fandom. I can take or leave tennis, and darts and pretty much all else. International football perhaps would be an influence if it wasn’t on terrestrial.

But let’s face it. There’s no Brian Laras out there. Not really. While there is a lot of pomp and circumstance over the Big 4 batting titans (Kohli, Smith, Williamson and Root), there’s massive appreciation but for many reasons, not that certain something that gets you out of your seat. Well, my seat. Like it or not, KP had it. AB has it when he’s on form. I was checking some old photos yesterday and came across loads of a Hashim Amla masterclass against Middlesex on a rampant bunsen, and that resonates. It may be the blog, it may be the ECB, it is probably me. That connection, while still strong, isn’t unbreakable.

I’ve tried to steer away from the debates we’ve had this week on here, and reflect what yesterday meant to me – that’s what blogs are for, and I don’t pretend that I represent anyone other than me. But I do believe that an all consuming passion can burn out if care is not taken to preserve what creates that passion. There are still great things I love about this game, and just how much I do will be tested to the utmost in the not too distant future. Cricket is at the crossroads internationally and utmost care needs to be taken. We may see one of the main sores cured if Clarke doesn’t get to his dream job and the ECB is free from his influence. I don’t think it will happen. For the world game, and the future of many us who support cricketers from everywhere, this might be the best thing. It might.

Have a great week, and we’ll be in touch!