T20 World Cup – England v South Africa

So here we are. A “must win”. They are all “must wins” from here on in. It’s gone from “we can beat anyone on our day” and “being young and exciting” to “a potentially disappointing early exit”. Hang about. Have we been here before?

It’s funny. The whole thing is funny. The press are just caught between two stools. Of course, we can win against South Africa, but then again, we are probably more likely to lose based on recent performances against them. Those five limited overs losses on the bounce seem to have some major significance now.

The key message for me from yesterday was how a loathed individual, pretty much slaughtered (rightly) for his antics in Australia, is still picked by the most dysfunctional board, arguably, in top level international cricket, and wins the game for the West Indies. He has the label “T20 gun for hire” attached as a disparaging description. He has a double hundred in a World Cup ODI, and cares so little for test cricket that he’s made the effort to make a triple century in Galle, of all places (as well as the one at St.John’s). He’s an individual talent, a genius, a matchwinner, a non-conformist, an arsehole, if you want. But he won his side a big World Cup match. Meanwhile, you fill in the rest.

If you want your team to be a corporate, well-drilled set of altar boys, I suggest you might get to wait a fair amount of time to win major awards. We treat our time as #1 in Test Cricket for a year as some sort of climbing of Mount Olympus. Australia, for one, must be laughing their heads off at that. Especially as in that time we lost 3-0 to Pakistan and 2-0 at home to South Africa. Now we have a bunch of lovely, likeable lads, that the whole of England should get behind or there is something wrong with you. The most major indiscretion is someone punching a locker room door, for heaven’s sake. There’s individual genius in there – we’ve seen it in Stokes, we’ve seen it in Buttler, and even seen a bit in Morgan. We have a world class player in all formats in Joe Root. But Stokes aside, I don’t see any bastard in them. They all seem to be perfectly delighted to be there, playing some good cricket at times, but would you put money on any of them playing an innings like Gayle in that scenario?

As I said, things can turn around. I’m not daft. But I’m not hopeful either. However it pans out, it won’t matter. An early group exit will be put down as another piece of experience for a young and improving team, and now we can put this distraction away and concentrate on 50 overs cricket. A semi-final placing will be “good progress” and the coaches will be lauded, and the ECB hierarchy quietly content. Anything more than that and the eg0-less Strauss will be given plenty to have an ego about. There will be more puffery than a pipe smokers club.

Meanwhile, and isn’t it still fun, that those who wish we’d all just shut up about Pietersen carry on going on about him. The poor lambs are now offended by his presence on Sky’s coverage. One person today said, and I quote…

“putting KP on for an England match is like putting Jimmy Saville in charge of a children’s party”

It really isn’t. I’d evaluate your life if you start writing tossery like that. But while I have time for some of those commenting on the issue on Twitter (it just amuses me that the likes of us are accused of “tenacity” when the same old lines are repeated on the other side of the argument) it’s this tendency to just ignore the underlying issue and hope it just goes away. It clearly isn’t. It clearly won’t. Going to safe spaces, purging BTL of the naysayers, isn’t going to work. It just isn’t. I have no hope of KP playing for England again – and you know that, and the others know it too if they take time out and read the blog. I have some hope that continuing to highlight the awful behaviour of our wonderful cricket board, and the assistance of a supine press, illustrated in the utmost clarity by the Guardian and it’s laughable cricket correspondent, but aided an abetted by our perennial favourites at the Mail, Indy and Sun, will one day make a change. Hope is all we have, because they know the storm has blown over, and the odd Gayle isn’t going to make a difference.

I will give one of the anti-KP crowd one thing. He’s right. I don’t get to watch much cricket at the moment. That’s because I have a job, and these matches are played in job hours. I also have friends and colleagues, and I like socialising and talking many things with them. Given the attitudes of the press and our governing body, in reverse order of importance, I’m not exactly making buttons to see the highlights. You lot keep me up to date.

So to tomorrow. Will we be moping at the end of another campaign, with our bowling not good enough and our batting not great enough? Another tournament sacrificed on the altar of expediency? Or will we be back blowing smoke up their arses again! That “we” is our media, not me.

I’m so sorry I won’t give in. I’m so sorry that I offend some of them. I’m so sorry that this blogger isn’t being nice and happy with Corporate Team England. I’ll live.

Comments below…..

UPDATE – This doesn’t look good. It’s The 12th Man’s company doing the copyright protection: