As my laptop clings precariously to some sort of working life, I am thankful that Sean B has taken time out to write a piece that certainly echoes many of the thoughts of this parish. I had the great pleasure in meeting with Sean a couple of weeks back, and I am keen to see him write more for us in the future. His pieces certainly seem to go down well. Maybe I can retire to a villa in Hastings at this rate.
Anyway, Sean’s piece is reflective of his mood about cricket at the moment. Read it, and feel free to comment. It was sent over on Friday night, and as far as I am aware, he doesn’t want to change his mind…
T -20 and counting
I’m going to be honest, I have no interest in the World 20/20 at all. Not a jot. I’m not bothered whether England win or lose (I felt no emotion when we lost to the West Indies nor when we beat South Africa) or whoever goes onto to win the damn thing. I haven’t watched any of the highlights, nor do I plan to and I haven’t had the scores up at work, which is normally the very minimum for me. It’s a surreal state of affairs for me as it’s the first time in my life that I really couldn’t care less about a televised world cricket tournament. In the past I have always managed to convince myself that we would pull it together at a tournament despite the normal rubbish build up and hence would make sure that I watched as much as possible, but I just can’t do it for this tournament. Now I do include the caveat that I’m not the biggest fan of the one day or T20 cricket, I’ve always been more of a traditionalist and preferred the ebb and flow of Test Cricket, nor do I really attend any International T20 games though I do normally go to a couple of domestic games a year, but this is more an excuse to meet up friends and have a beer or two. When England won the world T20’s in 2010, it was only really in the final rounds of the tournament that I started to become really interested in the tournament when it became apparent that we might actually go on and win it. Now despite not totally enthusing about the white ball fare, I would normally at least watch it on the TV when it’s on or at least settle down in front of the highlights at the end of the day, but not this time. I’m disillusioned with the game and perhaps even worse, I feel actively disengaged from cricket for the first time in my life.
How dare you not throw your support behind Eoin’s young guns some outraged individuals might scream, you “outside cricket” lot are the worst type and spend too much time shouting about Mike Selvey and the ECB rather than supporting the team. And yes it’s true, the absolute and total refusal to cover the most important issues in world cricket to protect your buddies from the former and the endless levels of corporate bullcrap, naked greed and total incompetence from the latter has no doubt soured my view of the cricket world, but by no means are these the main reasons. We also have the Kevin Pietersen question and how one of the world’s most talented T20 players can’t play cricket for his country (I unfortunately accepted that he wouldn’t play Test Cricket when Darth Sith Strauss told him he wouldn’t be considered after scoring 300 odd) because the phony administrators and those who hold personal grudges against have him, have decided that “he doesn’t come from the right type of family” and ultimately, they’d rather go with less talented, but easier to manage individuals. You wait until they do the same to Ben Stokes in a few years time. To them, it doesn’t matter that they weakened and significantly reduced our chance of winning the tournament, nor do they care what the fans think, pay up and shut up is the order of the day now and they have plenty of willing accomplices in the Media to carry out this line. Indeed no-one could be fooled by the Daily Mail exclusive, when Eoin Morgan was trotted out in front of Nasser Hussain (and no doubt a fair number of the ECB’s press office) and declared “That door is completely shut. Kevin will not be picked. That’s from me.” He owed Andrew Strauss a favour for keeping the England captaincy after an absolutely awful World Cup, this was his payback, sell KP down the river or sell yourself down the river and unfortunately it’s a bit of a no brainer really. This again annoyed and angered me, but it didn’t surprise and although again, it plays a part in my current cricketing malaise, it’s not really the main reason for my current disengagement.
Personally, I just think my disengagement has been building up over the past few weeks and months, hence my absence of any guest posts for the past few months. I have attempted 2 or 3 pieces in that time but have simply never got round to finishing them or have given up and binned them halfway through. I must admit the grim reality of the Big 3 carve up has been weighing heavily on my mind and the fact that our own board are not just complicit in the most disgraceful act in cricketing history, but have actively got into bed with India and allowed themselves to be repeatedly violated has brought even more shame on already shameful organisation. I thought things couldn’t get any worse, when Giles “the cockroach” Clarke decided that Alan Stanford seemed a genuinely nice guy and the sort of chap that it would be good to do business with; however they have got worse, much much worse, as we’re now in the drivers seat of a bulldozer heading straight towards world cricket in return for the cash that the BCCI are offering. The Cockroach is the driver, the ECB are the passengers. The evidence of what cricket has in store for us over the next few years has been demonstrated with some vigour at this World T20 tournament and it’s a nightmare vision, one where you pinch yourself that you’re not dreaming; however it is not a dream, just a grim reminder that cricket’s best days are well behind us. This is the reason why I can’t bear to watch the World T20’s, if I did then I feel that I might be in someway adding some sort of credence and credibility to the Big 3 and ICC when they deserve none. So whilst we’re looking at the World T20 tournament, let’s examine the sort of thing that has beset the competition from the outset and the sort of thing that we can get used to in the future:
- The Tickets – you want to come and watch the game and support your team, well tough luck, we’ll release them 2 weeks before the event. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
- The Politics – India and Pakistan playing the hokey cokey, will they, won’t they, game. Governments posturing for power, sport a very distance second.
- The Organisation – We’ll tell you what’s happening when we want to and switch grounds at a moments notice, moan all you want.
- The Associates – No you’re not welcome at our party.
These are simply the 4 most important things in any tournament and the BCCI & ICC either through laughable logistics and decision making processes or more likely because they don’t give a rats arse, have absolutely pissed up all of them. Those that have watched the games have told me that all of them are being played in front of half empty stadiums in a country that is supposed to adore the sport (however I’m sure the administrators will point to the sold out game between India and Pakistan in defense). Fans are meant to be the lifeblood of all sports, but obviously cricket is the odd one out, the ICC and the Big 3 don’t give a monkey’s arse about the fans. Simply pay your money and keep quiet at the back, you’re customers not fans now, there to line our coffers. In Death of a Gentleman, Gideon Haigh asks the question “does cricket make money in order to exist or is it now the case that it exists in order to make money?” I think it’s very clear what the answer is now.
And then we come to the Associates and this is the part that makes me the most angry. How is it that in every other sport the growth and expansion of the game is paramount to the health of the sport, but in cricket we are actively trying to constrict the game? The treatment of the Associates at this tournament and throughout the past few years has been absolutely scandalous. The ICC may bleat that it’s a 16-team tournament, but anyone with any sense (Dennis Freedman has obviously lost his) can simply see the first 2 weeks as qualifiers to win the right to lace the big boys shoes, Christ half the teams weren’t even in the country when the tournament began! They are the warm up act, the matinee, the token effort by the ICC to show they are expanding the game. Oh and what reward do the Associates get for turning up, go play your games in Dharmasala during the monsoon! They may as well have held them in Aberdeen in January. Nothing angers me more than watching a group of committed and in the main talented players being forced to feed off the cast offs from the Full Nations table. Preston Mommsen (amongst others) absolutely nailed it when he remarked “In general, it’s tough to attribute our lack of getting over the line, i do go on about it, but there is a lack of international cricket for us. Since the 2015 World Cup I have played in one ODI match – in 12 months. So, you tell me how I’m going to improve my skills and develop as a cricketer. That definitely has something to do with it. Playing under pressure, being exposed to a higher level of skill, exposed to different conditions, you know it all adds up, every little percentage. You know unfortunately that’s just the way it is and we try and handle it in the best way we can. However, it probably does take its toll.” What was the reaction from the ICC? Absolute silence, although Harsha Bhogle did manage to come up with this pearler “You can either moan about how little you have or you can make the most of whatever you have. For the hungry, opportunity resides everywhere”. For the record, for some of the associates the most they’ll get to play against the Full Nations in the next two years is at most two or three times and many will get none. £100,000 out of a £500,000 yearly fund to put on a ODI against a full nation team is totally unfeasible. Yep that opportunity certainly resides everywhere Harsha.
So why does the ICC and the big 3 give less than 2 f*cks about the rest of world cricket, let alone the Associates? Well we go back to Gideon’s quote again – it’s the money stupid. Imagine if the World T20 was a true 16-team tournament divided into 4 x 4 groups (as it should be in my opinion) and imagine if some of the Associates got through and knocked out the likes of England and India? Well that’s simply not good for business, they don’t have the crowds or the support and the large television audiences to attract the large advertisers, so best not take a risk in that case then, it’s our club and our cash and everyone else can go jump. Quite simply the ICC does not run cricket for the good of the fans or the sport anymore, it runs it for the good of the sponsors and the good of their cash-flow and they won’t let anything get in the way of it. So for those who choose to watch the T20, I genuinely hope you enjoy the spectacle, I however won’t. I have now seen glimpses of the future of world cricket and it looks a long dark road ahead.