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.
I share your lethargy, Sean B and initially wondered if it were down to me finding other things that are far more important as I dealt with work related issues or… something else.
I despair at poor management and so when I see anything ECB/ICC I tend to turn away to avoid breaking out into a sweat and shaking. We look to our leaders to inspire and in politics and cricket, to name but two, whole swathes of people are turned away because of the in it for ourselves philosophy. Cricket is redeemed, to a degree, by what actually happens on the green stuff, politics, as far as I can see, has no redemptive quality.
Some like to see the best players play and are appalled when politics intervenes. Some like to see budding new teams given a crack. Sri Lanka’s participation in early world cups may not have set the tournament alight but helped them along a path that led to World Cup glory but under this regime they wouldn’t have got a look in. It’s very sad.
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Great piece mate.
I find it totally amazing that I see some commentators on other sites and twitter users fail to grasp these points of why a lot of cricket fans are disillusioned with not just Team ECB but world cricket in general. ‘Why cant you just be happy and support England’ comes the cries from people who, and in fairness to them it’s their choice, miss the point and dont give a stuff about world cricket’s future or holding those responsible for the effin mess that is currently our game to account. They call us obsessed with the KP factor but if you question anything about Team ECB its because you cannot move on and not because you have real points about real issues. Until the issues you raised above are brought into the wider consciousness of the fans and media alike the game will continue to contract and die
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An excellent piece – hard ti disagree with the points raised. For me, the game itself is much more important than any one team and I would actually cheer if, despite everything, Afghanistan managed to pull off just one major upset at the World T20. Not that it would (be allowed to) change very much and after all, hardly anyone would be there to see it…
just a remark about Stokes and KP. They won’t do to Stokes what they did to Kevin. The problem, from the ECB’s perspective, with Pietersen is that he is driven to be the very best whilst being a genius. He is absolutely committed to maximising his outrageous talent. Stokes, who no doubt is a hardworking, driven person, fits into the Botham-Flintoff mold. That is, the work-hard play-hard, don’t take yourself too seriously (at least in public), jack-the-lad mold. We love those types. I find it depressing, personally. Broad, who is not well loved, is much closer to KP and at risk of being demonised.
That’s a very interesting perspective. Taking it as read that every England player is, to some extent, driven and dedicated enough to have achieved the peak of their sport, why do you think it is that the more obviously publicly driven players, like Broad and Pietersen, have found it harder to win universal public affection?
Hmm, good question. I think that is an English fear of those who rock the boat. It is seen as not-the-done-thing to want to excel. Perhaps the desire to be brilliant is also the desire to stand apart from others, in as much as you can’t have one without the other. It thereby challenges the system. It says in Dedalus’ (Joyce’s?) words, ‘let my country die for me’. That runs counter to everything a ‘right thinking’ Englishman (Brit? though the ‘man’ is intentional) is meant to think.
PS. Remember the derision heaped on Bell for wanting to emulate Ricky Ponting?
It does not help that no Full Member has won the toss and lost the game against another Full Member – in the main tournament only Sri Lanka lost the toss against Afghanistan, but went on to win the game.
Bangladesh lost the toss twice in the pre-tournament official warmups – but those were games against the Associates. Or whatever the qualification stage was called. Why do they even bother with the cricket? It means 3 hours in which ads cannot be broadcast.
This stage thus far: 11 matches, 10 times the team winning the toss has won the game – the one exception was Afghanistan losing to Sri Lanka.
Pakistan need a better tosser.
Good article. Reads like a coherent version of (yet another) blue-faced rant I had down the pub the other night! I’m still enjoying the cricket in spite of the idiots that are running it. Prefer the old format though, all done and dusted after two and a bit weeks.
How did NZ win that one? The Win Predictor had Pakistan at 76% at one stage (not that it’s the most useless innovation in cricket on TV since Ian Brayshaw or anything). NZ in the field were a delight – genuine pace (Milne clocked 152), leg spin (Sodhi was crucial again), great fielding (Anderson’s catch to dismiss Afridi the highlight but it was more the consistency of the ground fielding that was impressive) and intelligent game-plans.
Apart from quite liking this competition (as opposed to the organisation of it), I heartily concur with Sean’s article. I’d add that the TV coverage is so much the dominant factor, and so tightly controlled, it is appalling. I’ve almost entirely had the sound turned down while watching. Last time I lifted the ‘mute’, the commentators were Sunil Gavaskar and Michael Slater. The ‘mute’ went back on again immediately. I doubt I missed a coruscating analysis of the Big Three power-grab. The time before that was during the Australia/NZ match and Ian Bishop (one of the less bad commentators usually) was saying how great the crowd was (it wasn’t).
The lack of published attendance figures (except for India/Pakistan) is ridiculous. The only neutral match that looked well attended was the West Indies match in Bengaluru. I’m well aware modern grounds can be deceptive (Adelaide can have 40k in and it look a poor attendance) which is why I want some actual figures. Maybe they are comparable with games in the ODI WC involving non-home teams – who knows? How can there be an informed debate about the health of the game without such basic information? What is particularly irritating is the silence from those who proclaim the death of Test cricket because of sparse crowds – why aren’t they pointing out the love affair with T20 maybe isn’t all that we’re told it is?
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Oliver Holt didn’t convince you then, I take it?