T20 World Cup – England v Afghanistan

Note – Sean has a post below, and I’ve stuck a new one up as well. But I need to set up tomorrow’s game…
An early start for this one, as England seek to solidify their position going into the final round of games. Despite the fantastic win against South Africa, the chasing down of a mammoth total did not do a huge amount for the net run rate, and so it probably means that to qualify we will need to beat Sri Lanka and hope South Africa lose to West Indies or give them a huge beating (assuming South Africa beat Sri Lanka, of course).
There’s the danger. Afghanistan are not to be treated lightly. England can be vulnerable to non test playing nations in these competitions. We can’t assume a team that puts up a spectacular performance like they did with the bat on Friday, can just repeat it. England should win, but it doesn’t mean they will win. The unspoken words are that we don’t need to just win, but win very very well.
Comments below, as per usual. After this game we’ll see where the land lies. We have Sri Lanka to play on Saturday, and then we have to wait for three other games in the group to play out. We’re by no means certain of qualifying even if we win the last two games.
And I’m noticing that I’m still using “we” for England. It’s still there. Somehow. Lord knows the authorities that run our game don’t deserve it.

The Exiled

I know I frequently say this blog (in my posts) is written to represent my views only. I don’t wish it to be representative of anyone or anything. But I have to recognise there is a loyal band of readers, and that I need to keep interesting stuff coming to maintain this blog. So I had a number of questions.

Who, or what are we? Why does this blog continue on its path? What is there for people to discuss now the KP reinstatement debate is closed for good.

We’ve lost, haven’t we? As evidenced by….

  • There’s a major international competition going on, and yet the key theme here is that people cannot be bothered with it due to ECB/ICC stuff.
  • There’s an England team that has just performed the remarkable, chasing down 11 ½ an over to win a World competition match, and people are still talking about a batsman who isn’t there.
  • There’s a world competition going on, but people on here are talking about the teams not there, the organisation, the scheduling and the weather.
  • There is now a relative calm around the England team and the media feel it, but there’s still anger about key reporters, their “agenda” and their actions.

It’s March 2016 and not January 2014. These issues are still there, even if they are wished away.

This blog has discussed to the extreme what has happened in the past 26 months, in both its guises (HDWLIA and BOC), and seen an ignored writer (I’d been blogging for years) pick up “followers”. It has responded to every setback with an anger that can make those outside believe that its fanaticism, for want of a better word, is dangerous, pathetic, sick even. I’ve picked up critics, of course I have, but their vehemence against “us” did surprise.

I don’t see this as a cricket blog. Not in the sense those outside want a cricket blog to be. They want it to be about nice things, positive things, lovely things, places where you aren’t challenged, places where you find “writers” not bloggers. I find much of that writing tedious, but fully recognise that there is a wide audience out there who lap up those sort of articles, playing on their nostalgia and glorious memories of the past game, and reflecting it in the more brutal crash, bang and wallop of much of today’s cricket. Some are truly magnificent at this genre. It’s not for me. I wouldn’t go on their blogs to tell them. I recognise that there are all sorts out there. There is lots for all tastes.

I see this as a blog about someone who watches cricket, loves the sport, but who can see not much good in it at the moment, and in that I share some of the looking back to the past that others focus on. I see this is a blog that widened its scope from one decision in January 2014, to a look at those making the decisions, those reporting the decisions, and those authorising the decisions. We do match reports, we do match previews, but we’ve not the time, or the inclination, to try to emulate other blogs who go the extra mile, or the dedicated sites that do this better than us. I work five days a week. I spend four waking hours at home each night. I have other interests. Cricket is competing for space. In not just my life, but other people’s. Weekends are to do the jobs we can’t do in the week, or to go out. Running a full time blog requires dedication and motivation.

It seems to me that we need to think about the direction the blog should take. Chris and I had a discussion about this a month or so ago, and came to few conclusions. We react to events and give our take on them. I was much more pushing the KP line over the past two years, but Chris and I both agree that’s pretty much over. His treatment will always be raised, but what happened with our media must not be forgotten. That line, though, doesn’t lend itself to a continuous blog writing experience! There needs to be something more.

I have watched, and read, the numerous comments on this blog recently over the BTL comments in The Guardian. At the start of my ever so humble rise, I did go BTL, especially as Clive and NonOx were linking me on there. I stopped pretty much after Bertie Wooster described my posts as having poor grammar (you know my rule, draft, post, polish), which is fair enough. My writing style has always been Marmite, back to my school days. It isn’t going to change now, and my former English teacher is an occasional reader and hasn’t told me off for it yet! But Bertie also said he couldn’t read the posts for the bile on the screen. And that’s been a really convenient hat to hang on me. I’m bilious. It’s all about the bile. From that moment on, I thought it wasn’t worth it. I may have the occasional sortie on there, but I honestly can’t remember them. Bilious ain’t my style. Persistence is.

Since that date the schism, a word I love, has been stark. Those that still believe not a single thing has changed in the decision-making process that is the ECB, are given the KP Fanboy tag as a reason to explain away the miscreants in their midst. As if wondering how an England cricket legend, and he is, could be sacked and no-one told why, is something for blind rage and anger management patients only. By challenging the status quo, and the unforgiveable lack of inquisitiveness in our normally nosey keyboard clankers of the press, we’ve been labelled all sorts. Just the mention of a review of the media in these here parts has some outside wailing, insulting, denigrating the work. Even before it’s written, in some cases.

When I set out on the KP path, it was very much press focused. I reacted to piece after piece. I don’t really do that any more. I was thinking of starting it up, but in a much more thorough way, but then decided not to after the incident earlier this year when the groundwork was too much to continue without having to deal with extraneous matters. It was also very boring for me.

I have, though, been following a lot of the BTL stuff with amusement and amazement in equal measures. It is clear in the eyes of some that they have “won” and that the “KP Fanboys” can now just shut up and form whatever odd little tribe they like. Because the ECB and their compliant press have managed to weather this out (and I’ll bet when they started they didn’t think it would take two years) they are now “in the right”. It’s unedifying, and it’s also wrong. It is a Pyrrhic Victory, just as getting KP back into the side would have been. The damage to English cricket support may not be great in terms of numbers, although I think the people this has alienated are passionate fans who no sport can do without, but it’s a deep wound inflicted and there’s little sign of peace. Now a number of our gazes are at Mike Selvey, his words and deeds, his defenders and his critics. There are many on here who probably cast Selvey above Clarke as our Number 1 “enemy”. There are a number who are saying this pro-Establishment line is typical of the “new Guardian” (in the words of Chris Morris, who said this of Mark Thomas, I think the Guardian are more the harassers of the office secretary than true authority). I’m not sure. I don’t know why this has happened, but it has.

Mike Selvey utterly bemuses me. It’s not anger I feel, at all. It’s contempt, and that’s apt because that’s what he shows to anyone who goes up against him. I’ve taken the advice of those who said that I should stop reading Paul Newman if it upset me that much, and applied this to Selvey. He has nothing to offer me. I know he has let down many of you, who thought he was “more than this”, and that’s reflected in his dominance in our “Worst Journalist” poll. I don’t tweet him, I don’t read him, and only react to the comments on here when I need to. I did, for example, read his piece on T20, which was, frankly, something we could have all done with the access. And that’s it. He has the access. Not many of us are mates with a former England bowling coach. When it’s raised to me that I don’t know how journalism works, I do smile.

But Selvey and the Guardian’s frankly moronic comments policy (and the ludicrous reactions of the journos when criticised) aren’t enough to sustain us going forward, are they? And this is where I begin to get concerned. I’m nowhere near as enthusiastic as I was. About the game, about what surrounds it, and about writing about it. At this stage, the critics will be more than pleased, because they’ve done little to put a case to us, let alone persuade us to change views. It hasn’t been a dialogue of mutual respect, that’s for sure. But at some point, as I said when I gave up a voluntary role a few years ago, if you keep banging your head against a brick wall it does start to hurt.

I don’t want this blog to ever be boring to its client base. I don’t want to mail in posts more frequently than the current rate (20 questions being a case in point – a whim, a post, and lots of response). I respect the core readership much more than that.

I’ve rambled on and on as usual. I think you get the picture that the future isn’t clear. It rarely is. I don’t want this to be just a rant at the press, anti-Cook blog. We need to be more constructive. I’ve said it countless times over the past two years, if you want to write, and it fits what we want to do, then fire away. We don’t do satirical stuff, we don’t do poetry… I’ll leave those to SgtCook and the Bogfather! But how you feel, yes. We do that. What you think. We do that. Challenge us, we’re more than fair about it. I had a discussion a few weeks ago with someone very close to Andy Flower – we never came to blows, never even rowed. I’m not some obsessive, and I’m also going to stand my ground if I feel fit. I had a drink with him. We got on! I think some people need to realise that.

The blog won’t be going away. It just lacks a focus at the moment. One thing that the last two years has taught me is that something to concentrate on is never ever far away. We’ll be here to comment.

Game thread for tomorrow’s fixture to follow.