Absence Makes The Vision Wander
If a sport loses traction in the public eye, it is devilishly hard to get it back. This was always going to be a tough summer to keep the game relevant in the mass media. The European Championships, with three host nations and Ireland involved, were always going to grab the media spotlight, at least for June. Once they are done with there is the pre-season signing merry-go-round to fill the back pages, and with the top gossip clubs having new managers – Guardiola, Mourinho, Conte – the fictions and facts will block out much other sport. Then, when the test series against Pakistan is reaching its conclusion, we have the Olympics. Given we have two less “glamorous” opponents visiting these shores, the ECB have pretty much no chance of garnering media attention, even if they were the most enlightened, sharp, media-savvy organisation in sport (which they are not). Hell, even I can’t be arsed to write about the game that much. And I’m supposed to be a diehard supporter of it.
There’s the rub. I’ve been back from the States for the best part of a week, and I’ve written nothing on cricket. There are no international fixtures going on in England, a joke series in Zimbabwe, a tri-series of ODIs in the Caribbean, and a hotch potch of formats played here when not dodging the lamentable weather. I do a lot of this blog based upon the media output, and there’s been nothing to rail against. Sure, I could go on about Chris Stocks having another pop at Compton in The Cricket Paper, or I could comment on the new-look Cricketer (I actually quite like the look, it’s the writers I have a problem with) but it would be going through the motions. I think I’ve read just TCP and TC since I’ve been back, and not even in great detail. It just seems that in the middle of June, when we should be doing something to capture the public imagination during a football competition, there’s nothing. So Switzerland v Albania it is!
Writing this blog is not a job. I earn no money from it. I get more grief than I should have to put up with from it. I do it, as I’ve said many times, because I love the game, and I love writing. Throughout all your relationships, if that is the right word, with a sport, there are going to be times when you blow hot and cold, and the blast is straight out of the arctic right now. I have a team I can’t give my all to because of how it originated and who leads it. I have a sports body I still hold in complete contempt, feeling a self-congratulatory Trump-esque feeling of having grave suspicions about the current ECB chairman, while having nothing but fears about Super Series Strauss and Tom Harrison. The international game looks in poor shape, with Sri Lanka’s abject displays in the first half of the series laying bare the lie that the test game can go on as it is. Then there’s the attempts to influence us all in making us love a team some of us don’t feel we ever can until certain people have gone. The Essex Media Mafia have been in full effect over the ascension to 10000, and the tedious debate over “greatness”. This has been augmented by the victorious, smug “KExit” campaigners making no attempt to disguise their contempt for us, by taking over the Guardian BTL with their witless offerings.
I have no idea, nor do I care, how the T20 Blast is going. I’ve tried to follow Surrey’s wins and losses, but that isn’t because I can watch each game on a live stream, as I might if it were available, but laughably we don’t think we can do that due to our TV contract. As for the One Day cup? Well, if you want to finish a competition off, just do this. Split it in half, and see what happens. Make it be played in April to ensure its final complete annihilation.
It’s just Dmitri, once again being negative Nigel, always complaining, never offering anything. Well, I’ll tell you this. I listened to Colin Graves’s wonderful interview prior to the Sri Lankan series. I might be going too far to say it made me pine for Giles Clarke, but it certainly didn’t have me thinking he’s on our side. The problem with test cricket isn’t whether the damn thing is four or five days, or whether it has context or not. It’s the effing quality of it, there’s too much of it, and players are either knackered, injured or so fed up with it, that they don’t produce of their best. There’s little ebb and flow in our matches – we either run over a team on a pitch helping us, or we struggle – while India in their last series against South Africa might as well have rubbed each wicket with industrial strength sandpaper and they’ve have been more subtle than what actually happened. Australia remain dominant at home, and good on batting wickets. Pakistan are anyone’s guess, the rest are also rans. Anyone with the temerity to compare this nonsense with the 1990s oppositions we faced, where even Zimbabwe could run out a Flower or two, with Streak et al to back them up, is in need of some awakening. But Graves wants four day tests. Given some of the wickets we produce, this is aspirational all the wrong way round, but if he thinks making it four days will mean 100+ overs in a day, then I seriously suggest he reconsiders. The current lot don’t give a crap about getting 90 in most days.
When is the ODI series? Is it soon? Oh, it’s tomorrow! How did I miss it?
How is cricket going to survive in the long run? The issue remains pretty simple to me. No matter what I hear or see, the fact is our top players are being paid well enough, but county pros are paid too much to justify the revenue they bring in (otherwise why are these clubs in crisis). Whether this is because the revenue isn’t there (maybe not enough conferences for your conference centre adjunct), or is being held back by a TV/media contract that stops clubs from exploring possible additional media revenue is for those that know to tell us. The top players won’t be giving up yet more money to keep their brethren in clover, otherwise it’s off to the T20 leagues and all that, so you have an impasse where a sport that needs to attract players with money, isn’t going to make enough money to pay them, and certainly won’t get it through money at the gate. When the interest sustaining the current level of international expenditure dries up, as it surely will on this path, I can bet very good money it won’t be the international players, or the administrators at the ECB, cutting back their wages. Only then might we have a county game that is sustainable on its own accord, but I highly doubt it. This is why you’d rather keep with the devil you know – paying the bills, limiting the access – than break free and see what you can do. In a number of ways, it mimics another decision being made this week.
I know. It’s downbeat. It’s me being me. I keep singing the same old tune. But those who criticise need think of this. I still care. But not as much. And not as much equates to not as much revenue through the gate, or on merchandise, or over-priced food and drink than before. And that equates to not watching on TV, or perhaps, giving up my subscription. Of not making the effort to go to a T20 game. And I started from a high base. Lord knows what those who dip in and dip out make of it.
Glad to be back? Maybe. ODI #1 tomorrow. A chance to clinch the Super Series. And they’ll be rejoicing in the streets.
One tiny piece of cross-promotion. In case you missed it I’m doing a blog on US sports. This may, or may not, be of interest but the link is www.dmitriamericana.wordpress.com – if you like it, let me know. If you don’t, don’t!