The Silence Of The Damned

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
England v Pakistan – 2006

We are three days away from the resumption of #propercricket. The test match series against Pakistan gets the Second Super Series underway, and like many first tests of a series, and in particular the late summer one, there is intrigue piled upon intrigue. There will be more previews as the week unfolds, and we’ll even have boots on the ground as Chris (remember him?) will be there on Thursday and I will be there on Saturday. The weather had better hold!

While we might write some stuff, others have had their say.  As previews go, The Cricket Paper needs to take a hard look at itself (Hayter’s article is headed “Cheating Amir will be judged in House of Lord’s”) – Stocks mentions Amir in the first article, a total focus on Amir. Hayter follows it up with another load of self-righteous guff on Amir, Pringle’s article starts with the headline “Pakistan cheats? Maybe…., Stocks mentions Amir’s sins again on page 24 and Martin Johnson has another tribute piece, taking us back to 1987 and Hasib Ahsan. There’s precious little mention of a recent series, more raking over the coals of the past.

wp-1468270250323.jpg

But it’s to more mundane matters I wish to turn in this piece. I know many of you will remember my piece “Schism” in which I bemoaned the state of our support and the way there were now two factions which seemed worlds apart and would remain so in perpetuity? Or at least for the long term? The reasons for that split, and why I was so angry at those that failed to see the other side’s point of view.

The blogging world, for me, was always going to calm down once the Kevin Pietersen business was finally put to bed. By not playing in the 2016 World T20, that was it. It was probably “it” before, but now there is utterly no logic in selecting KP, and given he’s turned into a golf club and safari Instagram junkie since then, that fight is over. There is no sense in raging at his non-selection any more to get him back into the team. Indeed, there is now no sense in raging at much. This is, very much, what defeat feels like. We were taking on some pretty resilient forces, but they had the membership with them, and the levers of power. I’m drawing no further parallels 🙂

The fact is, that defeated foes are rarely the most amenable, and are prone to different kinds of reaction – flight or fight being the two main ones. The other fact is that the winners are rarely magnanimous, because in their eyes, they were right all along, and it’s time to put the mouthy lot in place. What was actually “right” is just a passing fancy – almost cricket’s equivalent of “post-truth” politics. I look on those that sided with the authorities, for that was, in large type, what you did when you approved summary dismissal without the evidence laid out, with barely concealed contempt. When they next want someone to fight a cause they’re interested in when it comes to cricket, don’t come looking to me for support. We’ll do it our own way. Well. I’ll do it my own way because unlike many others, I don’t claim to speak for anyone other than myself. Like one of our BTL Guardian stooges saying today on a politics thread that

Quite why the Graun gives editorial space to Matty is something I’ve never understood. He’s a Tory apologist and ex Torygraph writer etc. I presume someone, somewhere thinks it’s worthwhile to give us the viewpoint from the otherside of the spectrum, something we are capable of getting by simply going to the Torygraph website. At any rate his views do not represent those of the Guardian.

I don’t want to touch the political angle of the debate here, but that “his views do not represent those of the Guardian” is typical of the genre. It’s almost “no platforming” dissent. “There is a worldview, and if you have the opposite, I want nothing to do with them. I just need my own views reaffirmed by comfy fellow travellers.” He’s not alone in acting like that, and while the likes of him and others lord it over any dissenters because they were on the side of those that held the power as if they were some geniuses for being such, we have no chance of bridging the gap. I highlighted Tweets by those dissenting to poke fun at them, to attack the logical inadequacies in them, and yet, if I feel I’m wrong, I’m never short to say so. If you can’t admit error, then  you are a fool.

There are many for which cricket is just a sport, and they say we should be happy just to watch a successful England team and enjoy them (George Dobell has become the patron saint of that argument) because the issues aren’t their fault. I have an appreciation for that position. England can be decent to watch. A number find solace in ODI and T20 for one massive reason, which we’ll go into later. But it’s not that easy for me. I don’t like not being 100% behind them, but I can’t find it in myself to be so.

But if you are made of different stuff, fine. As long as you don’t demean those that seek to get to the bottom of some pretty sordid old nonsense that was going on at the time. Sordid? Try some of the press and their all so cosy relations with the ECB suits. Try appointing a man to Managing Director that was so out of his depth, we were setting up RNLI fund-raisers to get him out. Try the omerta where nothing could be said, except ECB leaks. Try Giles Clarke stitching himself up an international job. Try the new ECB chief making a Horlicks as soon as he started over whether KP could play or not. Try the appointment of Peter Moores as coach, and the post-dismissal justifications so that the decision isn’t cast as an ignorant disaster. Try appointing someone who called the polarising figure of his generation a “c—“ on air and then try to give off his end decision as something even-handed. Try the dodgy dossier. If those of my “enemies”, and they know who they are, think we were in the wrong on that, then let me know how you think that conduct was acceptable. Don’t wash your hands of it. Don’t say there’s no point. That’s a cop out.

It’s not as if we are working hard to find these issues. They were presented to us, and more besides. The game in this country is in a parlous state IF international cricket dies on its arse. The workload on the top players has to increase to be able to pay for the luxurious county championship structure, and the down years when India and Australia don’t come here. They want to shorten test cricket to fit more games in, not manage workloads. They want more T20 because it is context-less fluff that you enjoy at the time, and forget in the morning. And it fills grounds, despite you hardly remembering what happened. Especially at Oval T20 matches.

Cricket, as a sport to blog about, provides me with many things to comment upon, but I find myself in the same position, without, perhaps, the same mental anguish as the last two years. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m still angry. But I don’t care as much. Fellow fans went their way, and I’ve gone mine. They can bury themselves in their county cricket snobbery, putting their noses up in the air at us “philistines”, but get remarkably prissy when we dare disagree with them over the international scene. Some may believe, by my relative silence, that peace is in the air. That the fans are becoming united behind one England team in all its formats. That there is no need to argue any more. Because what’s the point?

Sorry. Not built that way. The beatification, both by media and many fans, of Alastair Cook wasn’t a celebration of his achievements to make us happy, it was also a justification of his modus operandi. Thus it was used to beat the KPistas, the ECB rebels, the anti-establishment hooligans. The anti-KP, not flashy, not gauche has got his 10k runs by being the model establishment player – nice (in media terms), hard-working, stubborn, and a leader of men who brought his new charges with him. Your boy is playing T20, hanging out with celebs and causing trouble. “Learn your bloody place”. I spoke to someone who used to be a commenter on here, but is off on other causes at the moment and she said to me “Just cannot bear to watch it with Captain Fantastic in charge”. They are not the only ones. Are cricket fans not in the least concerned by such collateral damage?

The tactic by Strauss and Harrison last spring was easy to see. Hold on for as long as they could, and the anger would subside. Some good wins would help, and they got them. England’s cricket is in decent shape, but in all our hearts we must sense that this is down to the regression of others over the advance of our own. Or do we? Many is the call to end the division and get behind the lads. Some will say they are really nice guys, that they have engaged more with the public, tried to get rid of the arrogance. It’s about the head, I’m afraid, people. Because this is Cook’s team. I don’t think the schism has a chance to end until he’s not here. Much of this is not down to him – it’s his media, it is what he represents in the eyes of a number of us. And some of it is. He’s not 20 years old now, he’s in his 30s. He is one really truly awful run away from having his eyesight or desire questioned. He has an awful penchant of rubbing people up the wrong way who ain’t all in on the cult the media seems to be in thrall to.

So, for now, things are quiet. There is a relative calm. England’s cricketers wouldn’t, and shouldn’t, give a stuff about matters. The ECB hold our sort in contempt at the best of times. Our fellow fans felt no shame in questioning our motives, our desires, our love of the sport, polarising it behind “KP fanboys”. Our media tried, in part, to understand, but really didn’t give a toss, thinking we all want to be journalists and take their jobs, when what we wanted was for our views, held by quite a few, to be fairly represented and the authorities held to account. Summers like these don’t lend themselves to cricket fandom pyrotechnics. There’s enough outside cricket, ha ha, to get on about. But make no mistake, the schism has by no means healed, the malcontents are just not bothered about shouting as much any more, and the cosy little consensus will be maintained for as long as disaster doesn’t befall the England cricket team.

It’s the Silence of the Damned.