The Silence Of The Damned

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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.

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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.

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19 thoughts on “The Silence Of The Damned

  1. Mark July 11, 2016 / 10:46 pm

    Well said Dmitri.

    Yes, we lost the war. If that is what you think, as they do the war was only about KP. We certainly lost that war. But KP was just a symptom of something a million times more rotten. It took the KP war to reveal just how rotten the England cricket establishment is. The KP war showed just the levels they would sink to. And it was an eye opener to see just how corrupt and dishonest the English cricket media is in this country. Constant leaking, and a refusal to admit that KP had a case.

    But the KP issue soon gave way to the whole bigger issues about the big 3 and the international stitch up. As I said below the plan is working perfectly. Teams outside the big 3 are in decline, and the Sri Lanka series was not worth watching. Instead of being concerned by this the cricket establisment prefers to celebrate fools gold. ( doofus the captain thinks the current cricket standard is as good as it has ever been.)

    As we have lost the KP debate why do the scumbag media have to keep propping up their great White dope of a captain? Why are they so afraid of calling him out? Why do they still spend their time grovelling on their knees? It’s revolting to observe . Just a glance at the kind of crap in the cricket paper tells you all you need to know. Boy do they want this series to go off on one. They are going to their damdest in their dishonest way to start world war 3. What an indicment of a once fine industry.

    It’s just over 10 years since the 2005 Ashes, and cricket is unrecognisable from that series. The sport has lost the plot. 3 different versions requiring different skills. The gold standard of the sport, Test cricket is in decline. You can always tell When a sport is on the rocks. They keep changing the format and the rules hoping to bring in new people. If you had told me ten years ago this is what cricket would be reduced to I wouldn’t have belived you. But it’s all behind a pay wall now, so nobody is watching.

    Liked by 1 person

    • "IronBalls" McGinty July 12, 2016 / 8:54 am

      We only lost a battle, the dust from which is barely settled, yet the war goes on.KP’s ignominious and disgraceful demise showed everyone, with only half a brain, that the ECB is as fit for purpose as FIFA was under Blatter, and needs to be constantly, and consistently challenged.This may only be a cricket blog, participated by folk who really love the game, and yet, our voices have been heard, and we have been listened to! We may well be brushed off by the sycophantic media, but, we are the voice of a huge portion of cricket lovers…of that I am convinced!
      Once again for this upcoming series they have NOT picked their best and most talented batsmen? Gary Ballance, Gary Ballance anyone? Quite possibly the dead hand of Flower exerting his malign influence?
      Spot fixing is all over the media right now, and that, for me, is just a headline grabbing smokescreen to cover up the fact that they’ve picked a shit team, in my opinion…we’ll see!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. BobW July 12, 2016 / 10:55 am

    What a brilliant post. Thank you.

    Like

  3. northernlight71 July 12, 2016 / 11:48 am

    According to today’s “Spin” it is Sri Lanka who are now selfishly putting their own interests above the greater good of the future of cricket.
    Coming from a writer who has singularly failed to hold any kind of light up to the machinations of the ECB and their pathetic role in the recent ICC stitch up, I can only stare open-mouthed and say . . . Words fail me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mark July 12, 2016 / 12:28 pm

      The English cricket media is so fake it’s un real. It’s extraordinary all this anger at Pakistan. Hey, here is a clue, if the media/ECB feel so strongly about it then don’t play Pakistan. Boycot them. But don’t have them here, and then scream “cheat.” It’s pathetic!

      Liked by 1 person

      • LordCanisLupus July 12, 2016 / 1:38 pm

        Interesting how Root rowed back on the rhetoric in his interview in the Mail. I think even the press people at the ECB think this is going too far.

        Like

      • alan July 12, 2016 / 1:45 pm

        I’ve just finished reading Wounded Tiger : A History of Cricket in Pakistan by Peter Oborne.
        Well worth reading for a thorough and objective account of Pakistan and it’s cricket. A far cry from what we’re used to. There is a passage headed ‘British media stereotypes of Pakistan’!
        It’s written by someone with an obvious affection for the country and it’s cricketers who doesn’t shy away from all the problems but puts them into some context.
        He’s a journalist that, to say the least, I don’t always agree with but this book certainly impressed me.

        Like

    • nonoxcol July 12, 2016 / 1:49 pm

      Surprised he hasn’t turned up BTL to accuse you (and the entire rest of the thread, for once!) of “misty-eyed cobblers”. Giles Clarke and Srini shit the bed – write an entire article in the style of a parody soap opera. A Sri Lankan refuses to fold – call him out for selfishness.

      The “Guardian”, ladies and gents.

      Like

  4. Alec July 12, 2016 / 3:39 pm

    Here’s the thing. I love Pakistani cricket. As long as I’ve been a fan of the sport (which admittedly is only a decade or so), I’ve loved the Pakistani team. Misbah’s 56 ball century caused me to shout “yes, f**k yes” loudly enough to wake my wife, who promptly threatened to ball-gag me were I ever again to disturb her slumber in so uncouth a manner.

    I grew up in South London and was educated in Tooting, meaning that many of my school friends were 2nd and 3rd generation Asian kids, largely from families from Pakistan and Bangladesh. This led to me being embarrassingly old before I worked out that Imran Khan did not represent England. It also led me to want to see test matches in Lahore and Islamabad. And I don’t mean on TV.

    I generally travel about as well as the music of Keith Urban and as such my general bucket list for places to visit runs to
    1. my bedroom
    2. the living room

    MCG? Meh.
    Eden Gardens? Kinda
    Dubai Sports City or whatever it’s called? Pull the other one.

    The Pakistan venues exhibit a special pull for me though and it’s an enduring sadness that the return of international cricket only ever seems a more fleeting possibility with every year.

    As such, this is a series that I’m salivating over. The passage of 6 years since Pakistan’s last tour here, the return of an exciting and once-disgraced young fast bowler, 2 batting line-ups looking to prove they’re made of the right stuff. Put them together and for me it gives the sport the shot in the arm to prove that when endless Ashes series are shorn of rarity and context then it all just turns into cricketing methadone.

    I wished once that Pakistan were able to make England and Wales (and Ireland and Scotland) their home away from home instead of the UAE. I know the economics and politics of it would stop that happening but I still can’t help wishing the ICC, ECB and PCC could come together to make it happen. It might also help by having another international team hanging around to help ease the pressure on England to provide non-stop, round the clock cricketing action.

    So screw the ECB and its lackeys, screw the ICC, screw the super series bollocks that was never needed when what was really called for was the thrill of the fresh and the unknown. The sport is not theirs to own (and there is a court case saying more or less that) so I’m clinging on until they prise my fingertips off because to do otherwise would be to admit they were right and I was wrong.

    Like

    • SimonH July 12, 2016 / 3:48 pm

      “I still can’t help wishing the ICC, ECB and PCC could come together to make it happen”.

      Wasn’t the series Pakistan played in England against Australia a financial disaster? (Especially the Test match at Headingley).

      Like

      • alecpaton July 12, 2016 / 6:31 pm

        It was; mainly to Yorkshire. I would love to know the economics of staging matches in the UAE v staging them in the UK. I know it’s a stupid pipe dream but as much as anything it’s motivated by a desire to have Pakistan play more tests in England.

        Like

    • Tuffers86 July 13, 2016 / 7:39 am

      Pakistan are my second team! They are brilliantly flawed and I’m fortunate to have seen them more times here in the UAE than I’ve ever seen England play. Put it this way; this summer I will likely fail the Tebbit test.

      There is just something so enigmatic about them. Cavaliers through and through, even when They’re trying to be Roundheads. Misbah, now there is a captain. You have to be, vipers in every nook and cranny. Cook wouldn’t last a series if he had the hand Pakistani skippers are dealt.

      Like

  5. Maxie Allen July 15, 2016 / 3:56 pm

    Excellent piece, Dmitri.

    We lost the war because the weapons we chose were facts and rational arguments. Alas, they were outgunned by our opponents’ arsenal of bullying, cliquery, and lies.

    On the other hand, Downton went, Moores went, Cook went as ODI captain, and by some miracle the ECB have managed to avoid overtly their offending the public for some time now. We won most of the arguments – we were just never credited with doing so.

    I also suspect that some of the journalists were far more shaken by our criticism and scrutiny than they’d ever admit, even to themselves. They could persuasively argue that a few antsy bloggers and BTLers count for nothing – but the acrimony and rudeness of their retorts, and their hastiness to block on Twitter, suggested otherwise. Of course, several hacks responded in a much more constructive and positive way.

    We stopped fighting the war because there was nothing new to say and the protagonists had left the battlefield. But none of the issues have changed. There has been a ceasefire, but no peace treaty.

    For me personally, after three decades of ardent support, I could now hardly feel any more alienated from, or disillusioned by, the team called England which represents the ECB. I can barely be bothered to check the score.

    Like

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