Herd the Golden Geese

England players got a break over Christmas. For the Test only players, that break is a substantial one, for there won’t be another until July. Whatever the outcome of Alastair Cook’s discussions with the Director, Cricket (funny how the absurdity of that title never wanes) he and the others who aren’t in the short form teams will welcome the chance to rest and recharge over the coming months. Yet there are plenty of players who turn out for England in every variety of the game, and although there has been little comment beyond Cook’s ‘I don’t choose the schedule’ at the end of the Indian Test series , the next 15 months is quite simply barking mad. 

On Sunday begins a series of 3 ODIs in India, followed by 3 T20 internationals. That is actually reasonably sensible, as opposed to the usual five 50 over matches, but from there it starts to head downhill. 

After finishing that tour there is a one month break before heading to the West Indies for 3 more ODIs in little more than a week, then it’s back to England for the build up to the English season. 

Any thoughts of playing four day cricket are pointless, for the first half of the summer is given over entirely to 50 over international matches. There are two very welcome games against Ireland, the first time England have hosted them, and then three more at the end of May against South Africa, presumably as warm ups for the Champions Trophy. 

Should England reach the final – not as unlikely a possibility as in some previous years – they will finish on the 18th June. Three days later they start a series of 3 T20s against South Africa (again – the ODIs pre-tourament clearly aren’t enough).

The kind, thoughtful people at the ECB have allowed 10 days between that and the start of the 1st Test, when the specialists are located from their secret base and those in every side turn their heads round the right way and try and focus on batting for more than ten overs. 

There are then four Tests in just over a month, and then a lengthy break of, oh 9 days before three more Tests against the West Indies at the same breakneck pace. 

Any thoughts that this will conclude the season are misplaced, for then there will be a T20 and five, yes five, ODIs to finish the English international summer in, er autumn. Proper autumn too, on the 29th September. There are clubs up and down the country who will finish their seasons earlier than that. 

With the first Ashes Test taking place on the 23rd November, England will probably arrive at the beginning of the month. Players, note down October in your diaries and mark it ‘time to actually live’. 

The Ashes schedule is fairly similar to those of previous tours – given the Melbourne and Sydney Tests being fixed in the calendar not even the ECB and CA could squeeze in any more – and so they wait until the Tests are concluded before gleefully ensuring extra cash can be generated. 

Since five ODIs aren’t enough, they then arranged a Tri-Series of T20s so there’ll be travelling to New Zealand too. That’s fortunate because when the Tri-Series finishes in late February, England are already there for the tour of New Zealand due to start that month and comprising two Tests, five ODIs and a T20. It’s due to finish in April, which is of course absolutely perfect as they’ll be able to fly home just in time for the scheduled series against Pakistan in May before the vitally important five ODIs against Australia before India arrive. 

Players are lucky to be in the position of being paid for playing the game they love. And plenty will say that they should just get on with it. To a point that’s right, for few will be sympathetic to them in terms of their absolute workload compared to the archetypal man down the pit. Yet that’s not the point. Overloading players means they cannot possibly perform at their best, particularly against opposition not compelled to follow such ludicrously packed itineraries over the entire year – or in this case two years. Furthermore, the potential for injuries is clearly going to go up dramatically, as is burnout. 

For the likes of Stokes, Root, Woakes, Bairstow, Moeen and potentially others, there’s simply no way they can do this. They’ll break. The alternative is to ensure they have time off built in, and that’s possible. But they’ll need more than just a few days and if England aren’t going out with their best teams because the players are on their knees needing a rest, then it devalues the whole idea of international cricket anyway. 

2016 was held up as an example of a ridiculously compressed schedule with too much cricket. Clearly the ECB didn’t see this as a criticism, more as a challenge. 

They’ve certainly met it head on. 

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96 thoughts on “Herd the Golden Geese

  1. jennyah46 January 4, 2017 / 8:10 pm

    An excellent piece of writing, Dmitri. There is nothing more that I could add. The schedule is utterly insane, it is detrimental to the well being of the players, and in the way that it stands, devalues the game beyond repair.

    Like

    • jennyah46 January 4, 2017 / 8:17 pm

      Oops! I am so sorry, Chris at thelegglance. A thousand million apologies!

      Like

  2. Keeper99 (@PaulKeeper99) January 4, 2017 / 10:02 pm

    You’ve lost me, any chance you can put this in tabular form or on a spreadsheet 😉

    The really insane part is what happens either side of the Ashes. It is all quite worrying, if understandable if seen as part of an ECB strategy to marginalise first class cricket…

    It really is quite remarkable and is going to require a very different, squad based approach to selection. This cannot just be on game to game basis but on a competition and tour basis as it is not just the playing that can mentally exhaust players.

    The slight upside is at least more visibility and opportunity for emerging white ball talent such as Sam Billings but the likes of Bairstow will have to be managed carefully as he would, I imagine, want to play every single game.

    Outside of the all-rounders we have a core of Test players who can devote themselves to this format – Cook, Anderson, Broad and maybe Hameed and Jennings. The latter two could be an interesting test (pardon the pun) for the policy of consistent selection. If either were to have a very poor CC season then could they justifiably be selected after such a long gap since the last Test? The other interesting player is Mark Wood as the selectors may, in light of his injury history, have to decide if he is a white or red ball player.

    I can’t even begin to fathom what this means for the domestic season, it’s hard enough to absorb as it is…

    ps did you mean June 18 for the CT final?

    Like

  3. oreston January 4, 2017 / 10:25 pm

    I wonder who the ECB thinks has got the time and/or resources to watch that amount of international cricket?

    Like

    • Mark January 4, 2017 / 10:35 pm

      That is of no concern to the ECB. They take the TV money and leave it to the broadcasters to worry if anyone is watching. It’s arrogant, and ridiculously short term thinking.

      However, English cricket is only about two things. Money and the regime of Cook. Nothing else matters. Player burn out? ..not a problem. Players not able to perform because of injury? ..not a problem. Saturation coverage? …. Not a problem.

      England losing or failing to beat Pakistan at home! Not a problem. Failing to beat Bangladesh away? Not a problem. Thrashed by India? Not a problem. All that matters is Cook stays as captain.

      That is English cricket today. It’s a shit sandwich, and the ECB want you to swallow it, with relish.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. SimonH January 4, 2017 / 10:58 pm

    The only way I can make sense of the schedule is if they think they’re going to rotate quite a few players out of the WI series. However the usual imperatives tend to assert themselves – management start to worry they might not win without a full-strength team, players want to beef up their stats against weaker opposition and broadcasters moan that they are being short-changed.

    The other rotation could be between the red- and white-ball teams. However so-called specialisation is still very half-formed. At least half the teams overlap – and for every Hales who drops out of one format, they insert a Buttler. Much of this comes from Bayliss who wants white-ball players in the Test team because they are the only ones he knows.

    The concept of specialisation was genius by the ECB. It convinced a lot of people that selecting different players was a strategic masterstroke driven by a far-sighted understanding of modern cricketing needs. In reality, it’s driven by a commercial imperative of packing as much product in as possible.

    If we see some serious rotation this summer, we’ll know we truly are in a new world. Australia are signing off just as demanding schedules and they’ve already played an ODI series without their entire first choice bowling attack (and got thrashed – but it was abroad, so who cares?). I can see England going the same way.

    Liked by 2 people

    • d'Arthez January 5, 2017 / 3:49 am

      Also, with regards to Buttler. Quite a few players who were dropped were told to score some FC runs. Buttler did not even bother playing FC cricket, and yet he got back in the team.

      While in itself that is just a selectorial quirk – but it can also inspire players that IF they want a Test call up (and given the way that central contracts work, that should be the lot of them), they need to shine in the shorter formats AND possibly can’t risk taking some downtime. This may well mean that players keep selecting themselves until they break down.

      It is not like England have a medical team to prevent such things from happening.

      Like

    • LordCanisLupus January 5, 2017 / 8:28 am

      Just to add on to the end of Chris’s piece.

      After we return from New Zealand and we more or less go straight into the Pakistan home series, the Australian ODIs and the five tests v India and ODI circus that follows in the Summer of 2018, then the players get a free September (which is roped off for all countries – A World T20 anyone?) before a two month three test tour of Sri Lanka in October. Only after that do we get a break (and I wonder if that might include an ODI or two somewhere around the world – Australia perhaps? India?) before a spring tour to the West Indies.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rooto January 5, 2017 / 2:49 pm

        That spring tour is then followed by the World Cup, isn’t it? It’s never ending!
        (part of me still thinks “Great! Loads of lovely cricket”, but I know it’s wrong)

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  5. Sean B January 4, 2017 / 11:12 pm

    I’ve been a massive critic of England’s FTP for years. 2016’s schedule was irresponsible, 2017/18 is stuff straight out of The asylum. Well done ECB, break our best players for good, because we’ll have no Jimmy, I doubt Broad will be still standing and as for Stokes, Root and Moeen, I hope they know a good doctor or two…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sean B January 4, 2017 / 11:58 pm

    Hi,

    Ignore any new posts in your inbox, was trying to proof read an article and pressed the wrong button. Article will be up later this week.

    Thanks,

    Sean

    Like

  7. d'Arthez January 5, 2017 / 4:02 am

    Well, they can ease the schedule by buying the best players of the opposition – with ECB money (since the ECB pays the county MORE money than the wage limit they impose on the counties).

    This will reduce workload / intensity of the work, so that the England players can go on longer.

    Other than that strategy, serious squad rotation will be needed. The schedule is simply insane. What is also needed are several medical teams on standby for all the house journalists, for whenever Jimmy and Stokes are not picked …

    Like

  8. Keeper99 (@PaulKeeper99) January 5, 2017 / 7:14 am

    I would also like to see the distribution of TV deals for this schedule. I understand that BT have the rights to the Ashes but what about the series’ after this? I suspect we will be in a football type situation where you need two subs to watch what you could before on one. If so I may just have to bite the bullet and move entirely to streaming (which has become a bit more reliable). Have to make a stand somewhere.

    Like

    • d'Arthez January 5, 2017 / 7:30 am

      Join me in the biggest threat to cricket club!

      Apparently it is not popular indifference that is the biggest threat.

      Like

    • LordCanisLupus January 5, 2017 / 8:20 am

      I watch BT more than Sky in truth. I could live without football now (and ten years ago you would never have caught me saying that, but that’s a sport I’ve truly fell out of love with) and watch a lot of NBA and MLB, which BT has. I think that sport is so close to killing the goose that laid the golden egg, that even Sky is realising it. It is £11m per match under their contract. £11m for any match, be it West Ham v Bournemouth or Manchester City v Chelsea. They are cutting staff, and soon numbers will fall.

      If the ICC had any power, and run their sport like an American one, we could stream live cricket around the world for £100 or so per year, and we wouldn’t have to pay for all the sports we don’t watch. But we’ve been here before.

      Every streaming site I’ve tried to use has been unworkable. If they ever did, they’d become a game changer.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mark January 5, 2017 / 9:58 am

        I totally agree Peter. ( May I call you Peter? Lol) Ten years ago I needed my football hit, but not anymore. I don’t watch as much football now, even the big games. Didn’t bother with Chelsea vs Spurs last night.

        If ever there was an industry ready for a good kicking it’s English Premiership football. Smug, arrogant, and wallowing in money.

        I heard a bunch of ex footballers ,now pundits dismissing the rise of China and saying players will never go there. Well 25 years ago the same was said about many industries and yet now China is the workshop of the world.

        Nobody is suggesting this will happen overnight but has it ever occurred to these geniuses that like many other industries they might just relocate there? How funny would it be to see the likes of Man U , Liverpool and Chesea just up sticks and relocate to China? After all, they are now foreign owned, and in many cases registered in tax havens. There is no loyalty to this country or even to Europe. They have been pushing this agenda of playing one premiership game to be played overseas for a while now.

        As for cricket, I still maintain my theory that the people who run the sport are looting the game as fast as they can.They don’t think test matches will even exist in 25 years time. They see a sport that is dying, and so are extracting as much as they can now for themselves before the sport goes belly up.

        Like

    • thelegglance January 5, 2017 / 1:21 pm

      BT did the deal with Cricket Australia – it’s always the case that the host board have the right to do deals with whoever they wish. BT have openly stated they are interested in increasing their cricket profile, so expect them to compete to win the rights to various other nations’ cricket around the world over the next couple of years. There are plenty of them who don’t get covered on the main channels routinely, so they’d leap at the chance to have all of their home series covered, and they don’t greatly care about the UK viewing audience, and why should they?

      Overseas cricket is extremely cheap to buy relatively speaking, and fills hours of airtime. There are no additional costs in terms of generating the coverage either, the host broadcaster does it all.

      Like

  9. pktroll (@pktroll) January 5, 2017 / 8:43 am

    If ECB had the capacity to manage players, some of the multi formatters wouldn’t be in India, and frankly given that they are they shouldn’t be in West Indies next month. Given the schedule, which is bonkers, a complete meltdown come the end of the year, if not before is an utter certainty. That’s why I wasn’t able to be quite as cutting with Cook and Bayliss as I might have been. It really shouldn’t have been a surprise that England crumbled as badly as they did in the last 2 tests of last year.

    I even think that some of the test players shouldn’t necessarily play against the West Indies, and that some of the multi-formatters shouldn’t play in the limited overs staff post that. There’ll be out on their feet BEFORE they reach Australia. Anyway if all of the worst expectations come to pass, at least we can collectively have another go and Comma and all his ECB crony bosses. They WILL all deserve it.

    PS, Dmitri, I really increasingly agree with you on football. I can barely watch it now. Then again if I watch too much cricket in the next year, I don’t know how I feel. Unlike you I don’t have BT and I’m not much inclined to get it any time soon, yet if Sky cut back a lot on cricket then that will be a signal.

    Like

  10. SimonH January 5, 2017 / 10:24 am

    All over in CT without a single SL batsman making a half-century in the match. One way of preventing player burn-out is to keep these Test matches very short.

    The only bright spot for SL was the bowling of Kumara (a raw, strong, open-chested seamer who clocked 145 kph for anyone who’s not seen him).

    No wickets in the match for Abbott. A few people have been having a go at GD on Twitter for breaking the Kolpak story in the middle of a Test.

    Like

    • SimonH January 5, 2017 / 11:08 am

      Didn’t watch the post-match interviews but –

      I’ve seen on Twitter that his deal is for £500k over 3 years. He’d have to play at least five years on a SA central contract to earn that by which time he’d be 34.

      Like

      • d'Arthez January 5, 2017 / 11:29 am

        And the irony? His wages will effectively be paid with Sky money. So the broadcaster is paying money to ascertain that they’ll be broadcasting not the best of the best. Uhhh ….

        Liked by 1 person

      • d'Arthez January 5, 2017 / 12:53 pm

        Also confirmed to leave is Rilee Rossouw. 2 bought, 13 more to go and Hampshire can field a Test team!

        You know, the white guy who made 4 ducks in his first 6 ODIs. That includes 3 golden ducks. So obviously quotas were working against him … as he went on to play another 30 ODIs (and 15 T20Is), and was even the reserve batsman for the Test series in Australia a few months ago.

        It is all about the money. As for pride for the country (which just about anyone will profess when signing such a deal)? We’ll see if any of them line up for England in the remainder of their careers.

        CSA and a few other boards cannot compete with what the ECB-subsidised counties can offer (and part of the reason they can offer that is because, you know international games are supposed to be competitive). The money is simply not there. And the Big 3 stitch up certainly has not helped. The Srini – Lorgat spat has certainly not helped either, as it left a hole of about 200 million Rand in CSA’s budget for a period of 8 years.

        Even when South Africa was #1 ranked, the public broadcaster (SABC) could not be bothered to even pretend to look for money to get the broadcasting rights for the home series (alongside SuperSport) – I think in the end CSA basically offered to give those rights away for maybe 1 million GBP (I am not sure if SABC bothered to give that). At the same time SABC paid to the tune of about 40 million GBP for the South African football league rights for a few years – including 8 million GBP for the five greedy bastards who figured out how to apply a signature on a contract.

        So the authorities that be (and I am not talking about CSA, though they could have done more), effectively put in a quota system, while doing their utmost BEST to ensure that the sport remains invisible to the majority of the people (don’t for a minute think that Rabada comes from a poor background). A real success formula.

        All this is begging the question: what are the counties actually doing to develop home-grown talent? In other words, how self-sustaining is the cricketing structure in England and Wales, if they have to keep on going abroad to find cricketers? Oh, and it is absolute nonsense to say that the ECB are powerless to deal with this. They subsidise (or in the case of Durham try to destroy) all the counties to the tune of 2 million a year. They give additional subsidies for picking young players, but they cannot do something similar with regards to non-foreign players? So discrimination on nationality is a no-go area, but discrimination on age is perfectly acceptable?

        If Chance to Shine, and the efforts of the counties are so effective, why does a country that has about 400 professional FC cricketers, still have to import cricketers from countries that have but a fraction of that number of professionals?

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  11. SimonH January 5, 2017 / 10:49 am

    The main Sky promo for 2017 ends with shots of Root-Root-Cook. Hedging their bets?

    That “Cricket Dream of 2017” promo featuring Atherton and Hussain is nearly as in love with itself as that 2015 Ashes’ promo. What non-pre-existing fan of cricket is going to start watching the game because of it?

    Like

    • Mark January 5, 2017 / 11:05 am

      When you think that Cooks England only success for the second half of the year was to beat this very poor SL side in the north of England in early summer, the fail to beat Pakistan or Bangladesh and get thumped by India it’s amazing there is even a debate about keeping Cook.

      But according to Selveys tweet yesterday only people who have been involved in a particular field should be allowed to comment on it. Selvey is an educated man, if he can’t write a column on politics he must be a moron.

      Like

      • thelegglance January 5, 2017 / 11:07 am

        Curious that anyone would think that those who pay the wages aren’t allowed to comment on it. I must try that with my customers and see what they say…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mark January 5, 2017 / 12:47 pm

        This one of my big bug bears of modern sports punditry. Players, and ex players who have become pundits are the most precious little wall flowers going. Only they can talk about sport. Anyone who hasn’t done it at a highest level are not serious. They have a contempt for the paying fan. They laugh at the traveling fan who treks across the country following their team. Privately they think these people are insane. Fine, but they pay your wages.

        Lineker is another one who was lecturing about pundits and journos who have never played at the highest level. There are lots of things people have never done but that doesn’t mean they are not able to understand and judge people who do. Many rock joirnos can’t sing or play the guitar but they are good writers. Also the bigger the star, usually the more narrow minded they are at seeing it from another point of view.

        As you say TLG, have these people never come commented on the service they get from a retail outlet or restaurant? Have they ever sat on a jury and said “sorry I can’t judge because I have never done it.”

        These people have wafer thin skins, and although they take executive salaries behave like brats. Listen to them predict the results on a Friday night, and see how wrong they are come Sunday night! Experts my arse!

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      • d'Arthez January 5, 2017 / 12:57 pm

        I wish Selvey applied that dictum to his own private life, and shut the holy bleep up, instead of whining about being fired. An “expert” (well, the people running the business) made the decision, that Selvey was not worth keeping around.

        In fact he should delete his Twitter account, since he is no expert on 99% of the things he tweets about.

        Liked by 1 person

      • nonoxcol January 5, 2017 / 1:12 pm

        Presumably Gary Lineker thinks that the insight of Robbie Savage is superior to that of Desmond Lynam, i.e. the bloke who did his job (among many others, back when the BBC had a surfeit of proper general sports journalists) for 20-odd years.

        Funnily enough I never saw Lineker turn down the opportunity to present the BBC’s coverage of the Open Golf, in the days where they decided “names” were more important than journalists, regardless of sport (see also Michael Vaughan at the Masters). Indeed, I seem to recall him being mocked as a non-expert by Darren Clarke and finding it somewhat unfair…

        Like

      • thelegglance January 5, 2017 / 1:24 pm

        The “only experts can comment” line is one of the more pernicious, yet idiotic lines that gets taken. It’s nothing but naked self-interest from the pundits.

        Plenty of those who argue it are happy to post their political views online for all to see.

        Like

      • Mark January 5, 2017 / 3:22 pm

        NONOXCOL…. Great call on Lineker hosting the golf. I remember when they sent Garth Crooks to the Masters. FFs?

        Des Lynam used to sell insurance before he became a sports presenter. So what would he know about sport? It’s an idiotic argument made by these sports star pundits. But then they come from a profession that says the manager must never criticise them in public. And they never get sacked because they have a transfer fee protecting them. Even when Carlos Tevez refused ro warm up he still kept his job until the club could sell him on and collect their £20 odd million.

        Like

        • thelegglance January 5, 2017 / 4:02 pm

          The Tevez one was interesting, all to do with employment law. City kept fining him every week so they didn’t lose out financially (although they then donated it all to charity as most clubs do). But they also had to follow procedure and weren’t able to let him rot in the reserves as most would have liked, because it breached employment law and would have allowed him to leave for free. So in that case, it was less about the money and more about the longer term issues that would have arisen had he got his way. City didn’t exactly need the cash. They played a clever game with that one.

          Like

      • nonoxcol January 5, 2017 / 4:24 pm

        @Mark

        I fondly remember Vaughan interviewing Tiger Woods at the Masters c.2011/12 and opening with “Tiger, you’ve won three of these…”

        “FOUR, ACTUALLY” came the response.

        Like

      • Mark January 5, 2017 / 4:57 pm

        TLG …..I would argue it was to do with money albeit not his wages, but his transfer fee. Most of the bosses I have worked for would have sacked me on the spot if I Had refused to do what they said, and then if I had said “sorry I don’t really fancy it today.”‘ They would have said ” ok then, go home and don’t come back tomorrow.”

        But because he had a transfer value of between £20 and £30 million no club is going to sack him because he then becomes a free agent who can sign for another club for free. Man City were not going to that. Footballers are protected by a transfer fee.

        When footballers are moaning that a club won’t let them go to a bigger club it is hypocrisy. The transfer fee also protects them from being fired for poor performance, When players got the Bosman ruling I was surprised clubs didn’t try to phase out transfer fees, and put players on shorter contracts. 2-3 years max. If they want free movement and the ability to move when ever something better comes along they shouldn’t also get long contracts.

        Like

        • thelegglance January 5, 2017 / 5:02 pm

          No, not necessarily, because if a player is sacked they can then be sued over the loss when they sign for someone else. It wasn’t specifically about him, it was the wider impact it would have – hence the refusal to let him go for £10 million at the time, but selling him a year later for about the same once they’d forced him back and got him to apologise for it all. It wasn’t about Tevez specifically, it was what allowing him to get away with it would mean. As a City fan, I followed this one very closely and learned more about employment law as it pertains to sportsmen than is healthy!

          Like

  12. Keeper99 (@PaulKeeper99) January 5, 2017 / 11:07 am

    Stodgy stuff by Chris Lynn this morning. Take out his sixes and he scored just 32 runs off 43 balls.

    Like

    • quebecer January 6, 2017 / 1:45 am

      He should learn to rotate the strike a bit.

      Like

  13. SimonH January 5, 2017 / 11:20 am

    Scyld Berry –

    “England’s players meanwhile wait to see if their Test captain Alastair Cook will also be standing down after his meeting with team director Andrew Strauss, who returns from holiday in Australia this weekend to conduct their customary end-of-tour review. By the end of the five-Test series in India, Cook’s body language suggested he did not want to continue as captain, while England’s results suggested he should not”.

    You can see why Strauss needed a holiday in Australia – all that Comma-ing must be exhausting. The first account to spin it as studying the BBL in 3-2-1….

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/cricket/2017/01/04/england-return-india-requiring-test-steel-champions-trophy/

    Like

    • thelegglance January 5, 2017 / 11:22 am

      His wife is Australian. I daresay they were visiting her family. I can’t exactly bring myself to use him having a holiday as a stick with which to beat him.

      Like

      • SimonH January 5, 2017 / 11:34 am

        Fair dos – I’d forgotten about his wife.

        Like

      • Mark January 5, 2017 / 1:00 pm

        I certainly don’t object to him having a holiday or if he was just visiting the family. That’s not the issue. But he is paid to make the big calls. And the time has come for a new captain. Cook has had 4 years and has made no progress. The results this year have been poor. After the Ashes tour from hell (that we arnt allowed to talk about) they said we had a young team to build around the captain. Cooks has had 3 years since then, and the time has come to move on.

        England need fresh ideas and a new direction. A new young team needs a new leader. Strauss has to now earn his money. But I fear the fix is in. Cook has had time to go back to the farm and recharge his batteries. He will no doubt tell anyone stupid enough to listen that he he is fine, and should carry on. If Cook stays on, and England lose in Asutralia Strauss should be fired along with Cook.

        Like

      • SimonH January 5, 2017 / 1:19 pm

        That’s “dos” as in the plural of “do”, not a naughty Afrikaans’ word that someone might once have texted or not! 🙂

        I just wanted to clarify that I wasn’t having a go at Strauss from a “anyone who isn’t working is evil” perspective. I hate this country’s long hours’ culture – getting off that treadmill was the best thing I ever did. My point was more partly about Strauss becoming the Invisible Man after the First Test and partly about how he is part of the management team signing off these schedules for the players. I was getting at the mindset which was all sympathy for Flower’s workload when he stood down as ODI coach but labelled players as “shirkers” who wanted to do something similar. It was also partly about how Director, Cricket is IMO a non-job that should be abolished.

        By the way, the Guardian has a story about Chris Gayle on instagram having not reported at all about Thakur. It’s absolutely wretched.

        Liked by 1 person

      • thelegglance January 5, 2017 / 1:26 pm

        Interesting question. Does Strauss sign off on the schedule, or is it above his pay grade? You’d have thought he’d have a say, but I’m not sure they’d let him decide that.

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      • pktroll (@pktroll) January 5, 2017 / 1:56 pm

        As someone who has been more misanthropic towards Strauss than to Cook in the last couple of months, I don’t think I can blame Strauss for planning the itinerary but he does have some responsibility for ensuring that the players are looked after properly. I do reckon he holds some of the blame (I’ve said this before) with regard to the lack of meaningful first class games for the Lions in Asia over the last 2 winters and it is laughable that they go to Sri Lanka in a couple of months at a time when England have now completed 3 different series in Asia and probably aren’t going there for at least a couple of winters now. The chance to refresh and influence the future direction of the England team significantly has been wasted.

        2ndly at Loughborough, what is happening there? I thought a major part of his brief was to review and ensure that the right people were there to develop players. I cringed when I heard about Flower with David Parsons (the spin coach who was around about 10 years ago with the ECB). It just struck me that it is a bit of an old boys network (i.e. those lot will be in their cushy jobs until they drop.

        Much as I think Cook is ill-suited to the job of captain, it still won’t surprise me if he is in post next week still. Then again, this time next year we will be reflecting on a captaincy record that has a strong chance of being in negative equity. Even after the supposed ‘great leap forward’ post THAT series, England’s test match record is W15 D7 L16.

        Liked by 1 person

      • SimonH January 5, 2017 / 2:08 pm

        One of the cricket journos wrote that Strauss signed-off on the itinerary for the tour – but I can’t now find the quote. It was probably either Vic Marks or Nick Hoult.

        Were they right? Were they guessing? I don’t know – but if it isn’t Strauss, it would be Harrison and his expertise is all in TV deals and not in constructing tour schedules. I think it’s a reasonable surmise that Strauss does it. At the very least, if he stamped his foot about these schedules, given how much the ECB have invested in him, it would be very difficult for Graves/Harrison to ignore him.

        Like

      • Mark January 5, 2017 / 3:04 pm

        Simon, I never thought you were criticising him for having a holiday. As you say, the holiday is a non issue.

        As to who signs off on these tour schedules…. who knows? One of the problems with English cricket is there are layers of management nobody knows what responsibilities they have. For example…… we have selectors and a coach, but apparantly Strauss can over ride those people and refuse to pick someone who he doesn’t like. The coach seems to have little or no power to do anything. Not sure what the point of him is.

        Like

  14. Zeitkratzer Stockhausen January 5, 2017 / 1:32 pm

    Pleased about the Ireland games. I hope to be in earshot of Captain Morgan.

    Like

  15. Cricketjon January 5, 2017 / 2:59 pm

    If Test cricket really is sliding towards a long anticipated death following the apathy of the respective Boards, can anyone see a scenario here where there is a split such as the one that happened in darts 20+ years ago. I cannot but I wonder if others can. There are enough people who care about test cricket they just aren’t on the inside.

    Like

    • Mark January 5, 2017 / 3:14 pm

      I can see certain players just playing 20/20 francise cricket and a bit of county cricket and never having any dealings with national boards. They will earn big money and not have to answer to the Strauss//National captain/Medical team/Diet coach/Selvey/ Nasser alliance.

      Probably quite a nice number. There will always be test players and test matches will still take place, but who knows if anybody will be watching. There is a croquet world championship I’m told. Though it gets no coverage. Test cricket could become like that or tractor racing.

      Like

    • d'Arthez January 5, 2017 / 5:22 pm

      The players from England, India and Australia can keep on playing for their countries. They’ll be well rewarded, no matter how their central contracts are structured.

      The Indian players (barring Pujara who is really not good in the short format) can cash in through the IPL as well, and will be making millions upon millions. Just look up the net worth of M.S. Dhoni. Kohli will undoubtedly significantly improve upon that figure. Alastair Cook is making more from sitting on his arse for the next six months than Kyle Abbott would have made in the remainder of his international career, if he had not gone Kolpak. I suppose that is meritocracy, Giles Clarke-style, as well.

      For now, only the IPL is extremely lucrative (provided you can get a top-tier contract). But it is quite possible that other financially lucrative leagues spring up. Then anything can happen.

      For the players from the poorer nations, there is no financially rewarding option available through their national boards. They’ll play a few games to get in the limelight (preferably in series against those Big 3; no one in those countries bothers watching Pakistan – Sri Lanka for instance), and then go full mercenary. In fact, when the WICB tried to impose a levy of 20% of contract value on T20 players, that may have set the wheels in motion to come up with legal mechanisms to avoid dealing with national boards altogether.

      If players could get Indian citizenship easily, international cricket would already be dead, and we would have had a sixteen team behemoth of a T20 league in India.

      Like

    • pktroll (@pktroll) January 6, 2017 / 7:50 am

      Jon, I don’t believe that test cricket is dying because of a lack of love from the fans. There were hundreds and hundreds of people queued up outside of Wankhede stadium but a lack of staff at the ticket office. Newlands was sold out on the first day v Sri Lanka. It is only the perfidy of many a cricket board that is allowing the situation to pass as it does. The BCCI being happy with sub-optimum crowds, CSA not wishing to look after their best players properly and the ECB being happy with a situation where a club that would have been relegated due to their developmental incompetence are superannuated enough to pinch a couple of players from SA at the detriment of ever having enough of a responsibility to produce their own players. The whole thing stinks. (I’ve only just mentioned 3 boards as well). I could go on all day about this but the likes of SimonH and D’arthez and have done it all before.

      Liked by 2 people

      • SimonH January 6, 2017 / 12:22 pm

        If this is true, Derbyshire can afford to pay nearly twice the level of a SA central contract:

        Like

      • SimonH January 6, 2017 / 12:31 pm

        Dobell has mentioned he expects “1 or 2 more” such announcements – and I’ve seen mention elsewhere about Elgar going to Somerset.

        A player like Elgar would make some sense given that he’s not likely to be able to top his earnings up in franchises and there’s the issue of ABDV returning.

        Like

      • d'Arthez January 6, 2017 / 3:09 pm

        I really hope Elgar does not go. It would make a farce of the 2017 series.

        Like

  16. AB January 5, 2017 / 5:03 pm

    “There are clubs up and down the country who will finish their seasons earlier than that. ”

    I WISH we finished on the 29th September. Our idiotic league, having not started until after the May bank holiday, finishes in mid August, followed by at least 4 hot and sunny Saturdays where hoards of would-be cricketers furiously play golf, or worse, drag around B&Q with the wife muttering to themselves.

    Why do we start so late and finish so early you ask? Because we’re scared of clashing with the fucking football season. I wish football would fuck off.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thelegglance January 5, 2017 / 5:04 pm

      Do you not arrange friendlies after the league finishes?

      Like

      • Keeper99 (@PaulKeeper99) January 5, 2017 / 5:17 pm

        There are ways of doing this, including an on-line ‘dating’ agency matching clubs with free time. However, aside from the ball ache of organising friendlies some of the problems would still exist e.g. player availability (especially younger lads playing football), players going to watch pro football and even some clubs that lose pitches to football.

        Having said that mid-August is crazy. I’ve been involved in three leagues round here that finish last week August, 2nd Saturday of September and 3rd Saturday of September. In most years even the latter does not make the best use of late September or even early October.

        I share AB’S sentiment, horrible the way football increasingly encroaches…

        Liked by 1 person

      • AB January 5, 2017 / 5:33 pm

        Who wants to play friendlies at the end of the season? (No-one).

        Friendlies are fine at the start of the summer when you need the practice, but when you get to the crunch time, you’re looking for those exciting, competitive games where heroes are made, battling for promotion/relegation and the chance to break personal season run/wicket targets, lobbing down amicable grenades at the local vicar doesn’t really cut the mustard.

        Football doesn’t arrange its season around concerns about losing players/pitches to cricket. Why should we doff the cap to them if they don’t pay the same respect to us? The more we give this year, the more they take next year. Soon cricket will be a two month sport.

        Like

        • LordCanisLupus January 5, 2017 / 6:10 pm

          Plenty did want to. Maybe they don’t now. I used to play club cricket well into September. Stopped 10 years ago. Never had a problem getting good competitive matches. More of an issue getting pitches.

          Like

  17. SimonH January 5, 2017 / 6:25 pm

    ECB-Pravda on the year ahead:

    https://www.ecb.co.uk/news/270198

    No doubt where the priority lies. Some nice stat-mining to make winning ODIs in India sound like Mission Impossible.

    Like

  18. Deep Purple Fred January 6, 2017 / 1:06 am

    I think it’s great they’re playing so much cricket, and I wish in fact they’d play more. Why should they have six months off? They’ll probably need to rotate members within the squad, but so what, many sports do that. I don’t believe there is a “best eleven” that we should see every time, it’s perfectly acceptable to have a national team that rotates and juggles its players according to its schedule. Bench depth becomes important, as it is in many other sports.

    I do wish however the sport could be spread more evenly across more countries. Given it’s a global sport with teams from everywhere, if we found a way to include Afghanistan, Ireland, The Netherlands etc in the competition, or at least Bangladesh and Zimbabwe more, we could have a very rich global game, in terms of playing time and variety.

    On another point, this is good. Hilton Cartwright’s folks made a life decision when he was ten that they had to leave Zimbabwe and move to Australia for political reasons and told him, “you can try and get a baggy green now”. Can’t fault that, a guy who ends up playing cricket wherever he lands. I hope the twitter embed works.

    Cartwright: I always wanted to play cricket for my country and back then it was Zimbabwe… LISTEN HERE: https://t.co/s9RjT8Dqum #AUSvPAK— Corbin Middlemas (@CorbinMiddlemas) January 5, 2017

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    Like

    • SimonH January 6, 2017 / 10:53 am

      By “this Friday”, does he mean today? It seems like he must.

      All seems very odd.

      Like

    • Mark January 6, 2017 / 11:06 am

      According to George it’s completely up to Cook. Apparently he runs English cricket. If he wants to stay on as captain he will, or if he feels he wants to resign he will resign. So Strauss is irrelevant. All the team want him to stay, as if that means Jack shit. Players hate change, and fear they may get dropped if a new broom comes in.

      As there is no test match cricket for six months it seems strange they need to sort this out so quickly. Maybe Cook wants to go, or maybe he wants to make sure the people in charge know he wants to stay. Who knows?

      But the idea that Strauss might actully make a decision based on Englands poor performance under Cook is not even considered. What a way to run a national sports team? When a team wants everything to stay the same, and they are not getting results you know there is huge complacency in the system.

      Liked by 1 person

      • amit January 6, 2017 / 12:34 pm

        He needs to learn a few things from MSD who has just given up captaincy from the shorter formats. He will still be picked up for the ODIs but will have to perform to stay around in the squad for longer. That and a lot more action in India. What a start to the year!

        Like

      • Mark January 6, 2017 / 12:47 pm

        How can it be his d day when he gets to decide what he wants? He walks into a room and tells Strauss what is going to happen? That is not d day……..that is getting your own way.

        Like

    • Zephirine January 6, 2017 / 2:00 pm

      He may never have been the most astute tactician or eloquent orator, but he has been decent and hard-working and, for a couple of years, presided over a period of chaos (some of which may well have been of his own making) in his team and around the ECB with a calm determination that helped some talented young players find their feet in Test cricket. You will not hear a word against him from many of his team-mates past or present; though, yes, there are one or two notable exceptions.

      Um, yes. But then again, no. But then, yes and no. Cook really does have a strange effect on journalists.

      I’m especially trying to get my head round this: presided over a period of chaos (some of which may well have been of his own making) in his team and around the ECB with a calm determination . So he calmly and determinedly created some chaos and then calmly and determinedly sat in the ruins while some young players found their feet? Well, yes, I suppose that’s pretty much what he did do.

      Like

    • d'Arthez January 6, 2017 / 12:56 pm

      Well, if you get to be a steward in the ground, that is one way to avoid having to sell a kidney to pay for the tickets …

      Like

  19. SimonH January 6, 2017 / 1:02 pm

    No one’s had a more critical press, they’re vicious in their hatred….

    Like

    • SimonH January 6, 2017 / 1:11 pm

      And to answer Mark’s question –

      Strauss isn’t of a mind to? That’s all right then!

      As for players and coaches, is it possible to entertain the slight possibility that, after 2014, some may have concluded that open criticism of Cook is not the path to a long England career? Or that if you select youngsters who have never known anything different and appoint coaches on the basis of their known pliability, that this is what you end up with?

      Anyway, I trust this will now be the marker for all future England captains. Management will never sack them – and they only go if they choose to do so and/or the team is in open mutiny.

      Like

      • pktroll (@pktroll) January 6, 2017 / 2:55 pm

        A real case of the emperor fiddling while Rome burns. Unless there is some real review of the way England are going, rather than ‘you ok, I’m ok’ nonsense then can only see a real humping down under.

        Like

      • pktroll (@pktroll) January 6, 2017 / 2:58 pm

        Oh and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Cook fails as a batsman v South Africa (provided the County Championship doesn’t nick the rest of their pace attack) and in Australia and is done with cricket all told as average takes a bit more of a dent than it has done over the last few games.

        Like

      • Mark January 6, 2017 / 3:07 pm

        No captain in English history has been feather bedded like Cook. And no captain in the future will be given such power.

        Etheridge is making himslef look like a plonker. Can’t wait to see The Sun now appoint this generous philosophy of sympathy to other jobs.

        Failed politicains should decided their own future.
        Failed England Footbal managers should self select their time they stay as manager.
        I’m sure The Sun will be particularly sensitive to failed social workers or BBC director generals.

        And yet they keep saying Cook has been given a hard time by the media?

        Exhibit A…..Etheridge running defence for him. Selvey has already tweeted his support. No need to even ask Newman or Nasser. Bob Willis has said on the verdict there is no reason for him to go.

        Hard time……my arse!

        What s even worse is if Cook does resign it looks like Strauss is going to go on his knees and beg him to stay. How embarrasing is that?

        Like

        • Sean B January 6, 2017 / 3:15 pm

          That’s what we’re predicting in the post that’s just gone up 😉

          Like

      • SimonH January 6, 2017 / 3:40 pm

        Yeah Mark, but what’s all that compared to being called a “weasel” by Piers Morgan and being compared to Ned Flanders by KP?

        I’m reading a book about England in the 1980s. I’d forgotten that Blofield wrote that Botham captained the side “like a great big baby”. That was when he led England to a 1-0 away defeat against the greatest team that’s ever played and with his leading strike bowler out injured. It led to a scuffle at an airport and even went to court.

        This uniquely hard time that Cook’s supposed to have had is just one part of these strange times we live in…..

        Like

      • Mark January 6, 2017 / 4:47 pm

        Simon, having lived through that period it makes the media’s coverage of Cook look like North Korea.

        Like

        • Sean B January 6, 2017 / 4:53 pm

          Stop nicking my lines ;-)…

          Like

  20. Silk January 6, 2017 / 1:22 pm

    If Cook was going to walk he would have done so by now.

    Like

  21. Silk January 6, 2017 / 1:25 pm

    There’s a risk here for Cook, of course. He’s only won 2 more Tests than he’s lost. He may end up being the first ‘proper’ captain since Atherton to end up with a losing record.

    Like

  22. Silk January 6, 2017 / 3:03 pm

    Not sure why my posts not working, but if Cook hasn’t resigned before today then he’s not going to resign today. I reckon.

    If he was going to go he’d have gone at the end of the 5th India Test.

    Like

  23. SimonH January 6, 2017 / 4:21 pm

    Four of the clock and all’s well.

    I’m assuming the result of the meeting (if it’s taken place) will be released in the traditional manner i.e. leaked to Agnew 15 minutes later?

    Like

    • Zephirine January 6, 2017 / 6:46 pm

      The Meeting’s going to be next week, apparently. Probably on the basis that the longer they leave it the more accompli the fait will become.

      Ali Martin in the G quotes Neil Fairbrother, from a website of some importance:

      However, the expectation from Neil Fairbrother, the former England and Lancashire batsman who now manages the affairs of Root, along with a number of the current team, is that Cook will remain captain going into the summer.

      Fairbrother wrote on the website of International Sports Management: “Amid the furore of the last day of Test cricket in Chennai, where England succumbed in a very tired manner, it was difficult to see how Cook was going to take the team into 2017.

      “Cook’s interview at the end of play, in particular his look, reminded me of how some of our greatest Test match captains looked at the end of their tenures, haunted and exhausted.

      “But Cook is not only a fantastic Test match batsman with a stubborn streak for scoring runs, he is also capable, as we have already seen, of picking himself up, dusting himself down and moving forward when all seems lost.

      “As time goes forward into January, and no doubt the captain’s pain is receding by the day, I guess it less and less likely that he may retire from tossing the coin.”

      Like

      • Zephirine January 6, 2017 / 6:50 pm

        We might, of course, re-phrase that as: “he is also capable, as we have already seen, of picking himself up, dusting himself down and moving forward when he has a six month break from the captaincy, no doubt on full pay.”

        Like

      • SimonH January 6, 2017 / 7:37 pm

        Pass the sickbag for that penultimate paragraph.

        It’s stuff like that that makes me unable to feel any affection for England – and makes me wonder what is going on. Does anyone who can tie their own shoelaces talk like that?

        “When all seems lost”. WTF? Keep selecting him long enough and, given the state of international cricket, he’ll eventually come up against someone even he can beat…..

        Put this together with the Kolpaks and I’m sincerely hoping the Saffers can stuff England in the First Test in July. Put a fit ABDV and a fit Morkel in their team, and have CSA avoid any egregious stuff-ups, and it looks distinctly possible.

        Like

  24. Sri Grins January 8, 2017 / 12:14 am

    Nice article. Certainly, it sounds as if ECB are trying to get the golden goose to lay more eggs than feasible ☺. It does sound crazy that schedulesvdo not give enough breaks between two tours. Certainly, there seems no sense in the tri series t-20s in Oz, nz

    Like

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