India v England – The 2nd T20 International

I hope Chris and Sean don’t mind but I thought I’d put down a few thoughts in advance of the match tomorrow. In fact, let me be honest. I’ve not checked if England are playing India tomorrow, but I’m assuming they are. It’s a weekend and we haven’t played yet. So assuming it’s on tomorrow. I think that’s some form of appointment to view, isn’t it?

It’s interesting how these fixtures are viewed. I saw many people say after a very routine England win on Wednesday – I think it was Wednesday, the days merge into an amorphous blob at the moment – that international cricket was no place for T20 cricket. I have to ask why? How is someone expected to be loyal to a club side where the only constant appears to be the shirts the team wears rather than the players that fill them. Of course the megastars are going to be tied to teams for a while because there’s brand identity and all that, but the so-called second tier players won’t be. Also, last week KP was playing for the Melbourne Stars, a couple of months ago for the Dolphins, next week for Quetta. Increasingly a T20 match is about being there at the time, because nothing really has context. Who, outside of a few loyal Western Australians, would care that Perth won the Big Bash. It’s a nice feeling now, but it isn’t something to sustain you in your dotage. Not really. It would be the equivalent of Premier League teams winning a cup competition in England, as today’s line-ups in the 4th round will show you;

The one place the sport has thrived in its own way is India. T20 has had a grip on the country, and yet I can’t tell you who won last year’s competition. As a Surrey fan it takes me 5 seconds to get over a T20 loss, 5 minutes to get over a ODI final loss, and yet I’ll be depressed if we lose a county championship game. I am reading Gideon Haigh’s set of essays on cricket from around of the turn of the decade – “Uncertain Corridors” it is called – and he’s dismissive of the launch of the Big Bash. He gets a fair bit wrong, of course he does because we aren’t seers, but his disdain for not letting the product speak for itself is one I shared. More of that in the future. Haigh is never short of brilliant, whether you agree with him or not, and I’d recommend any of his books that I’ve read so far.

The one place I think T20 can work is international cricket. The T20 World Cup is brilliant in part because it is, once the main teams are there, short. We can get into the rights and wrongs of the way the associate nations are treated, but as a competition of 10/12 teams, playing a set of group games, a semi-final and final, and having that done and dusted in 2-3 weeks is excellent. I don’t share the view over 50 over cricket either, and think there is a place for that as well. I’d like to see top players bat for more than an hour, thank you. I’d like to see top bowlers bowl more than 24 deliveries. T20 cricket if the same downsizing ratio is applied to football would mean a match lasting 9 minutes. You’d be pissed off if you had just that amount of time to appreciate a Messi or Ronaldo. I get no satisfaction in seeing a KP, a Kohli, a Root for short periods. But I know, I know.

But where international fixtures work is supposedly bringing a nation together. If you support a crap club team, you can still get behind your nation’s best players in an international environment. Why shouldn’t that work? One cack match in Kanpur and we’re saying it’s not worth it? I don’t care a jot about our Blast, our proposed T20 jamboree, the Ram Slam, the Big Bash, the PSL, the Caribbean thingamy, the Bangladeshi version… It gives me the only outlet to watch one of my favourite players, and that’s all I have to lean on. Haigh says that about watching Shane Warne play for the Stars back then – he’d watch him in a Christmas pantomime if he promised to bowl a flipper – and it’s true. It’s fluff unless there’s substance. International tournaments, proper ones, with history, are what it’s about. I remember Sandy Lyle, still the only Brit to win the Players Championship, being interviewed after he won it. The Players was the richest tournament. It had arguably the best field all year. It was the players own championship. It was the “5th Major”. When asked by the interviewer what the difference was between winning the Open and the Players, he remarked “about 100 years of history”.

The only way T20 can create that history is to build one based on something more than just transient, convenient cricket, where the result really doesn’t seem to matter. Franchise cricket where players come and go, and where there is no sense of kinship or importance other than your own performance to get hired elsewhere, isn’t a recipe for history or longevity. It’s performance art, not sport. International T20 has no chance when it is all about franchises, and instead there’s the collateral damage to international cricket. Watching the painful performances of Pakistan and Sri Lanka recently is a real warning sign. The problem isn’t the format. The problem is the level of cricket being played.

Oh well, here’s what is coming up. We have our anniversary week. I’ve written a lot on Downton’s article in The Cricketer, and hope to finish it off soon. I have to say I was really disappointed by the tone of the article. He was a disaster. Not even sure I like his modus operandi when you look in to some of his operations “outside cricket”. He was utterly awful. Here’s a little taster…

“At the end of the fifth test at The Oval I felt the side had made some real progress. Cook had come through a very difficult period as captain, when almost every commentator called for his resignation, to re-establish himself as the leader of an emerging England side.”

On the face of it, there’s not a lot to argue about here. Cook did indeed come through a very rough time, and England came back to win the series. Cook himself had not made a hundred. No-one really believed Cook’s captaincy was the determining factor in our come from behind win against India. Many believe his captaincy was the determining factor in our defeat to Sri Lanka. But Downton’s not going to mention that other than to say it was “painful to lose”. We all recognised Downton’s tactic. He nailed his colours to the Cook mast, and to quit on him after five minutes would have made him look even more stupid than he had already shown himself to be. He had no other tactic but to cross his fingers and pray the Indians packed it in. And they did. It may have turned on the early dropped chance at the Rose Bowl (or Ageas Bowl). It was no genius on his part, and he’s re-writing history.

Life is a little quieter. Mum in law is getting better, but not sure of the scale of the potential recovery. Wife still away and that’s really hard. Likely to be away for a while yet. Work hasn’t let up, and got a day out to Munich on Tuesday starting at 4am and likely to be finishing at 1 am the following day. Nice round trip. Aunt’s funeral is on Thursday. Loads to do and the blog does take a back seat. But I’ll try to do what I can.

Comments on the 2nd T20, whenever, wherever, it takes place (oh, it’s Nagpur) here. Sorry to say I won’t catch the first part because my football team is live on TV for the first time in a while, and Dmitri not as Old is coming round to watch with me. Have a good weekend, what remains of it, and see you soon!