The joy of writing a blog is that events sometimes throw you off a little. I’ve had what I planned to do today all mapped out. I would be celebrating Outside Cricket Day with a fisking of Lawrence Booth’s interview with Paul Downton in last month’s Cricketer Magazine. Rest assured, I will be doing that. I’ll be finishing it off after writing this. I will, at one point in this piece, quote one line that really grated with me in it. It’s not from Downton, by the way…..
So what is Outside Cricket Day for those of you either new to here, or who think I have serious issues with my own sanity, or who are regulars who need reminding? Every February 9th we commemorate what was, quite possibly, the most immense cock up by our sporting governing body when it came to dealing with the people who, effectively, pay their wages by purchasing tickets, or expensive Sky subscriptions. So while, on the 4th, we commemorate the sacking of Kevin Pietersen (well, at least I do) and on the 6th, by sheer bad luck, we celebrate the birth of this esteemed blog, so the 9th means we get to look back on that press release. It was a cold, dark, Sunday night, and Pringle was getting more and more irate as the hours passed, when this superb piece of prose dropped from the ECB into arrogant immortality.
I’ve put a copy of the 11 February 2014 post on the press release on “The Extra Bits”. It’s great fun reading it again. The sheer bloody arrogance in it speaks volumes. Hence I called the piece “Know Your Place”. Click here to relive the nonsense.
The reason I’ve scrapped the idea of a Downton fisking to mark the date is because we have seen, this week, precisely why the concept that took HDWLIA and BOC forward remains as pertinent today as it did three years ago. I saw a tweet earlier saying we have a very different ECB now (I believe Mr Dobell wrote it) and yet I just don’t see it from the fans perspective. How? A cricket programme being messed about with. An international schedule drawn up by a sadist, which will mean a dilution of quality, and players collapsing in a heap? Durham? The fixation on a T20 league? Maybe we don’t have quite the blatant briefing against players we used to see, but the treatment by our media of Adil Rashid has set alarm bells off. I do not, for one minute, think the ECB gives any more of a stuff about the thoughts of the everyday cricket supporter than it did three years ago. If it did, Giles Clarke would not be still walking around representing us in any way whatsoever.
It has been this week’s media operation around Alastair Cook that has reinforced the need to highlight matters other than Downton’s lamentable attempts at self-justification. Let me go back to that key elements of the Press Release.
However, the England team needs to rebuild after the whitewash in Australia. To do that we must invest in our captain Alastair Cook and we must support him in creating a culture in which we can be confident he will have the full support of all players, with everyone pulling in the same direction and able to trust each other. It is for those reasons that we have decided to move on without Kevin Pietersen.
Remember this when Alastair Cook says, this week, that he was hung out to dry. Remember this when people make the moral equivalence that both have been done considerable wrongs by the powers that be. Also remember how Alastair Cook was desperate in those early months to set the record straight, and now, as a former captain, and with most, if not all the key elements in the decision not in supposed positions of influence, he still focuses only on his own bad luck to be playing badly at the same time as one of our best players had been scapegoated. You don’t need to read between the lines in that statement above to see who had truly been “hung out to dry” and who the real “lightning rod” was for the ECB.
Following the announcement of that decision, allegations have been made, some from people outside cricket, which as well as attacking the rationale of the ECB’s decision-making, have questioned, without justification, the integrity of the England Team Director and some of England’s players.
There it is, still in all its unvarnished (ok, I emboldened the best bit) glory. You, peasants, are outside cricket. Only those of us ITK are “inside”. As we’ve seen this week, this is latched onto by the powers that be, the media, and the useful Cooky stooges to mean “Piers Morgan”. As we’ve said, and Chris will opine on this at length, no matter how much you despise the man (and I do) Piers Morgan is a club cricketer who just happens to be friends with Pietersen. If Piers Morgan is “outside cricket” then so are we. I’ve always wondered what genius thought substituting Morgan for “outside cricket” was a good idea. We got that from Paul Downton’s use of the phrase in the 1985 Cricketer’s Who’s Who.
The complaint at the time still stands. The inside cricket grouping were clearly those that agreed with the decision, such as the ECB, and the compliant media to who they leaked copiously at the time. Selfey, Muppet, Bunkers, FICJAM, Aggers, Newman, Etheridge et al were clearly inside the tent, and wanted to stay there. Hell they probably needed to be. But you, the ones who really wanted to know what the hell was going on, and in the absence of any concrete information, drew your own conclusions? Nah. Stay outside. Shut your mouths. Know your damn place.
I love how that sentence also defends the ECB’s rationale about decision making! Still brings a smile to my face, that.
Outside Cricket as a phrase has stuck. I like to think our little gang over the last three years has made that so. Sure we’ve been called zealots live on air, but after a while I get used to that. They throw their allegations at us, and we have to take them. Cook’s comments this week, backed up in full by the papers (calling KP the Human Stink Bomb is a nadir even for that paper’s cricket coverage – the comfort being that not many people would have noticed) show that there is still an utter contempt for the group of people, loyal cricket fans like those who show support for our captain, who were disgusted at a scapegoating. And yes, I will still go on about it until I see a change in attitude by the ECB and the media.
With this press release in mind, let me take you to one line written in The Cricketer article about Downton:
“Having been approached by the ECB he gave up a lucrative job in the city to become England’s MD, he walked into a mess and did what he thought he needed to do to tidy it up. Disagree with his modus operandi if you like, but at least acknowledge it came from the right place.”
Hell NO! Acknowledge that I am “outside cricket” because he clearly believed people like us were, and should stay there. That’s not coming from the right place. It’s coming from someone telling me to know my place. I don’t think “disagreeing” with his modus operandi comes into it, and boo hoo if he came into a mess of a situation. He was rewarded with a decent salary and an opportunity to cast his own influence over the scene with all the aplomb to go round. His “modus operandi” was to treat the paying public like he would a pesky fly. A fruit fly maybe?
Three years on and the damage from that decision, that press release persists. We’re always the ones being asked to “move on” and “let it go”. A number of us have. We’ve given up following the game we absolutely loved. As modus operandi go, alienating key supporters of the game is a pretty terrific way to go, don’t you think? I for one am glad that this blog is still going on, remembering and highlighting this as the days and years go by. We’ll come to our natural end one day, but it still seems a way off.
Happy, and angry, Outside Cricket Day.