Like most things in my life, birth, wedding, even the dog’s birthday, the 7th is a major date in any month. I started How Did We Lose In Adelaide on the 7th of January 2009. I thought I’d start a cricket blog, that my mates could read and agree or disagree. It accompanied another blog, that when I read it back, I wince. Thoughts, words, opinions, beliefs. Change. Constant evolution, constant change.
That’s a rather cryptic intro into the preview for a Champions Trophy Final. A Final the English cricket world now cares about as much as the finals we didn’t play in when the tournament was held in Sri Lanka, South Africa and Kenya, for instance. Jason Roy may have exorcised some demons today with a 92 for Surrey, but no-one else will now really remember this tournament in England, who is an England fan. Sure, some involved closely in the game will give it all that, but the fact is, tomorrow I won’t be watching the Final. I’ll be out with the family on a lovely summer’s day, and let India and Pakistan fight it out without caring one jot what happens.
But 8 and a half years ago I would have cared. I’d have found some excuse to fend off the beloved and sit in and watch it. This is, yet another, “I don’t care” piece from me on the state of the game. On the state of fandom in cricket. On its running. On its marketing. On its meaning. The game is about patience, adaptability, skill, strategy, long-term thinking, short-term skirmishes. The game is test cricket. It is three day cricket, or four day cricket. The shorter forms are taking over and cricketers who made their way in the test era are visibly, audibly contemplating a life without it. You cannot force me to be interested. Good luck to those who care about this piffling trophy, a tournament somehow resurrected because India won it in 2013 and England hosted a half-decent competition that they got to the Final of. Now it is being given added life support because the biggest game cricket can provide makes a Final. It’s not new. It happened before. That Australian World Championship thingamy in 1985. That was a crap final.
As I sit here, on a Saturday night, putting together a half-hearted preview of a game I care nothing about, I have to contemplate what is coming up. I still love cricket. I still love my days at Guildford, the journeys to see a county game at Lord’s or The Oval, and to watch some really good players do really good things. I will probably watch the test matches as well, when I can. But there’s a lot of work on. I won’t be watching or listening to anywhere as near as much as I would like to. The days I look back on, those in 2014-15 when I was a solo show, putting up a piece a day, getting abused by people for actually caring, are like something from an age ago. I would churn out stuff, day after day, and be called out in Wisden for being akin to being bashed over the head by one of KP’s bats. But I loved the game then – both cricket and blogging. I can’t say there’s the level of love for either right now. I’m so pleased that we’ve brought together a cadre of excellent writers and commenters, passionate, angry and most of all, very hard to ignore. We’ve achieved a lot, and will still do so.
This has not, and never has been, about attention. This has been about writing. I love writing. I love cricket. What’s not to love about doing both. Bully pulpit I might be, some would say, but you were always given your say on here. You were never fully stopped from commenting (pre-moderation was the exception rather than the rule). I think the day I knew things were totally effed up was when someone threatened to “Dox” me. That struck me as sickness, not strength. As cowardice, when I was being accused of being a coward. The laughable death threat I got after a row with Agnew, a row instigated by an infamous critic, wasn’t it. It was someone threatening personal exposure because of a sport. You sort of lose a lot of respect for a sport that has that sort of fandom. Just as I did with my football team, when a post I did on an old blog ended up with someone threatening to sort me out.
The media landscape has changed dramatically since I started. Indeed it changed dramatically after 2014. Pringle is left to scrape around on second rate journals on a level with his talent. Selvey has retired, and I certainly haven’t missed him. Brenkley, who I didn’t think had the best 2013-14, but who I still quite liked for all that because you sensed he still really enjoyed the sport, and conveyed that, is not on the radar. We still have Newman, Etheridge, Berry, Wilson and Hoult to carry the old torch, to varying degrees of efficacy and effluence. Some good, some bad. But to me it’s the rise of talking heads like Shiny Toy Vaughan, #39 Hughes, and Ed “The Plagiarist” Smith that makes my heart sink. To watch the first set of BBC Highlights of this Champions Trophy and for it to be introduced by a man who Cricinfo blatantly won’t employ any more because he copied, and to have it broadcast as if we were all five year olds who should be grateful for Ed to tell us how it is, was deflating. I wish George Dobell and Tim Wigmore all the best of luck. Imagine a profession where airheads with big heads move seamlessly on, and the talent is stuck out of plain sight. George Dobell has 37k followers on Twitter. #39 has 74k. Double the exposure, less than half the ability, insight, knowledge and communicative powers for someone like me. No wonder a mate of mine imagines me to be in a permanent state of “shaking my fist at the screen”.
No. I’ve not had a beer. No. I’m not feeling especially moody at this point. I always said that there would be no grand farewell, and this isn’t it. I am not the most emotionally stable person, as the blogging history aptly displays, but I do care. That’s what I want to convey. I don’t care about tomorrow, no matter how much Shiny Toy will tell me to. The fact that me, and people like me, don’t care is a matter that should concern the powers that be. We are the games evangelists. We, well I, feel as relevant as a Sinclair C5.
Comments on tomorrow’s game below.