Now Everybody’s Under Somebody’s Spell, Unless They’ve Already Gone To Hell

T20. The future of the sport globally. The thing we all want to see. The most exciting format of the game. Crash, bang, wallop, ramp shots, big hits, spin on top, great fielding, intensity. What’s not to love?

I’ve been to two T20s this year – Surrey v Essex, which, was, of course, the last time KP batted for any length of time in this country. Surrey v Glamorgan, a game which came down to the last ball with Surrey possibly nicking a tie having been behind the curve for much of the match. Both games were acceptable as cricket matches. The Essex game for the skill Surrey showed in strangling the life out of the Essex innings and stopping our perennial nemeses Bopara and ten Doeschate from taking the game from us (should have brought the other pain, Napier, back for that one match). The Glamorgan game for Surrey scrapped to get near a really decent total. Instead both were marred for me by the idiots surrounding me in the stands. I’ve only ever to been to T20s at two other grounds – Lord’s and Beckenham (and that was in the first year) – and I know the Oval has a reputation for being a rowdy venue, but I find the whole thing a little unsettling. I’m no angel – you don’t follow Millwall home and away for decades without seeing a bit of naughtiness – but this was acceptable conduct. When the football fan wants a beer at his/her sport, there are myriad rules you have to abide by. When the cricket fan wants one, it is how quick can we pour the watered down piss, and see you in another quarter of an hour.

The result is that most of the people don’t seem to have a clue about the skill levels in the game. I’m not exaggerating. At the Glamorgan game there were a load of city workers out for the night, and I will not get over the lot in front having a bingo card with ludicrous cliches which I suppose someone was supposed to cross off when someone / anyone said them. Why, on a Friday evening, nice and dry, would someone say “sticky wicket” I have no idea. Maybe I needed to be in it to understand it. I saw them before the game, never saw them again. It was symptomatic of the level of “bantz” around me. Still, they paid for their tickets and they take their choice. I can shake my fist and tell them to get off my lawn, but they are staying.

Last night, in the dark September evening in Chester-le-Street, the two teams that contested the World final 18 months ago met for the first time since we were told to “remember the name”. England showed how much they valued the game by resting Ben Stokes at his own home venue. The West Indies brought over their champion team – in the case of Carlos Brathwaite it was for this match only (clearly we can forget the name for ODI cricket) – and ended up winning quite comfortably. We pointed out last year that the schedule for the 2017 international summer was a sick joke. At the time Pakistan finished their test match tour here last year, West Indies would just about have arrived this. We still have two weeks to go. The last ODI is after the last County Championship game ends and if the CC had gone the distance like last year, Sky wouldn’t have been there because the ODIs take priority) which is mad. Utterly mad. When the English cricket season finishes on Friday week at BransgroveDome, we will be 28 hours from October. It’s the bloody future.

I wouldn’t have minded as much if last night’s game had provided any interest. But where’s the pain of defeat? Did it matter that much, if at all? I hope BigKev doesn’t mind, but I’ve used his tweet to sum up exactly how I feel.

And this is it. Should it matter. Should we treat T20 as a totally disposable sport, that a game doesn’t really linger. A tour de force to win a match, such as for someone of my vintage that means Viv’s 189, or Allan Lamb at MCG, is only memorable if it is a relative one off. If you keep seeing massive sixes, and 50 ball centuries, it’s great but given their relatively regular occurrences, not as long lasting on the memory. I will say now I will not remember one of the sixes from this game in a couple of weeks time. I will remember Chris Gayle’s schoolboy run out where, frankly, he couldn’t be arsed to dive. He was quite open about it during his interview and the Sky box thought it was all rather amusing. Gayle himself said he was ballwatching, while Sky seemed to care more that he had a standing ovation from the Durham crowd. You were more likely to see KP in an England shirt than any mention of “Universal God” and his past misdemeanors. When Universal God told the crew he fancied another shot at test cricket instead of saying “oh, that’s really good of you” it was like he’d given them all individual tickets to his pole dancing nights. Except Bumble. And we’ll come on to him in a minute.

The fact is that the West Indies T20 superstars are bigger, much bigger, than West Indian cricket. They are a good team, who prioritise T20 above all other formats. They are world champions for a reason. Narine bowled four overs for 15 runs, strangling the life out of England’s reply. It made for really dull cricket if you wanted the artificial stimulus of a close finish. By the later parts of the England reply I switched over and watched Millwall’s goal and near misses against Leeds. I took the dog for a walk. It was dull, in its own way. Even dull passages of test cricket, and there are many, are part of the story. You can recover from one, the game could pick up at any moment, it could be a key part of an intriguing contest. 2006, Adelaide Day 4. A dull day’s cricket, Australia accumulating, England striving, looked bad, and was not that exciting to be at. But without it, Day 5 would never have happened. Test cricket survives, can even thrive, on dull passages of play. T20 is killed by it. The West Indies won because, even with some of their players not putting it all in, they were still better than England. We had all the nonsense about how they are well drilled etc, but England came within a freak over of being world champions and many of the team that played that day were there. Not buying that.

Finally, to Sky’s coverage. Given I tried to do an over by over in the comments, I paid more attention than usual. David Lloyd had not had to pay for a ticket. David Lloyd is probably royally looked after. David Lloyd is becoming less a respected cricket commentator and more a crippling self-parody. When Ian Ward paired up with Robert Key for the second half of the West Indies innings we had enthusiasm, insight, good commentary, and most importantly it wasn’t about them, and it wasn’t about “entertaining” the audience. They treated the watching public like adults. They didn’t need to evangelise, like Nasser does with T20 (he loses his mind in this format – he really is in need of the less is more mantra) but you get the impression that they liked being there and that came through. Lloyd’s bizarre wrapping himself up in a blanket and acting like a 5 year old in the second innings was embarrassing. We know it’s cold, but it’s because your channel needs content, and is prepared to pay for it, we get to see the spectacle of T20 international cricket in mid-September. You are moaning at your own company. Was anyone at Sky happy with one of their employees basically sticking their middle finger up at their own scheduling needs? I get the real hump with commentators moaning about their own conditions when they are getting paid royally to be looked after by all and sundry, while international cricket fans in the North East get a T20 match in Autumn as their only chance to see their team without a 150 mile round trip to a northern venue. They didn’t give this game to Taunton, and the Taunton one to CLS, did they? Those cricket fans turned up in droves, created some form of atmosphere, and yet a Sky commentator moans about being cold for the whole game.

The ODI series starts Tuesday. I have a week off work. We’ve got a couple of guest articles lined up, and I’m feeling a bit more in the groove. It could be fun. Well, for me at least.

UPDATE – It is Universe Boss. Not Universal God. Like it matters. I do have his book to read. Can’t wait.

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9 thoughts on “Now Everybody’s Under Somebody’s Spell, Unless They’ve Already Gone To Hell

  1. Sri Grins September 17, 2017 / 1:43 pm

    Unfortunately, the broadcasters go by stats on viewership. The article is published recently in the Indian express. It makes for dismal reading on value of test cricket but important for test cricket fans to understand the logic.

    The reality is that test cricket does not make money unless India is involved or the high profile contests. It requires subsidies heavily.

    Now, the more countries allowed to play test cricket, the more likely that many contests in tests will not be profitable. Not an easy problem to solve.

    If compensation is hiked for players to get them interested in tests, the subsequent subsidization gets bigger. The hectic pace of modern life and the quick fix provided by Lois means that viewership is likely to be a lot more for inconsequential Lois than for tests.

    Like

    • AB September 18, 2017 / 8:43 am

      The ECB are totally incompetent, and even they manage to turn a profit from test cricket. How incompetent must every other cricket board be by comparison?

      Like

      • SimonH September 18, 2017 / 9:10 am

        90% of a board’s money comes from TV revenue.

        Most of a board’s financial health comes from their good fortune with the state of their local broadcasting market. The ECB have two broadcasting giants competing against each other who pay for cricket by screwing other parts of their empire (Sky screw football fans; BT screw phone users; both screw general sports’ fans) plus a large, comparatively affluent population base. Most other nations don’t have this combination and many will never have it.

        It didn’t take business genius to bring this about – just blind good fortune and complete amorality.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sri.Grins September 18, 2017 / 11:07 am

        Simon has answered the question. It is do with the market, the economy in terms of profile of average per capital income, the tastes of the population, the leisure tme they have etc.

        This is why boards other than the BCCI will struggle to make money from test cricket and even the BCCI makes money simply because BCCI cricket is not sold just as test cricket but as LOI+test cricket.

        Like

  2. Sri Grins September 17, 2017 / 1:45 pm

    The article I refer to is based on interview with star TV ceo. ‘we would kill each other to bid for test cricket if everybody was watching it says star India ceo’ is the title of the article

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Prime.Evil September 18, 2017 / 6:54 am

    Your first paragraph is enough to get us packing a small suitcase and go stand in front of the crazy-house waiting to book in. Mind you, these days the crazy-house might be the only sane place in the world.

    We thought we might teach cricket to the Americans. Little did we know – the Americans would teach us how to really play cricket – T20.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like America. When most saffas think of running off to Australia, I fancy the US. Been to Australia and enjoyed every minute of it bit it’s not for me though.

    Duckworth-Lewis is a joke in T20. It’s twenty overs for goodness sake. Make time, it won’t be long. But then again, saw an IPL game in India where the last over took forever. After every delivery there was a full-on board meeting.

    Test cricket came from an era when time meant nothing. Picture this:

    You in white flannels, neatly dry-cleaned yacht-club blazer, with your lady friend beside you sailing at 2 knots; occasionally sipping on a glass of Glenfiddich. That’s test cricket.

    Like

  4. Sri.Grins September 18, 2017 / 8:03 am

    🙂 Since I don’t drink, I cannot picture the occasional sips of Glenfidditch. Seriously, I do understand the the T-20 models itself on the american attention span concept :-). Maybe we need to promote watching test cricket as a great way to holiday over 5 days and sell it to the rich. 🙂

    Sadly, reality for cricket boards is that either they play t-20s and lois as make lip service to tests or focus on tests but lose revenues. kind of between the devil and the deep sea

    Like

  5. SimonH September 18, 2017 / 8:19 am

    “The West Indies brought over their champion team”.

    Not really. West Indies only had 3 members of their World Cup winning team playing (compared to 9 for England).

    Sammy, Dwayne Bravo and Ramdin have all fallen out even more with Dave Cameron. The first two are both aged 33 so I would think they’d both still be selected on merit. Russell is of course banned. I’ve no idea what’s happened to Lendl Simmons. Charles and Benn are perhaps both no longer worth their places (Benn was only playing because Narine was banned). Badree was off playing for the World XI (unlike any of England’s probable first choice selections). Kieran Powell was injured in the WC and would probably have played as might have Jerome Taylor.

    I’d reckon the current best West Indies T20 XI: Gayle, Lewis, Samuels, Simmons, Dw Bravo, K Powell, Ramdin, Sammy (c), Brathwaite, Narine, Badree/Taylor. When available Russell would come in for Powell or Brathwaite.

    In other words, this is a half-strength West Indies’ T20 team.

    Like

  6. Andy September 18, 2017 / 1:34 pm

    I think you have hit the nail on the head with Sky’s commentators.

    Using the Bumble example, There was a time when he gave an insight and provided some light relief. Now its all about him when he is on commentary. I would guess this is driven by the producers.

    Lets get Bumble to say ‘Start teh car’, lets get him to ‘chat’ with someone in the crowd for 5 interminable minutes.

    It used to be novel and a bit of fun, but we still got reasonable cricket info. Now it is dull and repetitive.

    I agree that Ward and Key are good value for money. Freddie is the new bumble and both should not be on at the same time. I really enjoyed Wards Masterclasses (his Lara one is great), but then it became part of the schedule filling fodder. Nasser became involved (he did teh AB Devilliers one), and the attention seems to go from here is some really good cricket knowledge, to here is some mates having a banter and we filmed it.

    Like

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