It seems so long ago that How Did We Lose in Adelaide was just my mournful old nonsense and no-one read it. Four years ago I was looking forward to an Ashes series, I had a different role, at a different status in a job that allowed me time to breathe and contemplate the rantings I committed to this digital paper. We had a pretty good team, we’d beaten Australia 3-0 at home, and people actually moaned, after the years we had put up with, that we hadn’t played better in doing so. We’d won in India, and in the batting ranks we looked solid, except for an opener, and in the bowling we looked fine too. Sure, the two games Australia batted first in we had trouble in not losing, but that was being picky.
Fast forward to now and life has taken amazing turns. I’m a lot more senior, in a more challenging role, and it takes much more of my time. As the down time is much shorter, I’ve got less time to write. As the job crams my limited cranium capacity, the key time I devoted to the blog, the thinking time to write stuff in my head before committing it to the blog is restricted. The chances to actually watch cricket is hugely constrained. I’m honest about this folks, I can’t cover what I used to without being more of a fraud than many think I am already. Last week I got some time off, but this coincided with a wedding anniversary (I don’t live in my mum’s basement) which we spent in Rome. This week I face four and half days in major City Law firm’s offices – so no, I’m not unemployed either, and do have a full life – where my job entails negotiating massive transactions. I’m no superstar, I’m not even well paid, but it’s certainly not going to give me the chance to do what I want to do on here.
Because we have the Ashes, and already a hectic pre-Christmas work nightmare, combined with the lack of sleep an Ashes series always brings with it, means fear. It’s certainly much better when we are doing well, but a losing, disastrous series is not a good thing for the soul, or your health. Going to work with a combination of Southeastern trains, our Ashes hopes going south, and sleep deprivation is not a prescription for good health.
I know that this is also a horrible time of year for workloads for both Chris and Sean, so collectively we apologise for the lack of content. Judging by the recent Twitter output, we are not missing much, and also, probably we need to put some stuff together. Danny did a brilliant job this week, and now it’s my turn.
It is fair to say that we only really remember pre-Ashes warm-up games if they have a memorable quote attached to it (Martin Johnson 1986) or that they are part of some well-conceived master plan designed to buff up the Head Coach and their visionary captains (2010 – we’ll try to win every game philosophy). Other than that, no-one really remembers how we do. Do you remember how poorly Cook started the 2010 tour? What about Robert Key’s tour de force against Australia A in 2002? So let’s not read too much into this phony war. Pre-Ashes warm-ups are for practice and to get into some sort of form. I don’t necessarily want my players to get out for skittish 60s or effervescent 80s, but it is absolutely clear, given past form, that if Root doesn’t fire, and Stokes isn’t there, we are putting our faith in Cook having a great series against a top pace attack (we have to go a fair way back for that and the evidence of recent performance really needs realistic appraisal), or one of the players we’ve punted on coming off.
This week BT Sport showed what you should do with a cricket channel by giving a whole day over to the highlights from the 1986-7 series. Going out to that series we had a poor outlook, Australia had performed creditably in India, while we’d lost at home to India and New Zealand. The openers were Broad and Athey, with Gatting at three, Lamb at four, Gower at five, Botham at six. Question marks all over the place. Weak openers, Gower not in peak form, Botham a pale shadow. It clicked because they got off to a good start, got their way with the Australian batting that had a few question marks of their own, and took their chances. This feels a bit like this to me. Throw out the 1994-2006 times, when we went up against a batting line up from the gods, when the Aussies could put out a 2nd XI batting line-up and they’s all get in that England team (on an individual basis). Australia are not in that mode at the moment. They have strong players, like Smith and Warner, but they also have “promising” talent like Renshaw and Handscomb, and their own question marks like the Marsh’s, Khawaja and others. Sure, they could well click and make the runs that are needed, but it’s not certain. This is an Australia team that didn’t handle South Africa very well last year, while with the aid of injuries and suspensions, we fared much better. Form lines aren’t to be trusted. But they are also not to be ignored.
There’s great concern about injuries, as always. It seems, with few exceptions, that we have this going to Australia all the time. Broad and Anderson have avoided the pitfalls, Woakes looks in fine fettle after his injury woes at home, which means we need one more seamer and Overton or Ball will be fine in the role. Tom Curran is one great pre-series spell away from getting a sniff too. We do need Moeen to get fit because in the absence of Stokes, his all round skills, and his elevation a place up the order, are vital. He’s the man we need the most. Fringe seamers who may not even have played aren’t something to flap about. Not really.
I have no real idea what is going to happen which is the joy of the series. We could get battered, and that’s not something to discount, but we could also play well and surprise. England do OK outside of the sub-continent. Stokes is a massive blow, and there’s no way to pretend otherwise (and it’s now too late for him to be involved even if he is cleared), but we can certainly put together performances. Jimmy Anderson has to be good, which is by no means assured (he had excuses for last time around) but why do we fear Mitchell Starc, who has done nothing against us, when we have Jimmy who has 500 wickets and the Aussies don’t give a stuff? Something about mental attitude.
Time permitting we’ll do some pre-Ashes pieces, but we’ll leave the meaningless stuff to others! Can we have some volunteers for the Ashes panel. You may remember how this works; we get five people to answer five questions for each test match and publish them. We also have the annual awards which I’ll put up before the series starts. I have the Dmitris to put together and an annual review of the social and print media. The other members of the editorial team will have their posts too, and I have a piece from Man in a Barrel to stick up (and if you want to update that, sir, please do).
It’s the Ashes though. It’s still special. And I will try to remember that when Lovejoy and Shiny Toy are commentating. It’s going to be hard.
A week is a long time in politics, four years is a an eternity in global cricket. The game has been completely changed/destroyed (depending on your outlook) since hen. Who knew as we went into that Ashes series, and Andy Flower was giving a two hour special on radio 5 live about the importance of preparation, and diet sheets that all 4 wheels were about to come flying off? Not just that tour, but pretty much everything? Our best batsman, out best spinner, the batting coach, even the head coach would go (all though he would winkle is way back in again)
And in the wreckage and wasteland of that tour a loan figure, so absurd would emerge as a captain who could never be questioned, and a media both spineless and craven. Many of those media folks have gone as well now. ..left to tweet their sadness and injustice from a coffe house in North west London.
If you had told me 4 years ago what would happen to cricket between then, and the next ashes tour I would not have believed you. We didn’t just see a team unravel, but an entire sport flushed down the drain by greed and an incompetence that would make bankers blush. If the next 4 years have the same amount of upheaval….. goodness knows what the next ashes tour will look like? 10 over aside test matches? Batsman riding out to bat on fruit machines sponsored by the betting companies? Pundits wearing adverts and promoting their own shit?
I’m not sure I will still be interested by then. If the game has to destroy itself so completely to survive the millennial morons with attention spans of frogs then I would rather find something else to watch. Which is why in a rather long winded way I’m quite looking forward to this series because I don’t hink there will be many left if cricket keeps shooting itself in the foot.
Enjoy while you can, because the writing is on the wall.
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You need, really, to look at the views of people who aren’t relying on cricket to keep them in gainful employment or relevant in any sort of capacity to know where the land lies. There’s a real problem coming. Players, like all employees, want more money, and if possible, for less work. T20 is intense, but it is also not something that means standing out in burning hot sun for 6 hours of the day, bowling 15-20 overs or batting all day. In 20 years this will be looked back on as a quaint extravagance in an increasingly concentration-less world where instant sporting achievement is praised more than the extended effort required in tests.
This has, in reality, been going on for 30 years, probably since India won the 1983 World Cup, when limited overs cricket took over so that at times Sachin and co were playing virtually no test cricket year on year – if he’d played tests at the rate he was in the latter half of his career, he’d be nearer 18000 runs. Then the sheer limitations of the 50 over format really became apparent. The dull middle overs, the green wicket causing a game to be over after half an hour, the flat tracks meaning a bowling machine might as well be employed. The T20 format gets rid of the dull middle overs. But after a while it just gets a bit “samey” and is there really much further the format can go? Truth is, by the time our new T20 comes in, we might have reached peak T20.
Meanwhile test cricket is threatened with the sort of tampering 50 over cricket got caught with – remember those supersubs – and four years ago, when you’d have been laughed at for suggesting four day tests, this now gains traction. No-one is fiddling with the T20 formats, not that there is a lot you can do with it if you could, but because tests are seen as insecure, it’s time for the meddlers to meddle. Test cricket is in much better shape than it is ever given credit for. The main problem, as I’ve said a lot, is the absence of a great team for this era, like a West Indies or Australia.
Money makes the world go round. It’s also the root of all evil. Cricket has a soul it seems keen to sell. We, the older generation, are irrelevant. I think, deep down, we know it. If I relied upon the game to make a living, I’d be selling T20 like the best market trader, because it’s the only commodity on long-term regular supply. Me? I know I’m nearer the end of my cricket blogging days than the start of them, so I can only say what I feel.
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. I’m not sure there will ever be another great Test team because the skills required are being diluted away by 20/20. Who in all honesty starting a cricket career today wants to be a Boycott/Cook type? It has no place in the hit and giggle format, and that is where the money is.
Wicket taking leg spinners are not really that important either on flat pitches with short boundaries where only 4 overs are required for a day’s work.
I think Test cricket is appreciated by a certain type of person. The less is more view of life. The idea of something brewing up over 4 days and where a rear guard action can claim an amzing draw is not what the public want. So the public gets what the public wants (Jam reference for the teenagers) and so everything is tacky shite with lots of bells and whistles.
As you say boss…. we are not the required audience. We are the Luddites.
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Dmitri. You have a way of telling it like it is. (Reaches for the wine bottle.)
Did you write this before or after consuming?
And thanks, I think.
Excellent as always, Dmitri.
Might I put the other side on a few things you mentioned though? Firstly, that last seamer’s spot has proven very important to success in the past. Think Tremlett and Bres in 2010/11, and in the ’86 series, people forget how impactful Gladstone Small was. Secondly, while Australia were hammered by South Africa (in two tests), this isn’t the same team as then. To their credit, the Aussies acted quickly and decisively, and those players who came in (the ones you point to as having promise) did well – and Handscomb has been all they cold have hoped for. Also, I don’t think there are many question marks over Khawaja in home series.
The only other thing I feel in any way differently about than you is that I am putting more faith in us getting enough runs from our newer players than Cook. This is more to do with Cook than them though. Through the summer, I thought his defensive technique had become a little… I don’t know how to describe it. He seemed to be jabbing down on to the ball when playing forward. Couple this with the fact he has never played real pace particularly well, and that he’s looking scratchy as hell right now, I’m not optimistic about his contribution.
I am totally with you in having no idea what’s going to happen though.
Did the SA team play a test at Brisbane?
Wasn’t one played at Hobart? I seem to remember that series being atypical.
SA won in Perth (where they’d won the previous two Tests) and in an extremely damp Hobart. They then lost under lights in Adelaide.
Australia had just been thrashed in SL, Starc wasn’t fully fit and Australia’s selection policy was a mess (they changed half the team for Adelaide – and would almost certainly have dropped Lyon but for injuries to his possible replacements).
I’m not sure too much can be read into it.
Cook’s best days are far behind him. I’ll be surprised if he gets past 50 more than once this Winter. People will try to explain it away, ignore it or excuse it, but I doubt any of the well-paid commentariat will step back and say “You know, he never has batted that well over here really. Except in that one series, against the poorest Australian side in many years…”
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I’ve only been watching cricket for a little more than two years. I’m more surprised when Cook stays in for a while than when he gets out.
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I am quite willing to put my hand up and answer 5 questions. Why 5 even 50 or 500 :-):-).
I have very little stake in this series as a neutral. Except of course for the hope I have offered Q and Danny 🙂 stating that England would win the series.
Also to check if my prediction of England crossing 350-400 most innings comes true. 🙂
If England don’t win the series, I’m blaming you!
You are welcome to blame me .:-) . I am quite used to carrying the can for anything that goes wrong @home. 😀
And if I start in any way daring to believe we’ll win, I’ll blame you. I know your heart’s in the right place, Sri, but it’s the hope that kills.
Why the result of this Test series doesn’t matter to the ECB……..
In the past an Ashes series was the ultimate measure for an English or Aussie cricketer, and the governing body. It was the marker of whether all was well with that particular nation. Neither side had to be the best team in the world. During the 1970s and 80s the WI were the best team, but an Ashes was the one that claimed the bragging rights.
If you held the little urn then things weren’t too bad. But that’s not the case today…..
Money is all that matters and therefore home series victorys are all that’s important. A 5-0 away Ashes defeat last time and the captain stayed in situ. Even after a 4-0 defeat in India The captain was told he could stay if he wanted. Overseas test series don’t count anymore. All that matters is home matches are sold out and the cash rolls in.
Cricket has become more like football with one eyed fans who don’t care about the performance, but the result is everything. Doctored pitches for home sides are all the rage now in international cricket. Away wins in series are as rare as hens teeth. If the home crowd are happy they will show up, and spend money. That’s all that matters.
Yes when you think about it, an awful lot has gone on in the last four years. What a disaster it’s been looking at the ECB.
As ever I always enjoy your post. I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy life to give people like myself the pleasure of reading your posts. Thank you.
As an aside Selvey seems to have changed his tune a bit on Twitter. Just seems more cynical about the team and the tour now he is not covering it.
That kind of plays into what Dmitri Says about if you are having to earn a living out of cricket writing it pays to sing the official line.
Maybe Selvey doesn’t have to creep as much as he used to. Of course it may just be that his mates arent captain and coach now?
I bet he’s not changed that much. Just try saying “David Saker” and “blame” in the same sentence…
Isn’t Saker coaching the Aussie quicks now, and aren’t they reckoned to be a decent attack? Yet he was disaster for England. Has he changed his approach in the last couple of tears or am I missing something? Maybe with England it was the over all combination, expressed by the following equation: Flower + Saker = FUBAR
This assumes that he didn’t do what he always planned to do, as an Australian trying to destroy our bowling from the inside.
Believe me, that thought has crossed my mind but I’ve always dismissed it as unworthy. You never know though…
And once upon a time they claimed KP had told SA how to get Strauss out. It was seen as treason even though KP denied it.
Imagine if Selvey was drinking with his mate unaware he was trying to destroy England from within? Would that make Selvey an accomplice? Or just a pillock?
A promising start to what promises to be a winter of hilarity from BT:
“Animal lover” Cook….
In the Ian Botham sense of the term, I presume?
And in other news Rob Andrew increasingly seems to resemble a Jabba the Hut type figure of sports administration. He has moved from Rugby to cricket, but the same meangiless platitudes are regurgitated. This time about about Englands latest call up. As if we need to hear anything from him?
They talk as if the they are sports amswer to Bill Gates or Steve Jobbs. They have invented nothing . Cricket & Rugby were here before they arrived. They are just time servers being paid enormus salaries to sound important. This is money for old rope these sporting administrators.
I see England rugby is doing rather better since he left.
I was thinking about buying Rob Andrew’s book then I read some reviews on Amazon. It was getting a real slating on how he blamed everyone else for all his failings. Sounded familiar. I didn’t buy it in the end. I’ll wait for it in the charity shops.
I didn’t know about his book. But to be honest even if had good reviews I wouldn’t buy it.
That’s your choice, Mark. I really enjoy watching the pottery throw down on BBC. I never had any interest in pottery but the combination of contestants and experts was really interesting. Grow in your old age!
The Assassings of Our Game… (Obsessively in redux?)
(..and yes LCL, I still want to be on the panel…)
I am the obsessive, with love of cricket forged from eloquence
We are the obsessives, deriding the ECB, our nemesis
On the sacrificial game is altered by excess
Unleashing an already tired beast, too late, aw bless
No incantations of regret or remorse
Seems paywall reality may have reached its course…
They decorate the scarf with a fugi knot rash
A camouflage product of the 22 yard stare
Gouging the notches in big bat besot bash
So hip, not, idiotic product proffered wi’out care
Listen to the syllabullshit of sycophantic precision
Platitudes without thrust or thought, rape our minds with derision
Apoplectic in plagiarism, casting aside the outside
Pathetique in its lack of sagism, or common sense inside
Verbal inanity from empty suits and those MSM recruits
Who cuddle in a muddle of dining table fine winery
So befuddled they be, opining fables of inanity
Nothing but sentimental mercenaries in a free loader zone
Parading a Bollywood conscience
Now the fashionable objectors with a Giles Clarke fetish
Slaves to the cash till ring of excess
Such non-observers or reality with relish
Yet we the obsessive will remain
It’s still Our Game
Should we resign ourselves to their failure? Obsession, my friends
Could we ignore the killing they tailor? Devotion, my friends
How do we eradicate the power hungry mongrels and their media
Who seek to kill cricket, and leave us with nothing more than more
T20 excess so forgettable
To let them, would be so regrettable
Let’s be the obsessives, the assassins…
(With thanks and apologies to Fish/Marillion/Assassing from the album Fugazi)
I’ll do the panel and probably raise Hell… Your choice. My preview post on the moving average basis seems OK to me. Nothing I would change