If There’s A Smile On My Face, It’s Only There Trying To Fool The Public

Cook celebrates his ton at the WACA

There was a time, I used to look into my father’s eyes. And he said “stop being a weirdo”. But what my dad brought me up to be was sceptical. He and mum always taught my brother and I to have a questioning mind. To not accept what you were told. To treat nonsense as nonsense. Be polite, but be questioning. Guess that’s why I never got up to the top table. But there’s a point here – we both know when we are being sold pups. We aren’t unique.

There were also times in the last year where I thought we were running out of material. That the fire had been doused and that this became more of a job, a chore, than a pursuit of entertainment or a “hobby”. The ECB, T20 drivel aside, seemed to have righted the ship and given us less ammo. And then Bristol happened. It’s been revealing.

This has been a pathetic couple of months for the ECB. God only knows what must be going through their minds, as the agenda set by Ben Stokes’s alleged indiscretions has had more of an effect than any of us could imagine. Watching this played out over the media, both ancient and social, has been an exercise in watching the blind lead the blind. Danny captured it really well in his piece yesterday, but I need to vent.

In that classical Christmas movie, Die Hard, there’s the scene where the terrorists need the power to be cut so they can disarm the final lock on the vault. Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) knows the score. He knows a certain organisation will play by a certain code. No worries. Along comes the bloke out of Trading Places, to run the playbook. Gruber smiles. For he knows. He utters “Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the FBI”. And they cock it up letting the terrorists into the vault. The Australian cricket team and media are Hans Gruber. Our media corps and the ECB are the FBI. Beat that Martin Samuel!

But if the media corps, who know a decent storyline when they see one, and know clickbait as well, are playing along for money and you know what, the ECB have, yet again, been shown to be a load of fools. The disciplinary code must be something to behold. On a day when the two Manchester teams show what proper aggro is about, and no doubt local law authorities, the governing bodies etc. will turn a blind eye to that, England cricket has got its beans going over what appears to be a joke at a drinking session. We can moralise all we like about it, but these things happen, and at the end of the day if you take the incident on its merits, well. I doubt many rugby clubs would be functioning. Hardly sneaking off to the VIP room to snort Charlie, or sexually assaulting women. It’s bad behaviour and that’s the sort of thing that really gets the moral majority on their high horse.

This is coupled with the “environment” we face ourselves with. This bogus bollocks drives me to distraction. Basically, you can act like the biggest tit if you are winning, but if you are losing, god help you. You are fair game for anything you do off the field. And by that, I mean anything. We’ve not seen the last of this yet. Want to recall the last time this paradox took place over the space of 12 months – 1985/6 in West Indies, 1986/7 in England. If we lose, report the booze. If we win, allow the spin. We have an environment where every single thing that is a little off kilter while people are out and about is going to be reported. The press say that they should be extra careful then. Why? To stop offending the moral majority? Anyone reporting on what the press boys and girls are getting up to? I’m interested.

The ECB, and here I am looking at two individuals in particular, Andrew Strauss as the man in charge of the overall squad and Chris Haynes, the press officer, are a laughing stock. Chris who? Well, we should know a bit more about him because I’m sure “how would the press react” has gone through the minds of the ECB more than once, and he’s the press officer. Let’s be clear, they were dealt an appalling hand with the Stokes affair. They were faced with little choice but to await the outcome of the police report and CPS decision. The curious thing is naming him in the ODI squad, when the process is not complete. There’s nothing stopping them naming him later if he’s cleared, but now we have, named in a squad, a player who could be doing jail time if charged and convicted. How can you then throw the book at Duckett for a minor infraction? More importantly, throw him to the wolves of the media while clearly doing as much as they can to protect Stokes. The double standard here is gobsmacking. Protect Stokes? How about the casino incident in Manchester last year?

The ECB were also keen to let us know that Duckett had been punished, but has anyone else had a warning added to their resume? Is Anderson anywhere near close to being in trouble? Will McPherson’s article seems to indicate that it was horseplay, many were involved, and there was no trouble. The ECB spin harder than Warne, so I don’t have a clue if this is correct or not. But what we’ve seen with Duckett is summary justice and punishment, a fringe player seen as expendable out to dry, an ability for the cluck-cluckers on Twitter to get on their high horse – warning, the moral high ground is surrounded by the slipperiest of slopes – and the press to intimate that only if they practiced and played liked they drunk, they’d be better off. It all has the hue of the 1985/6 tour of the West Indies when the media went to town on a team getting massacred. At least we’ve had no broken beds yet. That we know of.

George Dobell appears to get it in his cricinfo piece. But only so far. Jonathan Liew nailed it in his tweet. By hyping it up, the ECB did the Aussie’s bidding. By getting all pious about it, the media got clicks, but did the Aussie’s bidding. It is said that when we tour Australia, our players should be prepared for their media and the pressure with it. They should also be prepared for a craven authority and a media that swings with the wind. Yes, they should behave themselves. But so should most people. What a Jakki Brambles*

Memories of Perth

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Those Pylons – Solid Old Stuff…

Two pieces in one as we have just two days of posts prior to the next test. I’ve been to Perth just the once, for the 2006 test. England had just lost at Adelaide and we spent the week in between that test match in Augusta, Margaret River, Fremantle and then Perth. We had tickets for the first four days, and while we had little faith in the team, we did hope they might put up a fight. In many ways they did, but it was not enough. So, some Perth memories, in the style of the previous tests, for you to do with what you will:

  • The week before Perth saw us taste wine, go fishing, go down a cave, drink a bit, be subject to the awful non-cable TV, be put up in a Fremantle apartment that redefined small, went deep sea fishing (that was dull) before finally pitching up in our apartment for the test match.
  • I’d had my wallet nicked in Adelaide and a good friend of mine was flying over for the Perth Test. He brought me my new card, which I (a) used before it was authorised and (b) promptly left it behind in the Subiaco Hotel, which I realised, in my horror, at Subiaco Station. Thankfully the staff / punters were honest and had kept the wallet back, and the money. I gave them a few dollars for being so nice, while Jim, my mate from the UK, shook his head in despair. Fair to say at this point I was a bit of a wreck with my possessions.
  • We paid a visit to the ground the day before, and to our surprise we were let in to wander around. It’s not the most auspicious of surroundings. Perth is very, very bright. The sun is incredibly strong, piercing in the extreme. The ground then looked down on its luck. Reg and I were there to find out if our cameras were OK for use. No-one cared.
  • Little Creatures was as good as advertised.
  • Day 1 and the walk to the ground. We weren’t far from the WACA itself and we had to cross a massive car park to get to our entrance. Our seats were in the temporary stand, and quite high up. Fine leg to the square.
  • Panesar was picked. There was much rejoicing. Even more so when Langer fell in his first over. Even more so when he got five wickets on the first day.
  • I do remember screaming “bring on your England player” when Symonds came out to bat. I might have been lightly refreshed at that point.
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Mr Cricket. A Thorn In Our Side
  • Day 2 was one of those crushing disappointment days. A lot further forward, to the lower part of the stand we were in the day before (and where we would sit the next two days), it was just tedious to watch England blow their chance. KP made 70, and again looked head and shoulders above the rest of his team mates, but he was out with us nearly 70 adrift and only a last wicket partnership got us over 200.
  • The best cricketing photo of my life. First ball of the Aussie 2nd A fluke.
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Perfect Timing
  • As the day’s heat closed in, England subsided. Australia added another 119 that night. We went home on that Friday hugely cheesed off. A couple of us headed down to Fremantle to top up our light refreshment.
  • Some of us never made Saturday morning. We went Christmas shopping instead. Didn’t fancy watching the screw being turned. England opened the day with KP bowling, and Mark Taylor telling us this was a great idea. The moron.
  • When we did finally show, I realised I’d left the lip cream at home. This was not a good thing to do.
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IAN!!!!!!
  • 2 hours of baking heat and frazzled brains, and we decided that we couldn’t bear the 42 degree furnace any longer. As we left, I turned around to Sir Peter and said “this is the sort of situation where Adam Gilchrist could go off….”
  • The swimming pool was cool, the heat was unbearable. As Gilchrist destroyed us, I cooled off. I still believe I made the right choice.
  • We saw the end of his innings, cheering Hoggard to bowl as wide as possible. What a luxury Gilchrist was down the order.
  • Lee got Strauss. Reg went mad. New ball, Lee, bounce, and the umpire never thought that it might be going over?
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Can We Have Our Money Back?
  • Went to the Brass Monkey that night. Really good place. Nice beer glasses. Arsenal were playing Portsmouth on the TV in a dingy looking room. 2-2 I think.
  • Day 4 was Sunday. We turned up on time, but the sun had clearly got to our heads. I spent most of the day wearing “reindeer’s ears” and a theatrical mask. Much to Brett Lee’s consternation when he fielded in front of us.
  • There was a man with a shirt. It had the words “ooompah Langer dippety doo – you’re so short I can’t see you; ooompah Langer dippety dee – your black belt karate doesn’t scare me. He wanted Langer to sign it. Justin has a notoriously super sense of humour when it comes to England supporters. I call that a challenge.
  • Ian Bell batted beautifully. Taming Warne, easily playing the quicks. Got into the 80s and got out. Ian, Ian, IAN.
  • Reindeer’s ears, otherwise known as antlers, isn’t my creation. As the bloke on the phone behind me said when trying to give his mate directions “I’m sitting behind the pommie with reindeer’s ears on”.
  • Alastair Cook was stodgy and determined, but made a hundred having been on 99 for ages. You had to admire his guts. He was being tested to the hilt but he didn’t pack it in.

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  • As Cook passed 100 and KP was starting to flow, the announcement came out that tickets for Day 5 would be on sale behind the stand. Reg scuttled down to the office, whereupon Cook fell and so did Hoggard. There was no chance to return them.
  • When Cook departed Lee was down at fine leg. As Hoggard came in to bat he turns to the England fans and says “Where’s your captain? Is he hiding? Is he scared?”. When Hoggard was out there was little we could say.
  • Don’t remember Sunday evening. I think we were packing our gear up for a quick departure on Monday morning for our last night’s accommodation in Scarborough. (Got this wrong – we moved there on Sunday morning, hence a ridiculous picture at Cottesloe)
  • We dropped our stuff off at the big hotel in Scarborough. We headed down for the scene of a wonderful 200 partnership between Freddie and KP, a great 50 or so by Jones, a robust tail and an historic win. Even met James with confidence high. Who am I kidding?
  • Geraint Jones hadn’t scored a test duck up until this test. Got a pair. Never played for England again.
  • I genuinely forgot Saj Mahmood played in this match.
  • Flintoff hit lustily, made 50 got out. Everything else went pear shaped. At lunch we were nine down. We weren’t sticking around. When the Ashes were clinched after lunch, we were in a bar on the other side of the park. Again, a correct choice.
  • Said our goodbyes to Jim, headed back to the hotel, with our flight at around 1:30 in the morning. Sunset pics taken. Time seemed to go so slowly, and then the cab came to take us away. On a trip where the question “where’s my passport?” or “where’s my wallet” had got on my travelling colleagues nerves, there was still time to drop my set of spare specs in the taxi, and lose them forever. Time to go home.

 

Anyone else with memories of Perth, share them here. We’ve a surprise coming your way soon that we hope you will love, and we hope to do the next test justice. I’m off to pour a cup of Lambrini over my head and phone Martin Samuel. The Blogging Culture and Alcohol…

 

  • A Shambles. Coined by one of our team on an OJCC cricket tour. Origin unknown.
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