Paradise Lost – By Maxie Allen

Would you like to know my dirty little secret?

It might shock you. It could well annoy you. It may make you think less of me.

The thing is, I’m English, we’re in the middle of the Ashes, and I have an inconvenient cricketing truth, gnawing away at me.

Shall I just go ahead and spit it out? Well…here goes. I couldn’t care less whether England win or lose the Ashes. In fact, given a choice, and hand on heart, I’d rather Australia won.

Perhaps I’m not being completely honest with you. I want Australia to win.

So now you know.

I am a heretic. An apostate. A traitor.

I used to support England. Oh yes, I followed England with great passion and loyalty. And I did so for more than three decades, dating back to 1983, when I was eight years old.

For all those years, I hung on England’s every move. Every run, every wicket, every result. I cared. I mean, I really cared. If England were hurting, I was hurting. If England triumphed, so did I.  I was a part of the England team, and the team was a part of me. We were indivisible.

In the days before Sky and the internet, I’d watch entire sessions via Ceefax. I flew to Australia to watch the 2002/3 Ashes. I attended test matches as often as I could. And when this happened, I hugged a series of total strangers. But I also supported England unquestioningly and uncomplainingly through all the bad times, and there were plenty of those in the 1980s and 1990s. No one could have accused me of being a fairweather-fan or a Johnny-Come-Lately. I was the real deal.

So what changed? Some of you may already know, or can guess, as you might remember me from another blog, which I used to jointly run, or indeed saw this piece which I wrote in early 2016. In essence, it boils down to a series of events between February 2014 and May 2015 which left me alienated from, and disgusted by, English cricket.

Now, don’t worry – I’m not going to rehash all of that again. I won’t exhume the details.  The point is, nearly four years later, I’m still unable to move on.

But why? Am I being completely ridiculous? Aren’t I taking nose-cutting to spite-facing to an absurd level of masochism? Haven’t I taken these old events so monstrously out of proportion that I now regard one player and one press release as more important than my country winning the Ashes? I fistpump when Cook gets out: am I mad/twisted/deliberately obtuse? Or just too stubborn to let bygones be bygones? Have I thrown out a huge baby with a drop of bathwater?

The answer to all of these questions is – maybe. Perhaps. Arguably. But I can’t help it. It’s just the way I feel.

I’ve been thinking recently about how this looks to my friends. Or to any third party, especially casual cricket followers. They would see my position thus: I have abandoned my national team, the one I passionately followed, as man and boy, and now want their oldest enemy to beat them, and beat them in the Ashes, of all things. And the reason? A few backstage shenanigans which the majority of cricketer followers were barely aware of and have now entirely forgotten. By any rational analysis, my position is absurd. To any England supporter, it must seem insane. But as I say – I can’t help it. And to me at least, it makes sense.

It all began with the very first Test England played after February 2014. As the match reached a dramatic denouement, I found myself – despite being at work – in front of a TV showing the coverage on Sky.

With the first ball of the final over, Stuart Broad took Sri Lanka’s ninth wicket, and a strange thing happened: instead of punching the air in delight and excitement, my heart sank.”Oh God, England are going to bloody win”, I found myself thinking. With the fifth ball, Nuwan Pradeep was given out LBW, and as Broad and Cook celebrated wildly, I felt forlorn and bitter, as if ‘we’ had lost, not won. There was a twist in the tale, however, because Pradeep then called for a DRS review which revealed a inside edge. Reprieved, he narrowly survived the final ball and Sri Lanka saved the game. I was delighted.

This was my epiphany: the moment I realised my cricketing life was transformed. Unconsciously, and instinctively, I now wanted England to lose, not win. A total reversal of the position I’d held so ardently for the previous three decades. And as the months passed and Test matches came and went, my feelings only hardened in that direction. I supported the opposition, because my enemy’s enemy was now my friend.

It wasn’t that I’d calmly formulated my new position by deductive reasoning on grounds of principle. I hadn’t sat down with a pen and paper and sketched it out. I didn’t say to myself “well, as I think x and y about such-and-such, this regrettably but logically means I must oppose England”. No, it was an instinctive emotional response. But the more I reflected on it, the more it made sense, and the more I saw that it was underpinned by a solid rationale.

In a nutshell – and I’m trying desperately not to reheat old material – my view was the people who ran English cricket had made something very clear: the England team belonged to them, and to them only. The team existed purely as a cricketing representation of their corporate entity. Added to that was my sense of betrayal, and also of outrage at a great injustice. This all combined to corrode and nullify any pleasure I could draw from the actual cricket on the field of play. By extension several of the key individuals became opponents. In sport, opponents become enemies, and you want your enemies to lose. Boy, did I want my enemies to lose.

This might not seem very rational to you. Chiefly, my position appears obtuse because of my apparent sense of priorities. I’ve taken a one-off personnel issue, and a few comments by officials, and made them more important than the team itself – and more important even than England beating Australia in, all of things, the Ashes, with all its history and significance. I’ve abandoned thirty years of passionate support to start cheering on the opposition.

That sounds irrational, to put it mildly, but in sport all support or opposition is fundamentally irrational. Is it rational for Arsenal and Spurs to hate each other? Is is rational to cheer on Mo Farah at the Olympics? Is it rational to want to beat Australia at cricket?

The thing is, I didn’t want any of this to happen in the first place. None of what happened was my doing. I mainly feel sad and regretful about it. I wish things were different. And I had hoped for resolution, as I wrote in April 2015 when it looked like the tide might turn, only for those hopes to be dashed.

It would have helped enormously if England had been hammered in the 2015 Ashes, which I know is an odd thing to say. I longed for the defeat of the Cook/Strauss regime, and what it stood for, but despite Australia’s emphatic victories in the second and fifth tests, it wasn’t to be. Australia’s collapse at Trent Bridge cost me dear, because an England defeat would have lanced the boil and cleared the way for a new start.

I now find myself in very strange and lonely place. I am probably the only person in the world who holds my position, and I certainly don’t know anyone else in everyday life who thinks as I do. My friends don’t understand it, and they definitely don’t like it. They think I’m mad, or being a self-martyr, or being deliberately provocative. But I just can’t help feeling the way I do.

When I talk along these lines on Twitter or Facebook I might come across as a troll, trying to wind people up. I’m not really, I’m just saying what I think. And face-to-face, especially when I meet new people, I’m rather coy about not supporting England – embarrassed to admit it. I’ll be talking to a new acquaintance and the subject of the Ashes comes up, and they assume I’m gutted that England are two-nil down. What do I say? How can I explain where I’m coming from, in the space of a normal conversation? How do I make sense of this to someone with a casual, patriotic attachment to the England cricket team, someone who watches just for fun, who has little idea what I’m talking about, who’s never heard of Giles Clarke, and who believes, quite understandably, that England beating Australia is more fun than obsessing about a four-year-old press release?

Speaking of fun…I don’t find cricket much fun any more, and I derive little enjoyment from watching it save the hollow satisfaction of an England setback. I sorely miss what I used to have – not just a team to support, but a community, a family, of fellow supporters. I miss that camaraderie and fellowship, the sharing of mutual experience. I used to be a part of those conversations, but now I inhabit an alien land.

Nor do I even get much enjoyment from memories of supporting England pre-2014. I can’t dig out the 2005 DVDs and relive that series with joy and pride, because I know what happened later, and that has tarnished everything. With the exception of my village team, my whole life in cricket has been a waste. Every England success I rejoiced in now means nothing.

Now, to you this must sound incredibly self-important and self-pitying. You’ll feel that I am whinging about wounds which are entirely self-inflicted. I don’t believe that’s the case, but I’ll understand why you might think that. People tell me to snap out of it. I can’t. People tell me to move on. I can’t. How can you move on when nothing has changed, and nothing been resolved?

One argument in particular is often put to me. Most sports have bad administrators, and most clubs have bad owners. But everyone else puts that aside and supports the players – and so should I. Regrettably, that analysis doesn’t hold true when it comes to English cricket. The ECB aren’t like the Glazers – they’re not outsiders who barge their way in but eventually sell up and move on. It’s the other way around.

Why? Because the only permanent and irreducible thing about the England team is the ECB. Players come and go but the board and its ethos remain, and the ECB configure the team as a representation of its values and philosophy. The England team is a show they’re putting on. Supporting England means supporting the ECB, and I don’t think you can separate them. I’m open to persuasion, but I’ll need a lot of convincing.

What’s interesting, though, is I now watch cricket in a very different way from how I did in the past. England are a much better team when you’re not supporting them. Seriously. Before, if England were batting, I’d fear a wicket every ball. The batsmen looked like sitting ducks. Now I don’t want them do well, England’s batsmen look composed and authoritative, hard to remove. I used to think Australia’s bowlers were unplayable and their batsmen invincible. Now, to my eye, they often look flawed and unconvincing. From my unusual perspective, beating England looks much more difficult than it used to do.

Will I ever have a change of heart? One of my best friends said to me: “when we’re in our seventies, and we go to the cricket together, will you still be supporting the opposition because of something which happened thirty years ago?”. Maybe. Maybe not. I’m not quite sure what could realistically happen which would change the way I feel. Nor do I know what approach to take should my daughter, currently aged two, develop an interest in international cricket. Pretend to support England, for her sake? Is that actually a beneficial thing to do anyway?

Now and again I get the odd England twinge, the occasional conflicted moment, when I forget myself briefly, and feel a brief pang of connection or empathy with the England players and what they’re trying to achieve. For a beat or two I feel English again. It’s usually to do with players. I’m fond of Jonny Bairstow and when he’s batting there’s a part of me that’s pleased to see him do well. Dawid Malan, too.

Every now and again I slip and refer to England as ‘we’, but by using the word ‘slip’ I don’t mean to say there’s a pretence, or that I’m deliberately trying to subvert my instincts through stubborness. It’s just the old rhythms and cadences of my past life breaking through.

These little ‘twinges’, though – they pass quite quickly and leave me back where I started. What do I do? Do I try to force myself to support England again? Or do I convince myself that I’m just being pointlessly bloody-minded and that if I could only eat humble pie, move on, and support England again, life would be much more rewarding? Again, I don’t know.

I can imagine my hostility fading with the passing of time. But not opposing something isn’t the same as supporting it. Can I ever feel excited about England again? What would it take for my heart to leap with joy, as for so many years it did, at the sight of an England bowler taking a wicket? What might inspire me to cheer when Alastair Cook reaches a century?

I’ll finish by making an important point. Whatever my own position. I’m not trying to convert others. I’m not telling you or anyone else what to do. I’m not scolding England supporters for their adherence to the regime. If you support England, good luck to you, and I hope you enjoy the team’s successes. A part of me wishes I could join you. But for now, at least, I cannot.

Maxie Allen co-founded The Full Toss and has written on cricket ever since, family permitting.

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105 thoughts on “Paradise Lost – By Maxie Allen

  1. nonoxcol December 12, 2017 / 12:13 pm

    Maxie, thank you for writing this and thanks to the BOC board for publishing it. I haven’t finished the piece yet, because I just got to this bit:

    “I am probably the only person in the world who holds my position, and I certainly don’t know anyone else in everyday life who thinks as I do.”

    I guarantee you are not. From actively wanting England to lose, to wanting Cook to get out, even down to when the feeling started and why, I feel *exactly* as you do. I only have contrary flickers when something historically significant is in the offing (as with Adelaide last week, and that in large part because I knew Cook had already gone). And that is out of love for Test cricket, certainly not England. I actually wince when I read people write “we” all the time about England, because I used to care and now can’t even get into the headspace to think of them as “we”.

    I’ll carry on reading now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nonoxcol December 12, 2017 / 12:42 pm

      I differ only on England pre-2013/14. Absolutely nothing can tarnish the period 2003-05 for me. If LA Confidential will remain one of my top 10 films of all-time after recent revelations, I can handle DVDs featuring Comma; deprived of rightful place by mental illness; Shiny Toy; oh no he gave it away *again*; Me and My Ego; a podcast with two of the worst people ever in the world of sport; can’t think of anything impeachable; “sorry to stakeholders”; unimpeachable #2; never played Tests again (sob); “my mate Jimmy is the best seam bowler ever”; and unimpeachable #3 the supersub.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Maxie Allen cricket (@MaxieCricket) December 12, 2017 / 1:35 pm

        Thanks for your very kind comments – and it’s rather reassuring to know I’m not alone!

        I know what you mean about pre 2013/14 and I certainly don’t have any specifically negative thoughts about those famous series (for me, SA 2004/5 is too often overlooked). I suppose watching that archive just makes me feel sad, more than anything else, but also conflicted.

        You are right that those series and those teams are intrinsically untarnished – I suppose the problem for me is what happened to the brand (to use an awful word) they represent.

        Like

        • nonoxcol December 13, 2017 / 1:00 pm

          I should have made clear that there were several staging posts on the road to me falling out of love with England’s cricket team. It did not happen just because of 2013/14 and ‘outside cricket’. In chronological order they were:

          – The virtual whitewashing of the UAE debacle.
          – Worse, the chest-beating that took the place of analysis in 2012. “Is this the zenith of English cricket?” because they briefly held top spot in the rankings in all three formats. “Expect superior England to beat SA”. BTL comments that this side would batter the 2003-05 one even though its Test record in 2011/12 and 2012 was actually worse than England’s in 2005/06 and 2006, and the earlier side had lost Vaughan and S Jones and was about to lose Tres.
          – The ECB messing up the Test schedule, curtailing the SA series of 2012, introducing the 5-match ODI series v Aus set apart from an Ashes tour, lying about why they were doing it, and the almost total lack of investigation and curiosity from the media. A dry run for the Big Three shenanigans of January 2014.
          – Biggest and most obviously of all, August 2012, i.e. the culmination of the ODI retirement saga, ‘textgate’, KPGenius, the Headingley innings, everything. In particular – and I cannot stress this enough – the absolutely dreadful, one-sided press coverage, and *especially* Selvey’s. A dry run for February 2014, it *still* pisses me off to this day, because for me it is the origin of everything we have problems with now.
          – Selecting Bresnan ahead of Panesar in the Ahmedabad Test, then because Flower miraculously realised he’d dropped the biggest and most screamingly obvious clanger since central contracts were introduced, his cheerleaders expected us to prostrate ourselves at *his* feet because the series was turned around.
          (Incidentally, the last time I was genuinely happy as an England fan was Cook and Pietersen’s stand at Mumbai, which fits in about here)
          – For the rest of 2012/13 and 2013, the win in India was mercilessly used to shut down any and all criticism of Flower. The UAE was Eng’s worst ever result against Pakistan (yeah but won in India for first time in 28 years); Eng failed to win a Test in NZ for the first time in 25 years and should by rights have lost in Auckland (yeah but India); the 0-2 SA series was Eng’s worst result since SA were re-admitted (yeah but India).
          – By now I found myself hoping for close contests in the 2013 Ashes and feeling actual disappointment when Broad ran through them at Durham.
          – Pissing on the Oval pitch.

          Then, during 2013/14 and before the infamous sacking:

          – Ridiculous belittling of Mitchell Johnson by fans *and* proper (English) cricket writers
          – Total lack of media willingness to criticise the captain and team director for an utter fucking top to toe shambles. Er HELLO, how can no blame be attached here?
          – Similar lack of willingness to criticise the bowlers, instead passing off Haddin as some kind of invincible miracle-worker.
          – Pietersen shot at Perth v Cook shot at Adelaide: compare and contrast reactions.
          – The final act at Melbourne: absolutely wretched captaincy, probably (given his own efforts) the reason KP was “disengaged” at Sydney, and once again treated as if it was some unfortunate event in which the poor mite had no agency.
          – and then the rumours started, and turned out to be true in spite of Selvey’s hilarious denial that an ultimatum was an ultimatum.

          If I’ve forgotten anything, fellow malcontents, please let me know!

          Liked by 1 person

          • LordCanisLupus December 13, 2017 / 1:28 pm

            The lack of recognition for the best of KP’s innings, a brilliant ton in Colombo, saving us from a winter whitewash, and then backed up by his 149 at Headingley saving us from a whitewash then. But oh no, sharpen the damn knives.

            Liked by 2 people

          • nonoxcol December 13, 2017 / 1:43 pm

            “Trapeze Artist Theory” was a mutant strain of the tendency you identify. This is where you credit Pietersen’s innings but you stress that he was only able to play them because of the safety net provided by Strauss, Cook and Trott.

            You could see on the Guardian BTL last night how this theory has gained a lot of traction.

            Like

          • LordCanisLupus December 13, 2017 / 3:02 pm

            Pietersen could play that innings in Colombo because he’s Kevin Pietersen. We know that.

            The amazement is people explaining away a great career and on the other hand defending one. When neither needs to happen.

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          • Maxie Allen cricket (@MaxieCricket) December 13, 2017 / 5:02 pm

            Brilliantly put, NOC.

            For me what was qualitatively different about Feb 14-May 15 from previous wrongdoing was the overt statement that the team was the sole concern of the board and that supporters should bugger off and mind their own business. It’s that I cannot get over, more than the episodes of selfishness, arrogance and misjudgement which went before – bad though they were.

            However…

            You make a very good point about August 2012, but thinking about it, I would actually cite January 2009 and Pietersen’s sacking as captain as my personal turning point. This was when I began to realise how England actually worked – that it was run as a private fiefdom by an arrogant cabal who cared only for their own egos and power. That the management would act to shore up their authority at any cost.

            Going back a step – I don’t think I would have been quite as angry in February 2014 had it not been for August 2012, when it became obvious the board was conducting a vindictive conspiracy against one of their own employees, alongside a ludicrous hissy fit by the captain and the bullying of a boorish, jealous, clique in the dressing room.

            Forgive me the vanity of posting links to my own pieces, but here’s some of what I wrote during text-gate. What’s quite interesting is how many of the 2014 talking points were already in play by then. Plus, I seem to have swallowed some of the ECB propaganda whole! I’d also forgotten till now just how much leaking the board did that summer.

            https://www.thefulltoss.com/england-cricket-blog/ri-kp/
            https://www.thefulltoss.com/england-cricket-blog/the-twists-and-turns-of-kp-gate/
            https://www.thefulltoss.com/england-cricket-blog/why-kps-not-going-to-india/

            Liked by 1 person

    • Rohan December 12, 2017 / 8:15 pm

      Maxie. I feel the same as well! To the point, where in the run up to this series I repeatedly tried to convince myself I supported England. A battle of wills played out in my subconscious, where I tried to reconcile my feelings and force myself to get behind England. What happened? I got up to watch the first test at Brisbane and cheered when Vince was run out, I couldn’t help it, I want Australia, hell, whoever is playing England, to win……

      I would add one thing, however, although I don’t want England to win, I would like to have seen a more competitive first 2 tests, purely from the cricketing aspect.

      Like

  2. BobW December 12, 2017 / 12:19 pm

    #Metoo…

    Like

  3. Jez Moses December 12, 2017 / 12:27 pm

    Try rugby. Really good sport for spectating

    Like

    • Miami Dad's 6 December 12, 2017 / 2:50 pm

      Only if you are happy to overlook the pillaging of the Pacific Island nations…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Silk December 12, 2017 / 10:25 pm

        No worse (or better) than the England Test team taking Zimbabweans, and the English County Game systematically destroying cricket in NZ and SA.

        Like

    • Silk December 12, 2017 / 10:24 pm

      I’m /really/ enjoying England under Eddie Jones.

      Like

  4. Mark December 12, 2017 / 12:39 pm

    I wouldn’t worry about it Maxie, because I can assure you they don’t give a toss about you or anyone else who thinks that way. You are not the demographic they are interested in now.

    My advice for what’s it worth? walk away from the game. Leave it behind, and take your money with you. Put your life into your daughter, and find something else to enjoy. Never let it eat you up. It’s never worth it.

    Turn your back, and walk away.

    Like

    • LordCanisLupus December 12, 2017 / 12:41 pm

      We’d actually quite like for him to write some more pieces for us, Mark, but I get your drift!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mark December 12, 2017 / 1:12 pm

        If you can’t walk away, then imagine it all as a comedy. Laugh at it, and how ludicrous they all are. Enjoy the amusement of how ridiculous the ECB are, and their stupidity. You don’t have to cheer when England lose, but just laugh at them.

        More people should walk away in my view. If they did we would get more change. If the 52,000 at Newcastle just walked away, Ashely would be gone in weeks. It’s the only language they understand. Unfortunately most people soldier on.

        You wouldn’t put up with it from your local supermarket or plumber, so why sport? Sport operates as a capitalist business model and you are the customer. Never fall for that old fanny about being a fan. You are a customer. Karen Brady at West Ham talks about brands. That is how they view sport. A brand to exploit.

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        • LordCanisLupus December 12, 2017 / 1:18 pm

          There’s a point. But fundamentally cricket for me is the game I played as a kid, that I still love to watch, that still can bring together all modes of people, who perform skills in different ways, with different attributes, and when played at the top level, can be exhilarating to watch. Why should I stop watching Virat Kohli, or AB when he can be arsed, or even the miracle of Hope at Headingley, because our authority thinks it knows best. We’d be writing about going to the supermarket. It’s not their game to steal. And they’ll never steal what I have.

          Is there a lot wrong with sport. Yes, and there always has been. More to say on Maxie’s article later when I get the chance and time.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Benny December 12, 2017 / 8:09 pm

            Spot on. Cricket is unique and special. Just look at the history. The incompetence of today’s authorities ruins today’s cricket but I look forward to it changing. Change is guaranteed like taxes and death. Just hope I live long enough.

            Maxie’s words echo everything that I think. Cricket is better than the clowns who are messing with it at the moment

            Liked by 1 person

      • jennyah46 December 13, 2017 / 10:41 pm

        I would also like to see more from Maxie. I’ve missed him.

        Like

  5. dannycricket December 12, 2017 / 12:51 pm

    I have felt that way in the past, but my wanting England to lose on the field and my anger at the ECB are two separate things for me.

    When I’ve wanted England to lose, it’s because I feel that them losing would provoke an improvement in the team. The last time I’ve felt like that is in 2015 prior to the Ashes. I felt like the deep-rooted systemic flaws in the England setup wouldn’t be addressed unless England lost the Ashes. As things went, the ECB pre-empted me by getting rid of Downton after the World Cup.

    As weird as it seems to say now, the appointment of Strauss filled me with a kind of hope. After Downton, surely anyone would be an improvement? The selectors seemed to start picking limited overs players to play in ODIs and T20s, a revolutionary concept in English cricket. Then Bayliss replaced Moores, some new blood from outside the ECB hierarchy who might see things differently regarding players who don’t toe the line. Of course Strauss soon shut down any possibility of KP’s return, but that was easy enough to write off as a personal matter rather than the direction he would take through his tenure.

    At this moment I don’t think England losing would help the team in the long run, and so I’m still rooting for them (although I don’t expect them to win a Test in Australia). Generally speaking English fans and media place virtually no importance on results in away series, and so nothing major will change if England lose. I have no doubt someone will lose their job, probably James Whitaker, but fundamentally little will change. Chances are the big opportunity for change is in 2019, when England host the World Cup followed by a home Ashes. If England lose both then heads will roll throughout the system, and so it might be that I’ll be supporting England’s opponents then.

    Like

  6. northernlight71 December 12, 2017 / 1:03 pm

    I’m in almost total accord with every word of this article. I do still enjoy re-watching the 2005 series, just because it was the one which inspired a small love for cricket in the woman who gave birth to my daughter (but who more recently, like English cricket, has decided I am of little further use to her!) and also reminds me of the ONLY time my father has ever made the effort to come to Scotland and visit me (I’ve lived here, apart from a short period between 2002 and 2004, for the last 26 years…)
    The pleasure I get from cricket is, in order of fist clenching tenacity :
    1) The moment when Alastair Cook gets out.
    2) Any other bad news for England
    3) England losing a Test match.

    Basically, if it upsets the ECB then I’m all for it. Hence I am against the team. Sorry lads. It’s nothing personal. But it is personnel.

    Liked by 3 people

    • mdpayne87 December 12, 2017 / 1:18 pm

      So will you be back on board when Cook retires?

      Like

      • jomesy December 12, 2017 / 1:46 pm

        I’m pretty much in the same place and I’ve pondered this question before. My conclusion is that I’ll be happier when he goes but I think it’s like those reinforced office windows we have these days. They can take an absolute battering before they break but you can’t put them back together as they were once they finally shatter. So for me, happier I think, but it won’t be the pure cricket love of old.

        Maxie – always enjoyed your writing. Thanks for this – the Ceefax bit in particular resonated.

        Like

        • Maxie Allen cricket (@MaxieCricket) December 12, 2017 / 3:28 pm

          Thanks for your kind words, Jomesy. And I think your window analogy is spot-on. If I were to wipe down and then reassemble the broken pieces of my support for England, I can’t see how it could ever be like it was originally – with the same visceral passion, the same identifying of the team’s fortunes with my own. Perhaps the best way to think about it is a lost innocence.

          As for Ceefax, that’s worth more discussion. I followed Darren Gough’s hat-trick at Sydney in 2000 on Ceefax alone (I was in radio studio and couldn’t put TMS on). The way three blue ‘wicket-lines’ appeared in sequence on the screen was marvellous.

          Like

        • MM December 16, 2017 / 12:19 pm

          Yep, the Ceefax reference had me moisten somewhat at the eyeballs. Those were the goddamn days.

          Like

      • northernlight71 December 12, 2017 / 2:17 pm

        I’m not sure what you mean with the term “on board?”
        Probably, in the past, I paid too little attention to the upper echelons of cricket organisations and simply assumed good motives because, well, people involved in cricket and that like cricket must be good people, yes? Whereas now, I scrutinise the postures and policies and actions of the ECB and the ICC and rarely find them a pleasant experience.
        When the ECB takes seriously its responsibility to keep as much high quality cricket as possible happening in the UK and the world; when they refuse to kow-tow to every little gust of market-force wind; when they seem to be considering the long-term impact of their decisions and not just chase short-term financial gain (however they try to justify it and dress some of it up as “investing in grass-roots”) – in short, when the ECB act like decent custodians of the game and not money-grubbing CEOs of half-baked businesses that are desperate to get as much money as possible quickly before it all blows up and they move their parasitical fangs on to another blameless organisation – then I might be able to support the England team, whoever plays in it.
        Until then, those 11 on the pitch represent an organisation which doesn’t care about cricket. Not really. And I reserve my right not to care about them in return.

        Liked by 4 people

        • Benny December 12, 2017 / 8:20 pm

          You’re right. The big hope for English cricket is for ECB to disappear. Despite their faults, the MCC treasures the history, the status and the significance of “proper” cricket. Might be a step back but I’d be happier to see them in charge. After all, most of them probably already have their money and place in society which the ECB creeps yearn for

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Tony Bennett December 12, 2017 / 1:32 pm

    I am not quite in the same zone but not far off. Part of me has the old instinct of wanting England to win but when they do, I get no pleasure from it. I have some small appreciation of the comedy value of the ECB set up but that doesn’t outweigh the anger at their having stolen from me my love of the game. My wife refuses even to watch tv news summaries or listen to radio reports on England cricket while Alastair Cook remains in the team.

    Like

  8. metatone December 12, 2017 / 1:56 pm

    Fascinating piece.
    I am in a little bit of a similar place.

    1) I don’t care as much these days. Ashes is on Down Under and it’s barely disturbed my sleep schedule at all. Most days it has gotten towards noon before I remember a game is on and take a look at the score.

    2) My own thing is I’m increasingly fed up of England winning low-scoring matches through conditions assisted swing bowling. I’ll admit I was taken in by the majesty of Broad’s big performance against the Aussies at Trent Bridge. But in the recent series against the WI I found myself rooting against an England win, because I know it’s just a home advantage thing and that when we get elsewhere we’ll struggle. And here we are elsewhere and we’re duly struggling.

    I think I’m easier to get back in for England, but it would take would be a setup committed to trying to win games on dry pitches as well as damp. However, that said, I feel cricket is losing me in general. The sheer lack of free to view cricket means I see less and less. Work kept me away from live county cricket mostly this summer too.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Elaine Simpson-Long December 12, 2017 / 2:27 pm

    You are not alone Maxie. I feel exactly the same way. I think things might change once Cook, Beoad and Anderson have gone as I simply cannot gear to watch them. And, yes, I want Australia to win the Ashes. So if you are a traitor, then so am I

    Like

    • Matty December 13, 2017 / 12:57 am

      I agree as well. I have ruminated on whether my views will change once cook et Al are gone but no doubt he will eventually become the next director, as such I feel I am lost to england for good. This was all but confirmed when I was jubilant during the 20 20 final when it was lost to the ECB!

      Like

      • dannycricket December 13, 2017 / 7:36 am

        I don’t think Cook will become an administrator like Strauss, or a commentator or journalist like most former England captains. I’d suspect he’d be perfectly happy just spending most of his time at his farm, to be honest.

        Liked by 1 person

        • LordCanisLupus December 13, 2017 / 7:39 am

          There is a new Selfey up on Sky Sports. I’ve forgotten what it says already.

          Like

          • LordCanisLupus December 13, 2017 / 8:39 am

            Know your place.

            Like

          • nonoxcol December 13, 2017 / 9:41 am

            Speaking of Sky Sports, I wonder how they are covering the news about a Kenyan-born cyclist…

            And a big hello to Matthew Syed!

            Like

  10. Sherwick December 12, 2017 / 2:49 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly Maxie.

    I am bitter that I passionately followed England between 74 and 2014.

    There is no way back either, with Strauss, Cook, Whitaker, Flower, Clarke, the journalist cabal (all of them, S Hughes, Selvey, Pringle, John-look-closerly-at-that-photo-Etheridge etc. all still involved/rewarded for what they did.

    I am utterly disgusted by the lot of them.

    Like

  11. SimonH December 12, 2017 / 3:47 pm

    Plenty said already that I’d agree with. One extra point I’d make is that what makes cricket so great is that it can be watched as a team or individual game. I now mainly watch the game for the individuals. Perhaps I always did – did I really support the team or was it more that I supported who Derek Randall, Robin Smith or Tres happened to be playing for? I certainly never wanted the opposition’s best players (except when they were manifest arses) to play badly.

    I’ve never quite been able to grasp the hatred of “the old enemy” others talk about. When I was growing up I just missed the 74/75 mauling and the first three home Ashes I can remember well (1977, 1981, 1985) were all victories. I didn’t have that experience of growing up watching defeat after defeat. I’ve also never followed England abroad which might have made a difference – my job wouldn’t allow it before, money and health won’t allow it now.

    Wouldn’t it be great if some England players didn’t dump all over the affection you had for them in their subsequent media careers? Atherton is pretty much the only one who hasn’t. The list of those who have is long and depressing. It’s not something that should be just accepted as inevitable – several Australian captains have increased their regard after retiring (Benaud, Chappelli, Ponting) and only really Mark Taylor has damaged it (is it a coincidence he’s the only Australian captain the English media seemed to like?).

    I probably feel more as Maxie does about my county than I do about England. I loved everything about 1980s’ Hamsphire – the team, the grounds, the constant disappointments. What exists today has the same brand name but it isn’t the same entity – it’s a hollowed-out corporate shell, a rich man’s toy. Like NL said above, I didn’t used to pay much attention to the game’s governance – I just assumed they were amiable old buffers who might muddle along but had the game’s best interests at heart. Once you’ve seen through that, you can’t unlearn it.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Maxie Allen cricket (@MaxieCricket) December 13, 2017 / 11:04 am

      The problem with watching cricket just for the individuals, I’d argue, is the lack of context. The point of a cricket match is to win it, and the purpose of players’ individual performances is to further that objective through their runs, wickets, and fielding. If you don’t care about the result, you can’t care as much about what the individuals do, because there’s less meaning and significance attached. Less jeopardy. If the result has little meaning to you, then the whole process risks becoming little more than an exhibition match or an exposition of skills. That’s not to say you can’t watch cricket as a neutral and still appreciate it, but the truth is that sport’s far more compelling when you have a personal investment in the outcome.

      As for England captains ruining their reputation in commentary, that’s a subject worth exploring in more length. The bottom line, I think, is that being a great cricketer doesn’t in any way mean you have any clue how to communicate to an audience. Overall I’d say broadcasters should resist the temptation to hire big names just for the sake of it – and whoever they pick, the producers need to work harder to help the ex-pros learn that there’s more to commentary than just opening your mouth and saying any old thing which comes into your head.

      Liked by 2 people

      • jennyah46 December 13, 2017 / 10:43 pm

        My feeling exactly.

        Like

  12. oreston December 12, 2017 / 3:57 pm

    Maxie, you’re preaching to the converted! Now you’re here though I do hope you’ll contribute further. You’re voice has been much missed.

    Like

  13. metatone December 12, 2017 / 3:58 pm

    Interesting comment by someone BTL on the latest Spin piece, which I’m going to paraphrase because it touches deeply on something I’ve felt a lot about this Tour:

    The promise of the Sky millions (along with a pile of changes to county cricket) was that we’d finally get organised, get professional and do things right. That doesn’t mean we’d always be successful or that nothing would go wrong, but you look at this touring party with a dearth of bowlers for the conditions we know we’d encounter, with a squad that is virtually a team + some people you’d never pick and have to say – the promises have not been fulfilled.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. northernlight71 December 12, 2017 / 6:35 pm

    There are comments open on a lovely hagiography written for Cook’s 150th cap on the Guardian.

    Just, you know, in case anybody’s interested . . .

    🙂

    Like

    • nonoxcol December 12, 2017 / 6:56 pm

      Just be thankful Vic Marks got to do it and not, you know…

      Liked by 1 person

    • nonoxcol December 12, 2017 / 9:11 pm

      I see BTL is panning out in not at all predictable fashion. I particularly like the “batting every innings v new ball > all other batting” argument, and “at least 2 of KP’s greatest innings came after 100 from Cook”.

      Pardon me for being impertinent, but is it not the case that a premier middle order batsman never knows what he’s going to get? He might get the new ball. He might get a second new ball. He might get a Warne or Murali turning it square. I would like to know when this hierarchy came about, and also why those espousing it clutch their pearls so hard when it is pointed out that Cook’s performance against high quality new ball attacks is actually bang average.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Rooto December 12, 2017 / 9:13 pm

        ‘Bang average’? I haven’t done the research, but that sounds over-generous!

        Like

        • nonoxcol December 12, 2017 / 9:23 pm

          We’ve also got “if he had been around in the 90s we might have had a decent side. Cook and Atherton could bat all day.”

          I don’t even know where to start with eviscerating nonsense on stilts like this. I’m sure Mark and SimonH will love it.

          You don’t need to delve too deep into the stats to see that he has sustained a career average of 46 due largely to a truly exceptional record against spin, and it has bog-all to do with heroism in English conditions. Tres, to name one opener, has an average in England about 9 runs higher than Cook’s. Tell them that and watch them do their Brave Sir Robin impressions.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Mark December 12, 2017 / 10:49 pm

            Ok I’ll bite…

            For what it’s worth… I honestly believe (having seen most of the test cricket England played in the 1990s) that had Cook played in that era, he would have struggled to make 4000 test runs. In fact, with all the chopping and changing that went on then he may not have got anyhere near that figue because a few failures would have seen him dropped.. Hick and Ramprakash were in and out of the side more often than the hokey cokey. In out, in out, in, out, shake it all about.

            SA, Pakistan, WI, Australia , all,had very good opening attacks, with back up bowlers. Warne, and Murali would have tested his so called greatness against spin.

            What I find interesting is once again he is the focus. It’s all about Cook despite his failure in this series. (Yet another failure against Aus)

            I also laugh because the media always try to pretend he is not a man who bothers with indivdulal accomplishments. Funny that, because they always indulge him everytime he hits some pointless landmark. I think they are just trolling us or more likely they have not a clue what they are talking about.

            Like

      • LordCanisLupus December 12, 2017 / 9:19 pm

        I was mildly amused my some stat-mining I saw on Twitter today. I wouldn’t normally mind, but….

        Like

      • SimonH December 12, 2017 / 10:22 pm

        Funny how by the same logic Graeme Smith would be better than Kallis, ABDV or Amla; Hayden better than Ponting; Saeed Anwar better than Javed or Inzamam; John Wright better than Martin Crowe; Greenidge better than Richards; probably Woodfull and Morris better than Bradman…..

        Nobody of course would argue anything so silly. The usual response is that (cue sinister spine-tingling music) it’s English conditions! Don’t worry about any evidence that proves opening in England is more difficult (because there isn’t any)…. it’s English conditions!!

        It’s argument by Cook rules: put forward an argument that literally sensible would argue about another cricketer ever.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. James December 12, 2017 / 7:30 pm

    You’ve captured my thinking far more eloquently than I could. I don’t think I’ll be able to support this team as long as Cook, Broad and Anderson are on the field and Flower and Strauss are off it, running affairs.

    Like

  16. Sean B December 12, 2017 / 7:34 pm

    Thanks for posting Maxie. I’m in many ways torn with England in that whilst I would still like them to do well, I don’t really care if they don’t. The one thing I was fearing (tbh it was never going to happen) was for England to roll over the Aussies in Oz, because then the ECB could try and claim that the whole shit narrative and bodge jobthey did in 2014 was somehow worthwhile. That basically alienating half of your national team’s fans, many of whom will never come back the Sport, was the right thing to do in the name of success. Thankfully the Cook redemption tour is panning out as we all thought it might.

    As for the game itself, I still have a love for it but only feel I have vested interest in Middlesex at the moment. In fact I generally prefer watching Test Matches in which England aren’t playing in as I can enjoy the sport in its purest form without the nonsense that accompanies every single game.

    The fact that I am classed as a customer and the English cricket team is now a brand shows exactly what the ECB thinks of me. I’m not there to support the team anymore instead I’m there to line the coffers of the ECB. I have been to at least one Test a year (and often many more) each year since 2002. I have seen away matches in Sri-Lanka, Australia, West Indies and the UAE, but with 2018 approaching I have not bought a single ticket for any of the Tests nor do I have any urge to. I also haven’t bought any England merchandise since 2014 (I have most ODI tops from 2002 – 2014), as if all I’m seen as is a customer then quite frankly they can shove it and fill Lords with the toffs each year who are from ‘the right kind of family’.

    Like

  17. northernlight71 December 12, 2017 / 8:01 pm

    Can I just echo’s Dmitri’s wish for Maxie to write more – family duties allowing – pieces on cricket? Like many of the other people on here, he so often says what I think but much better and with stats to back himself up.
    I mean, I like reading things I disagree with as well. It’s just….. you know what I mean

    Liked by 4 people

    • Maxie Allen cricket (@MaxieCricket) December 13, 2017 / 11:06 am

      That’s a very kind thing to say, NL, and much appreciated. I don’t have a great deal of spare time these days, but will try and chip in when opportunity arises.

      Like

  18. Zephirine December 12, 2017 / 8:27 pm

    Remember when they started the Pop Idol and suchlike talent shows on TV? And to begin with, you thought it was, actually, a talent show? You thought singers were maverick artists who scrabbled up from nowhere and cut their teeth playing terrible gigs in pubs until one day their sheer ability shone through and they got the break they deserved…

    Only then you realised that most of the contestants came from theatre schools and had been been groomed, styled and provided with a suitable ‘narrative’ of their ‘dream’. That they didn’t actually even need to win, because they’d already been filtered through and signed up by the show’s promoters. And above all, that the ‘audience participation’ in voting was just another way to put money in the promoters’ pockets.

    That’s what the England team feels like now. A boy band.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rooto December 12, 2017 / 8:51 pm

      Can we vote them off? Or at least get Cook eating some roasted Wombat dong?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Scrim December 12, 2017 / 9:25 pm

        Cook has held the immunity idol for 3-4 years

        Like

      • Sean B December 12, 2017 / 9:53 pm

        I second that recommendation!!

        Like

    • Deep Purple Fred December 12, 2017 / 10:09 pm

      I didn’t know it worked like that, Zeph. And if you’ve got any comments about Santa Claus, bite your tongue please.

      I notice Lupis refers to the NFL below. Cricket can at least take comfort from the fact that it doesn’t willingly inflict brain damage on the players with no concern as long as the fans keep paying. There’s alot wrong with cricket, but there’s alot right too.

      I think it quite likely English cricket will outlive this malaise. The strengths of the game will overcome the worst efforts of Giles and his cohorts. Cricket is quite interesting in many ways now, the recent ascension of Pakistan in tests, the emergence of an unlikely hero in Lyon, some of the new SA players coming through (they’ll be able to drop positive discrimination soon), Afghanistan, Kane Williamson, to mention a few. India is often seen as the bully of world cricket, and that may be true, but the emergence of Asian countries as contenders, and in fact, sometime champions, over the last decade or so is a good thing, and a sign of progress in the game.

      If that’s not reassuring enough, then there’s always Plan B for English fans. Come over to the Dark Side. Stop moving your lips when you speak! Australian players have an effective union, they actually drink beer and have fun without being snitched on by their security guard (it’s a safe bet someone has poured a beer on Warners head at some point), they seem to laugh at most things instead of getting uptight about it, they never headbutt anyone, discension in the dressing room is openly resolved (eg. no twitter crap, just grab him by the throat and hold him up against the wall, Katich style), they never let pesky Saffers into the team (well, there was just that once, but he was OK), and the captains don’t retire to become national embarrassments. They play quite good cricket too, mostly. What are you waiting for? The ECB doesn’t deserve you!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Grenville December 12, 2017 / 11:15 pm

      I’ve never really been an England fan. Wasim and Waqar captured my love in my infancy, whilst the TCCB’s refusal to pick Tufnell (although I take Silk’s point about Such) or indeed anybody else who wasn’t a rand loving Essex machine put me off my joyless home cricket team. Still, I think the thing that has really turned me into a bilious inadequate obsessively hating this team is absolutely nailed by Zephirine. Once upon a time there was a route from my hopeless, filthy ‘legspun’ pies to the England team. The game I played with my brother in the garden was the first step towards a sunday side and then on and on till you played first class cricket. What held me back was that I was shit. Now there is no pathway, even for many first class cricketers. The ECB think that a few of the top league clubs and Loughborough under 16s are the grassroots, and even then only their hand selected ‘elite’ are on a pathway to the national side. I’ve said it here before, but forget James’ maxim that the cricketer must return to his (sorry, Zeph) community, cricket itself must do that now.

      Like

    • SimonH December 13, 2017 / 5:49 pm

      “That’s what the England team feels like now. A boy band”.

      It might have worked if they’d cast Cook as George Harrison (the quiet one) or even Peter Tork (the dumb but lovable one)….

      The trouble was the evil guru in charge tried tocast him as John Lennon or Mickey Dolenz!

      Like

  19. Rooto December 12, 2017 / 8:49 pm

    Thanks Maxie. You’ve laid it all bare. However, I’m more confused about my own position, now that I have to analyse it. I can totally get on board with supporting the players I like (who are more often than not people whom my choice of UK-based media inform me of more – i.e.English), and I have enormous problems with the hateful ECB. I oppose the ECB because of all they are doing wrong and the disgraceful, deliberate attitude they do it with.
    But #1 – I can’t keep it up when they’re playing Australia. I just can’t. I grew up as a footie fan whose only long-standing affiliation before the age of 15 was to ‘whoever is playing Liverpool this week’. There are some losing runs / winning runs (depending on your standpoint) which override cool thinking. It’s Australia. Who’s playing Australia this season? Oh, it’s ECB. Oh, well then. Rah, rah, rah! One-and-a-half ‘hip hoorays’ from me. Next summer? Pakistan Zindabad! India? More soul-searching…
    But #2 – Last summer I wholeheartedly supported the West Indies, but thinking about it, isn’t their board even worse? Shit, there just aren’t enough good guys left.
    Time to concentrate on the players again. I often think “Sweat the small stuff Rooto, and blank out the bigger picture, like you do with your own mortality”. But, unlike life, there probably is something we can do. Just haven’t worked out what yet. Mark’s idea above may sadly be the best option.

    Like

  20. LordCanisLupus December 12, 2017 / 9:05 pm

    When you’ve spent four hours on a dull as ditchwater conference call talking about dots and commas of a 300 page agreement that lawyers are just messing about with, you actually really appreciate the more fun things in life. For me, that has been cricket. In fact, it has been many sports.

    At my sport loving peak I had to balance the Dolphins, the Red Sox, the Bulls, Millwall, Surrey as well as individual sports, the Olympics, the Champions League, the Premiership for Fantasy Football and international sport. I love sport. I still do. I barely watch anything else. I’ve got the NFL on from Sunday as I type this.

    But cricket always had a special place in my heart because it was a sport I actually played. Through my club mates I went to test matches. I then went on a couple of cricket tours overseas. I’d had heroes. I’d had players I’d love to watch. One of many was Kevin Pietersen.

    When 2014 dropped and the England hierarchy put score settling over putting the best team out, I might, just might, have forgiven them if they had been honest with us. You know the rest. Since then the fans who supported KP have been pilloried. We’ve been ostracised. I’ve seen people ride the wave of the anti-KP, anti-establishment voices, and once safely within the bosom of the cricket family, turn tail and attack us. I’ve seen trust put up against us, I’ve seen us called bilious inadequates, social media zealots and vile ignoramuses. We’ve been accused of guesswork. We’ve been called irrelevant. The authorities and their useful idiots in the media revelled in KP’s demise without quite understanding the key point that he was the symptom of the malaise, not the malaise itself.

    This never healed itself because one side wanted complete surrender, and they were the “loyal England fans”. as if we weren’t actually any of those. I put my thoughts into a post called Schism (https://beingoutsidecricket.com/2016/01/25/schism/ ) at how this divide might never end, and why. When some of those who went at us found out the depths the ECB would go to get their T20 competition in place, they still didn’t believe us. I thought the way Tom Harrison called county fans “obsessives” said it all. It never quite caught on like “outside cricket” but it should have.

    But you know, when it comes to away Ashes series, I can’t abide the Aussie press and media campaign and I warmed a little to the England team. Not a lot, but enough. I like Stoneman. I like Joe Root. I like Moeen Ali. I don’t mind Bairstow. I even started feeling a little sorry for Cook, but that doesn’t last long. It’s not a simple binary choice for me. It hurts that I hate the England hierarchy like Strauss and Empty Suit. The print media spun off some of the worst excesses, but some clowns remain. And the game, especially the test game, is not in great shape. But I wouldn’t write about it if I didn’t care. I wouldn’t spend the time on the game, on this blog, if there wasn’t something keeping me doing it. I still want to see another Lara. Another KP.

    Maxie is Maxie, and this is his view. I’m delighted he shared it with us. I hope, no I really want, to hear more from him. He’s my inspiration when it came to blogging, and also he’s just a really terrific bloke. We met for a drink a few years ago, and we got on really well. He’s been off the scene for a while, but we always wanted to try to entice him back. We have a terrific team of writers, so much so that sometimes I think I’m the makeweight, but there’s nothing quite like a Maxie!

    Liked by 5 people

    • nonoxcol December 12, 2017 / 9:28 pm

      “Fringe idiots and know-nothings” is another one I’d forgotten, memory jogged when I accidentally on purpose came across the Selvey/Graves piece from 2015.

      No prizes for recalling who used that one first, on the old Twitter.

      Like

  21. Silk December 12, 2017 / 10:23 pm

    Maxie – YANA. I feel exactly the same way (except that bit about 2005 – for me, in a stifling lecture theatre in Urbino, Italy, between each talk dashing to find internet signal to check that Giles /still/ wasn’t out, and that Australia were running out of time, is one of the all time highlights of my life, alongside Day 5 at Old Trafford that same year, me inside at 7am, thousands locked out).

    It will pass, I think. Once Comma is gone, and Cook is retired, I will be more ‘engaged’. Eventually I hope to find some new players to love, to replace Gooch, Atherton, Nass, Thorpe, Stewie, Gus, Goughie, Jimmy Ormond, Hoggy, Tresco, TKOS, KP, Belly, Colly, Monty (god I miss Monty) and the rest. Though not Peter Such. We won’t see his like again. Not in my lifetime.

    So chin up. It’s a fun series. Pat Cummins is quite some player. Cricket isn’t all bad. Sri Lanka braved the smog, maybe did a little bit to improve the lives of Indians who have to leave with it day-in, day-out, by shaming the Government into doing something, and dug in for a draw. The Windies show signs. Bangladesh are a rising power. Pakistan are bat.

    There are reasons to be cheerful. (And, you never know, Comma might get the sack at some point!)

    Stay well.

    Like

  22. SimonH December 12, 2017 / 11:40 pm

    Newman’s celebration of “that landmark” gives us what may be the first “aplomb” since the days of Brenkley/Downton and a “Greatest Ever”.

    Like

  23. "IronBalls" McGinty December 13, 2017 / 8:08 am

    Sigh!! I’m with you all the way Maxie.I tried, I really tried to get the love back this year. I even got BT Sport to watch the Ashes…what a waste! I watched Cook get out in the first innings of the first test….the man the bloody ECB had bet the farm on, he who represented the ECB on the field …I fist pumped and switched off, and have never watched since…it’s just not there anymore!
    My only saving grace is that I do like Morgan, his captaincy, and his team, probably because, in my own way, he is the very antithesis of what the ECB is all about, but, he does come out with some force fed shite now and again, which takes the gloss off.

    Like

    • Zephirine December 13, 2017 / 12:36 pm

      I’m with you on Morgan, I like him too and I find him very interesting.
      He’s tough, and he uses being an outsider to his advantage. He certainly has no qualms about making a load-of-rubbish statement to the media on occasion, but I always feel this has probably been a trade-off for something else he wanted done. There’s something rather splendid about this Irish guy just coolly taking the English faux-ruling-class ECB types for everything he can get. Not that I think he’s cynical about the cricket, clearly he isn’t, but I think he’s deeply cynical about the cricket establishment and rightly so.
      So the ODI team is like a little republic of its own, where some of the Test rejects interestingly shine, and I like that and do support them.

      Like

  24. pktroll (@pktroll) December 13, 2017 / 9:02 am

    I don’t quite feel the level of antipathy that Maxie does, but at the same time I’m no cheerleader, not remotely for ECB et al. However, I’ve been indifferent about this England team, from the lack of real firepower in the bowling attack and the lack of skilled test cricketers that have emerged in the last 2/3 years and the primary focus on the white ball game. I’m a test cricket man first and foremost. In this respect I will freely admit to enjoy putting much of this on Strauss and have been vocal on here in looking at what he’s done in the last 2.5 years re Loughborough, the Lions tours and the pre-eminence of his old chum Flower in leading us on the road to nowhere.

    I haven’t watched a ball live of this series and unless I tune in for a short while on Boxing Day early morning, that is unlikely to change. However nothing much of what transpires down under surprises me.

    I am no fan of Cook from the last four years or so and have for some time wondered whether this series might be a tour too much for him. However much of how he is seen is as a result of the ridiculous media nigh on verbal fellatio by Newman et al, and although I don’t exactly see him as completely innocent, I don’t have quite the antipathy of others though I have pointed out that absurdity of how his batting is evaluated quite regularly over this time.

    Like

  25. BobW December 13, 2017 / 9:13 am

    I agree with most o the comments on here as of yours Maxie. The only thing I would say is with regard to the blog title. It is not Paradise Lost. It is Paradise Stolen. That’s how I see it. Stolen by those with a self interest in the game and not for the greater good.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. jacobsweetman1978 December 13, 2017 / 9:20 am

    Thanks Maxie. A beautifully written piece.

    I didn’t realise for a long time that I no longer really supported the England cricket team. It was a slow process, an inexorable creep that found me, however, explaining to people why I wanted Sri Labka to beat the country of my birth.

    I left england ten years ago and used cricket as something upon which to hang my hat. I spent my hours in a large squatted art house, explaining to bemused Belorussians about the curious intricacies of a game they would never understand, as they would spend hours telling dirty jokes from their childhoods (that would, more often than not, end in the brutal rape if a wolf by an overprotective bear and his best friend, a rabbit.)

    They were the same things. The same ways of remembering a home largely based on the tricks and fictions of memory anyway. But it was Something that my dad would understand if no one else did. So I am now happy to revel in cricket for what it is. And if that means england need to lose because the romance inherent in the game demands it, so be it. Support Australia, howl their wins to the fucking moon, man, because the game belongs to you and to you alone. No one can tell you how to enjoy it. No one can tell you how you should behave within it.

    It is yours.

    Like

    • Maxie Allen cricket (@MaxieCricket) December 13, 2017 / 1:35 pm

      Many thanks, Jacob. And I completely agree with you. Cricket belongs to all of us and none of us. It belongs to everyone who’s ever taken any kind of interest in. It certainly doesn’t belong to any self-appointed private club (which is the ECB is as much as the MCC).

      Like

      • jennyah46 December 13, 2017 / 11:05 pm

        I have no problem in separating the English cricket team from the ECB and I always want them to do well and to win. Sadly however, the ECB are owning the game by default. The damage they haven done to it is as plain as a pikestaff. Nevertheless I will not allow them to steal my unswerving enjoyment of test cricket or my support for the players.

        Like

  27. Maxie Allen cricket (@MaxieCricket) December 13, 2017 / 10:48 am

    Many thanks, everyone, for all your kind words and comments. I’m glad you seemed to find it an interesting topic. I’ll try and reply to as many of the individual comments as I can.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thelegglance December 13, 2017 / 11:20 am

      Yep, he’s spot on. Because absolutely no one watching was thinking ‘pitch the sodding thing up’ at any point, obviously.

      Like

      • Zephirine December 13, 2017 / 12:42 pm

        What I find extraordinary is not that someone poured a drink over Anderson’s head but that no one, as far as we know, has ever just smacked him one. Not that I’m advocating violence, you understand.

        Liked by 2 people

        • BoredInAustria December 13, 2017 / 4:32 pm

          This made me laugh out load Z! If he manages to get you to say this…

          Lovely reading the Telegraph article:

          “There is also a bigger picture. The ECB have their sponsors and we have a job as role models to the next generation of cricketers who play this game so we have to stay away from silly things that can be misconstrued”

          There you go – Sponsors. The bigger picture.

          “I am quite stingy when it comes to giving runs away. I don’t like half-volleys being driven for four. I like bowling the shorter length and then throwing in the odd fuller one to induce the drive and nick. In Adelaide in the first innings I PROBABLY bowled too short. They were not going anywhere at two an over but we were not taking wickets. We should have bowled a touch fuller. It was an oversight from the players on the field but also from the coaches who could have had an input too, which is frustrating.”

          Still learning. Not that this has happened before. PROBABLY

          “The meeting we just had was all about bowling plans, batting plans and how we see ourselves performing in this Test. Nothing is going to distract us from winning here. As a bowling group we have been buoyed by dismissing Australia cheaply in Adelaide. We know the lengths we have to bowl here, which is a bit fuller, almost an English-style length.”

          English-style length. Like at Headingly.

          James Anderson is a proud ambassador for BRUT.
          Et tu.

          Like

          • Mark December 13, 2017 / 6:35 pm

            Andersons claim that he prefers not giving away runs rather than trying to get batsman out explains a lot. Also, it shows a total lack of understanding about bowling in Australia. The new ball does not last very long. 15 overs if you are lucky. The batting side are quite happy to not score in this period if they are not losing wickets.

            One wonders who is coaching them. Probably doesn’t mater as it seems he just does what the fuck he wants.

            Like

  28. SimonH December 13, 2017 / 11:34 am

    “it would be a big surprise if England are not unchanged. What they will do, however, is tinker with the batting order and will restore Jonny Bairstow back up to six, where he was originally intended to start the series, and put Moeen Ali down to seven. Root decided to switch them on the eve of the first Test but it has left Bairstow too low in the order”.

    Absolute peak Newman this – ignore everything he’s previously written about the batting order (which said Bairstow at No.7 was a spiffing idea made collectively) and pin it all on Root. If victory has a thousand fathers (because that’s probably the number of ECB managers and coaches involved) then defeat truly is the captain’s alone. He isn’t inexperienced, still learning, creating a good environment – he’s sabotaging the long term plans of management when he isn’t not making the 160s he should be. As for leaking the batting order, well, it hardly registers these days.

    Meanwhile, the captain has to explain away his senior bowler (he of “blameless” and the “clean record”) blaming the coaches when a player with 130 caps can’t work out the right line and length to bowl. In-fighting when things go badly is as old as the hills – but when you’ve spent a decade telling everyone that team spirit and “getting close as a unit” is the holy grail then maybe you should understand that you’re looking a little hypocritical. Maybe someone was right when he said once that most of the problems in the dressing room lay with the conduct of the bowling unit?

    Liked by 3 people

  29. Miami Dad's Six December 13, 2017 / 11:38 am

    I have found that I increasingly save my “support” for England exclusively for away Ashes series, and series away against India. Other than that, with the odds so heavily stacked in “our” favour, I find it embarrassing to cheer-lead for England against the likes of, say, the West Indies or Bangladesh, with the respective socio-economic status and governance of those nations, or even New Zealand or South Africa given the battering their cricketing stocks take from our own system.

    I’d rather see close-run, good cricket matches. Kyle Abbott tearing up Div 1 for Hampshire whilst Vernon Philander hobbled through Test matches was horrendous morally. Pakistan winning the Champions Trophy when Team England bottled it, on their own patch, was wonderful.

    India and Australia are, of course, fellow villains of the cricketing world, and winning away tours in particular against those sides would be a real achievement. So I want England’s players to play well there – without caring too much about Team ECB if they don’t.

    Like

  30. SimonH December 13, 2017 / 12:01 pm

    Martin Samuel taking a long, long time to say very little, but there are still a few nuggets:

    “his first, maybe only, Ashes tour as England captain”.

    We’re not forward planning for the Reemption tour then?

    “”The lads have to wake up and smarten up. We’ve got to be really smart in how we repair.’ He corrected himself. ‘How we prepare.’ It was a slip of the tongue…”

    The previous captain spent three years with his foot in his mouth yet his every word was treated as somewhere between the Sermon on the Mount and the Gettysburg Address.

    “Root mounted a staunch defence of his squad but, beneath, he no doubt feels as let down as anybody; as coach Trevor Bayliss, who could lose his job if it is thought discipline has gone to hell on his watch”.

    If? Whose watch would it be?

    “An England team it is possible to believe do not care, who are less committed than Australia, unprofessional, distracted. And this is not just an outsiders’ perception. There are senior figures within the ECB who share this view”.

    Maybe it’s possible to believe that some senior figures “do not care… unprofessional, distracted” when they seem more bothered by their new tournament, making sure their backs are covered and leaking their views to the press.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/cricket/article-5172631/Englands-Ashes-booze-cruise-hit-chance-saloon.html

    Like

  31. SimonH December 13, 2017 / 12:48 pm

    GD is generally a good thing of course – but there’s a glaring omission from the list of those in the firing line:

    http://www.espncricinfo.com/story/_/id/21754867/rightly-wrongly-careers-jobs-line-england

    “Have England’s Test results improved since Trevor Bayliss was appointed, or might all involved be better served if he concentrated on the white-ball sides?”

    So, who would coach the Test team? Who has the track record of wanting to coach the Test team but not the white-ball teams – and be just the man to reinstall discipline while he’s at it? It wouldn’t be the *glaring omission* by any chance?

    Like

    • nonoxcol December 13, 2017 / 1:04 pm

      Unless he’s since been possessed or brainwashed, GD really isn’t a fan of Flower, is he? He fingered him immediately on Switch Hit as soon as Pietersen was defenestrated.

      Like

      • LordCanisLupus December 13, 2017 / 1:19 pm

        My understanding is that George feels free to criticise Flower for the cock up of 2013/14, calling him an “ogre” on a recent Polite Enquiries, but that there is a softening of his attitude towards him, saying he knows he made mistakes. In many ways, if he did, and Flower was still more a force for good than bad overall (and shoot me down on that), say that, and recognises it going forward, fair enough. But his record on bringing talent through to the test team should also be put up there. And that second sentence was Selfey-eque.

        Dobell’s sights are on Loughborough. Of which, if I’m not mistaken, Flower is very much a part of.

        Like

        • SimonH December 13, 2017 / 1:41 pm

          The fact that it’s GD not mentioning Flower is what makes it all the more worrying. If it was one of the usual suspects, I’d think nothing of it. Seriously, he name checks Kevin Shine and doesn’t mention Andy Flower?

          I’m not trying to deny Flower’s achievements 2009-11 (although he had some good fortune in there as well) but they came at a massively disproportionate cost (again not entirely his fault – but the combination of his methods and ECB schedules was toxic).

          Bringing coaches back for a second time has never worked on the few occasions when anyone has been daft or desperate enough to try it. You’d think the ridicule post-Moores would be enough to guarantee they wouldn’t dare, but I’m not so sure – they seem absolutely mesmerised by Flower and may think they can spin it through the contrast with 2010/11.

          Like

          • LordCanisLupus December 13, 2017 / 5:55 pm

            Yes, I think it is a decent point. The impression being he has warmed to Flower (or maybe that he never was THAT cold towards him). Whereas he’s had Loughborough and the bowling coaches there firmly in his sights because his view is that players regress while they are there (the story of the bowler coming in and having a ball measured at 95 mph, and when he left was in the mid to high 80s – sure I heard that one before – a number of people thought that was Stuart Meaker). Ramprakash is another who avoids his gaze.

            Flower won’t fly as the replacement. It just won’t. Far too much baggage, much more than Moores who was seen as unlucky. I think the problems four years ago were a perfect storm – ageing participants mentally checked out, refusing to accept the dying of the light, under the control of a dictatorial coach who they had just checked out and a captain they didn’t really respect as a leader (which is vastly different to respecting him as a player). Moores was seen as unlucky. Flower that it was time to bring that era to an end.

            The main reason he is mentioned is “who else is there?” I’m having a hard time thinking of an alternative.

            Like

    • Mark December 13, 2017 / 1:12 pm

      If Flower comes back I will take up Maxies’s viewpoint, and will actively cheer for the opposition. Whoever they should be. Hitler, Stalin, whoever. I will cheer for their eleven over Flowers team of robots.

      Four years ago they manouved, and connived and lied to England fans to get KP out the door. Now they are doing the same to Root because he challenges the real problem with English cricket. A cabal of insiders, media whores and liars, profiteers and a clique of players that do what the f*** they feel like.

      Like

      • MM December 16, 2017 / 12:35 pm

        Flower? Back?Oh Christ. If that happens… wow, I just… oh please no. Don’t say those words.

        Like

  32. KidVicious December 13, 2017 / 1:03 pm

    Fantastic article Maxie, and as damning an indictment of the ECB as you could see, simultaneously heart-wrenching and honest, which very well articulates the conflicted nature of following Engalnd at the minute.

    Many of the squad seem like likeable people, as mentioned above. When I check the score to see two top order wickets, I am delighted when Stoneman is not one of them. It seems a little harsh to really dislike Vince when I know nothing about him, but he is the face of Lboro/ISM in this England team, so he will cop the flack.

    For myself, I would like at least one win to salvage something for Joe Root, who has inherited this absolute mess and comes across as a genuine guy. It would also put 1up on the previous captain that which would give me vindictive pleasure. I also find myself conflicted with the 1 day game, on one hand I really want Morgan to do well as he seems to really piss off the establishment, on the other it sticks a feather in Strauss’s cap. So if Morgan and Root have to take one for the team in the short term so be it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Maxie Allen cricket (@MaxieCricket) December 13, 2017 / 4:16 pm

      Thanks very much for the feedback and glad it was of interest.

      You make a very good point! Is it preferable for this series to go less badly than it did four years ago, under Cook’s captaincy? I’m starting to think it might be.

      Like

  33. Sri. Grins December 13, 2017 / 1:24 pm

    The good news for those who support England VS oz or India is that a majority of the tests England play will be against them in the next for years.

    😀😀

    Liked by 1 person

  34. thebogfather December 13, 2017 / 3:32 pm

    From a couple or so years past, this is LCL, Maxie, and all ‘Outside’ to which we relate…

    This
    Is Quite The Commotion
    Where taking the p!ss
    Shows the ECB’s devotion
    To their own chaos theory
    Towards any reality query…

    This
    Is where England Cricket stands
    Sat on their hands whilst hiding their eyes
    Perpetuating the bland
    Whilst massaging the lies
    Warding away the outsiders despised…

    This
    Is where their failed foundation collapses
    Under the crumbling 4th estate
    Slowly awakening to or covering their lapses
    Truth evolving e’en if too late
    Summoning a winter loser finality debate

    This
    Is what we all knew was the truth
    The cracks in the self-love addicts grow wide
    Cricket overshadowed by shallowness proved
    Slack standards in abandoned principles reside
    This tidal-wave of questions from outside to inside

    This
    Is The Right Commotion

    Obsessively so

    (for the good of Cricket)

    So many words expressed so perfectly it appals (the state of Our game)
    Yet, I am truly blessed to be able to read you all (Sadly, we elate, in their shame)

    Like

    • LordCanisLupus December 13, 2017 / 5:57 pm

      He does not read Twitter. Send him a card.

      Like

      • nonoxcol December 13, 2017 / 6:24 pm

        Perhaps he reads Cricinfo though…

        Like

      • Mark December 13, 2017 / 6:29 pm

        Just like he’s not one for personal landmarks. ho ho ho…..

        Read his wicki page. Absolutely no personal landmarks there!

        Liked by 1 person

  35. jennyah46 December 13, 2017 / 11:50 pm

    A brilliant post Maxie and while I don’t share your feelings I could empathise. I’ve been through a similar metamorphosis myself, in another way. The reality of this is that you can do nothing about it. The inner workings of the brain can produce a burning emotional response which is impossible to consciously shift or damp down. Changing events or changing perceptions might bring about an alteration but they might not. I hope healing happens for you because carrying negative baggage is damaging. It hurts nobody but yourself. Do stay around. I’ve missed you and will look forward to any further posts. You are a supremely talented writer and contributor.

    Like

      • LordCanisLupus December 14, 2017 / 7:19 am

        I’ll tag the comment to the most recent one.

        Woke up. Saw Cook failed. Only a Nasser would believe a 0 in 33 run might end.

        No Ashes ton in 34 tries. But 2010.

        Like

        • nonoxcol December 14, 2017 / 7:43 am

          Is there a way to identify how many other batsmen have played 34 consecutive Ashes innings without a ton?

          Even if some of them are – gasp! – openers!! In – pass the smelling salts – English conditions!!

          Like

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