Sleepwalking into the Slaughterhouse

If you’ve read any of the cricketing press or numerous posts on Twitter recently, you may have mistakenly believed that England are the best run and most innovative cricket side in the world. No mention of the 4-0 Test defeat, just praise of England’s white ball cricket hero’s in destroying the Australian white ball team. Everything is now rosy again. Operation sweep ‘the Test side and everything that is wrong with English cricket’ under the carpet is in full swing. I’m sure that Messer’s Graves and Harrison couldn’t be happier after all it was the white ball focus that led England to hire Bayliss as Coach and prioritize ahead of all other forms! All is going to plan for our glorious ascent to World Cup winners in 2019. Deck the halls with boughs of holly! Cricket’s coming home!

You won’t be surprised to hear that I’m not feeling as full of the joys of spring as some of the above people. Sure it has been a great performance by our white ball team, but it’s all ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’ for me, a tepid rice pudding after a main course of old manure that we had served to us during the Test series. Now of course, I’m not aiming to denigrate the skill of our white ball team as England have finally produced a team of extremely talented players. The likes of Roy, Buttler, Stokes, Woakes and Bairstow could probably walk into any ODI team now and will likely be in line for deserved financial rewards in the IPL, which is great for them and for those that are a fan of ODI cricket. Except that I’m not. There is nothing the white ball team can do to erase the pain and embarrassment of watching England implode again away from home in Test Cricket. The ODI team could hit 400 each innings and then bowl Australia out for 10 and yet it would still only raise the smallest of smiles knowing that all it does is to provide our greedy administrators with a mandate that they know best and that cricket has never been in better health under their watch. Call me cynical, call me outdated, call me wrong, but I’m only describing how I feel about English cricket at the moment. England winning the One Day Series is like putting a plaster on a severed leg as far as I’m concerned; indeed this analogy also seems to work in terms of what our friends at the ECB are currently doing.

Oh and on another note, you may well have noticed who’s back, back again. Downton’s back, tell a friend. As much as I would enjoy writing another article based on the absolute incompetence of Paul Downton, I’m not sure I could add too much that hasn’t been said before. An individual so ingrained with the ECB’s modus operandi that he had decided the fate of a certain South African born batsmen before he had even got on the plane, failed to produce the so-called dossier of misdemeanors that said player has been sacked for and then went on to blame this individual’s book, which had been written a number of months later as the core reason that Mr. Pietersen had to be sacked. Downton then went on to lay all his eggs in the Peter Moore’s camp, a genuine man but one who was never cut out for International Cricket, but also a man who would never pick Pietersen nor question the ECB’s stance. We then had all of the gaffes, the disastrous defeat to Sri Lanka (which was some of the worst Test Cricket I’ve ever seen) and the culmination of a pathetic and embarrassing World Cup performance in 2015. Simon Hughes might defend his mate to the hills and who knows, he might be a decent man in real life, but purely looking at his CV from a cricketing point of view, then there should be no way that this guy ever runs a cricketing side again. Except no-one told this to Kent.

Equally, we can look at the hire of Rob Andrew at Sussex, a man who hardly covered himself in glory in his reign as leader of the RFU, yet finds himself in another CEO position. Andrew was the establishment’s master of survival: changing titles, moving sideways, losing influence, but still there on the sidelines grimly holding on to power. Indeed, Andrew mentioned in his book:

“The game I played in the closing decade of the amateur era was completely different from the one we watch and marvel at today,” Yet despite that, we continue to demand more of the players; more rugby at ever-higher velocity, at ever greater risk to life and limb.”

“The reason? No-one wants to cut back on the number of matches because matches mean money. Where rugby finds itself now is in the early stages of a conflict over the nature of the compromise – a scrap for viability.”

There are many individuals out there who know more than me about the game of rugby; however the mantra has always seemed to focus on delivering short term profit, irrespective of the quality of the game, nor the health of the players or focusing on a long term increase in demand. I wonder if anyone else finds this strangely familiar to the position that cricket in the UK finds itself in.

It would be fair to ask, why I have waffled on about these two in particular, but for me these 2 individuals symbolize the malaise of English cricket, the very essence of ‘jobs for the boys’. It doesn’t matter if you have failed miserably in the past, as long as you spout the right buzzwords and can tap into your friends at the ECB, then come on down and make yourself comfortable, perhaps take a six figure salary at the same time. Yet in my own opinion, counties such as Kent and Sussex (and there are plenty more out there) have simply signed their own death warrant. They’ve not noticed the wolves at the door, the wolves that are most keen in furthering their own career rather than doing what’s best for their counties or players and are very happy to cozy up to their mates at the ECB to ensure that they are rewarded. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the ECB views the counties as cannon fodder for when the red ball game goes badly, a nice diversionary scapegoat. It is also clear that the ECB and Tom Harrison in particular really doesn’t give much of a hoot about the red-ball game at all. It’s there to scrape in television money whilst it still can, whilst Harrison tries to find the next big thing – T20, T10, Franchise Cricket, Underwater Cricket or whatever else he can think of that might make a quick buck or two. So let’s guess how Harrison feels about county championship cricket without its’ so called big crowds, interest from Sky and razzmatazz? Well of course, it’s been relegated to the very margins of the English season, there to appease the traditionalists, whilst he tramples all over them by trying to shoe-horn what he feels is the savior of English Cricket – the city based T20.

Yet, what can we expect from this beast that the counties are only belatedly seeing as a real threat to their existence? Whilst Harrison might have made a pretty penny out of Sky, is this really going to be savior of English cricket? In my opinion, this is an emphatic no. We don’t just need to look at our own competition, which is heavily reliant and weighted to those who want to go and throw 10 pints of ridiculously expensive Fosters down their throat on a Friday night; we can look at other ‘franchise’ competitions that are hardly setting the world alight. 5 of the 6 teams in the PSL are struggling to make their sponsorship targets and are looking for financial bail outs, the Big Bash league attendances are down by over 150,000 year on year and the South African franchise cricket never even got off the ground, when the television companies rightly thought they were massively overvaluing it. It would also be fair to mention that the above countries haven’t hidden their cricket away on pay-per-view for the past 12 years either and yet they are still struggling, so why on earth does the ECB think that this is the goose that lays the golden egg? That this new competition is suddenly going to turn around years of disinterest from an audience who hasn’t been able to access to live cricket on TV without owning Sky? That the huge costs in implementing this and paying off the counties is actually going generate long term interest and revenue? This seems to be a huge white elephant which is growing by the day, yet Harrison and Graves are willing to bet the future of English cricket on a hunch and a whim. Even worse, the counties through a mixture of self-interest and incompetent hires such as Downton and Andrew have been complicit in their demise from Day 1.

There it is, whilst Graves, Harrison and Downton ride off into the sunset on the gravy train, the rest of English cricket will look back with regret on the day they unwittingly slumbered into the slaughterhouse. Even worse, they’ll reflect that they could and should have done something about it, but hey, that’s just not cricket is it?

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19 thoughts on “Sleepwalking into the Slaughterhouse

  1. Wisepranker January 23, 2018 / 2:10 pm

    A cricket blog discussing rugby!! Well, slagging off a rugby administrator anyway ..and I must take issue with this. I am not here to discuss whether he was the right man for the job at Sussex but if you know anything about the structure of the professional rugby game in England, where it has been and where it is now then you would appreciate that Rob Andrew has left it in a much healthier place. If you only rely on the below the line comments of newspapers where ‘Squeaky’ was constantly berated for selection issues then you, like them, fail to understand his role, which was to mend and then nurture the relationship between the privately owned professional clubs and the national team structure. What his negotiations and husbandry of this task led to was the widest access to the players (who are ‘owned’ by the clubs) by the national coach to his training time, something that his counterpoint in France would give his bras droit for. English (and French) rugby does not benefit from the advantages that a wholly national body owned structure gives (such as Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Australia & NZ have to very mixed success) but it also does not suffer the financial disadvantages either .. the fact that private enterprise and national sporting ambition can live hand in hand is something that Rob Andrew can be proud of … and perhaps (bringing it back to cricket) something that the ECB could look at as a future model.

    Like

    • Sean B January 23, 2018 / 3:52 pm

      I don’t pretend to know a lot about Rugby though i do watch the sport. I have a number of friends who are Rugby nuts and are pretty scathing about what Rob Andrew achieved in the sport. Indeed many of them refer to him as the ‘teflon don’.

      What I do know is that the players are still being constantly flogged for 40 weeks a year and that the relative riches are consigned to a select few. Whether that is now an improved lot for these rugby players, then i’m afraid i’m not knowledgable enough to know.

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      • Burly January 24, 2018 / 2:16 pm

        Not sure if my previous comment will be posted but the short version:

        Rob Andrew did lots of really good things once he moved away from being responsible for the senior side – everything Wisepranker says, plus the academy system that’s given rise to a glut of talent.

        Players being flogged and money only going to a few players has little to do with the RFU and a lot to do with the clubs, individually and collectively (as PRL), and has absolutely nothing to do with Rob Andrew – it would never have been in his remit.

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    • thelegglance January 23, 2018 / 10:51 pm

      We have discussed rugby before on here. I did a post after the Japan-South Africa World Cup match about the magic of sport.

      Like

    • Burly January 24, 2018 / 2:11 pm

      Have to agree with Wisepranker here. Rob Andrew earned his brickbats for his slightly bizarre behaviour when he had responsibility for what happened to the senior side, but as soon as he moved away from that he was undeniably a positive influence who achieved some pretty important things. In addition to the vastly improved relationship between the clubs and the RFU, he also had a big role to play in the new academies which have, more than anything else, led to a much more consistent flow of talent to the national team (and a very good U20 side, year on year).

      Sean, you might think the rugby season is too long and players play too many matches, but that has absolutely nothing to do with Rob Andrew. You have to remember that the RFU is not PRL – the clubs have more power and are the ones collectively pushing for more matches (which = more money, in some cases for greed, in most cases to try and cover their own losses). It’s too simplistic to blame Andrew or the RFU for the number of matches a Northern Hemisphere player will play in any one particular year.

      As for the money, that has nothing to do with the RFU at all, beyond what they pay internationals.

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      • Sean B January 24, 2018 / 8:04 pm

        Fair enough Burly, I really don’t pretend to be an expert on the subject. I was simply reiterating what those who do know more than me about Andrew’s role in the RFU.

        Happy to be corrected if I’ve got the wrong end of the stick.

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        • Burly January 24, 2018 / 9:41 pm

          Basically, all his good work was far less immediately visible and came after his somewhat disastrous role as hatchet man / bloke with responsibility for the senior team. He was never the leader of the RFU, either.

          No offence to your friends but a lot of rugby fans don’t know much about the relationships between the clubs and the RFU, what PRL is, how the academies function, how player release works, etc 🙂

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          • Sean B January 24, 2018 / 9:45 pm

            That’s definitely fair, I really only remember him from his hatchet days rather than for what he achieved in a different role.

            Happy to rescind my comments on that basis 🙂

            Like

  2. Baz January 23, 2018 / 2:27 pm

    The press release says it all really ‘The Business of Cricket’! Kent needs a dynamic leader who understands the modern game and has profile to match not someone balancing the books until the franchise money rolls in to reduce the debts

    Like

  3. man in a barrel January 23, 2018 / 9:43 pm

    The ECB are very privileged. They have a group of players, whom they have chosen, to play for England. It’s not the same in Rugby Union. I don’t think Eddie Jones has ever put out his first choice team. Even now, the two choices at no. 8 are crocked plus Haskell is banned. But you suspect that England will win some points. Eddie watches and coaches and talks to coaches. He even coached a session at Lesser Arsehole Herts. Who is Bayliss. What is a Farbrace?

    Ps LCL I sort of understand your disdain but there is more than meets the eye, even according to Jo Maugham

    Like

  4. pktroll (@pktroll) January 24, 2018 / 10:24 am

    I just can’t get too excited at some admittedly entertaining ODI performances. 1. Because they are ODIs and 2. Because like many others what happens when England’s top order batting implodes as a result of everyone going for it? Can see something similar happening at the back end of the world cup as the Champs Trophy on more tired pitches as the tournament goes on.

    Then where do they go next?

    Like

  5. LordCanisLupus January 24, 2018 / 11:02 am

    Pringle in the Metro makes the worthy point that the ODI team would not necessarily convert easily to the test team. I agree with some players, most definitely. It’s not a controversial point.

    However, I give you one guess who the picture is of, and who his first piece of evidence is.

    I’ll help you. If you think it’s the opener with the flaky technique, but who holds our record score, think again,

    Like

    • metatone January 24, 2018 / 11:07 am

      It couldn’t possibly be a spinner could it? ;-(

      Like

    • Sean B January 24, 2018 / 11:11 am

      hmm, perhaps it may be someone who’s card has been marked in the past as a guess?

      Like

    • "IronBalls" McGinty January 25, 2018 / 8:36 am

      Morgan?

      Like

  6. metatone January 24, 2018 / 11:10 am

    One thing that has struck me over the last couple of days. PL Football has a genuine income stream from international rights, one that might even grow. I might not like their model, but it has some resilience.

    Cricket (and Rugby League & arguably Union) are basically hooked up to the Sky money drip – but what happens if we do have economic turbulence from Brexit? If times are tough and Sky revenue shrinks, hard to see Cricket in particular faring well (esp. from having so completely signed up to the Sky project.)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Sean B January 24, 2018 / 7:20 pm

    The Cricketer continues its headlong dive into the abyss. I mean who even cares.

    Like

    • thelegglance January 24, 2018 / 9:57 pm

      Probably not known for hitting women and dogging though, so that’s one up on Collymore.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Clivejw January 25, 2018 / 5:36 pm

      Did you see Michael Vaughan’s response to this on Twitter? I don’t know how to embed tweets, but he said something like “Yeah, but you know we know how to punch.” Lord knows we don’t expect anything too classy from Shiny Toy, but I did expect something better than that.

      Liked by 1 person

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