Swim The Ocean In A Hurricane

Hello All. I’ve missed the birthday, the Outside Cricket Day and KP sacking day while cavorting across South America. Hope you all celebrated accordingly. Paul Downton should be our media’s greatest embarrassment. I’ll never tire of reminding them…. Good luck Kent.

A lot of water has flowed since the Alastair Cook 244 not out that made me throw my hands up in despair at both the press and the twitterati and think that the efforts we (I) make to bring some sort of discourse to cricket talk is like throwing shit at the wall. The fact is that the Ashes brought some form of motivation to write that had been missing for quite a while. We threw ourselves into the series, with live blogging, reports and comment. When the series was gone, and the Ashes a dream, that some thought it more important that an individual shove it back down the throats of critics than stop to properly analyse the stuff we’ve been banging on about since the 2013/14 tour shouldn’t really have surprised me.

I have grown progressively tired of cricket. There is something to be said that throwing yourself into something so completely, as I have for the past four years, is bound to leave you in a state of exhaustion or despondency. They call it burn out. Chris’s excellent piece this week about the rain delay, and how cricketing educations were formed in either watching old highlights or listening to excellent discussions on the TMS radio feed, just remind me what we’ve lost. In fact, I keep saying “we” as if I’m talking for a lot of us, when I really mean “I”. I’ve lost the innocent love for the game, the need to watch the sport to enjoy it, and maybe it is being a blogger that does it. That I feel I have a position to justify rather than just to write and comment on what I see. I’ve devoted so much time to this place that sometimes my evenings at home revolved around watching the comments come in and react to them, or to monitor what happens on Twitter. It became a madness, an obsession. You might even call it an addiction.

What drives me is complacency. What drives me is stupidity. What drives me is injustice. What drives me is that I enjoy (ed) writing. What didn’t drive me is any sort of fame. Any sort of recognition from the cognoscenti. Any sort of patting on the back from a respected source. I still think my old stuff is my better stuff. I still think that the pieces like the ones Chris wrote this week deserve the attention because they come from the heart from a bloke who shares the same values as me – writing from the heart, the soul, rather than from some cynical need to be recognised or wanting the glory. But I will be associated with being pro-KP until the end is nigh, and anti-ECB to the extent that I have to employ a cleaner to scrape the bile off the screen.

As these days pass, and I’ve been away for 11 days in Colombia and Peru with work, so about as far away from cricket as you can get (although an England captain was born in Lima), it is worth reminding yourself why cricket, a sport that is doing its best to alienate the people who kept it going for the last 20 years, is something worth saving. Moments picked from the cluttered memories of yore. How I played a Kent Cup Semi-Final, dropped the bloke who scored 80 and won the tie for the oppo, and then being picked up by Dad to tell me Gordon Greenidge had made a double hundred and chased down 340 to win the Lord’s Test in 1984. Or sleeping on a grass bank at Croydon and missing most of the first innings that I would ever see Kevin Pietersen play. Of being there when Ramps made his first class triple century, scratching through the 290s like a man who had never wielded a bat before. Of that walk down Vulture Street in 2002. There was watching the end of Botham’s 149, but loving the 118 at Old Trafford much more, and recalling Jim Laker’s mis-commentary still when he gets to that hundred. There are memories across all formats – how I stayed outside not to jinx the run chase in the War at Edgbaston ODI against Pakistan – or how me and my new student mates stayed up all night to watch the 1987 World Cup Final on my portable colour TV.

As I sit here now, I look across my living room to the bookcase full with cricket books. I’m reading Ben Stokes tome at the moment – it isn’t as bad as I feared and has an interesting take on how teams perform when they’ve clinched series that contrasts somewhat to the insulting bollocks the media and their acolytes put forward to us mere idiots – but there are tons of secondhand books that I’ve ordered off Amazon. I want to know more, I always want to know more. I look at the DVR recorder, which has the ODI series between India and South Africa to watch knowing I can programme it from a Lima hotel, or a Barranquilla airport, to record the cricket just as long as Sky sticks to its schedule. I look at Sky Cricket Channel and think of the missed opportunity from my selfish eye. I’d be replaying the entirety of test matches like Edgbaston 2005, Bridgetown 1999, and more besides, but they prefer pre-made packages of greatest evers and masterclasses. Who prefers practice to playing the game? I’m not a freak of nature like AB, so what can I learn? That might just be me.

As we move forward on the blog, I want to relive a golden memory of cricket. It wasn’t perfect, of course it wasn’t, but there’s now a shroud of defeatism wherever I look, and that includes myself. I have to admit, I couldn’t give a stuff about T20, I have a whopping cold, inherited from some dodgy aircon in Lima, and it’s taking some shifting. I’m hardly likely to be up with the lark to watch something like that Auckland farce the other day. But I’m told that’s what I want to see more of. The tests don’t start until the end of March, and I might be slightly more committed by then. You don’t have to be Einstein to realise that the readership here are not too interested in the T20 stuff either. I’ve tried to work up enthusiasm but I just can’t. A World T20 maybe, but only if it isn’t being used to silence critics of the ECB policy. Does the near 500 runs of the other night compare to Lara’s 153 to win v Australia, to Sachin’s might and majesty, to the obduracy and sheer all round genius of Jacques Kallis, of sitting in the sun watching Colly and KP put 300 on against Australia and we still lose. Not even close.

But what keeps me alive, what will make me post again, what will raise my ire and make me do this to myself is the sheer fucking complacency, and I apologise for the swearing but the blood boils, of people like Simon Hughes. This man is a copper-bottomed disgrace to the people he purports to represent – the readership of the Cricketer and the fans of the game who listen to his punditry. Earlier on I mentioned complacency.

If this had been written by Tom Harrison, we’d be raising hell. It’s risible to call the organisation that insulated itself by throwing its lot in with the Big Three “fearless”. People who stick up for the current county system are “domestic sport’s unruly skirmish” – what as opposed to the perfect order and beauty of the ECB in the wake of the 2013-14 Ashes when the unruly “outside cricket” mob had the damn cheek to criticise the bloody idiots, and when Hughes was one of those in the vanguard protecting the morons. But the tin hat on this particularly stupid introduction has to be “this is the new regime’s diligently researched and meticulously constructed attempt to eradicate [county debt]”. They’ve set up this T20 competition to save the counties. You have to be having a laugh. Let’s leave aside the diligent research and meticulous construction that haven’t really been shared with the “obsessives” that this is meant to save. Hughes has laid down his cloth for the ECB, and whether they care or not, and I suspect they think he’s as laughable as we do, they’ll use it. One of the main organs reporting on the game has spoken. Even in his introduction he’s been sold a pup by the ECB. We don’t know the team names yet, and I’ll bet we’d all have guessed where the 8 teams would be located (maybe a toss up between Bristol and Cardiff).

You know, we’ve been in Wisden, we’ve been contacted by a couple of journos, we are aware a number know about us, we get good traffic, we have a presence online. Did anyone think to talk to us, or to get the views of people on here. I think we’d have dealt with it properly and given all the information due consideration and respect. After all, what unites us all is a love of the game. We want the best for it. We have ideas. We have been told on many occasions to be more constructive. That we have a voice to use but we spoil it by not being obsequious and respectful enough. That’s what those at the top want. People to tell them how great they are. One day they might actually ask one of the most frequented cricket blogs out there what our views might be. Hell, they might even get some constructive responses. There’s as much chance of that as there is of me being editor of the Cricketer. Shame on this stupidity.

I’m not the answer. Never pretended to be. I have a voice, a view, and so do you. I’ve lost the desire to raise it, and instead of wondering why people like me, and others, feel the way we do, by asking what ails us, what makes us shrug our shoulders and why we turn off when we should turn on, the powers that be and the majority of the media pay us lip service and tell us what we should like. Sport where results don’t matter, but bodies watching and paying do. Sport where history doesn’t matter, but manufacturing events do. Sport where complexity and ebb and flow are anathema, and don’t matter, but where momentary wizardry, flash pyrotechnics and noise mean we will enjoy ourselves. I don’t call that fear. I call that recklessness.

Ah well. 1700 words on a semi-return. When I said I’d had enough that late December morning, I had. I still have. People who should know better said it was Cook, my hatred for him and my inability to give him due praise was the answer. I know who they are. It wasn’t. It was people who should know better who have let the ECB off a 4-0 drubbing to an ordinary Australia team and put Cook’s excellent innings on a pedestal to do so. I never thought I’d never post again. I just thought that I needed a break. Six weeks or so of not really writing hasn’t refreshed me one bit. It’s just been a gap in my rage. I liked the ODI side, I loved their spirit, their energy, their flaws. Then I remember the Ashes and the anger resurfaces. Maybe it doesn’t matter any more. Maybe it is time to call it quits. Right now, I think we are on a precipice.

All the best.

Peter

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28 thoughts on “Swim The Ocean In A Hurricane

  1. man in a barrel Feb 18, 2018 / 12:18 am

    Eradicate County debt! Did someone with a brain write that? Did they ask the people who have put millions into Hants, Yorkshire and Durham?

    Like

  2. Ab Feb 18, 2018 / 12:35 am

    Just found out today that a couple of the kids I have spent umpteen hours of my own time trying to enthuse about cricket have decided to quit the sport as they don’t see the point in playing a sport they can’t watch on telly and don’t really understand, and despite having plenty of talent, struggled to really get enthusiastic about.

    This happens every winter, all the interest that is maintained over the summer through relay contact is forgotten, and I really should be used to it by now, but it still hurts. I can see why coaches decide to walk away from the sport. You feel like you’re wind your time fighting a losing battle. Junior participation now less than 50% of where its was 10 years ago and falling. Ecb don’t appear to care. Maybe they’re right. Maybe we should just let the sport die.

    But not to worry, because the ecb have an interview with Gareth southgate about what it’s like to manage the England soccer team.

    Liked by 2 people

    • quebecer Feb 18, 2018 / 4:22 am

      Don’t ever stop, A B. Please, don’t stop.

      You can only control what you do. And what else can you do but the right thing?

      P.S. I say this with the most enormous amount of respect.

      Liked by 3 people

    • dannycricket Feb 18, 2018 / 11:06 am

      Where do you get your junior participation figures from? The last official ones the ECB released seem to be from 2014, although they still collect the information every year. It sounds about right though, Sport England’s cricket participation figures from 2010/11-2015/16 suggest roughly a 23% drop in 5 years. But their figures I think include casual playing in the playground, on the beach, etc.

      Like

      • Ab Feb 18, 2018 / 11:59 am

        Our county youth cricket Agm. Our county has actually been less affected than most in terms of raw numbers because its one of the fastest growing populations in the UK. And its quite middle class and there are lots of private schools

        Like

  3. metatone Feb 18, 2018 / 8:43 am

    You’ve done something I never imagined possible – made me curious about Stokes book…

    Like

    • LordCanisLupus Feb 18, 2018 / 1:03 pm

      Oh, don’t get too exicted. It’s still a large percentage of absolute tosh. Doing it my way, always positive, red mist drivel. I think he comes across not as some swashbuckling, devil-may-care cricketer, but more as a one-dimensional it’s the way I play sort. I think he’s more like Pietersen than many would care to admit.

      Like

  4. Matt taylor Feb 18, 2018 / 9:45 am

    Hughes and the ECB reminds me of Piers Morgan and Donald Trump.

    Like

    • LordCanisLupus Feb 18, 2018 / 1:01 pm

      “After this it can no longer be claimed that a brave administrator is an oxymoron.”

      We get the cricket press we deserve. We get the Paul Downton and Tom Harrisons we deserve. We get the Mike Selveys and Derek Pringles we deserve. We get a 4-0 hammering against our greatest rivals we deserve.

      But Alastair made 244 and we weren’t whitewashed. So run along.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Benny Feb 18, 2018 / 6:51 pm

        I always found that phrase odd and not just in cricket. I believe we get what we don’t deserve, be it administrators, press, governments etc. We get those who are focussed on their own well-being and status and we ordinary folk are Outside

        Like

        • Ab Feb 18, 2018 / 7:04 pm

          I think the problem is the opposite. The people in charge are outside cricket. They are all jumped up business bigwigs and ex pros, not a single one of them has ever actually been involved of the front line of youth or recreational cricket or even paid for their own seats at a professional game and have absolutely no idea how the entire cricket ecosystem functions. They are the outsiders here and we are just sitting back and letting them destroy the game we love

          Like

  5. Ab Feb 18, 2018 / 10:39 am

    Reading Simon Hughes’ drivel, I realise what it may have been like to be a starving Russian peasant surrounded by empty fields reading the propaganda about how food production had doubled again

    Liked by 1 person

    • LordCanisLupus Feb 18, 2018 / 12:57 pm

      AB,

      A bloody good comparison. Hughes once had the absolute front to say we had an “important voice” but we let ourselves down by being rude. It was by being confrontational, in your face, passionate that we got heard, and yes, the likes of Hughes and the old school journo corps treated us with contempt because of it. The great thing about this intro is that Hughes clearly thought we were going to know team names etc after this announcement, and we don’t. Even when praising his masters, he’s still not been given the full meticulously constructed picture that has been so diligently researched.

      It’s not fear that rules me, it’s contempt for these clowns. We’ve just lost an Ashes series 4-0 and no-one in authority or the media, patently, gives a shit.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mark Feb 18, 2018 / 2:19 pm

        We are too rude hey? My problem with his like is they are all too nice. Or rather a fake niceness. The English cricket media has more resembled a real life version of Smashie and Nicey. An outside appearance of matey chumminess while hiding burning resentments and bile. All buttressed by endless mouthfuls of chocolate cake. A cricket version of radio 1DJS of the 1980s.

        Group think is their biggest problem. No one is allowed to wander off the reservation of blandness. Talking points have already been agreed, and you…… dear reader receive them in whatever style you prefer. But the opinion is always the same.

        I’m still of the belief that 39 has some sort of financial stake in this new jamboree. I don’t now what his angle is, maybe it’s just a mundane commentary gig with one of the broadcasters. But he writes as if he has skin in the game.

        By the way, what is this so called well researched data that he is always referring too? Was it done by the same clowns at the ECB that selected our bowling attack for for the Ashes?

        Like

  6. LordCanisLupus Feb 18, 2018 / 12:48 pm

    http://www.espncricinfo.com/story/_/id/22489184/cut-t20is-reduce-schedule-trevor-bayliss

    Who is this idiot? As if cricket boards around the world are going to turn down crowds for T20 games. I know there were pics of a poorly attended first game between England and New Zealand, but that’s not exactly the norm.

    The World T20 is a really decent event. It should remain and there should be practice for it. I think a tri-series is probably a decent thing too. I don’t like T20 all that much, but people do and it pays the bills.

    It’s the numerous leagues I have a problem with. Which, again, makes me an outlier. Someone said on Twitter today that sport is entertainment. No. It is not. Sport is participation and involvement. When I played cricket it was because I enjoyed a contest, I loved challenging myself with the bat, and I didn’t care one jot if anyone watching enjoyed it at all. I wouldn’t call watching Edgbaston 2005 “entertainment” as I certainly wouldn’t have wanted my blood pressure reading taken in that last half hour. Entertainment to me means something being manufactured. Sporting brilliance, the events you remember, come from the quality and performance and the ebb and flow of events. It’s why I loathe penalty shoot outs, and love last minute winners. One is a circus competition with little to do with the game that preceded it, the other a result of the game itself. I put T20 in with penalty shoot outs – imagine a tournament of penalty shootouts, imagine the excitement – and not with the real game we grew up loving.

    But put an international context into T20 and you might have something. Am I going to give a stuff about some franchise plonked into the Oval? No. But an England team in a World T20? Yes.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Maxie Allen (@MaxieAllen) Feb 19, 2018 / 5:21 pm

      Excellent post.

      On the “sport is entertainment” question – I would say that sport is drama with an unwritten script. This is not the same thing as entertainment – and it applies to cricket as much as to any game.

      A cricket match is a story, a story whose narrative and denouement no-one knows in advance. Like all the best stories, you need to be invested in it emotionally. You need to care about the cast and care about the outcome. The protagonists need to be challenged and their characters examined.

      By this definition, a test match is certainly a story. A T20 isn’t. You don’t really care who wins, or at least not enough to give the result significance. With the exception of the World T20, there is precious little context or historical resonance. Most of the time, the teams have no backstory – they’re invented entities with no wider meaning.

      The penalty-shoot-out analogy is apposite. T20 is an exhibition format which largely involves batsmen trying to hit as many sixes as possible. Those sixes are an end in themselves rather than a means to a more significant end. Bowlers have little purpose apart from serving up balls which may or may not be hit for six. Their characters are not examined; how much can you find out about them in four overs?

      T20 can make for a fun evening out with your friends, but it’s not (or at least only very rarely) a meaningful cricket experience, for either spectators or players. I see no evidence that the format has done anything to strengthen the game or deepen its roots within England which could not be achieved far more powerfully by the thing which really needs to be done – put test cricket back on free-to-air television. It’s that issue which the mainstream press have forgotten – shamefully – and the city-franchise league is at best an irrelevance, and at worst a misleading sop, compared to what really needs to be done.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Mark Feb 18, 2018 / 1:34 pm

    “There are no losers in this venture only winners.”

    Really? What kind of utopian world does 39 live in? Name me any society or market that has created a world where there are no losers, only winners? This is utopian clap trap. The new 20/20 may or may not be a financial success, we will see. But the idea there will be no casualties is nonsense.

    This has not been a good week for me and sport. I watched the highlights of that dogs breakfast game between Aus and NZ. I didn’t know the result, and I was flicking between that and the football. Apparently 500 scored in a 20/20 game is what the public wants. The ball just disappearing every other delivery into a crowd of short boundary’s where the highlight is some spectator catching the ball one handed and winning $50 thousand. What I found more interesting was how these modern, top of the range bowlers were completely unable to bowl any other delivery than length. At one stage one NZ bowler had figures of 3 overs for 70 odd…Nice!

    My mood wasn’t improved from listening to the Ping pong man on Monday where he and the gormless trio decided to claim that all modern sport was better than yester year. We know this, so the logic goes because all sports judged on time and distance have improved. Humans are running faster, and throwing and hitting things further than ever before. Mr ping pong couldn’t wait to inform us that the 1900 Olympic 100 gold medal was won in a time of 11 point something. This would not even win today’s school trials apparently.

    Mr Flintoff then informed us that all these old blokes claiming the sport was better in the old days we’re talking nonsense. He informed us that the WI bowlers of the 1970s and Jeff Thompson couldn’t possible be bowling that quick. He told us us that they were probably only bowling about 80 mph. Perhaps he should ask Bumble how quick Thompson was bowling? Of course they never account for all the improved equipment that older players didn’t have. There were no helmets or arm guards then. Tail Enders didn’t score many runs. It was frigging dangerous and scary. Even top level batsman found it frightening. But all things new must be good. And all things old must be crap. Bizarrely It was left to to dear old Robbie Savage to claim that he thought some of the teams he played against in the 1990s would put up a better showing against the current Man City than the modern teams. He was howled down in contempt by the other two geniuses.

    Look at golf. The whole professional sport is there for no other reason than to flog golf equipment to to the masses. And the masses want to be able to bash it 250yards. So these same clubs in the hands of the top players send the ball 350 yards making most golf courses redundant. Length off the tea is everything. Accuracy is for wimps. There are so many temporary structures on a professional course like grand stands and scoreboards, and advertising hoardings that it makes no difference if you crash into one of them. You just get a free drop, and chip it 80yards up on to the green. The top flight golfer only needs about 5 clubs these days. A driver, A nine iron, and pitching wedge a sand wedge and a putter.

    The modern sportsman is fitter and stronger, and has the best kit ever, but is he more skill full? Some say yes. Does this guarantee a better contest? I say no. I am amazed how many so called top flight footballers who can’t even take a corner these days without failing to clear the first defender on the near post. Or the amount of penalties that are missed by top flight multi million pond strikers. And bowlers who can’t bowl yorkers. Bar humbug.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Benny Feb 18, 2018 / 6:46 pm

      Must agree. I reckon modern sport has got easier. As well as batsmen having protective equipment, they don’t face uncovered pitches now. In football, there is no place for a Chopper Harris or Norman “bites your legs” Hunter. I remember a game when George Best got hacked down and, from the free kick, got the ball and beckoned the offender to try again. He then ran rings round him. Ronaldo would have been back in the dressing room crying.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Miami Dad's 6 Feb 18, 2018 / 3:59 pm

    Interesting from Bayliss today; “leave t20 to franchises” – or words to that effect. Basically, no one can bothered with this T20 shit – not even the coach who was brought in on the back of domestic t20 success.

    On an unrelated note, does anyone wanna buy x4 It20 tickets for Ingland vs Endia in Cardiff next summer?

    Like

  9. jomesy Feb 18, 2018 / 8:27 pm

    At the risk of sounding obsequious, you’ve been missed.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Sri Grins Feb 19, 2018 / 1:21 am

    I think t-20 works better in leagues than as international fixtures. This is because, it allows participation from every nook and corner as spectators and some of the spectators gradually move to other forms of the sport.

    Bayliss makes sense. Play a few t-20 internationals certainly in a year but don’t play too many. It only adds to the clutter. World cup for t-20 definitely makes sense. Bilateral t-20s do but nor of you play too many a year.

    I an at a loss to imagine how anyone can only be filled with disappointment about England as a team. They do have enough good players, exciting to watch as a fan and rather than worrying all the time about ecb and thus being unhappy better to focus on the good players and enjoy their performances and feel better.

    England will always get a core of thirty players who can play good cricket. This is because of history, financials and amount of fans for all forms, the mixture of races which will always ensure some level of interest in cricket

    Like

    • LordCanisLupus Feb 19, 2018 / 8:44 am

      I note left arm spinner Jomel Warrican took 8 wickets against England’s second finest. I note Mason Crane is running through the oppo (He isn’t. Had just three overs).

      Ben Stokes in his book didn’t seem to not rate Rashid by the way. I know they usually have to say nice things but went out of his way to praise him.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sri.Grins Feb 19, 2018 / 9:19 am

        Selection biases happen in every set up. Virat’s selections at times defy logic. The same with the Indian selectors too. Rashid has been discriminated against. Has happened to others in the Indian set up too. you can read articles to see how journalists react to Ashwin as opposed to Rahane or even Jadeja. Bias is the only constant in human behavior. 🙂

        My personal opinion is that love for watching, reading cricket has to be firmly differentiated from admiring or scorning the way cricket is run or selection made etc.

        if the true lovers don’t appreciate the game, how will the rest of the fans learn the nuances?

        Like

  11. AB Feb 19, 2018 / 10:33 am

    Play the T20 world cup and the ODI world cup every 4 years (with 2 years separating them), with ALL teams whether full member or affiliate – having to qualify from scratch in the 2 years leading up to the tournament.

    Then discourage any games outside of the scheduled qualifying games.

    Also, Wales should start their own white ball side and play at Cardiff. They should have an annual tri-tournament with Ireland and Scotland every September.

    Like

    • Zephirine Feb 19, 2018 / 12:27 pm

      Very good ideas AB. Especially the Celtic20.

      Like

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