Wallcharts at the Ready

If ever there was a day for multi-screening, yesterday was it. Four World Cup matches, a succession of rugby internationals, the US Open golf, a Test match in the Caribbean, and the small matter of an ODI.

At the end of it, Australian sport had suffered the kind of day that England fans tend to be grimly accustomed to, with defeat to France at the World Cup, defeat to Ireland in the rugby, and defeat to England in the cricket. Schadenfreude may not be the most attractive character trait, but amusement was both widespread and frankly enjoyable.

Enthusiasm for this series against Australia appears limited, not least among those buying tickets. As much as it was claimed the game was sold out, there were plenty of empty seats on show in Cardiff. Either the Welsh have an awful lot of money to throw away, or someone is gilding the lily. Still, disappointing crowds are not that unusual for internationals at that venue, and it was hardly deserted. But the sense of going through the motions is unsurprising given both the timing of the series and the sense that this nothing other than a financial obligation tour.

England are 2-0 up without giving the impression they are remotely playing at their best, and with Australia missing so many key players there is little to engender a feeling of this being much more than practice for either side. Those players who look dangerous in the short form continue to do so, those who appear to be struggling show little sign of answering the questions about them.

A football World Cup always dominates the sporting environment, and a Test series during it would struggle for attention too, but despite being as relatively inaccessible (pay TV) as the cricket, the rugby summer tours have a greater sense of occasion to them. The sarcastic description of one day games as JAMODIs (Just Another Meaningless One Day International) has rarely felt as apposite as here. The pretence that this is about the build up to next year’s cricket World Cup doesn’t cut it, especially given the absence of Pakistan from the schedule despite being here for two Tests.

With 13 white ball matches across the heart of the summer before the Tests get underway again, we have barely got going. This becomes troubling for a number of reasons – the press themselves in unguarded moments will confess to struggling to write anything new about them, and while that isn’t especially an issue in itself, the translated ennui among cricket followers is. Andrew Strauss obliquely referenced the lack of context with his concept of a points system, which while widely derided does at least draw attention to the fundamental problem.

Ironically, cricket had its solution to this in the past, by making the ODIs part of the build up to what most still consider the main event. The last but one England tour of New Zealand comprised three T20s, then three ODIs, then three Tests. The sense of a build up towards a sporting climax was inescapable, and provided that much needed balance and importance. The same applied to the 2005 Ashes series, where there was certainly no shortage of white ball cricket scheduled, but it felt like part of a wider whole, and by the time the first Test came around, anticipation was at fever pitch.

The problem with this Australian tour is that winning or losing is instantly forgettable for both sets of fans and success or failure doesn’t matter – except to make Malcolm Conn look an idiot, and he doesn’t usually need help with that.

The more dramatic cricket news has still happened in the Test arena, firstly with Afghanistan’s debut, and secondly with the ball tampering allegations concerning the Sri Lankan team in the West Indies. In the former heavy defeat inside two days matters little in the wider sense of welcoming a new team to the Test game, and if the cricket boards show little inclination to support expansion, the same can’t be said of the Indian team. They conducted themselves in an exemplary manner, showing every indication of being fully aware what an extraordinary achievement it was for Afghanistan to have reached this point. They deserve credit for recognising it in such a classy manner.

In contrast, the refusal of the Sri Lankan team to take the field after being accused of changing the condition of the ball offered up plenty of reminders of Pakistan’s similar action at the Oval in the forfeited Test. The problem here is the failure to support the umpires in their decision-making. Already whispers of legal action have begun, which is precisely why umpires are so reluctant to take action in the first place. Whether they are ultimately right or wrong is beside the point, if officials aren’t allowed to make decisions and receive support, then they won’t make them. Darrell Hair’s ostracism and belittling remains a stain on the game whatever his character flaws. The umpire’s decision is not final, and it should be.

England’s next match takes place on Tuesday, the day after their football counterparts open their World Cup campaign. Whatever the result, it is undoubtedly the case that the football will be all that receives extensive coverage. Of course, a World Cup is truly special, but it’s also on free to air television, making it a community event. The audience figures for the Spain-Portugal match are simply astonishing, reaching a peak of over 10 million across TV and online. Cricket may not be able to match that kind of reach, but it highlights for the umpteenth time the absurdity of claiming that free to air doesn’t matter.

Peter Della Penna tweeted that the BBC had made an offer to Sky to broadcast the Scotland-Pakistan T20 on the red button which was declined, as Sky didn’t want it distracting from the England Women’s ODI they were showing. To begin with, the realisation that the Scotland matches were under the umbrella of the ECB contract came as a surprise – in return for England playing them, it had been outsourced. As a result, Scotland’s match wasn’t shown anywhere in the UK when it could have been. Yet it makes explicit the position that a low key international not involving England could be more popular with the viewers, even when online or interactive TV, than a pay TV one that does. The very importance of that can’t be overstated, given it is exactly what is repeatedly denied by those who propound the pay TV model.

Assuming no more shenanigans, there will be Test cricket on later. But let’s be honest, we’re going to be watching the World Cup.

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31 thoughts on “Wallcharts at the Ready

  1. Sri.grins Jun 17, 2018 / 10:55 am

    I would assume that an Oz odi fan and the team so far have more positives to take from the tour than England odi fans (if they exist 😁) and the English team . All three best bowlers and two best batsmen not available for Oz yet they have run England close so far.

    I don’t know if it is an indication of lack of motivation for England or if England have a mental block against Oz leading to better results for Oz.

    We will know when the India odis are played what the reason for a relatively lackluster performance from England so far. I hope and also expect that England can lose some matches against India who will be at full strength.

    Like

  2. sillypointcricket Jun 17, 2018 / 11:04 am

    England are also missing two first XI players (Stokes and Woakes) and were missing their captain in the second ODI. They also opt not to employ Anderson and Broad in ODIs which is comparable to Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins missing for Oz. The aforementioned players’ injuries even out the absence of Warner and Smith, so it’s not exactly second choice Oz taking on England but two teams each with half a dozen players absent for whatever reason.

    Like

    • Sri.Grins Jun 17, 2018 / 11:54 am

      Mitchell Starc last ODI was in Jan 2018, He has a bowling average of 20.95 and a SR of 25.4
      Pat Cummins last ODI was in Jan 2018. He has a bowling average of 28.45 and a SR of 31.6
      Hazelwood last ODI was in Jan 2018 . He has an average of 24.27 and a SR of 30.8

      Anderson’s last ODI was in 2015. He averaged 29.22 and a SR of 35.6
      Broad’s last odi was mar 2016. He averaged 30.13 with a SR of 34.3

      Talking of Anderson and Broad is a bit like indian fans saying that Ashwin and Jadeja are not playing in ODIs. They have not been playing for a while because they have been replaced by someone who fitted better in the team concerned.

      Stokes and Woakes are definitely not comparable to Warner and Smith in batting contributions to their team.

      Their bowling is just about adequate .

      Woakes averages 30.77 with a SR of 33.5
      Stokes averages 38.01 and a SR of 37.6

      The point is so far England have not really shown the gap that should logically exist between the two teams while OZ have scrapped above their weight.

      I would call it a first choice England XI taking on a second choice OZ 11.

      It does not mean that I don’t think England are very very good. They start as favorites for the WC which is probably a real turnaround from where they were 2/3 years ago
      .

      Liked by 2 people

      • sillypointcricket Jun 17, 2018 / 12:10 pm

        Some very valid points and great stats. I still wouldn’t quite consider it a first choice England XI, not when Billings is playing!

        Maybe I’m a pessimist but I don’t see England as World Cup favourites. Like at the Champions Trophy, I think they’ve always got a knockout round defeat in them… having said that: Is it straight to semi-finals after the first stage so who knows?

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Mark Jun 17, 2018 / 11:28 am

    I find the ticket prices for these ODI s very expensive. Some of the prices seem higher than the Champions Trophy prices last year. Yet, and I find it rather depressing people seem to be buying them in big numbers. The UK must be in brilliant financial shape if there is so much money floating about. The Oval was sold out, Again yesterday we were told that the game was either a sell out or close to it. (Depending on who you believe.) There certainly seemed more people there than at the CT game against NZ last year that I attended.

    There seems very few tickets left for Tuesdays game. I’m amazed people will pay to watch such weakened teams play out a pointless series. Perhaps the ECBs genius plan of restricting cricket coverage to most people is forcing them to pay high prices to watch some cricket?

    On another note does anyone know if the ECB is a tax exempt organisation? I ask this because I can no longer see the ECB as a governing, zero status tax organisation. Not when they are negotiating increasingly large corporate deals for broadcasting rights, and who’s every decision seems to be driven by commercial considerations rather than the stuffy governing body of a not for profit sport. May I recommend a piece on The full toss web site which is from a new fanzine from Lancashire county cricket members. It’s amazing to see how many commercial players from various business interests sit on the ECBs panel for its new 16.4 bonazza. Including the man who gave us Simon Cowell. How can anyone see this as anything but a corporate for profit outfit?

    Like

    • dannycricket Jun 17, 2018 / 3:29 pm

      As far as I’m aware it’s not a charity or not-for-profit, unlike Cricket Australia.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Mark Jun 17, 2018 / 3:53 pm

          Yes, what a surprise, a commercial business that claims it isn’t a business. Funny because almost everyone of its recent decisions seem to be based on exclusively commercial factors.

          16.4 or 100 balls of claptrap….. with the possibility of no LBW laws because we have to raise revenue. How can they claim they are a non profit custodian of the game of cricket? Plus hardly anyone sees any cricket thanks to their commercial broadcasting deals.

          Liked by 1 person

          • thelegglance Jun 17, 2018 / 4:27 pm

            I think you’re reading too much into that Mark. It’s a pretty standard approach for sporting bodies in this country, because the limited liability aspect is important on the one hand, and on the other it has to have legal status in order to enter into contracts.

            Of all the things wrong with the ECB, I can’t see this as being one.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Mark Jun 17, 2018 / 6:15 pm

            I just find they increasingly behave in a completely corporate way, with a decision making process that is all about maximising revenue. They may not answer to shareholders, but they pay themselves enormous salaries and hide behind a claim to be the protector and custodian of the game they claim to love.

            It may be very legal, and quite normal, but I question if these sporting bodies are not now business models. I certainly don’t trust the ECB as custodians of cricket.

            Liked by 1 person

      • Mark Jun 17, 2018 / 3:35 pm

        Thanks Danny, that is interesting. Can’t see how CA can stay a non profit when it is negotiating one billion $ tv contracts, and says they can’t play test series against teams that are not financially viable. This is clearly a commercial enterprise.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. thebogfather Jun 17, 2018 / 11:44 am

    Hey! Don’t forget the Gillette/NatWest/WhoeverECBhavefleecedthisyear semifinals… today it’s the Aplomb’s Artisans v PearShapedPuddlers and tomorrow we have Bransgrove’s Bought Kolpaks v CostCutter’s Curmudgeons…

    Like

    • REDRUM106 Jun 17, 2018 / 8:16 pm

      To be fair I’ve been to Worcester today. The game was a great advert for domestic 50 over cricket helped for me by the absence of the wretched review system which meant that when a wicket fell everyone could live the moment and move on. The match ebbed and flowed and although the ultimate match winner was an test player from South Africa the other main protagonists were what might be termed journeyman players who have very little chance of playing for the ECB eleven Ben Cox, Ed Barnard , Brett D’Oliviera, Adam Rouse and Alex Blake were all brilliant. Just a pity that so few people not at the ground would have watched it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Riverman21 Jun 18, 2018 / 7:01 am

        I was at the ground yesterday and I agree it was an excellent match. The sort of match I used to love watching on FTA years ago. As a kid this was how we connected to the county teams. FTA gave the county pros a recognition factor.

        Regrettably I doubt many people know who Ben Cox is though he is the finest keeper in the land IMHO.

        The Kent fans were in good voice which added to the atmosphere. I’ve not seen so much Fred Perry for a long time. Good luck to them in the Final.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Miami Dad's Six Jun 18, 2018 / 9:34 am

          It’s bloody annoying that they’ve schedule the other semi final on a Monday.
          I’d have gone to the Bowl had it been on yesterday.
          It’s the same as Argyle deciding to play their matches on a Monday at 3pm, instead of a Saturday – how many fans would attend then? Do the attending fans just not matter in cricket?

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Mark Jun 17, 2018 / 4:05 pm

    Germany losing 1-0 to Mexico at half time. Probably too early to replay Barry Davies great commentary in hockey I believe………”where were the Germans, and frankly who cares?”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Mark Jun 17, 2018 / 6:19 pm

    If the Swis beat Brazil tonight I think the modern pundits may go insane. The greatest ever will be off the scale after today.

    It’s a great start to the World Cup, and I’m enjoying it but reign it in guys. You don’t need to sell it any more. Just enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Jun 17, 2018 / 8:16 pm

      The ludicrous over sell of the terrestrial broadcasters trying to sell the World Cup is cringing. They sound almost desperate.

      The competition has had a great start. . You don’t need to egg the pudding anymore. Calm down. You will have nothing left for the semi finals.

      Broadcasters need to remember to cover the event, not think they ARE the event.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. d'Arthez Jun 18, 2018 / 9:29 am

    This is apparently the most excellent of series. Australia are currently ranked #6 in ODIs. Barely ahead of Bangladesh who cannot get a game against Australia or England, even if their lives depended on it.
    The ECB stooges whine and moan that they never get a chance to acclimatise and get used to the conditions, but they are only too happy to see that same fate inflicted upon the likes of Afghanistan, and Bangladesh for the upcoming World Cup. Possibly because Giles Clarke is not satisfied and wants to turn in it into a double round robin with 8 teams?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Mark Jun 18, 2018 / 12:13 pm

    So after the shocks in the World Cup this weekend…..Germany losing, and Brazil being held to a draw could we get the biggest shock of the tournament tonight when England win their opening game?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Zephirine Jun 18, 2018 / 7:13 pm

    Talking of mansplaining, a male person today was explaining to me very carefully how in football now they have a brand new exciting thing called video assisted refereeing, so they capture it all on camera and then there’s a third referee who reviews the event on a screen somewhere else through the wonders of digital technology and….

    Difficult to know what to say, really.

    In the end I said, “In cricket we find it does slow the game down a bit.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • oreston Jun 18, 2018 / 11:32 pm

      At least in cricket the DRS umpire is present at the ground, has a name, responds to review requests directly from players and tries to make objective decisions based on empirical, technological evidence. Whereas at the FIFA World Cup the VAR operatives are a bunch of shadowy clowns in a “video operations room” several hundred miles away from the action. On tonight’ s evidence either they weren’t actually bothrering to watch the game, or else the system is so feeble and/or crooked that it provides no effective counterbalance whatsoever to an incompetent or biased (delete as appropriate…) referee. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

      (Oh, and I’m not actually a fan of DRS at all…)

      Liked by 2 people

      • Zephirine Jun 19, 2018 / 12:10 am

        I used to think DRS was a good idea, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the occasional umpire’s howler was a small price to play for an uninterrupted flow of the game – see RedRum’s comment above.

        However, as I recall it was originally introduced (at least partly) because the TV companies had Hawkeye and other gizmos anyway, so unofficial video post-mortems were already happening.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Mark Jun 19, 2018 / 8:39 am

          Yes, but it wasn’t the occasional umpires howler. There were quite a few bad decisions. Also under the new system you hear no talk of home bias of umpires anymore. (Even when there was neutral umpires there were still players not liking some umpires.) If players have a grievance about bad decisions now it is one of competence not deliberate bias.

          Football is a completely different case because there are not natural breaks in play. Unlike cricket where you have …..After each ball bowled or each over and so forth. Also in football how far back do you go? Was it a penalty? But was it a foul 30 seconds before in the mid field?

          And so much of football is interpretation of the rules. People still arguing about the penalty last night, The defender quite clearly slapped him in the face but was it accidental or was it enough contact. People arguing about interpretation even with endless replays.

          Like

  10. Sri.Grins Jun 19, 2018 / 3:05 am

    Nice test played out between SL and WI.

    For all the lament about WI cricket’s decline, they do seem to be improving. /their bowling is now a reasonable threat in tests and their batsmen are learning to play tests better in terms of showing patience..

    Good for cricket.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Jun 19, 2018 / 8:21 am

      Really Sri?

      A “nice” test match that involved allegations of ball tampering. One side that would not take the field for over 2 hours, which in the end prevented any result.

      Oh and hardly anyone in the ground watching. Pretty much sums up where test cricket is going.

      Like

      • d'Arthez Jun 19, 2018 / 10:29 am

        The Test itself was decent. Gabriel returned the best bowling analysis in a draw for WI (it would have been the best bowling analysis in a loss, if WI had lost – curiously enough the match referee, Srinath, still has that record), fourth best over all (3 English efforts were better). It is not everyday that you see someone breathe fire and brimstone and return 13/121. From West Indies, it was almost a one man show; he received little support from Roach. Bishoo and Cummins both went wicketless in the Test, and series returns of 3/175 flatter Cummins (taking out 3 wickets of Herath and 2 other bowlers in the first innings of the first Test does not make a good bowler).
        Lahiru Kumara bowled quite nicely as well for Sri Lanka. Kumara is still young, and if he can improve some more, they can enjoy his services for another decade. And the Sri Lankan batting improved markedly from the horror show of the first Test. Still have no idea why Kusal Perera is being picked again. But I don’t think Sri Lankan selectorial policies make sense to anyone, anymore.
        However the shenanigans from Sri Lanka did not help. Even after the umpire’s made a decision, it took an hour before play actually resumed. What happened to the umpire’s decision is final? I mean, would Sri Lanka be okay that the opposition walked off the field whenever the umpires make a wrong decision in their favour? Somehow I doubt that. They also should have realized, that after Cape Town (2018) and the Oval 2006, umpires are very hesitant to make such calls, unless they have video evidence to back them up there.
        I do feel though that the refusal to play bothered West Indies more than it did Sri Lanka. At that point they were ahead in the Test (123/2, after Sri Lanka had posted 253), and with the weather forecast being iffy, they may well have felt that this robbed them of valuable time on Day 3. Luckily for them, it did not end up costing the game for them.
        Will be very interesting what the ICC do here. As far as I know, no overrate charges have been laid, nor a charge of bringing the game in disrepute. Both of those charges have merit (even if it is from the spectator’s point of view). The audience certainly did not come to see a team refuse to play for 2 hours. And the broadcasters did not sign up for such idiotic disruptions either.
        Also it is a bit unreasonable to expect 8% of the entire population of St. Lucia to show up for a Test.
        I’d struggle to think of a place in England, where a cricket stadium needs 10% of the local population to fill itself (Lord’s fills at what? 0.12 % of the population of London?). And obviously travelling from Nottingham to Leeds is a bit easier than it is from say Jamaica to St. Lucia. And that is just the logistics.
        Obviously, a winning team will attract more interest from the population. And of the last 14 series (by opposition, of the Big 8, so excluding Bangladesh and Zimbabwe), West Indies drew 2 series at home (against England and Sri Lanka), and lost the rest. West Indies are obviously not the winningest of teams. The last time they won an away tour to one of the Big 8 was in 1995!
        Also the series is being played in the off season. It is a bit like asking why is there no one interested in going to Lord’s in the middle of February. Yet another consequence of the proliferation of T20 leagues, and desperate attempts from boards to get some cash in, to retain their leading players.

        Like

        • Mark Jun 19, 2018 / 11:30 am

          I’m glad you make the point that……

          “ I do feel though that the refusal to play bothered West Indies more than it did Sri Lanka. At that point they were ahead in the Test.”

          I completely agree. Next time a team is losing all they have to do is walk off for a few hours and change the dynamic of the game.

          I just find it sad to see so few supporters in the West Indies attending test cricket. I’m not expecting the ground to be full, far from it, , but there was hardly anyone there. Never mind 8% of the island population. You were struggling to get 80.

          Like

      • Sri.grins Jun 19, 2018 / 10:47 am

        Important to differentiste between drama and good test cricket, mark. This test unfortunately had drama but also good cricket that fans of test cricket logically should be delighted with.

        A) chandimal got sl through to 253 with a century. Otherwise, it was a nightmare start for sl who finally almost won
        B) WI were very comfortable at 120+/2 and looked like having a big lead but ended up being bowled out for a marginal lead
        C) sl again struggled losing early wickets at 48/4 and them recovered through chandimal, mendis and a counter by dickwella
        D) wi were struggling at 55/3 with Shai hurt. He along with kragg kept wi in the game till tea. Hope got out and then the rains came leaving sl probably ruin their unnecessary histrionics
        E) sl had two pace bowlers who bowled their hearts out and Gabriel at last seemed to be fulfilling his promise

        What more do you want?

        If England and one of Australia or New Zealand or south Africa or India has been part of such a test we would have had test cricket fans by the droves posting about how it was an advertisement for the unique traits that make up only test cricket and showing why it is the best and to be played over five days

        Unfortunately sl and wi don’t seem to attract the same kind of positive notice despite WI showing signs of finally putting together a team that can challenge ‘better’ teams.

        Like

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