Walking to work this morning, and the same old thoughts came through my head. I’ve not written a piece for Being Outside Cricket since the farcical reaction to the 2nd Test of the Pakistan series. More importantly, I’ve been wondering what I could write. So the thought rumbled on as a site I obviously care deeply about, and a collection of writers and commenters, or as they are known to me “friends” (well, nearly all of you), falls further from the top of my things to do, what can I do? What can I write?
Chris is doing the business on the shenanigans surrounding the 100 competition. It beggars belief that anyone, and I mean anyone, can endorse the way this consultancy exercise is being conducted. The starkest of all, and probably most stupidly, is the “it’s not aimed at you” mantra which is just amazing. You have a load of people who want to help, who want cricket to grow, and yes are ultra protective of the long form because that’s what they see as the pinnacle. Many a first class cricket fan can also see the attraction of the T20 stuff, just as we did 40, 45, 50, 55 and 60 over stuff. A lot don’t, but instead of insulting them, or dismissing them, the ECB is an equal opportunities idiot and slags them all off. Without demeaning anyone, or any age, mobile phone companies push off smart phones and every new bell and whistle each year for the customers who they want to attract, but those older, or less tech inspired folk, who just want a simple mobile with no real complexities are still catered for. Companies see them as important customers. They provide steady income. They provide regular business. The do not leave, the churn rate is low. They cost next to nothing to keep on their books. It’s not their big business, it’s not the big winning, but it’s steady. That way when disaster releases come the company’s way, they have something to fall back on. They don’t go out of their way to anger long-term customers just to attract the new. The ECB might understand that if they weren’t too busy being the smartest guys in the room.
I’ve not a lot more to add to Chris’s pieces – he’s a bit kind about the we’ve all been too busy and the World Cup has been on as an excuse. For me it’s a total lack of inspiration. I’ve watched Selvey doing his Walter Raleigh act for the ECB and it continues to depress me (oh and how I laughed at him moaning about what happened to his Open golf reporting a week or so ago), but it doesn’t surprise me. In fact the one thing that ceases to happen now is anything that surprises me, both in the reporting and the administration of the game. The sides are entrenched, the game has yet another schism, and the whole think makes me sad. As I have said frequently on Twitter, I really have no anger left to give. And as you people know on here, and in the words of Public Image Limited, anger is an energy.
As I walked to work the Public Enemy track “Harder Than You Think” came on the Ipod shuffle (the old Ipod 164gb is a magnificent piece of tech, but that idiot company doesn’t make them any more. Hence I don’t buy their stuff – alienating customers). This was the soundtrack to the Channel 4 Paralympics coverage in 2012 (I was abroad when they went on). It’s Chuck D in brilliant form, railing against the superficiality of the modern rap scene, talking about bitches, snitches and drugs, as against the pioneers who had messages. It goes on about how Chuck delivers his message, how it is relevant today, and how it is hard to have to keep on keeping on. Chuck is one of the great rap artists ever, and so nothing in common with me, but after 4 years of constant anger, constant delivering of messages on here, it sort of spoke to me a little. This blog loves test cricket – the hits prove it – barely tolerates ODIs unless they have meaning via a competition – again the hits prove it – and doesn’t have T20 on its radar because no-one gives a stuff. We recognise that we can’t compete on county cricket, so we don’t. Delivering our messages has been wearing on the soul, corrosive on the mind, destructive on the health. It is good to care, it is not good to care too much. It is harder than you think.
You know my posts are more personal, more also about the conduct and business of blogging than others. That’s good. We have a diversity of output, certainly in terms of style, that resonates. I was thinking about how my love of cricket, the real passion behind me has evolved, and possibly revolved in the past ten or fifteen years. Going back to my first Ashes tour in 2002, getting to see Brisbane and Adelaide with some stops in between, cemented the love of test cricket. I was watching a world legend team play an England team scrabbling to get to the summit. In almost a diametrically opposite trend, that England team started badly, but improved, so that by the end we’d scared them a little in the 4th Test and won the 5th. There was no quit, they were driven on. Then there was England improving under Vaughan, winning in 2005, proving their fallibility in Pakistan straight after and then going on my second Ashes tour in 2006 when I saw the Adelaide and Perth tests.
But in between those Ashes series it was the chance to go to Newlands, it was the chance to go to the Wanderers, it was also the chance to walk on Kensington Oval’s square, that brought my love for the game even further up – talking cricket to friends and locals. Yes it was also great to watch the England batting line-up when it fired, the England bowling as well, but the game had great global competitiveness at a time now when we are seeing teams collapse on tours. I would stay up to watch test matches, and hang on their outcomes. I would look forward to my days at the Oval Test, hope I might get into the odd Lord’s test too, and I was a county member at Surrey. While personal circumstances changed drastically in 2005 and 2006, and then again on a more positive note in 2008, cricket remained a passion. Test cricket felt better, in my view was better, and although T20 was around, it was seen as it’s more lively cousin, rather than a predator about to swallow the game whole.
I still loved the game through the England team of 2009-2013, which had a great batting style about them, and a bowling unit that was effective and delivered what was needed. I didn’t feel as down about 2013 as many others did – we won the key moments in tests, the weather saved us in one, the other was boo-hoo as if a day being rained out was our fault. But the 2013-14 series was something else. And I could tell early it was something else. Here’s why. I’m an obsessive when it comes to recording cricket, and I have the whole of 2010-11 Ashes on disc. All of it. Every ball. So to the 2013 series. I didn’t even bother for that series. Not at the start. Could not be arsed. I just about managed to keep the highlights. I know, I know, the question is “why?” but I just did. I still sit down, when reading a book, or thinking what to write with the last two days of Brisbane 2010 playing, or KP’s double at Adelaide. It’s nice. When I feel a bit more involved in watching, the morning session of the Boxing Day test is nice too. I didn’t bother with 2015. For some reason I did with the last series, but have no idea why. Perhaps I can watch Cook’s double ton at Melbourne? You can insert your own punchlines.
What this piece is failing to nail down is why I don’t feel the same way. Were the signs early? Well post that series and the nonsense that followed it, I’ve been at journos and administration. I’ve been going on, and on, and on, about that. I felt it was a thing missing in the cosy, back-slapping world of cricket writing. Someone who had an anger and a passion to point out what I saw as their stupidity and ignorance. I did it in a style you see rarely in cricket and people loved it and loathed it. It was driven by a dying love, and an anger that these people were applying the morphine while stabbing me in vital organs as I declined. The ECB are utterly craven, the heads I’ve gone at in the past four and half years have all been garbage. Yet the cricket press, many of them, seem to want to laud them before they even prove they are able. Yesterday a creature by the name of Gordon Hollis crawled out to respond to the Cricketer’s survey, and spouted off the same pathetic, management speak drivel we are used to. Graves may not come from a speak your consultant machine, but he’s just the sort of despotic, do as I say or do one individual the world seems to be adept at producing this stage, confusing leadership with power. Downton should be scarred on each and every one of the individuals who thought he was a good appointment, but is he really much worse than Harrison, an Empty Suit strangely silent recently as the 100 debacle collapses around the ECB, who have their fingers in their ears and their heads up their arses – a neat anatomical trick.
And do you know what has made me angry? Ish? Jonathan Liew’s piece in the Independent on the 100. I’m not a Liew fan, but it was a good piece, written in his own, waspish, style. It grates on some, but not on others. I liked it. But wasn’t it saying what we have been saying all along? Why do the press boys pretend as if this is some new phenomenon just because a daily paper, albeit on line (doesn’t that make it a really big blog?) had a reporter write it while they seem strangely reticent to give Dobell much credit, let along pathetic 250k hit per year blogs like this sorry effort. It only matters when the press write it. A circular firing squad of self regard. No wonder I lost my marbles over the KP business.
As I got to the station this morning, and PE’s masterpiece finished, on came 1980s house anthem “Let It Roll” by Doug Lazy. Maybe I should just let it roll. Maybe blogging is just shouting into the wind, heard only by those prescient enough to keep their ears to the window, ignored by those who want peace and quiet by the fire. The 100 is not designing a horse by committee, but it is throwing ideas and hoping one might stick. People wantonly confuse the T20 launch with this one. That T20 Blast was launched tentatively, with not a lot of games, played on out grounds (Richmond Park anyone?) to see if it worked. They would have pulled the plug in a heartbeat if it hadn’t. It had done market research to see what punters wanted and published it – even Giles’s ECB did some things right – while this market research is hidden from view. It was surprised by the public who liked it. They have no idea what the public wants here. And the one question I’ve never heard answered to any degree is why won’t the same people who go to the Blast be the core audience for the 100? Because let’s not be fooled, the ECB have seen the IPL and Big Bash and figure there’s room for one more big market T20 jamboree in the calendar and they want to make money. They have the base TV deal to work from. This is all about money, and little about growing the game. In my view.
So for someone not angry, who doesn’t really care, I’ve written 2000+ hastily written words to convey some muddled thoughts. That’s where I am folks. Lost the mojo. Not quite on form. Losing the love. Feeling the lack of enthusiasm. It has been a dull white ball season for me because you can’t force me to care. The worry is that I might be forced to care about this test series coming up. Because if I’m forced to care about test cricket, I am seeing the game desecrated while my own cricketing coroner is waiting.
Thanks to Chris in particular for keeping the show on the road. It is much harder than you think.