Any of you wondering whatever happened to Comical Ali, the faintly ludicrous former Iraqi press officer, the butt of many jokes. He may have been such a character, but he was just doing his job. After all, if he hadn’t said what he had, old Uncle Saddam may not have been too chuffed. And when Uncle Saddam got cheesed off, well, it was off with your cheese. Or something like that.
I wonder who is the man standing behind the set at Sky Debate HQ after the performance of the man we like to call Chuckles – Paul Farbrace. If you had just watched the “Debate” on Sky, one could be forgiven for thinking that losing on the three occasions (out of four) England have chased was nothing to worry our pretty little heads about. Sky’s Debate became more like a North Korean broadcast, with Willis there to be the state agent provocateur. Do not worry, England will be fine, win four games and be world champions. They’ve not become a bad team overnight. Don’t worry.
Well, that’s if you worry about that sort of thing. Past performances of useful idiots like Chuckles, and the Uncle Saddams at the ECB have taken away many of those stomach churning, teeth grinding fear moments from my emotional lexicon. I watched the scores on ESPN Cricinfo, and later caught the “bitesize highlights” and can only say to you good folk, “what did you expect?” My Kiwi colleague in the office keeps winding me up, and wonders why I don’t react as if this is a knife to my gut. I don’t have it my heart to get disappointed any more. How can you be disappointed when an opening bat keeps getting picked, despite keeping on failing, because he has loud supporters in the media and occasionally plays a lovely cover drive. You don’t pick players like that and be disappointed.
Dmitri has been in Paris, and returned last night speaking in the third person and referencing a DJ. I might as well have been in Paris given the visibility of this fixture. It speaks volumes that the organising authorities, absent of making this the opening match of the tournament, sat down at their Ipad, because the mumz and kidz love em, and thought “let’s put England’s biggest match on a Tuesday, right in the middle of the competition”. What a top idea. No, we’ll make sure India have their big three games – Pakistan, Australia and England – at weekends, but make sure this game, the one I think means most to both teams in midweek. You could laugh, if you wanted, but this sport is run by clowns, no matter how much supporting Twitter feeds love to trust these same bodies to run a major competition without alienating fans. I sometimes wonder if the ICC and ECB actually want to alienate everyone outside of India. Mumz and Kidz don’t really need to be “engaged” until next year.
So, England lose and now we work out if we can get by winning one of the last two matches. Chuckles is having none of it “England will be thinking they can win both games” in as stunning an insight as I’ve ever come across in a sporting pundit space. Well, I’d hoped that the world number 1 team would expect to win home fixtures, and I would hope that the world number 1 team wouldn’t be totally bottling it. I would also hope that the world number 1 team, in case you’d forgotten that Chuckles had mentioned it, might have more than the brains of rocks they’ve displayed every time they have been remotely under pressure, and I hope the world’s number 1 team have finally flaming well realised that James Vince is not your man.
But let the real post mortem wait. If we don’t make it, let the real blood-letting begin. Because we need to get behind the lads, who will need to do the basics better, and do an impersonation of Australia, who, by and large, don’t bottle it when they mouth off and walk like they own the place.
Watching Chuckles call all the players world class that he did, and advocating that we should pick Jason Roy if he could walk (more Willis than Chuckles to be fair), seemed funny. But it isn’t funny. England are not playing on roads, are not playing one-off series where teams shuffle the packs, and are now finding out that this is very, very tough.
Tomorrow’s game is between New Zealand v Pakistan. England fans will be cheering on New Zealand with some gusto. They can clinch their semi-final spot by winning, and in doing so will draw Pakistan further away from a semi-final spot. A Pakistan win and the heat will well and truly be on.
Propaganda once sang “sorry for laughing, there’s too much happening”. I am stuffed at work on the run up to my break in a couple of weeks time, Chris is busy with work, and Sean is stuffed too. Danny’s head has exploded over the Hundred. I ventured into a debate on Twitter and instantly regretted it. The World Cup has livened up as England have been found out a little, and for that we owe our team a great debt. Watching the media and the England diehards in the next week or so is probably going to be more entertaining than the cricket. And the ECB will be in church all week to pray for divine assistance. Next up for England is India at the weekend, in Birmingham. I venture that the majority of fans won’t be cheering on England. As Propaganda also sung, the first cut didn’t hurt at all (Pakistan, only a blip), the second only made us wonder (Hmm, two bad days, maybe a bit of a headscratcher), and today, the third has had us on our knees (we might be doomed). England are bleeding, and there are plenty starting screaming.
Comments on New Zealand v Pakistan, being played at Edgbaston, below.