Things Are Much Better Now, And Just The Nagging Doubts Remain

I thought I’d take a song lyric from the song that was on Now 80s as I’m sitting indoors looking after my border collie while the beloved is in the States. When I started the week, I thought this would mean a lot of time on my hands, some work I could get done, enhance the living environment and all that. Instead, it’s been knackering. Hence a post I was tasked to write last night ends up being written on this Friday afternoon.

A common theme of my blogging the past 5 and a half years has been the falling “out of love” with the England cricket team. To some extent that is still very much the case. What those 66 months have done to my views of the game in this country has opened my eyes to how I, as a fan, was treated, and when I was cheeky enough to put my thoughts from my pulpit, how I was degraded in some eyes, and treated by others. Fandom has never been blind loyalty to me. I pick my team, I stick with them. It’s why I stick with the Chicago Bulls and Miami Dolphins. It’s why I will never be anything other than a Millwall fan. I can’t not be a Surrey fan, and believe me, when I was picking them, they were rubbish. This was more Duncan Pauline, Graham Monkhouse era, rather than the Hollioake and Brown days. I was, am, also a huge national team fan, and football especially as it gives me the chance to watch a team I support at the top level. But the team I spent the most money on, nationally, was England cricket. For those new to this blog, I went on three tours, all self-planned, self-catered, self-ticketed, to Australia in 2002 and 2006 (two tests) and South Africa 2004-2005 (Cape Town and two days at Joburg). I went to the Oval test for 16 years on the bounce. I was a diehard England fan,

This context is necessary because I found after 2014 I couldn’t divorce the boots from the suits, because during that aftermath, the boots were a little bit too cosy with the suits, as were the scribes. The Hundred appears to have changed some of that thinking, with members of the media openly hostile to the ECB over this drivel, but for me it was more a matter of “about time”. When I was impertinent enough a few weeks ago to call out Andy Bull for his lack of perceived support for “my cause” I got impertinence times a hundred back. Almost as if I’d touched a nerve. I don’t set out to do so, but if the cap fitted at that time, then you needed to wear it. I’m minded to cite Public Enemy once more…

Some people accuse some people of crimes
Some people get away wit’ losin’ my rhyme
They don’t like where I’m comin’ from
So dey play dumb
Dumb diggetty dumbb diggetty dumb
But I’m tellin’ you what they do
Play a fool
While the real thief cools in a pool

A bonus of being on leave this week is that I got to watch nearly all of the semi-final yesterday. Now I confess, I wasn’t fully cheering England on at the start. Part of me thought this team were paper tigers. They had beaten up teams on the equivalent of pre-tournament friendlies, on pitches at home that resembled airport runways, and had earned a billion plaudits. But in the back of your mind was the Champions Trophy flop in 2017, when they lost their mind and nerve in the semi-final when conditions weren’t all in their favour. Those fears, doubts, scepticism were augmented by the losses to Pakistan and Sri Lanka (not so much Australia, as they were in decent nick at the time). I then had a number of doubts about the, shall we say, veracity of the contest between England and India. The resounding win against New Zealand, where a good start threatened to be undone by a middle order wobble, was overcome and England qualified. I think England need to earn support again, and I freely admit it is personal and many other views are available, and so yesterday gave them a chance to put things partly right in my eyes.

And they did.

They did it by playing brilliantly. By playing with amazing confidence. The bowling of Archer, Woakes and Rashid won that match, make no mistake. The opening bowling was top notch, and got the big hundred threats of Warner and Finch out early. This almost immediately stopped a potential score of 300. Then the temptation and then skill of Rashid ending the partnership of Carey, seeing off Stoinis, and then Maxwell, made the potential total smaller and smaller. England keeping Aussie to 223 was the game over in all but name. The name being “mental”. There wasn’t anything that horrific in the wicket. The bowling attack was Starc plus some others, really. What did not need to happen was for England to limp to victory. They had to play the way that they had the previous few years. Enter Jason Roy. The man who won the previous ICC semi-final England had succeeded in when he scored vital runs to break the back of a total. A couple of extra cover drives off Starc calmed the nerves. One, he wasn’t going to back down, and two, that was their champion he was belting. Stuff you.

When it was all over, and England basked in the glory of their success, I was exhausted from live blogging the match. As the innings goes on, if you read my “at the time” thoughts, you’ll see the belief flowing through me. My brother texted me at 120 for 0 or such like saying “when will the wheels fall off”. I replied “they won’t. They’ve packed it in”. Mentally that Steve Smith wicket, attempting to buy a wicket, being smashed for 20-odd was England saying “don’t bring that nonsense to me, it’s not bloody worthy”. Where many of us would sit there and say “don’t fall for it, Jason” I thought, “No, smack it miles”. And yes, I know, I had a go at Roy for getting out against Bangladesh when he had a double hundred for the taking, but that was different. That was silly, this was sending a message. I loved it. And in a way, I felt a little re-connection again.

Some may say it is me jumping on the glory bandwagon after tough times. I really don’t give a stuff if you do. This is the ODI team, and separate from the test line up which still needs some re-connection, and may never get there. This team has something else, and yesterday was it in clear focused reality. England may still lose to New Zealand on Sunday, and the doubts and comments will return, but that was great yesterday and it was a privilege to watch it.

Barney Ronay, a journo I’m not going to start up a fan club for, wrote a fascinating piece last week asking the question that if England do win the World Cup, do we, as a nation, deserve it? Will all it end up doing is reinforcing the ECB’s decision making “prowess” and allow them to continue to ride roughshod over the county game and continue treating the fans lamentably. Will it justify them hiding the game behind a paywall as the game becomes increasingly invisible, safe in the knowledge they have won the World Cup (or got to the Final) with the current structure? Will they get even more big-headed? Will this be the justification? We, I think, know the answer. A resounding yes. Two years ago England’s women won the World Cup. In the last two weeks they’ve been defeated 3-0 in the 50 over series, the last a beating so severe, it set records. Laurels are never to be rested on. Success is short-lived if the basics aren’t right. That England’s wobble came when Roy wasn’t there, or failed, speaks volumes that the depth may not be there. Players may be knocking on the door, but once through the portal, lose their nerve. Be careful, ECB.

All eyes on Lord’s for Sunday. I’m not a tennis fan, and the Grand Prix season is a bit of a procession this year. The game is on Channel 4, and More 4, and it’s time to turn on to watch that to prove there is a market out there. I care about this game, and I care about this sport. Cricket is part of my life. I want it to succeed. Sunday is the true legacy. I hope people care enough to watch, or the game is not that invisible.

One of my jobs is to take Teddy for an evening walk over the fields. There used to be a park cricket pitch on those fields. The sort you never really wanted to play on as a player, but in London, you played on to, well, play a game. No-one has played cricket on that field for many years. As I walk over there now, the football pitches and goals are permanently installed. Teams are doing their summer training for the long recreational game season. Those pitches aren’t used as much as they used to be. The fields in summer were used for golf practice a couple of decades ago. Like cricket, golf has shut itself off, and has participation issues in the UK. I reckon they’ll be chipping and putting there before anyone will use those fields for cricket practice. The game is invisible. The match on Sunday has a chance to get some of that back, before international cricket (some T20s excluded) disappears again. That’s the truth.

We will live blog the final, and have a lot more to say in the run-up, I hope. Hope you enjoyed the live blog yesterday, as it got more self-indulgent. Beating the old enemy in a big game does that to me, and English cricket should be relieved that for people like me, it still can. Despite everything.

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22 thoughts on “Things Are Much Better Now, And Just The Nagging Doubts Remain

    • Riverman21 Jul 12, 2019 / 3:30 pm

      FWIW. Glory hunters and bandwagon jumpers dont spend hours and hours blogging their passion and thoughts on what they see is right and calling what is wrong.

      Every opinion piece here whether I agree or disagree is a fantastic read.

      Here’s our chance. On FTA. Let’s hope they jump the final hurdle.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Metatone Jul 12, 2019 / 4:48 pm

      Excellent piece. I was newly back in the country in 2004 so I missed some of the best years of C4 input into the game, but they definitely made a big difference (along with S+V) and even now, Mambo No 5 makes me think of the 2005 Ashes and the hairs on the back of my neck start to rise.

      (I’d love it if C4 resurrected that theme tune as an extra little dig at the ECB.)

      Great point as well that Sky (& the Murdoch empire generally, as it was for many years) have been massively remiss (and the ECB negligent in not making it contractual) in promoting the game. Cricket didn’t even get the kind of promotion in The Sun that football got in the winter…

      Liked by 2 people

    • nonoxcol Jul 12, 2019 / 4:57 pm

      I liked this comment without even reading the link.

      I will read it of course. It’s just genrwat to hear from such a strong advocate o Channel 4.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Benny Jul 12, 2019 / 7:09 pm

    So much of that echoes with me Dmitri, including many Fridays at the Oval until it became too difficult to get a ticket. I watched most of the semi and was cheering England on. Memories of 2005 surfacing – Duncan Fletcher producing a hostile bowling attack, KP laying into the Aussie bowlers.

    I confess that I had the same thought as Warne. If these two openers are so fearless against Starc and all, it could be interesting, if they did it in Tests. After all, we’ve known for years that we are in desperate need of a couple of openers. It could open up my big wish that Foakes would get the keeper job again. Feels pretty fanciful but you never know

    Like

    • Marek Jul 12, 2019 / 7:57 pm

      The really big selection call that Smith needs to make, for me, is moving Bairstow into the top four and recalling Foakes. This whole idea of trying to find three top three players when there isn’t even one that anyone can say with any certainty is Test quality seems totally ridiculous (let’s not forget that Burns averages all of 25 in his first six Tests and might not last the Ashes).

      If they’re lucky, Burns-Roy-Sibley might work….but if it doesn’t (or if one of them breaks a finger in the Ireland game), I couldn’t even begin to think who the replacement would be. Duckett? Denly? Al Davies? Zak Crawley? Alastair Cook?–only joking! Wouldn’t want to be going into the Ashes with any of those…

      …and all the while we have a batsmen of huge but unfulfilled potential still batting at seven because he wants to keep wicket, and a much better keeper (and better batsman than most of the ones they’ve tried in the last few years) playing in the championship. I don’t know what’s going off out there….!

      Like

  2. nonoxcol Jul 12, 2019 / 7:55 pm

    Tom Harrison on Channel 4 News this evening.

    Started “well look” with every question, and in first 30 seconds mentioned Sky and “partners” three times, made them sound like exemplars of benevolence for sharing with C4, talked about global rights,
    said “engagement” with World Cup was great then when challenged about FTA took first opportunity to bang on about the Hundred. Challenged on comparison with 2005 talked about (guess what) digital clips being freely available.

    I could have written this without watching, couldn’t I?

    Like

    • Mark Jul 12, 2019 / 8:30 pm

      For the love of God why can’t he just talk like a normal person who loves or at least likes cricket? He sounds like a cross between David Brent and a Dalek.

      This corporate speak just sounds f***ing weird outside of boardroom presentations.

      The question I would have asked him is ….

      Should the ECB, the governing body of English cricket, in their own home World Cup be deciding if the final should be free to air or should a TV broadcaster be making that call?

      Doesn’t sound like a partnership to me.

      Like

      • LordCanisLupus Jul 12, 2019 / 8:54 pm

        It’s the old “we’ve sold all the tickets” canard as a measure of his so beloved “engagement”. Meanwhile, the game disappears from view, and only Sunday appears to be able to save it. There hasn’t been a lot of “water-cooler” talk in my office about it, I can tell you, and they know how much I love the game.

        I’m in despair with this muppet. He’s making Downton look competent. At least my old mate’s team turned over Surrey this week. Harrison would be too busy trying to make it a ten-a-side game or something, and flogging clips to the local newspaper. And trousering a massive pay increase.

        I await the victory lap with a sense of horror. He’s already started now the “strategy” has proved to work.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Mark Jul 12, 2019 / 11:02 pm

          It’s going to be very interesting to see what the make up of the crowd will be on Sunday. A shed load of tickets were sold to corporates by the ICC. There are reports of tickets on the black market selling for tens of thousands. I just hope there aren’t banks of empty seats.

          If the ICC/ECB can’t orgainise a final ticket arrangement where every ticket is sold to someone who actually turns up then frankly they should give up and abolish themselves.

          As to Harrison, he is deferring to Sky. They call the shots on this it seems. . So why is he paid £700,000 a year? They only negotiate the contract once every five years.

          Like

  3. Zephirine Jul 12, 2019 / 9:05 pm

    Well this is quite nice, isn’t it?

    It is very poetic that we’re meeting NZ in the final, because arguably the present England one-day ethos can be traced back to that NZ tour when Morgan saw what McCullum was doing and liked it.

    The FTA broadcast is the first open admission of how terribly wrong the ECB were to drop out of the ‘crown jewels’ system. Watch now as they slink gradually back, perhaps slipping the final Ashes Test discreetly onto More4….

    Like

    • LordCanisLupus Jul 12, 2019 / 9:11 pm

      Z,

      No way, and I mean no way, with the money their beloved partners are shelling out, will they let the finale of an Ashes series loose on FTA for the masses to consume.

      I’ll eat a ton of humble pie if I am wrong.

      Hey! Wasn’t it Strauss and Harrison who changed the tone? Surely not that Morgan fellow.

      Like

  4. metatone Jul 13, 2019 / 5:38 am

    Responding to a LCL comment above… one of the oddest things about this sporting experience has been the total lack of casual conversation. There is more “watercooler” talk about the Tour de France than the cricket. I’ve really enjoyed the tournament, but basically the main chat is on the blogs… even on social media it’s people I know from the blogs who are chatting about it generally.

    The thought occurs as well that Sunday will inspire some kids if England play well… but not sure where the passion goes from there… The Hundred would at least have made some sense in that way (FTA!) if it were happening this summer… but no…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rooto Jul 13, 2019 / 7:20 am

      Good point. It’ll take all the myriad skills of the ECB’s marketing department to stretch any lingering excitement until next July.
      No, I’m not expecting that to happen either.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Riverman21 Jul 13, 2019 / 7:34 am

      The Tour is a good benchmark for me. I love cricket (obviously) but I also really enjoy the Tour. It’s on live every day with highlights at 7 on ITV4. So easy to follow the narrative. Someone was putting the point to me the other day that people could get Sky pass and highlights were on later on C4.
      To me that misses the key point it’s not easy for the casual watcher or children (new target audience) to drop in.

      What effect will the final have? A little I hope in increasing the profile of what let’s face it is now a smaller part of the British sporting calendar than it was up to 2005.

      However, as in 2005 there’s no clear way of continuing engagement. Just imagine if we went into a 50 over domestic tournament off the back of this (even a KO cup) that the non Test players from the tournament could play in.

      Never ever build on these moments and that is the most damning indictment.

      A win will have them grabbing the narrative. This is down to ECB planning and Strauss.

      No. As always it’s down to the players giving the fans somethimg to cheer in a meaningful competition (note to 100 organisers)

      Liked by 2 people

      • Riverman21 Jul 13, 2019 / 8:11 am

        Apologies for using the word “engagement”. So easy when surrounded by corporate speak. I’ll try and execute my skills better next time.

        Liked by 1 person

      • LordCanisLupus Jul 13, 2019 / 9:49 am

        Simple Simon on cue…

        Like

        • riverman21 Jul 13, 2019 / 10:08 am

          Our Pravda correspondent in fine form there. One of his best!

          Liked by 1 person

        • Mark Jul 13, 2019 / 10:32 am

          Shits like Hughes are going to do everything they can to spoil tomorrow aren’t they?

          “It was Strauss who laid the groundwork for England to become the best one-day side in the world.”

          That is A big fat lie. Morgan’s was appointed as captain in 2014 and Strauss took his job at the ECB in 2015.

          The home series against NZ in 2015 saw the changes that Morgan wanted in the style of no fear attacking cricket. It even prompted the then England Test captain to talk about playing a more attacking test style,

          Strauss had no time to implement anything. He had only been in the job for very short time.

          Simon Hughes demonstrates once again his brown nosing of the English cricket establishment and why his shitty magazine is only worth using to wipe your arse on.

          Every time you want to like this England team, a group of courtiers, freeloaders, and ECB lackeys (many who claimed Morgan should never have taken over from their hero, St Cook) do everything they can to make you dislike this team.

          Simon Hughes is an ECB/Strauss/Cook fan boy who writes drivel, and in this case outright rewriting of history. Let us go to Andrew Strauss Wikipedia page to understand the true nature of the relationship between the media and Strauss…..where it says this…..

          “At the end of his retirement press conference he received an unprecedented round of applause from the assembled media.”

          That’s all you need to know about the media and Strauss.

          Liked by 1 person

        • nonoxcol Jul 13, 2019 / 11:14 am

          Just like the 2015 Ashes. Bloody Downton got credit then (Cook as well, though at least *he* was still on the field).

          The link between Hughes, Downton and Strauss is on the tip of my tongue.

          Like

  5. nonoxcol Jul 13, 2019 / 7:50 am

    I know I’ve done this already, but it’s starting to piss me off.

    George Dobell tweeted details of how the FTA coverage will work. No slant at all, just facts. Almost every reply is hideously cynical and ungrateful.

    It’s the voice of a country that phoned the police when KFC ran out of chicken. The voice of a country that wants simple answers to complex problems. Spoilt and incapable of appreciating something less than perfect, even if they have to pay for “perfection”. “Unless you pander 100% to ME I don’t want what you’re offering”, basically.

    And I can’t help comparing this to Nicholas’s lovely and fair-minded tribute to C4 (above). Clearly it isn’t just financial realities that have changed since 2005, it’s us as people.

    Not at all sure we even deserve Sky’s wondrous benevolence on this evidence.

    One last thing: after reading Nicholas’s blog yesterday I went down a 20-minute rabbit hole of highlights from 2005 on YouTube. All the obvious ones, indelibly associated with certain commentary. You will find that all of the official ECB content uses Sky coverage even when it was FTA and nobody I know watched Sky in preference. You have to put some effort and guesswork in to find moments that convey how it actually felt. That’s the sinister aspect of this “partnership”: they don’t just want your money, they want to re-write your history for you. And I look at the replies to Dobell’s tweet and wonder if this is actually working, as inconceivable as that should be. I, like Nicholas, don’t regard C4 as perfect. But I can’t believe I have to defend its coverage against cynicism on this level.

    Ironically I might emerge from this weekend even more pessimistic about the “partnership” than before.

    Liked by 2 people

    • LordCanisLupus Jul 13, 2019 / 9:22 am

      One thing to surprise me. Twice on Sky Sports News I’ve heard them say you can watch the final on the Cricket Channel, sky one and Channel 4. Surprised .

      Like

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