The rain, the slow over rates, and a chief executive’s pitch combined to turn the first Test of the English summer into something of a damp squib. By the end of play, it honestly felt more like a bowling practice session for New Zealand than a full-blooded international.
The morning began as the previous day had finished, with England bowling well and New Zealand hanging in there. The tourists weren’t able to muster quite as much resistance as they had managed in the first innings, with Wagner, Taylor and Nicholls all falling relatively cheaply. This achievement might be mitigated somewhat by the fact that New Zealand were attempting to set a target for England to chase, but all four England bowlers performed very well throughout the second innings.
With the game meandering towards a draw, Kane Williamson briefly livened things up with a declaration at Lunch which left England needing 273 runs from 75 overs (A required rate of 3.64 runs per over, assuming all of the overs were bowled). Unfortunately for everyone watching, neither team seemed to be fully committed to chasing the win. England’s batters accumulated slowly and methodically whilst New Zealand chose not to bring any extra fielders in close, both sides acting like there was a full day to play tomorrow. England had none of their IPL stars who might have been able to provide a Rishabh Pant-like innings, and so the game fizzled out in the final two sessions.
Given the lack of a thrilling climax to the game, I find myself looking to the next Test at Edgbaston and specifically Ollie Robinson’s likely ban/dropping. I strongly believe he should play, and that he should face absolutely no disciplinary measures from the ECB. The first, most obvious reason why he shouldn’t be dropped is that he has played incredibly well in this Test. The best English bowler, and perhaps the third or fourth-best English batter in the whole game. Had he performed as well with the bat and ball as Anderson or Broad did, for example, England would probably have lost this game. There is clearly no justification for him not to play the next match in terms of his performance.
Which brings us to the matter of Ollie Robinson’s tweets. The first thing I would say is that it would be disingenuous to say that they could be used to prove that he genuinely held these views. They seem, at least to me, like clumsy attempts at shock humour; the use of taboo topics to elicit laughter. Jimmy Carr has made a very successful career for himself, mostly on UK national television, covering many of the same subjects. The simple fact is that this brand of humour only elicits laughter if your audience doesn’t believe you actually think that way, because otherwise it turns from a joke into a serious point. The core issue with shock humour, as has been highlighted here (and why I don’t personally do it), is the potential to offend and hurt someone. A few of you might feel inclined to say something about ‘snowflakes’ or being overly sensitive, but I personally consider going out of your way to insult people who have done nothing to deserve it as being the mark of an arsehole.
One issue that might need clearing up is whether the ECB actually has the ability to enforce any punishment if Robinson chose to challenge it. If I was suspended or fired from my job for a tweet I posted seven years before they hired me, I might consider consulting an employment lawyer or a union rep. Whilst this might well depend on the specifics of his contract, it certainly feels somewhat strange to be penalised by an employer for your past, personal conduct in such a way. This might be a moot point though, since the ban could well be unofficial in nature and simply labelled as Robinson being ‘dropped’ or ‘rested’. Because selection in team sports relies on so many factors, it seems like it would be virtually impossible to prove that not being picked in some way breaks employment law. This not only makes it difficult for Robinson to challenge any penalties, official or otherwise, but it also makes it very easy for the ECB to retaliate if he were to do anything other quietly than accept their judgement.
Regardless of all this, I think most people agree that Tom Harrison has handled this matter very poorly. By putting out such a forceful, vehement statement on the subject, Harrison has placed himself and the whole ECB under the spotlight rather than putting the matter to bed. Within a day, links and screenshots of tweets and instagram posts from Eoin Morgan, Sam Billings and Ben Stokes amongst others which could be considered to be mocking Indian cricket fans and they way they speak English (typically their second language).
They look relatively harmless, arguably even being affectionate towards the Indian fans they are imitating, but it seems very likely that these social media posts would never have resurfaced at all (at least for most English cricket fans on Twitter) had Tom Harrison not made such a big deal of Ollie Robinson’s tweets. Now they are faced with the prospect of banning almost half of England’s T20 batting unit or being seen as hypocrites who will only punish expendable players. This could also be just the start, as who knows what other skeletons (real or imagined) might be hiding in the closets of the ECB players’ and staff’s social media history? By any measure, putting your organisation in that kind of position is incredibly bad management.
If Ollie Robinson does miss the next game, as seems likely, the three bowlers who could replace him from the current squad are Jack Leach, Craig Overton, and Olly Stone. Given Overton’s own personal history, it would seem a massive PR own goal for England to pick him even if he is the nearest like-for-like replacement. Choosing Leach would leave England with just three seam bowlers, and so Stone might be the one Chris Silverwood opts for in the end. I’d expect England’s batting to be unchanged, although Zak Crawley and Dan Lawrence didn’t impress much in this game.
It might not have been a classic match to watch, but any Test cricket is better than none and forcing a draw against a team who might be World Test Champions in a few weeks is not to be sniffed at. There’s certainly room for improvement at Edgbaston though.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment below.
The moaning and whinging this afternoon as England sedately batted for a draw on both Sky and the Guardian OBO was something to behold.
This is the number 2 team in the world who have generally been on top in this match and would have probably won over 5 days. Take the draw and bat another day surely?
Re: Robinson I said my piece after 1st day, but I would be shocked if Overton is recalled in his place, but I wouldn’t be shocked for the ECB to mishandle this and say he’s dropped instead of ‘rotated’.
Suspended indefinitely until a “disciplinary investigation” is finished. I’m curious to see how long this investigation takes, considering he’s admitted posting the tweets.
Oh dear, this is going to open a can of worms that will end up costing the ECB I suspect.
Unless the investigation concludes with nothing to see here, it was a past mistake and his conduct has been fine since.
The result of the Stokes and Hales disciplinary panel after the Bristol fight/court case was basically ‘time served’ (both players missed the tour of Australia) plus a fine. I suspect something similar will happen here. It means that they can’t be accused of suspending someone unfairly, before the investigation was completed, because they were found guilty. On the other hand, the player has no incentive to challenge the guilty verdict because they won’t miss any games after the hearing. The perfect ECB fudge.
I certainly found it daft that people were having a go at Sibley and Burns for playing their natural game. Williamson declared when he did because he knew full well England had nothing like the batsmen to score at that rate over that period. Once the pair had seen off the new ball burst it would have taken a real dramatic collapse for England to have lost, even by the standards that they set themselves for that.
Bloody hell, Scyld, it’s hardly the Ashes on prime time free-to-air. The “nation” is hardly going to be gripped by the equivalent of a friendly international.
LikeLiked by 1 person
There is something to be said for England going for it. After all, I bet a lot of people tuned into Formula 1 after the car crashes and this England batting line up trying to score at 4 runs per over would be very much like a car crash too. People wouldn’t be able to look away!
And as for this clown:
Really. Trashing your own product, put on for your employers as a favour/commercial recompense for last year, and this was the worst match he’d seen for a while – a game that probably would have reached a natural result in 5 days.
Definitely no result in a mere four days though. The MCC chief executive will have given the groundsman a bonus after producing this pitch. “Same again, please.”
Surely everybody’s missing the REALLY important point: has he lost The Trust of the team?!
One other interesting point is who conducts the investigation. The statement suggests that it’s not going to be the ECB–if it was, they’re already in possession of all the salient facts and they could just decide on a punishment–but I read a suggestion saying that it wouldn’t fall under the CDC’s ambit on the basis that he wasn’t a contracted professional at the time. (In passing, the can of worms won’t be opened I’m pretty sure, given that he’s admitted it, seems contrite and knows which side his England-playing-future bread is buttered–see Hales, A!–but I suspect a half-competent barrister would make mincemeat of the ECB for suggesting that somebody could bring the game into disrepute before he was contractually involved in it).
The other thing that strikes me about the reaction from the ECB and its officers is how much sanctimonious moralising there is–unsurprising in the light of Hales and Pietersen. It’s like they can’t just say, simply and straightforwardly, that something was unacceptable, they need to give everyone a sermon on it just in case they don’t get it. (Maybe it’s like the Hundred, they’re worried that people won’t understand…even those of us who are adults and possessed of male genitalia!)
As has been repeatedly pointed out, one problem with this is the double standard involved. Leave aside Overton (and I suspect that your hunch about the punishment is right Danny, especially since Silverwood was strongly suggesting before the series that they were going to give Robinson and Overton one game each). Harrison is full of indignation about Robinson’s behaviour while in the same week rubbishing the claims made by Dawood and Holder–how does that work then?!
The nadir for me was the nauseating statement by Yorkshire, piously claiming that there is “no place” for such views in cricket whilst, so we’re told, steadfastly refusing even to acknowledge, let alone listen to, the testimony of several people who are alleging that at the same time that Robinson was writing these tweets, there was plenty of room for them in their own dressing room.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Had a chat to a mate on the phone & we agreed this was actually proper Test Cricket. It’s not shorter formats where you have to get a result. You can’t go full IPL because there is no limit on where a team can set fielders or how many overs a bowler can be used for. The attraction of Tests should be that sometimes you play for the draw. The downside is that it’s only a two match series. This match had a double century debut and a game saving 132, that’s good enough without having to force a result. And it had a real if smaller & distanced crowd. I’m tempted to quote the football manager who said ‘if you want entertainment watch clowns’.
All that above said, I don’t agree that he shouldn’t have been punished–although I wouldn’t have banned him either.
Personally I don’t read them as being for shock value or shock humour; they racist ones come across more as being crass attempts at puns, and the sexist ones as the kind of casual judgmental misogyny which male culture is sadly often far too full of. Whilst I don’t think it’s as simplistic as saying “well, he must be racist and misogynistic”, I also don’t think it’s as simple as saying “well, he can’t be because it was just an immature attempt at a joke”. That’s the thing with the Jimmy Carr-type approach too for me (and actually, it makes me think that at some level they DO hold the repulsive views they’re oh-so-ironically “satirising”).
This kind of adolescent rubbishing of people who are already often being punched down towards relies at the very least on the fact that you can afford to do it because you’re not at the sharp end of that kind of joke/banter/comment–which means that at some level (maybe even a subconscious one) you have an acceptance of the views they promote, even if you’re genuinely saying them for a joke. (I mean, can we imagine Laura Bates tweeting similar things about women or Azeem Rafiq similar things about East Asians at the same age?)
And that I suspect is what the ECB are getting at (rightly, I think) in their ham-fisted way, and why it wouldn’t be right to ignore or dismiss them completely. They know that it feeds into the creation of a culture where some people feel unwanted, alienated, have problems with both accepting themselves and being accepted; also that–however relatively innocent–they feed, even if unwittingly, into a spectrum at the other end of which is extreme violence. It’s both relatively trivial and completely not trivial at the same time.
They’re also, I suspect, painfully aware that more than a few players made their views known last year that this kind of banter isn’t received as a joke by them, even if the banterers genuinely think that it is. (I think we all know this if we’ve been the subject of race-, gender- or sexuality-based “banter” at school).
And they know on some level that’s at least partly why we’ve ended up with a team–and a game–which is so monocultural compared to the society in which it’s rooted.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I don’t disagree with any of that, I think. My opinion is not that the tweets are necessarily acceptable, but rather that deciding to punish someone 9 years after the offence is frankly unworkable on any level. To put it another way: If a player at a county tweeted those things today and was banned for a while as a result, I wouldn’t blink an eye. If the ban was applied in 2030, just in internationals, that would seem unfair to me. It also seems likely that his punishment will be more severe than that of Craig Overton (who racially abused an opponent in a County Championship game, during Tom Harrison’s time in charge of the ECB and after Robinson’s tweets), although that could be used as evidence of leniency towards Overton rather than harshness to Robinson.
My preferred approach would be to use the tweets as an example of unacceptable behaviour, and use that as a platform to harshly punish future conduct of this type. The ECB could publish a code of conduct for England and county players (and staff) strictly prohibiting posts of this nature (as well as during games, in dressing rooms, at training, etc). Give examples, explain why you are doing it and how it can make a difference (as you have above). This would make clear the ECB’s commitment to equality, but avoid the messy situation they are in now (for example: apparently they’re not even sure he was employed by a county at the time he posted some of the tweets, making their jurisdiction even more shaky).
“And that I suspect is what the ECB are getting at (rightly, I think) in their ham-fisted way, and why it wouldn’t be right to ignore or dismiss them completely. They know that it feeds into the creation of a culture where some people feel unwanted, alienated, have problems with both accepting themselves and being accepted; also that–however relatively innocent–they feed, even if unwittingly, into a spectrum at the other end of which is extreme violence. It’s both relatively trivial and completely not trivial at the same time.”
But actually, I am convinced the ECB are not interested in stamping out racism. They just want to avoid bad PR as much as possible, never mind the optics, of their piss-poor attempts to do so.
They can’t ignore it completely. But in typical ECB-logic, committing such sins on the cricket field is a lesser offense than committing them on Twitter. And then they wonder where all the British Asians, Caribbean-descended cricketers are. The only way to get rid of types like Overton, is to orchestrate a mass campaign, to tweet and retweet Overton’s offences, so that the ECB are actually forced to actually do something. From Overton’s own statements, he still does not realize what the fuss was about, and that suggest the whole disciplinary process was either a farce, or he is mentally challenged. And I don’t think the latter is true.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Yes, this is another part of it. You will note that the ECB have chosen not to investigate any of the racist incidents reported in the last year or so by Azeem Rafiq, Dave Burton, Ebony Rainford-Brent, Isa Guha, Michael Carberry, etc, even though all of them occurred at ECB-affiliated clubs. Yorkshire have been allowed to appoint their own judge and jury, who appear to have taken over 9 months to report back, whilst the other teams don’t appears to have done anything at all. Many of the people responsible will still be involved in the county game and the ECB are doing nothing about it.
This is because the ECB approaches every problem based on the PR implications rather than what will do the most good. If they believe that ignoring or burying the issue will cause them the least aggravation, that’s what they will do. And, given the above examples, what they typically do. As I explained in the post, I think they have misjudged this situation, even in these terms. By making an example of Robinson, the ECB have essentially encouraged people to comb through the social media history of other English cricketers looking for offensive content. Just look at the Morgan tweet I put in the post. I don’t believe the ECB are honestly trying to clean up English cricket and, even if they were, they appear to lack the competence to do so.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I’d elide your two options d’A and suggest that Overton’s disciplinary hearing was mentally challenged!
George Dobell’s been making the point–correctly–that the CDC found Overton not guilty of racially abusing Zaidi. Since no-one appears to have released their judgment or reasoning, we can only guess why. However since they charged him with using obscene language, it appears that they accepted the evidence of the two people who heard him say “fuck off”, but rejected the part of the same evidence that heard “…to your country” milliseconds later. That really is ludicrous.
Mind you, the whole situation is riven with contradictions that don’t all emanate from the CDC or the ECB. The incident was apparently serious enough for three different Somerset employees to apologise to Sussex well before it was made public, and I can’t imagine that happening for an over-the-top piece oif sledging which had just resulted in a disciplinary sanction which would have had precisely no practical effect had Overton not had previous points on his record.
Because if a ‘f y’ is enough to institute charges against a player, why was Strauss not declared a persona non grata on the spot for offences committed in a commentary box?
I guess we know what the ECB have been doing since Strauss’ on the air comment on Pietersen. Ringing doorbells of every Sky subscriber, to offer apologies for bad language used by Strauss.
Also, apparently they need YEARS to even think of instigating proceedings against Strauss for that heinous offence.
Thinking about the CDC some more, I don’t think they would typically be involved in a case like this. I have only heard then mentioned in relation to off-field incidents involving England players (Stokes in Bristol, for example) or on-field discipline in county cricket (ie Overton in 2015). Otherwise, I’d expect the player’s county team to handle any suspensions involving off-field incidents without the ECB’s assistance. This is especially true for academy or 2nd XI players, as Robinson was at the time. (His first ever first XI list A game was in 2013)
If that is how the CDC is normally used, then it wouldn’t overly surprise me if their response was that these tweets fall outside their remit. Which would be embarrassing for the ECB and Harrison.
Your armchair selection starter for ten.
You have to call up a spinner as a concussion substitute cover [for advanced contestants: why do you need a concussion cover spinner for a match played in Birmingham but not for one played in London?]: You have two choices, both of them young players
One is averaging a touch under 20 this season, strike rate of 50, and has a much better red-ball record generally. The other has barely half the number of wickets, is averaging 41 (note too that almost half his wickets came in one innings), and has a strike rate of 107. (This is probably a reasonable reflection of how he’s bowling, if the few overs I saw the other day bowling at a no.11 are anything to go by). He is, to put in kindly, in somewhat mixed form in international cricket at the moment.
Easy isn’t it?
[Dedicated fondly to everybody who thought that selection would become more logical after the departure of Ed Smith…:-) Luckily it may well be irrelevant since the selection already appears to have been overtaken by events!]
Also, an off spinner to replace a left-arm orthodox bowler. You’d think New Zealand’s right-handers would like that change.
I’m starting to think I’m the only one interested in this test series. Burns and Lawrence have done well but the rest of the batting is a worry.