I Play My Cards Into The Sun, And Try To Work Out… What Are You To Me?

Heavens, this has been a really bad day for cricket in England. There were a number of people paraded in the very limited clips that I have seen who looked bereft. At one point, before my sense of proportion kicked in, I had a modicum of sympathy for Tom Harrison. To see a test match totally wiped out on the morning of Day One, with no prospect of the game being played for at least 9 months, must be one of the worst wounds inflicted on the “premier form of the sport” for quite a while. A test can be binned, and no-one seems to know what to do. In a time of pandemic, sport had provided a release of sorts for people across the world. This test had a place in history awaiting it – India clinching a great series win with their bowling attack for the ages or England fighting back to draw a series where they have been second best – and now it is gone.

Just when we were absorbing this news, another bombshell dropped. My colleagues have followed the threads much better than I, and one of the things that the newish role I have in my job entails is being much more time poor so I can’t follow everything, and I feel sure they will offer the right level of analysis. That there was not someone there to just shout “stop” when the news came out about the test abandonment speaks volumes for Yorkshire’s handling of this. That they thought the morning of a test match, even without this abandonment, was the right time to give their views on the report is just dumbfounding. To see some press guys actually feeling sympathy for them on this timing issue was even more confounding. The conclusions drawn have been spun, and I just feel tired at the sight of this, so lord alone knows what Azeem Rafiq feels like. This needs to be addressed properly, not half-hearted, not pulling punches. I fear it won’t and the schisms will continue.

I’m, at heart, a simple soul. I feel profound sadness at what has hit my social media airwaves today. The first thing, my base point, is that India’s cricketers rightly feel very nervous about contracting Covid. Cards on the table – so would I. I have a good friend of mine in hospital, right now, with Covid. Your reaction is individual. That’s mine right now. I see there are reported stories that the players are fearful of missing the conclusion of the IPL which is due to restart at the end of next week. In some ways I don’t blame them – players will obviously want to play where the money is, whether we like it or not. Then I saw England fans having a go at India, India having a go back at England in South Africa last winter, and finger pointing, fan loyalty and all the other rubbish that pollutes my airwaves. I genuinely don’t know what the story is, and frankly, so do a lot of others fall into that same boat.

Fingers point at a book launch by Ravi Shastri, and one can also look at how the Sri Lankan players who broke the bubble were treated by their authority earlier this year. You can have immense sympathies on players constrained in what they can do in their lives between games. Throwing mental health about casually, like Tom Harrison did today, can seem inappropriate, but I am prepared to give the benefit of the doubt today. The Indian team were not exactly in a good place to play today, and in this era, perhaps we can have some understanding – with a huge caveat to follow….

There is huge questioning on how this is going to be paid for – a forfeit puts BCCI on the hook, a Covid-linked postponement and we go to the insurance market. I take a look at the accounts as I like to keep my old skills intact, and if you look at the notes near the end of them, ECB self-insures. In 2019’s accounts, the ECB paid the insurance firm, Reigndei (gettit?), premium of £2m. Let’s assume that tickets today averaged £75, and 21,000 were purchased. That’s just over £1.5m lost today in ticket revenue alone. Multiply that by three…. Then add on the 4th day sales. That insurance fund is going to take a hit unless they have (and they must have, mustn’t they) proper reinsurance. However, they will only pay out for certain circumstances (weather probably being the most likely and usual) and this may not be.

That’s small beer compared to the losses to Lancashire CCC, the concession holders, the part-time workers, stewards, catering, bar staff, ticket staff, merchandise sellers and so on. Sky will have good cause to ask for some money back (they were paid in kind for the 2020 deficit with the New Zealand tests this year), and I wonder what happens to the international revenues. Money, the root of all evil, the blight of our lives, is trouble. The haunted, hangdog look of Harrison spoke volumes. He looked shot. He’ll earn that bonus now, won’t he?

The poor fans who paid for costly rail tickets, hotel accommodation, booked time off from work, had possibly looked forward to this for two years, sit at home or in their hotel room, and can only be the source of sympathy. I’ve always thought that the fans taking any weather risk is totally unfair. That the players cannot be arsed to bowl the fall quota of overs on a test day is not exactly reassuring. That tests are shunted to the arse end of the season, and not played in July, when it is the most popular form of the game here is testament to where we are. The fans only matter if they have to be brought to a new competition that needs to gain traction. I am sorry, but your words, ECB, today fall on stony ground in this household. You’ve abused fans for so long, any words of sorrow are not going to be accepted here.

I feel utterly sad today. I think you can tell. Not angry. Sad. A game run by charlatans will be vulnerable in circumstances like this. There is nowhere to turn. Harrison bemoaning the packed schedule is like a fisherman complaining about sea conditions. It would be easy to point fingers at the BCCI, and as you know I always believed iCC stands for India Controls Cricket, but let the dust settle and we’ll see. As the scribes signed off from Twitter tonight, you could almost feel their exhaustion, and again, you could feel pangs of sorrow. Maybe if they’d called these rulers of our game out earlier, we might have prevented some of this, but I don’t know. That’s it in a nutshell. I don’t know.

Happy to hear your views. I am sure mine will crystallise when I hear and read more. There is other cricket about to watch, but the sense that the last test of the season has been taken is a fitting epitaph for a divisive, destructive, vicious, last couple of months. I will be at the Oval on Monday, hoping for an oasis of calm, and a nice day’s cricket. I hope it is an antidote to what we’ve seen today. I have the feeling it will be a sticking plaster over an open wound.

I sincerely hope that fans might get more consideration going forward. But really what are we to the authorities other than ATM machines? What, really, have we ever been?

26 thoughts on “I Play My Cards Into The Sun, And Try To Work Out… What Are You To Me?

  1. Rob Sep 11, 2021 / 3:00 am

    Clearly Jo Moore now works for Yorkshire CC (and clearly they treat the limited allegations accepted as akin to councillor’s expenses).

    As is the problem with any disaster since the Great Fire of London, even with insurance the community always suffers from money not being ploughed back into the economy (so what you actually witnessed from Harrison is pure glee at the thought of the payday in 2023 – forget about that 2.1 million bonus pool, he is now in proper Football agent territory).

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  2. dArthez Sep 11, 2021 / 3:46 am

    Well, the second Bangladesh – Pakistan Test was also called off last year, due to Covid. That too was a live series (albeit just 2 Tests, and with some scheduling quirks, so less of a narrative build up, with the second Test scheduled to start like 2 months after the first).

    Gutted for the fans, and the supporters and all those affected. They deserved better. But the problem with something like Covid is that you can’t really plan ahead that much. Only take a day at a time. It should also be borne in mind that the Indians had been in England for close to four months – and in these Covid-times that is trying and taxing. Especially for perennial tourists (India have also had a long tour of Australia. Australia on the other hand have barely left their country, which will probably be a massive mental health advantage for the Ashes as well.

    Many players have quit bubbles and all that. Spending 4 months on the road, mostly away from loved ones, who probably have their own Covid-scares and anguishes to deal with. When that is the case, it is hard to focus on the cricket. And when Covid gets close to home, it becomes scary, and I can fully understand a strong reluctance to play – get a case of long Covid, and your cricket career is probably over as well. When all the risks are borne by the players, can you justify that?

    This is something you expect someone who gets a bonus of what? 350k or so at least to foresee – 4 months for a tour is a long time, especially when each and every day can be a struggle mentally. If not directly foreseen, then surely by taking out the correct insurance (although that might have reduced the bonus, due to cost).

    Also, England players were not exactly trying to stay as long as possible in South Africa, when they toured there, and the bubble got breached, and that was hardly a long tour to begin with. And then too, some players had BBL on their minds as well, so to criticise the Indian cricketers for thinking of IPL seems a bit hypocritical.

    The comparison: “Harrison bemoaning the packed schedule is like a fisherman complaining about sea conditions.” is not fair – since Harrison actually has control over the schedule, unlike the fishermen do with sea conditions – they are not weather gods after all. It is more like a hunter protesting that animals get killed during hunts, seconds after he discharged his rifle.

    Also, what little respect I had left for Yorkshire was also lost by the obnoxious timing for the release of their statement. Of course they can’t make the report available, because that would reek too much of accountability (and since Graves is not in office, it would be a bit harder to deduct points from Durham for this). And we can’t have that, can we? Also the outcome is curious, in the sense that everything points to institutionalised racism, but the report does not agree with that, on as of yet, unknown grounds. Yeah, not buying that.

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  3. Rohan Sep 11, 2021 / 3:48 am

    I was very sad the test was cancelled, but do not blame any of the players on either side.

    I came here to read what you guys had to say because I knew it would be far more balanced, honest and well written than anything else I was seeing on SKY or reading in the MSM. I was right to do so, great read LCL, sad but a great read and thanks for sharing!

    This to me sums it up perfectly “ There is other cricket about to watch, but the sense that the last test of the season has been taken is a fitting epitaph for a divisive, destructive, vicious, last couple of months.”

    Thanks

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  4. Rohan Sep 11, 2021 / 3:54 am

    I want to add that the timing of the release of the report into racism at Yorkshire and the outcomes of it (hands up I’ve only seen headline parts), leaves me feeling sick; it’s worse than poor. I’ve thought for a long time that cricket in the U.K. has many areas and pockets of racism and just denies it, this to me confirms it, it’s disgusting!

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    • dannycricket Sep 11, 2021 / 6:56 am

      To slightly correct you: What was released was not the report but a summary of the report written by people from Yorkshire CCC. Ian Watmore’s statement confirmed that Yorkshire CCC are still not allowing anyone else read the full thing, not even the ECB or PCA.

      The most sympathetic view possible is that this is the soonest that a summary such as this could have been published. They had already sent it to the relevant people (Rafiq, Watmore, a few friendly journalists, etc) when news of the Test cancellation broke, at which point it was too late to postpone.

      That this could take three weeks speaks to a massive lack of urgency. That anyone at Yorkshire thought 9am on the morning of a deciding Test match against India was an appropriate time for it to come out is somewhat sinister, frankly.

      The worst thing is the summary itself. The only person depicted in a negative light in it is Azeem Rafiq. It has a whole section dedicated to showing that his performances on the field were responsible for him losing his contract, whilst it also appears to suggest that the vast majority of his complaints of racism were not upheld by the panel.

      I used to feel somewhat sympathetic to Roger Hutton, the new chairman of Yorkshire CCC, as he was having to deal with issues from before his time. His inept, and arguably malicious handling, of Azeem Rafiq has fairly quickly got rid of this for me.

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  5. Benny Sep 11, 2021 / 7:58 am

    Think I’m right in saying that racist and religious discrimination are criminal offences so as secretive as Yorkshire wish to be, they can’t deny sight of the report to the police.

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    • dannycricket Sep 11, 2021 / 8:21 am

      Parliament can also demand to see it, I think. Possibly the EHRC too.

      And the ECB could essentially force Yorkshire to hand it over too, by charging them with bringing the game into disrepute and fining them substantial amounts of money. Or the PCA, by threatening a strike. Whether they do so, or take any action at all, remains to be seen.

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      • dArthez Sep 11, 2021 / 10:04 am

        The best thing that could happen from the ECB point of view is that they do something themselves. Simply to avoid a) others doing their job, which could even result in adverse findings against and consequences for the ECB b) further damaging the credibility (at least among ethnic and religious minorities) of the ECB, and is so claimed inclusivity.

        Even if YCCC hand over the report now, the damage of this is too great anyway, so YCCC have already brought the game in disrepute, at least in my view. Handing it over ‘voluntarily’ (ie. before the lawyers or MPs descend on YCCC) should only result in lesser penalties, rather than none.

        I suspect though that nothing much will happen in the foreseeable future and that YCCC is waiting for a 4-0 or 5-0 Ashes loss to release the report. Call me cynical.

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  6. andrewrdow Sep 11, 2021 / 10:12 am

    I’ve been helping clients get their Covid related Business Interruption claims paid by insurers for the last 15 months.

    As Covid is now a “known hazard”, it would be excluded from all insurance policies taken out since it first became known as a notifiable disease.

    Even if the insurance cover for Old Trafford was bought before Covid hit, the new “material fact” of its outbreak and becoming a pandemic would make it a new “material fact”, and would give insurers the right to amend their terms and exclude it from cover.

    I am afraid I am 99% certain that Lancashire C.C.C. will have no cover for this.

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  7. Mark Sep 11, 2021 / 1:50 pm

    Reading between the lines all they care about is the money. Platitudes and fake concern. I see no point from a purely cricket point of view of replaying this match next year. It will have no context and new players will have changed. It will simply be a way of extracting money out of the fans pocket to save the ECB.

    I can’t see the ICC siding against India on anything major so this will not be awarded as a forfeit to England, and they can’t claim on insurance. A rescheduled match is the BCCI offer, and the ECB will have to accept it. Whether fans want to pay for a meaningless match devoid of context is another matter. I would not pay a penny for it.

    The schedule is ludicrous especially with Covid and bubbles, but who signed off on it? Both boards. Quite why we are starting a test match in the second week of September in Manchester is another rather stupid idea. You could easily get two or three days washed out. But then the ECB wasted the best part of the summer with their latest folly. There is no logic to any of this just how can we milk the fan and provide a shoddy product. It’s not even “pile um high, sell um cheap. “ It’s “pile them high, and sell them at the highest price we can get away with.”

    It’s why I look at sport as a commercial purchase now. No romance, or love, pure vale for money and service provided. They need to provide a better product all round. Higher quality, and a full days play in the best part of the summer.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. dArthez Sep 11, 2021 / 5:31 pm

    So the ECB have started the arbitration process. We’ll see what the consequences will be for that.

    And Woakes, Malan and Bairstow pulled out of the IPL. As is their right; but if they can cite bubble fatigue, would it be reasonable to expect all the Indians to be in England for 4 whole months without it taking a mental toll?

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  9. OscarDaBosca Sep 12, 2021 / 10:08 am

    From the perspective of someone who travelled to Manchester the day before, paid £300 for 2 days accommodation with 5 others, bought food for breakfast for 3 days for 6, disappointed and fuming.
    To call it off at 8:55 when it seems clear that India had made their minds up the night before is typical ECB behaviour, oh well I’m sure we can convince them etc.
    If this was a Hollywood movie, the significance of the early summer news that BCCI wanted to cancel this test or move it (ECB couldn’t because of the wankfest of misleading statistics that is the 100) would have been seen as a foreshadowing. The camera lingering on the BCCI wish to cancel test headline.
    Then on Monday the first journalists started reporting the test was in doubt, but we were all told don’t worry it will be fine.
    I think it has been clear that from a commercial and player welfare point of view BCCI didn’t want this last test schedule when it was, the ECB ignored this because of their own agenda and once India is went 2-1 up this was probably a forgone conclusion. If India had been level or losing the series I think the players may have stayed, but in the position of not being able to lose the series they took advantage and went home early.
    To be clear, I don’t blame the players for this, the schedule was a mess, 5 tests with 2 in September is always a risk, back to back as they were is a dangerous proposition for tired players.
    The ECB need to own this as do the BCCI, but I expect it will be a messy fallout when the game is finally decided by the ICC (it should be forfeit in my opinion, India has a squad of 24, could have fulfilled their obligations, but decided not to)
    Just a shame for us and all the other fans, small business (such as food vendors who will have bought their supplies) and Lancashire cc.

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    • Mark Sep 12, 2021 / 11:18 am

      Excellent points.

      We will never know, but yes if England had won the last test match would this one have been called off? I very much doubt it, but of course no one can prove it. It’s one of the What ifs of history.

      Yes, this should have been announced the night before. It’s why I don’t have much time for the Indian position, and their handling of this. Even if everything they say is true ,and they were genuinely going to play this match, before a positive Covid test, they could have at least given fans the chance to not waste their travelling expenses.

      The ECB on the other hand is their usual incompetent selves. Surely they must of known that over a four month period it was likely at some point that a bubble could become infected, and a test match called off? But no thought (AS USUAL) was given to the paying fans. Why would there be when the sport is run by people earning enormous salary’s and expense accounts? Let them eat cake.

      And as usual the fans are the last to know. Cricket and the ECB don’t deserve people like you OSCARDABOSCA. You have spent a vast amount of money which you won’t get back.

      As I say above, I will be astonished if the ICC go against India on this one….so a fudge will be hammered out. Essentially what India says goes. Which will mean a replay next year with the fans expected to pay the costs, and be excited by a match devoid of any context. If Covid is going to continue on for the future the authorities really need to put some policies in place for a cancelled game the night before. But the fan is just a cash machine.

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      • Rob Sep 13, 2021 / 5:34 pm

        The ICC arbitrator is Lord Michael Beloff QC.

        Whatever anyone can say about the ICC, surely they do not have him in their pocket.

        Certainly there will be side expenses in going to arbitration but the ECB surely will be quids in, whether the negotiations are formal or not.

        The only people who lose are everyone else – those hotel expenses, food bills and travel and time costs all indirectly subsidize this process.

        On the other hand, if the ECB had something real to lose…..

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  10. CowCorner Sep 12, 2021 / 10:45 am

    Firstly, I’m amazed we got this far without any major bumps to the international calendar this summer. The only real hiccup prior to this point being the England ODI squad needing to isolate and the Stokes XI proving to be more than capable themselves.

    There’s been a few county incidents and some inconsistencies, including the North Blast group being decided on average points per game played, same as an RLODC group and now Div 2 of the County Championship I believe. All in all though I’m pleased that we’ve had a pretty full summer of cricket and am pleased to actually be attending Finals Day on Saturday rather than watching it on TV from a distance. In the depths of January and February it looked like that could’ve been unlikely so for the presence of pretty much a full season I’m glad of that.

    The events leading up to and during Friday seemed to be an inevitable conclusion where one pillar of what was holding it all up started to break. I have every sympathy on one level for the Indian team. They’ve been over here all summer in a bit of a bubble and come September I’m not surprised things were starting to fray. That said, how we managed to get to effectively 9am on the morning of the test match when everything was in place for it to happen before the cancellation is announced will leave sour taste regardless. The scheduling is poor, but the manner was pretty dreadful. Book launches were daft, but a symptom of the long term problem of bubble life and being away for so long.

    The IPL is the IPL and there’s no surprise that many of that team will have almost both of their eyes focused on that. Much as I don’t like it and the BCCIs almost totally malign influence on world cricket, of course. I don’t feel much sympathy for the ECB, they’d pushed every envelope as far as possible, stretched players fitness both mentally and physically and most supporters sanity. Plenty has been written about their incompetence in the whole thing. Harrison and friends will no doubt say how none of it was in any way their fault and how awesome the hundred is of course.

    No, I feel sorry for the supporters, many of whom have travel, hotels etc booked. I feel sorry for Lancashire who lose all that revenue having already shelled out for most of the cost. I feel sorry for the staff working in the bars, food vans, hospitality, stewards etc. They’re the ones losing out. You did feel that this international summer will end this way though. The ashes will be a sham. Regardless of the team England send down there Australia will win and I don’t blame any of the England boys if they don’t travel for family reasons etc.

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    • dArthez Sep 12, 2021 / 6:36 pm

      “Regardless of the team England send down there Australia will win and I don’t blame any of the England boys if they don’t travel for family reasons etc.”

      I don’t disagree with that. But, if 3 months of Ashes is too much to bear for the players (and I am not saying it is not), then how can the Indians be reasonably expected to not falter under 4 months in England? Even in Australia it became clear that by the end of the tour, the Indians were starting to feel the pressures, induced by Covid as much as the injuries. And that was a relatively short tour, compared to the England one.

      Unless Root is opting out, I am pretty confident that the ECB will spin it in such a way, that whoever opts out, was not going to be picked anyway, in an effort not to undermine their arbitration case …

      The only team that had it easy is Australia. They simply cancelled all away tours, with the exception of a T20I series in Bangladesh, in which their B-team was duly humiliated.

      Like

  11. CowCorner Sep 13, 2021 / 10:17 am

    I don’t blame the Indian team for struggling at all. I have every sympathy for them being as much a victim of the lunatic scheduling process as anyone else. It’s just a shame we got to effectively the morning of the test before it was all called off leading to maximum disruption for all concerned.

    Like

  12. Marek Sep 20, 2021 / 2:15 pm

    Sign of the scheduling times: West Indies somehow scheduled to play a T20 on Feb 5th in West indies and a ODI starting around nine hours later in India….

    Like

    • dArthez Sep 20, 2021 / 6:11 pm

      It will get worse. Pakistan just lost the New Zealand and England series in Pakistan. And obviously, they too need to get some money in.

      Like

    • Marek Sep 20, 2021 / 10:51 pm

      England-WI series now brought forward by a week to solve that one, so that it starts within 72 hours of the Ashes finishing!

      Frankly, good luck to Pakistan getting a genuinely home series scheduled at the moment–which is enormously sad. Finding it very difficult indeed to believe that the Australia tour in late winter will go ahead, at least in Pakistan–and by huge bad luck, I think their other two home test series this cycle are England and NZ, which doesn’t bode well either.

      At the same time, I think that both the ECB and NZC have made rather a hash of how they’ve gone about this, even if the withdrawals are understandable. In NZ’s case, it’s rather weird–and at the very least would be deserving of more explanation–why a threat today to blow up one of their teams could be dismissed as not credible within a few hours…especially since it risks coming across (at least to Pakistanis, and quite possibly erroneously) that the difference is that one threat was made in the UK and the other in Pakistan.

      In the ECB’s case, although again I can understand why they wouldn’t want to play in Pakistan at the moment, they seem to have forgotten quite how on edge people were about Covid last summer–especially in relation to the UK, which was one of the worst affected countries–and therefore just how generous (and brave) of the PCB it was to send a team to England. I would have thought that that alone would have justified pulling out every stop imaginable to play these matches in a neutral venue. I simply don’t believe that nowhere could have been found to host them (after all, Sri Lanka agreed to host a Pakistan “away” series this month with all of about two weeks notice!)

      The ECB’s predictably vague, jargon-filled and obfuscatory statement about exactly why they weren’t going (if it’s security, then say security!) didn’t really help either. I wonder if they’re trying to dress it up as that they’re not condemning Pakistan’s security arrangements…but I bet it doesn’t feel like that to most Pakistanis. The simple truth is that the security consultants’ decisions carry the unavoidable implication that the presidential-level security being afforded to visiting teams, which they were happy with in theory, wasn’t actually fit for purpose when it came to the crunch. After all, the most basic point of presidential-level security is to avoid the president being blown to bits!

      Like

    • Marek Sep 21, 2021 / 11:48 am

      …and now we learn on Cricinfo that Tom Harrison didn’t even have the courtesy, the basic manners or the rudimentary sense of diplomacy (that is, intelligence) to phone Wasim Khan–with whom he’s presumably worked a lot in county cricket–and Ramiz Raja himself.

      Somehow I continually think that this odious, uncaring man can’t go down any further in my estimation….but he always manages.

      Like

      • pktroll (@pktroll) Sep 21, 2021 / 12:46 pm

        I don’t see how England can take any high ground in all of the palaver of the last few weeks now. Disgraceful. I think we owed it to Pakistan to go there for a couple of poxy t20s given that they came here last year at a rather dodgy time indeed. Foreign Office advice was that it was safe and we couldn’t even send a squad who hadn’t been living in the ‘bubble’. Heck we could have sent a squad not dissimilar from the one that beat Pakistan in the ODIs a couple of months ago.

        Like

        • dArthez Sep 21, 2021 / 6:21 pm

          As for the ECB, the ONLY reason they did not cancel the series in Sri Lanka and India earlier in the year is because you don’t mess with the BCCI.

          I do hope that this arbitration will sour relationships with the BCCI below freezing point – that the ECB pull out of the Ashes, and then wonder why no one will tour England until 2027.

          Like

      • dArthez Sep 21, 2021 / 5:13 pm

        Just terrible. This is terrible for Pakistan cricket. And with “friends like the ECB”, you don’t need enemies.

        Chances of course, that the ECB do the decent thing (for once) are slim to non-existent, and with the financial might they have, I don’t even expect Pakistan to be compensated.

        Like

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