Death of a Gentleman – update

Just a short note to add this blog’s congratulations to Jarrod Kimber and Sampson Collins for winning Best Documentary at this evening’s Sport Journalism Awards.

This was a film of the utmost importance, and raised issues that much of the cricketing press in this country preferred to ignore.  That it received the attention it did, and is now the Award Winning Death of a Gentleman is fantastic news and thoroughly deserved.

If you missed it, our piece on just why this film was so important, and why all cricket lovers everywhere should see it, our Review may provide some explanation.

Well done gents – the recognition your hard work and persistence warranted.

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A New Hope

One of the elements of the notorious description used by the ECB (and PCA) which provided the name of this site was the implied attitude towards those who at amateur level played the game, or who watched, bought tickets or paid television subcriptions.  It was a perfect demonstration of their opinion of the plebians who merely provided all the revenue to allow those either within cricket administration, professional players or indeed journalists or broadcasters to earn a living.  It remains one of the most despicable statements ever used by a sporting body towards those upon whom a game relies, and that statement is still carried on the ECB website, and no apology or even acknowledgement of it has ever been made.

But on its own, in isolation, it could perhaps be seen as the botched missive of an idiocracy which most people could brush off and laugh at.  Except the trouble was that this attitude was pervasive, and not just within the ECB, it went through every level of the international game.  Indeed, the attitude of the ECB was carried forward into the highest echelons of the international game.  The film Death of a Gentleman outlined the perspective that supporters were merely there to be monetised in detail, and the ECB were not just complicit, they led the way alongside India and Australia in attempting to grab as much filthy lucre as possible.

The power grab by the Big Three (one suspects that rather than hear the dripping contempt of that phrase, some within will view it as a badge of honour) was largely about increasing power and increasing the revenues to those boards, entirely at the expense of everyone else.  The remaining Test nations would be worse off, the Associate nations might as well give up, and for a nation like Ireland, the possibility of Test cricket had receded into the distance and has little appeal to it even if they were to achieve it.

Dmitri yesterday wrote a piece about the anniversary of the removal of Kevin Pietersen as an international player.  Even back then, people were told to “move on” and naturally enough, those who always seem to back the ECB no matter what were quick to repeat it.  But as so often, they miss the point.  Pietersen is one tiny part of a wider jigsaw, and in the grand scheme of things, one of the least important.  But what that episode did demonstrate above all was the utter contempt for those who are Outside Cricket not just by word, but by deed.  That attitude, irrespective of whether one is a fan of Pietersen the player or not is precisely the reason the ECB, and Giles Clarke in particular, had no compunctions whatsoever in behaving the way they did, and the reason it was so important is that it highlighted the naked greed and lack of any interest in the consequences so demonstrative of that arrogance.  It was not just that they abrogated their duty of care for the game, they showed they didn’t care about the game at all, merely their own narrow self-interests.  The expression of lofty superiority by authority was echoed in similar ways across the globe, and while Pietersen had his own problems and was to at least some extent the architect of his own downfall, the lack of interest in the game itself reached the point where players were not turning out for their national teams, preferring instead to play the T20 leagues, and the captain of South Africa – South Africa no less – was openly debating giving up Test cricket. Different circumstances, entirely different situations, yet it was possible to draw a direct line between all of them on the basis of the lack of interest the governing bodies had for the integrity of the game.

The Big Three carve up had the consequence of drawing the vast majority of the game’s revenues to themselves, impoverishing the remainder of the Test playing nations and killing any prospect of the game expanding beyond its rather narrow boundaries.  Cricket became the first sport in history to deliberately reduce its footprint on the planet.  It went further, with Clarke’s flat rejection of the idea of T20 cricket being an Olympic Sport, mostly on the grounds that it wouldn’t make his board any money, whatever he said, while slashing the development funds to non-Test playing nations and turning even the Test playing nations outside India, Australia and England into nothing other than vassals.  The three countries took complete control of the ICC, ensuring that all ICC events were to be held solely in their own territories over the following ten years (though no one expected that to change at the conclusion of the agreed period) and challenging all the others to simply lump it or face being excluded from the kinds of tours that would allow them to survive as cricketing entities.

Some journalists objected, and objected vociferously.  In Australia Gideon Haigh was scathing as only he can be, in England Scyld Berry broke ranks from his colleagues to condemn it outright, while Wisden in the form of Lawrence Booth sounded the alarm for cricket as a game.  Since then Nick Hoult at the Telegraph has frequently written about the machinations both within the ECB and beyond.  Cricinfo too raised the matter, with Jarrod Kimber impressively furious and of course along with Sam Collins making Death of a Gentleman, while Tim Wigmore has repeatedly castigated the powers that be for their duplicity and selfishness concerning the wider world game.

From others.  Silence.  From the Guardian, nothing – really nothing.  At the time of writing, there is still nothing on the ICC meeting today.  From Mike Selvey, their chief cricket correspondent, absolutely nothing at any point on the whole topic.  This is no surprise, for Selvey is known to be close to Giles Clarke to the extent that a paper that has prided itself on investigating injustice has appeared to be an echo chamber – indeed a direct hotline – for the views of the ECB.  Selvey’s first response on TMS to the potential for major change in favour of the richest boards was to profess ignorance of the whole matter and regard it as unimportant and when Death of a Gentleman came out he refused to watch it.  As far as anyone knows he still hasn’t.  It is shameful that newspaper has ignored the matter, it is despicable that they have made no effort whatever to cover it, preferring instead to imply approval of Giles Clarke’s claim that no-one is interested in administration, apparently even when it fundamentally changes the nature of the game.  Colleagues such as David Conn may have views on that. For cricket lovers who have adored the Guardian’s previously excellent coverage, it is a dereliction of duty that they will find very hard to ever forgive.  That it requires blogs like this one to point this out, and to try, in our own small way, to back up the work of those excellent journalists in asking questions and making criticisms is unacceptable.

Unless there is some kind of statement to the contrary, the assumption must be this is deliberate policy, for it is rather hard to believe a journalist of the quality of Ali Martin is purposely ignoring the whole subject.

Today the ICC held a meeting which largely reversed the changes made a year ago, the status quo ante prevailing.  This can be viewed as progress of a sort, though Tim Wigmore wrote an excellent piece on Cricinfo pointing out the limitations of what has happened.  It is well worth reading:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci-icc/content/story/969029.html

Wigmore is completely correct, and points to Lord Woolf’s scathing assessment of the ICC at the time, to which we now more or less return.  And yet even this does provide some grounds for hope, and perhaps practicality dictates that in one board meeting the only possible immediate means of rolling back the changes was to re-instate the previous constitution.  The ICC under the jackboot of India, Australia and England would have in short order killed at the very least Test cricket as we knew it.  The West Indies, already in crisis through their own administrative ineptitude have reached the point where they are uncompetitive against almost anyone, their best players preferring instead to play the shortest form of the game as hired hands – and who can blame them?  The battering received in Australia was greeted with sadness in some quarters, and with outrage amongst those who have delved rather more deeply into the wider problems.  It was only going to get worse, the alarm bells were well and truly ringing when AB De Villiers made his statement about giving up Tests.  The clear revenue increase to the majority that applies now at least buys a little time.

The ICC statement from today is worth reading in full:

http://www.icc-cricket.com/news/2016/media-releases/92105/outcomes-from-icc-board-and-committee-meetings

It is a curious thing when an ICC statement provides some degree of cheer for the cricket fan.  The removal of N. Srinivasan back in November when the BCCI withdrew support and the subsequent installation of Shashank Manohar as ICC Chairman provided the first glimpse of the possibility that the theft of the world game by an avaricious few might just come under scrutiny by those with the power to change it.  The other Test playing nations, suddenly aware of their position as turkeys who had voted – or been forced to vote – for Christmas, had raised objections to their diminished status, but the constitution gave them virtually no prospect of changing anything.  It required the BCCI in particular to take the lead.  Manohar was swift to demonstrate things could change, saying upon his appointment:

“I don’t agree with the revenue-sharing formula, because it’s nice to say that India (BCCI) will get 22 per cent of the total revenue of the ICC, but you cannot make the poor poorer and the rich richer, only because you have the clout.  Secondly there is another angle to it which nobody has thought of. India generates money because the other countries come and play in India. If you do not have a fierce competition, the broadcasters are not going to pay you and the sponsors are not going to sponsor your events.”

He went on:

“I don’t agree with the three major countries bullying the ICC.  That’s my personal view, because as I have always said, an institution is bigger than individuals. You cannot guarantee which individual will occupy the top position in either of these countries. And, the ICC constitution, as it stands today, says that in all the major committees of the ICC, these three countries will be automatically there. So all the financial and commercial aspects and the executive committee will be controlled by the representatives of these three countries which according to me is wrong.

“You should have the best man, whether he comes from Zimbabwe, or West Indies, or even from an associate or affiliate to work on a committee, who will promote the interests of the ICC.”

Simple statements of truth, but it garnered attention because it was entirely at odds with everything that had gone before.  Premature it may be, but there is at least a hope that the new man at the top actually gives a shit about the game.  From today’s press release, one line stood out in particular:

“No Member of the ICC is bigger than the other”

Others have been quick to point out that as currently constituted, this is not true, for India in particular have the power that no one else does, and as the major driver of revenue in the game, that is certainly not inherently wrong by any means.  And yet the statement has been made, and while they are merely words, they are good words.  And this is where ideas begin.  At long last there is at the very least a statement of first principles that he and the ICC can be held to.  This is some small progress.

Another item was that the chairman of the ICC could not hold office with any of the boards.  This has direct consequences for Giles Clarke, as President of the ECB.  He has long aspired to be ICC Chairman, but to do so he will have to give up his role at the ECB.  And yet the indications are that despite previously appearing very likely to get it, the change in structure has crippled his prospects.  Australia and South Africa have already made it clear they won’t support him, Sri Lanka are reported to be reluctant.  Given Clarke’s unpopularity in much of the ECB, it would be an irony if the English were the only ones in favour, and it is tempting to wonder if they are even more in favour if it means ridding themselves of him at the same time.  Either way, there will be few in mourning for the dissolving dreams of a man associated with the carve up of the world game like few others.

Other elements from the press release include conducting a review of the T20 leagues and their impact on the world game.  T20 is a reality, and could – and should – be something extremely good for the game, as it raises the profile, popularity, and yes, the revenues of the sport.  That we are in a position where it constitutes a threat to Test cricket and international cricket more generally is not inevitable, and never was.  To review this is again progress, with the tantalising prospect of providing a context for Test cricket in particular, as the form of the game most under threat.

Is it an answer?  No.  Is it even the outline of the answer?  No.  But does it provide the smallest semblance of hope that international cricket, and Test cricket in particular, has a future?  Just the smallest.  It is a start.  If it goes no further, then the downward spiral, which has been paused today, will resume.  But nothing is inevitable, and with the right people at the helm, things can improve.  Today is a good day, the despair is slightly lessened, and maybe, just maybe, Mr Smith has gone to Washington.

 

South Africa vs England: 3rd Test 1st day. Not a match report

One of the issues with a blog such as this, is that it’s written by people who have jobs, and jobs that aren’t in (and definitely not Inside) cricket.  That means that any post when a match is ongoing is dependent on being able to have the television or at worst the radio on during play.  In my own case I am fortunate enough to be self-employed with an office at home, and doubly fortunate that having it on in the background doesn’t distract me in the slightest when I’m concentrating on work.  Cricket is like that, it exists but it isn’t necessarily something where full on focus is possible or even desirable all the time.  The same applies when going to a match of course, where much of the time can be spent chatting to others; queuing for the bar (which at Lords can take up to a session of play, so inept are they at looking after their customers); queuing for food (because you don’t want to do that during that portion of the day usually referred to as lunchtime, unless you want to miss even more of the play); or nipping off to the usually vile loo.  Sometimes it’s as simple as wanting to stretch the legs that have indentations from the seat in front and where you try to recover some kind of blood flow in a backside numb from a plastic seat presumably bought in a sale at B & Q.

It’s a routine that cricket fans tend to be familiar with, and regular supporters take account of it.  As an aside, a picnic at the cricket is often viewed by the media as being somehow charming, as opposed to the reality of it as being a necessity when faced with outrageously priced, virtually inedible tat you’ve waited an hour to receive – at which point imminent starvation tends to win out over revulsion.

All of which is the background to explaining that with meetings all day, I haven’t seen a ball of the match, and haven’t heard a ball either.  But then you see, as I work for a living, I don’t get paid to watch cricket.  On the contrary, cricket costs me, and costs me a lot of money.  It’s not just tickets of course – for some on here go to far more matches than I do –  or indeed for some like Dmitri, flights, hotels and tickets.  It is also television subscriptions and the TV Licence fee.

This could be viewed as something of a disadvantage on a cricket blog, and indeed in terms of providing brilliant insights on a day’s play, it unquestionably is.  I mean, I could start talking about how late the fonts moved off  the seam on Cricinfo’s ball by ball text, but it’s probably not going to make anyone sit up and ponder.  But here’s the thing, this isn’t a newspaper, and it isn’t written by journalists.  We don’t get paid for this, and more to the point we don’t want to be paid for it.  In fact, let’s go further than that on the point about us not getting paid.  We don’t monetise this site through advertising either.  The odd advert does come up, but that’s a WordPress thing, it’s nothing to do with us.  The option to get banner advertising here is in the settings, it hasn’t been done, and it won’t be done either – neither of us are remotely interested in ever doing that.

And yet the idea that we are frustrated or failed journalists because we pen our thoughts here doesn’t seem to go away.  Let’s be clear about this, neither Dmitri nor myself have the slightest aspiration to join the ranks of the paid hack, to have to pay attention to the possibility of upsetting someone at the ECB, to worry about “access” to players or officials or to  have to write “Sponsored by Waitrose” at the bottom of a puff piece about Stuart Broad’s latest hairstyle (receding by the way, poor lad).  Why would we?  We have our careers and we’re both pretty happy with them.  More to the point, if journalists as a body were doing their jobs properly, then blogs like this would barely exist, for few if any would read them, let alone take the time to make comments which repeatedly teach me new things and find out contradictions and hypocrisies of which I’d otherwise be unaware.  Why unaware?  Well, you see it tends not to be in the papers.  Written by…oh yes.

What is puzzling is quite why some journalists find the blogs to be such a threat.  If they are so irrelevant, inane or downright mad, what’s the problem?  Clearly no one will pay them any attention and readers will instead genuflect to the great correspondents who nobly dispense wisdom on a daily basis.  So why even mention them, why make a pointed comment about the difference between a journalist and a blogger as if one is somehow inherently superior?  Because they get paid for it?  Some people get paid for having sex, we don’t tend to consider it a plus point.

We do get the occasional journalist talking to us directly on here or on Twitter.  It’s quite striking the difference in approach.  The ones utterly unconcerned about blogs tend to be friendly, inquisitive and (he’ll hate me for saying this) full of praise for my partner in crime’s writing.  The ones who are tend to make public comments at odds with what they say directly.  There’s a word for that kind of behaviour, although “insecure” fits, it’s not the one I was thinking of.

The first paragraph of this post detailed some of the joys of going to cricket when you’ve actually paid for a ticket.  How many journalists are in any way aware of any of it?  How many have paid to get in to a Test match and sat in the normal seats?  There’s a TMS commentator who played the game at the highest level and thought tickets were about £20; there is a total disconnect between those who report on the game and those who pay to watch.  It’s a delightful little club, where they really are Inside Cricket, and the rest of us are Outside.  Obvious it may be, and it’s all too often regarded as a trite point by those on the receiving end, but without people going to matches, they truly wouldn’t have a job.  In my line of business I’m acutely aware that without customers I don’t have a job, not least because it’s happened.   And yet there is very little evidence whatever that the media appreciate that most fundamental of points.  The various ECB disasters over the last couple of years were dissected repeatedly from the perspective of those on the inside of the special club.  The wider question of why people should pay a fortune to be treated like dirt at the ground while at the same time being dismissed as irrelevancies never occurred to many of them, because they don’t even realise that’s how it is.

It isn’t all of them of course, no one would claim that.  And yet those this isn’t directed at would know that perfectly well from reading it.  They know who they are, and they do good work.

Here’s the rub, great journalism does what a place like this could never do, and wouldn’t even try to do.  It can be majestic, and it can change the world (FIFA, IAAF).  You want to know the difference between a journalist and a blogger?  It’s that you can.  You want to know why there isn’t one?  It’s because you don’t.

Oh yes, the Test match.   Looks pretty even to me.  Here’s a match report:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/south-africa-v-england-2015-16/content/story/961977.html

Discussion on day two below!

 

 

Down the Tubes: Nations at Midnight

After a break in the series which England seem to have largely spent on the toilet, hostilities resume tomorrow at the Wanderers in Johannesburg. And yet within that break, and in the context of a series finely balanced, the nature of Test cricket itself has come under scrutiny.

AB De Villiers, fresh from his appointment as South Africa’s captain, spoke candidly about the stresses of cricket, and his future within the game. There is no question that he is one of the shining lights of world cricket, a batsman as brutal in the short form of the game as he is stylish in the longer form. For him to openly question his place in Test cricket in the way he has should be ringing alarm bells.

For this is no single player whining about a workload, it is a direct consequence of the way the world game has been mistreated and viewed as an impediment to the making of money.

“I’m still very committed, to the job I’m not sure – obviously the two Test matches for now are all I’m focusing on and then there’s a nice big break of six months before we play Test cricket again” [my emphasis].

This is the Test captain of the number one ranked side in the world expressing relief that the next series is half a year away, during which time he will play ODI and T20 cricket for the national team, before the World T20 and then the IPL.  Ah yes, the IPL, the source of all problems, some would say.  And yet the reality is that his IPL contract is worth ten times that with South Africa.  There is no point in lamenting that players show interest in this, nor that with other tournaments such as the ongoing Big Bash there are other opportunities for earning that attract the attention of the leading players.  When the difference is so stark, players cannot be expected to put that aside, any more than anyone else would in their own chosen career.  It is not greed to wish to be paid commensurate to your earning ability; while De Villiers may be at the top of the game, the same considerations will apply at the levels below, and for those people cricket is a short career with limited opportunities for making a living.

Of course, the remedy for that requires for players to receive an income for what De Villiers recognises as the pinnacle of the game that reflects the wider reality of their position as leading performers.  And this is the problem, for the power grab by India, England and Australia has directly reduced the potential income available to the cricket boards of the other Test playing nations with those three enriching themselves at their expense.  Handwringing about the trouble Test cricket is in while ignoring the elephant in the room about the structure of the ICC and the divisions of the spoils ensures that only the symptoms are looked at and not the cause.  For this is not an arcane possibility, the one sided hammering of the West Indies team by Australia is indicative of the problem, where players who would make the Caribbean side a competitive one, even with all their internal problems, weren’t playing and weren’t available.

Although the problems the West Indies are facing are at least partially down to longstanding structural problems and failures in administration, it remains a fact that one of the great names in world cricket cannot pick their best side because their players are off playing in T20 tournaments instead, and more importantly, the Test team is seen as a step towards achieving that T20 status rather than being the pinnacle in its own right.

Therefore, paying players properly to play Test cricket is the only way this can be prevented, and under the new structure, this is simply not going to be possible for the boards who must now make do with a smaller share of the overall pot. A striking contrast would be with James Anderson, who on the same day as De Villiers was mulling over his future made it clear his priority was Test cricket and not the IPL or anything else.  Anderson is quite plainly a Test bowler first and foremost, but he is also a big name who would be an asset to the marketing of any tournament.  The principal and overriding difference in his case is that as an England Test player, he is well paid for his efforts.

That means that Anderson has a definite choice, the differential is not especially large for him, and he’s never been especially effective in the shorter form of the game anyway.  For younger players, brought up within the T20 era, this is not so true, and the presence of so many English players in the Big Bash is noticeable.

The ICC are doing their usual thing of sticking their heads in the sand and pretending it will all go away – and so it will, just not in the way they mean – with Dave Richardson performing his usual routine of blandly ignoring reality by saying nothing will change before 2019 when the current Future Tours Programme comes to an end.  The Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations pointed to a survey of their playing members considering the route of being free agents in order to play in the tournaments springing up on a regular basis.  This is the death knell of Test cricket if it happens and nothing changes, for it will be impossible to schedule tours at a time when none of them are going on.  Test cricket needs to find an accommodation with these leagues and money is part of that, but so is giving Test cricket a context, as FICA insisted is needed.

“If we wait until 2019 then bilateral cricket around the world is going to be in real trouble.  The engagement and insight provided by players is vital to this process. We surveyed players recently on structuring in the context of cricket. We are using some of our outcomes of that with ICC.

“The worrying thing is that the players are telling us that if things don’t change they will be turning more to T20 leagues. It varies from country to country. Countries where players are well paid and Test cricket is stronger have a big affinity to Test cricket. But in many countries that is not the case. You have to think big picture. You want to keep Test cricket strong in a number of countries so players want to play the format and there is investment in the format.” – Tony Irish, Chief Executive of FICA

The concept of having divisional Test cricket has been around for a while, for it would give context to the format, and meaning to victory and defeat.  The public objections to it tend to revolve around the practicality of arranging series, which is an exceptionally weak argument.  The reality of the opposition is that England, Australia and India are petrified of relegation removing major series from the equation, while the other teams only make money from series against India – or at a push, England – and cannot survive on their meagre ICC percentage without them.  This is of course not that difficult to overcome, for a redistribution of income from all sources would support the countries involved, as well as creating the opportunity for the likes of Ireland to become a full member – the reluctance of the chosen ten to countenance this being yet another illustration of the self-centred nature of avaricious cricketing governance.

This isn’t going to happen.

When writers are talking about the ways of giving Test cricket a viable future, they are talking about the sport.  The ICC and its constituent management are not thinking about the sport itself and haven’t done for years if ever.  It is about power, and it is about money.  At no time have they shown the slightest inclination towards the purity of sport, which ought to be their raison d’etre.  The boards themselves think the same way – the possibility that the Ashes might not happen fills the ECB and CA with horror, rather than considering the best way to ensure that never happens is to develop players and teams to provide success.

This is why at the halfway point of what has all the prospects of being a great Test series there is no celebration of how wonderful Test cricket can be, it’s more of a concern about how long this will carry on in its current form.

As for the Test itself, expectations are that the wicket will be seam friendly, to the point that South Africa will be going in without a frontline spinner.  With Dale Steyn ruled out, England have a real opportunity to take a winning lead.  The Wanderers usually produces a result, and a straight shoot out between the pace attacks is likely.

Comments on day one below

2015 Dmitris – Number Three – Death of a Gentleman (Kimber/Collins)

Jarrod-Kimber-Sam-Collins

In essence this is a really simple one. Probably the most important cricket film in our lifetimes, one that tried to at least have a stab at getting to the power-brokers and making other journalists sit up and listen to what some of us social media zealots had been banging on about since the Big Three carve up, and which slowly but surely is setting the narrative on what is happening in the world game today.

Jarrod and Sam, who both TLG and I can speak to freely, which is pretty nice of them, are every bit as deserving of the good journo award as George was last year. They are not your typical reporters. Jarrod, in particular, has always been one that has intrigued me. His is a bloggers style taken that extra mile that is beyond nearly all of us. His piece, for example, on the beaten England team at Sydney was a masterpiece, capturing the spirits of a defeated army better than the sniping, leak-driven, agenda-laden bog paper our media was serving up. He was also the journo responsible for the reading out of the Top 10 Worst Journalists poll to the press corps at the Sri Lanka tests. He gets the blogging mentality because he is one. He recognises the fandom we have, that that is a positive energy for the sport, not one to be derided, abused, ignored or treated with contempt. So while a Selvey will sneer, or a Bunkers go into a paroxsym of Cookie worship, Jarrod is sniping around the edges.

I was fortunate to be allowed to see Death of a Gentleman early. It was an interesting film, and probably Sam and Jarrod would admit that it isn’t perfect. But what it is is a reminder of how test cricket exists for no real logical reason now. Sure, the Ashes might sell, as might an India v Pakistan match-up, but little else matters. The all-consuming T20 expansion around the globe is seen as a threat, but the film argues it shouldn’t be. It highlights what test cricket meant to Ed Cowan, and that a number of other players see it that way too. But then it turned to the governance of the game, and the film got to its main point.

Sports bodies around the world are viewed with suspicion. I think the term is “a toxic brand”. Collins and Kimber bring that toxicity to the screen. Interviewing Clarke should come with a Hazardous Material warning, while Wally Edwards probably told them to foxtrot oscar. Srini avoided every question that might tie him down. While they might not have found the smoking gun, what they did find were rooms with a huge smell of discharged bullets. The biggest of them all was being left outside the meeting rooms, given short shrift by the security guards, and fed platitudes by the press officers.

While some of the key players, well, I mean Srini really, are not in the picture any more, the evidence Jarrod and Sam needed is coming out. Tim Wigmore is doing massively good work (keep that up and he’s in the running for next year) in highlighting the plight of the associates. Peter Miller and Andrew Nixon are two vociferous associate defenders. The game’s concentration, rather than widening is disheartening to all. While countries treat test matches like the last thing they want to play, there are loads of countries dying to give it a try. It’s a nonsense.

But let’s put it this way. They made Giles Clarke look even worse than we thought he was. That is a stupendous achievement. They have continued to fight the good fight, taking the film to Australia, holding a demonstration outside The Oval, continuing to keep the film in the public eye. The mainstream British media have done little to highlight the film since (with some notable exceptions) and certain senior journalists have not even cast their eye over it, or been major defenders of the ECB in their own lovely way.

So for the efforts to bring the dark arts of cricket administration under the scrutiny of the media, the cricketing public and anyone who might actually give a stuff how our sport is run, I am giving a Dmitri to Jarrod and Sam for their excellent Death of A Gentleman. Available on Amazon etc, and very recommended. My heartfelt thanks for all the work they have done.

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The Magic of Sport

Sometimes we need a bit of a reminder.  The machinations of governing bodies, the cynical way the media allow them to get away with it, the frustrations of the unheard supporter.  And yet from time to time, something happens to remind us of why we love it in the first place.

I had the joy and privilege of having tickets for the Rugby World Cup this weekend.  In Brighton.  For the South Africa v Japan game.  A routine match, surely – one where the pleasure gained would be in seeing plucky underdogs giving it a go, and watching some truly great players of the game perform in front of me.  It didn’t work out like that.

Many of you won’t be rugby fans, and this blog isn’t about other sports anyway, but the relevance to every single sports fan of whatever type is that it reminds us why we watch, why we got interested in the first place.

I love rugby, I always have.  I was there for England’s ridiculous 55-35 win over France as they did everything they could to snatch the title from Ireland, and that was wonderful.  But it was for a given value of wonder, and non-rugby fans wouldn’t have given two hoots.  Where yesterday differed was that it was an example of where a sport, not one that is always in the wider public consciousness, grabbed the attention of many more.

ITV reported that they had 4.5 million viewers by the conclusion of the epic events yesterday evening, as word got around that something remarkable was happening.  It’s an astounding number for a game that didn’t involve a home nation, and yet another illustration of the power of free to air television. Within the stadium, the fervour grew ever greater, as Japan time and again fought back from behind.  The moment they crossed the try line in the fourth minute of overtime the place exploded, as 29,000 people (less a few South Africans) decided that at that moment they were all honorary Japanese.

Now, World Cup tickets in this tournament are outrageously expensive, and anecdotally a lot of rugby fans have decided not to bother in protest at the gouging that is going on – though since it’s pretty much sold out, the governing bodies won’t care.  Equally, many of the grounds decided to increase the price of food and drink, to extract a little bit more from the matchgoing fan – although at the Amex Brighton Community Stadium (sponsorship rules again) the service was so woefully slow – rugby fans wanted beer, who’d have thought? – that it probably cost them thousands in lost business anyway.  Yet again, avarice amongst organisers is a prime motivation.

But sport has a delightful habit of doing the unexpected.  Japan’s victory yesterday, along with Georgia’s earlier in the day, was duly celebrated by fans across the world, the huge upset(s) giving life to the tournament, and enormous pleasure beyond the game.  And yet here’s the thing, Ireland beating England in the Cricket World Cup was just the same, one of those moments that even if it’s your own team you have to appreciate the wider importance of outsiders coming through and beating the elite.  The difference is that World Rugby (as the IRB have rather pompously renamed themselves) will be utterly delighted, the game’s popularity will receive an additional boost, there will be kids in Tokyo and Tblisi throwing a rugby ball around this morning.

What rugby won’t do in response is to decide the likes of Japan and Georgia shouldn’t be in future tournaments, or that South Africa’s defeat is a disaster for the game where their current plight of potentially not qualifying for the quarter finals needs to be prevented from happening again.  The international body managing rugby is a mile away from being a force for unmitigated good in the game, they receive (rightly) lots of criticism for failing to support the growth of the game outside its heartlands adequately, and the big nations are pretty grasping too.  But they also know that to expand the game you need moments like yesterday.  Indeed, Japan are the next hosts of the World Cup in 2019, a scenario it’s impossible to imagine cricket contemplating.

Yesterday was amazing.  When Japan crossed the try line having eschewed the chance to take the draw with a kick at goal in favour of going for the win, that deep emotion you can feel from wonderful sporting theatre went through my whole body.  There’s not a thing that can beat it, despite the attempts by those in power to take it away from us.

The sheer joy (and disbelief) on the faces of Japanese supporters outside the ground is a memory that will stay with me.  The stories of such things as Springbok fans forming a guard of honour for their Japanese counterparts at the ticket barriers at Victoria station remind us all that we, those who care, are what make the sport special, for without us, there is no game.

I had to re-watch the highlights this morning to check it really happened.  It did.  And it was absolutely bloody marvellous.  Cricket considers this a bad thing.  Think about that.

@BlueEarthMngmnt

School Report: Summer 2015

Ladies and gentlemen, friends of the school, may I welcome you all to our speech day.  It has been a momentous time for our establishment and at this time it falls to me as headmaster to deliver an address detailing the events of the year.

Before I begin, may I offer up my sincere thanks to the chairman of the school governors, the esteemed Mr Giles Clarke for his hard work over the year.  I know he has received much criticism over the last couple of terms, but his dedication to our wonderful place of learning is second to none.  And if for us to thrive it requires all thirty six other schools in the county to be closed down, then I for one applaud him for placing the right kind of family at the heart of his efforts.  I have no doubt that those children now unable to attend a school merely need to increase their efforts, and they too will have the opportunity to join our caring, kind community.  Mr Clarke remains the personification of our school motto, “Sutores in ceteris omnibus”.

I also need to thank our chairman of the Parent/Teacher Association, Mr Andrew Strauss.  Many of you know him well of course, as he is a former pupil and head boy of this school, and it is our privilege that he has chosen to devote his time to bringing through the next generation.  As we know, he did have a challenging start to his tenure, as that appalling child, young Kevin Pietersen, appealed against his exclusion from school grounds.  I want to make something very clear here.  Just because young Pietersen went on Dragon’s Den, won backing from those awful business types, made a fortune and offered to pay his and everyone else’s school fees doesn’t mean we have to accept that kind of person here.  This is not that type of school.  From what I understand, he’s doing very well in comprehensives around the world.

Our head boy, young Master Cook, sat behind me, has had a wonderful year.  Personally I don’t believe good grades are essential in a head boy, and he has been unfailingly polite throughout the term.  One must observe that he is an example to everyone, and I find it a tribute to his conduct and dedication that he has turned down a place at polytechnic in order to remain with us throughout his twenties.

Our pupils are what we exist for.  And I would like to pay tribute to those of them who have made our alma mater what it is today.  Master Root is a shining light in our midst, having achieved AAAAAAAAAAAAAA* grades in his exams, allowing us to escape the Ofsted Inspectors for another year.  I firmly believe he is head boy material for the future and…..are you alright Alastair?  Sorry, as I was saying head boy material for the future.  It is even more impressive when one considers that young Root arrived on a scholarship from a poor estate to the north of the school.  We shall of course endeavour to teach him to speak English over the course of his time with us, beginning with teaching him to count how many “o’s” there are in his name.

If only the same could be said for some others who came from the same location.  Master Lyth arrived with such high grades from junior school, but has yet to match up to our expectations.  I must express a concern that Master Rashid keeps attempting to break into school grounds.  We have been very clear on this, pupils are only to be permitted to enter when we decide and not when they do.  His parents and family seem to believe that simply because there is a place in class for his very specific skills that warrants him joining.  This is not and never has been the case.  We do fully appreciate how he has run the tuck shop over the last year, and I know that the school pupils have become very used to seeing him peeping round the door, but he must earn his place, particularly on school trips where the tuck shop has been a credit to the school throughout.

If only all our pupils were to show the same dedication.  I regret to inform you all that Master Ballance has been suspended with immediate effect.  It is critical to understand that pupils are here to learn, and I’m afraid on one too many occasions he claimed that his homework had been consumed by the family pet.  He is of course, welcome to return when he shows that he is able to master declensions and deliver timely assignments.

I must also appeal at this point to the hall if anyone has seen Master Anderson.  His early term grades were outstanding, but he provided a note from his mother that he had a doctor’s appointment, and no one has seen him since.  He is a credit to the school and we would be grateful if we could be advised of his whereabouts.

Now, Master Stokes.  I have told you before, setting fire to the science lab is not allowed, and nor is shouting at other pupils.  I do applaud your restraint when Master Samuels teased you, but let that be a lesson to you.  This is against school rules and I am watching you closely.  If it was you who brought that girl into school last month, that too is against the rules.  You may excel in both PE and Maths but that does not give you the right to ignore regulations.  And I have replaced the lockers in the gym, and I don’t want to have to do it again.

Master Moeen has shown promise throughout the year, and I have very much appreciated the way he has brought me my mid morning tea and toast.  Indeed the way he has anticipated my requirements is most impressive.  Even when I have asked him to move desks (sometimes several times a day) he has done so with a smile.  And he has such beautiful handwriting, even if there are a few too many spelling mistakes at times.

Another boy who has performed well this year is Master Broad.  I must confess to slight surprise about this, as his father, also a pupil here, was known to behave badly at times, and once threw his satchel through a classroom window.  Yet he is an example to us all as to what can be achieved with hard work and meeting the right people, as he is now an Ofsted inspector, though thankfully we are spared his attentions due to his son’s presence.  I am told that he is not popular in some schools elsewhere in the region, but as we all know, those places merely have lots of money and not the same history as we do.

Young Stuart has been a pupil here for some time, and has progressed very nicely.  I was delighted to see he had a piece published on the website of the local newspaper, but unfortunately it seems it was missed by many as it was taken down before lunch.

Master Bell has excelled in art throughout his stay with us, but I must admit to some concern over his output this year. He appears to be paying too much attention to pupils in other schools, particularly those at Cubist College.  Quite frankly I couldn’t see what he was trying to paint at times.

Our new boy Master Wood has shown signs that he could be a credit to the school, but there was that unfortunate episode where he entirely misunderstood what was asked of him when requested to feed the school gerbil.  It was deeply regrettable, but I suppose at least that horse had a good meal.

Master Buttler didn’t seem himself at all this year.  Sitting at the back of the class and keeping quiet isn’t what we expect from him, even though he did his homework conscientiously.  I’m also concerned that he seemed to ask Master Bairstow to do it for him at times.  This is not permitted, and we have made it clear only one of them can ask questions at a time.

Master Finn has rejoined the school this year.  I want to make it absolutely clear that no teacher bears any blame or responsibility for his troubles over the last couple of years, no matter what some parents have said.  We have complete faith in our teaching and just because a boy can no longer write is not down to the school, even if he did have a book published some years ago.  He has been nothing but polite all year and we are very proud of how he can now tell the difference between the letter a and d.

I would like to conclude by thanking those visiting schools we have hosted this year.  The first of them in the spring surprised many of us, and although I don’t feel that nightly parties are quite the thing, it did seem to go down well with everyone here.  It is a concern how quickly our students copied them, but they seemed to enjoy themselves.

Our old friends from the other side of the county came to stay with us once again.  I know some of you have expressed a concern at how often they have joined us, but the annual donation from friend of the school Mr Sky is essential to our finances.  We have committed to spending at least £20 on the playing fields around the school as a result, and I’m sure no one can argue with that.

It was certainly a pleasure to have their company again, and as ever their school motto “Colonium vivimus convicto” flew proudly at the gates.  We do need to make some allowances for how differently they do things, and whilst it may have been surprising to see Master Watson’s behaviour in woodwork class, it may well be that they have taught him to hammer a nail in using his legs rather than the tools provided.  I do appreciate some teachers found it odd that he would constantly ask for their second opinion having done so, but we must respect their different ways.

We have a very busy year ahead of us, with two big school trips coming up.  I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to Mr Beatty to help fund the one to the middle east, as Mr Sky isn’t answering my phone calls.  Indeed Mr Beatty has been most helpful to us all year, but I must make it clear that young Pietersen is not to be allowed to help you out.

Thank you all for coming today, and if any of you have any questions for myself or Mr Clarke, please feel free to make an appointment and we shall lose no time in answering you.  Not you Kimber.  Not you Collins.  Who let you in anyway?  Out!

@BlueEarthMngmnt

Death of a Gentleman

We’re hardly the first to have our say about this most important of films, but given that importance, it remains essential that the message it conveys continues to be discussed and promoted.

It’s striking that the media reporting of this film has been extremely muted; some might say that a cricket documentary is hardly mainstream, but Fire in Babylon received far more attention. Amongst the written press, the ones who have talked about, or reviewed it, are those one would expect to see do so.  Yet of the major newspapers, the relative silence has been striking.  Even at the time of the Big Three’s effective takeover of the world game, the press was largely silent.  In this country, Scyld Berry and Lawrence Booth more than had their say, while in Australia Gideon Haigh was voluble in his criticism.  That’s not an exclusive list, but that so few “journalists” put their heads above the parapet says an awful lot.  Failing to hold the ECB to account over the way they manage the England cricket team is one thing, failing to hold the ICC and constituent boards to account for actions massively detrimental to the whole game is another entirely.  They could even hold a contrary view and express why they think it is a good idea – that at least would be something.  Silence is not.  It is an absolute disgrace, and the cricket press as a body should hang their heads in shame over it.

The broadcast media too has barely even mentioned it, with Test Match Special tiptoeing around the issues raised, and Sky not so much as acknowledging its existence.  Giles Clarke would have you believe it’s because administration isn’t of interest to anyone, only teams and players are, but the film details how when the ICC discovered the story being told, Jarrod Kimber’s press accreditation mysteriously went missing, while potential interviewees were warned off.  That it is a tale the various boards don’t want told is obvious.  The lengths they go to in order to prevent that is a different matter, and the silence from so much of the cricket press about a film that is central to the future of the game more than suspicious.

There are some telling asides away from the main narrative, such as Andrew Strauss bemoaning the rise in the number of short Test series, presumably an opinion given long before there was any possibility of him beingwithin the same ECB who were party to it.  Maybe someone will ask him.

The invention of T20 cricket in 2003 (by which we mean the professional invention, that club cricketers have known the game for years doesn’t count), and the subsequent creation of the IPL is often blamed for the threat to Test cricket, but it didn’t need to be.  As Haigh points out, for T20 to have an attraction, it has to be shorter than something.  There is absolutely no inherent reason why they couldn’t co-exist.  Indeed, the potential was and is there for T20 to support Test cricket while taking the game to brand new places and countries.  It was an opportunity to grow cricket, to nurture it and also to make money for the game.

The powerful argument Messrs Kimber and Collins build instead is of a venal, self-interested group who care little for the game except as a means of building power and making money.  Lots of money.  The IPL is central to this, as businessmen spied the opportunity to make a fortune.  Yet it would be too easy to simply blame India for everything, and there is a danger that the film will be dismissed there as nothing but an attack on an India that has been on the receiving end of a patronising attitude from the English and Australians through cricket history.  In that they certainly have a point, yet a second wrong doesn’t right the first one, and in any case blaming India solely would be to miss the point being made.

The IPL itself has undoubtedly become a monster, but one which is extremely popular, and on its own merits that should be a good thing for the game.  The trouble, as is apparent throughout the film is that it is run by those who don’t care about the wider game of cricket.  It is a means of enrichment, and when those in charge of the sport don’t have that innate love for it in its own right as a game, the dangers are clear.  That is why sporting governing bodies are meant to be neutral – or at least relatively neutral – in such matters, their role is to be the custodians of the wider sport, ensuring that naked commercial interests don’t damage the integrity of the sport itself.

For that is the fundamental central point.  The ICC is not a governing body in the true sense and never has been.  One of the striking things while watching the film is that it is so reminiscent of the goings on at FIFA.  And yet even FIFA have managed to expand football and have distributed serious wealth around the world, no matter how dubious the morality behind it.  The ICC in contrast, have a woeful record of furthering the game.  The example illustrated on screen was of the pathetic £30,000 funding given to China, a nation of such size and potential growth that it would be thought a country ripe for development and support.  Perhaps it is one degree of cynicism too far to think that cricket in China would be entirely against the interests of the current establishment, for whom a new market of over a billion people represents nothing but a potential threat to their power base.  Perhaps not too cynical after all.

The film makers did at least manage to get interviews with many of the major players in the drama – though Cricket Australia manage to come out of it rather better through the simple method of refusing all co-operation.  N. Srinivasan is consistently smooth, while failing to answer a single question, and Giles Clarke manages the impossible, by coming across as even more repulsive than normal.  If he’d been born Australian, he’d be called Sir Les Patterson.

Indeed, while Srinivasan stonewalls thoughout, it is Clarke who is the undoubted star of the drama, though not in the way he probably imagines himself to be.  Lord Woolf’s report into governance at the ICC – which was rejected by the ICC itself – is dismissed by Clarke in contemptuous and self-reverential terms.  Woolf had been scathing about the lack of accountability within the organisation in his own report, stating that the ICC behaved like a “members club” for whom the development of the game was secondary, and whose boards acted in their own self-interest rather than the overall good of the game.  Giles Clarke in the film actually inadvertently proved this by stating “I have every right to put my board’s interests first” – a comment that is notable for putting the interests of his board ahead of the interests of English cricket, let alone cricket more generally.

Woolf’s criticisms were  aimed at the old ICC, yet it was known at the time that India in particular were strongly opposed to his recommendations, which amounted to a democratisation of the organisation and the prevention of conflicts of interest.  A summary of those recommendations can be found on this link:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci-icc/content/story/551836.html

Far from approving the report that they had themselves commissioned, the three richest boards decided to go in the opposite direction.  India, England and Australia in great secrecy put together a plan whereby they would take effective control of the whole of the ICC.  The middle portion of the film covers the meeting held in Dubai, in secret and without being minuted, to put this plan together.  Kimber and Collins are rightly appalled at this, the behaviour of an autocracy with plenty to hide, not those supposedly appointed to be the custodians of the game.

“There is a paragraph which says: It is proposed that the ICC executive board forms a new committee of the ICC called the executive committee, which under new terms of reference will act as – and I emphasise this word – the SOLE recommendation committee on all constitutional, personnel, integrity, ethics, developments and nomination matters, as well as all matters regarding distributions from the ICC.

“I have never seen anything of that sort in a body of this nature.” – Lord Woolf

When the details of the carve up actually became apparent, it was worse than anyone could have imagined.  Over half the revenues of world cricket were to go directly into the back pockets of the three biggest boards, with India taking the largest share.  That could be argued to be reasonable enough in principle, given that India generate the largest amount.  Of far more concern and fully detailed, was the fait accompli presented to every other cricket nation to accept it, with each other Test nation to receive a mere 5% of the pot.  Former ICC President Ehsan Mani calculated that $300 million over 10 years would be cut from the ICC Development Programme, to be redirected to the coffers of the already wealthy.

At the same time, the plan to reduce the size of the World Cup to 10 teams makes the ICC the only sporting body to actively try to shrink their game globally – a truly astounding policy.

And here is where the initial concept behind the film – the fears for Test cricket – are beautifully brought into focus.  For the other Test playing nations were neither consulted, nor given any real opportunity to object.  One of those happens to be the side who are currently the best in the world in the form of South Africa, but it applies whether or not they are good on the field.  The flexing of muscles extended to making it abundantly clear that any opposition and those countries could forget about getting lucrative tours from India.  Bullying is rarely an edifying sight, and had already been seen in India’s response to Haroon Lorgat becoming the Chief Executive of Cricket South Africa.  Earlier than that, Tim May had been ousted from the ICC Cricket Committee, with it being reported in the Australian press – and repeated by Tim May – the BCCI had put pressure on Test captains to vote for Laxman Sivaramakrishnan instead.  Sivaramakrishnan is an employee of India Cements, whose Managing Director is one Narayanaswami Srinivasan.

Test cricket outside of the big three nations was thus put on life support, with other nations unable to make it pay, except through the largesse and exceptional and well known kindness of India, England and Australia.

“The intention to entrench a privileged position for ‘The Big Three’ appears to be an abuse of entrusted power for private gain, giving them disproportionate, unaccountable and unchallengeable authority” – Transparency International

N. Srinivasan was duly made the Chairman of the ICC, the proposal was passed, and what Scyld Berry called “the worst thing that has ever happened in our sport” was made real.

If India’s dominance wasn’t leading to a good outcome, the acquiescence, nay roaring approval, of England and Australia was worse.  Instead of looking at the wider interests of the game, they instead decided to grab as big a piece of the pie themselves and stuff the rest of the world.  England’s own conduct is entirely reflective of that – the much vaunted return of five Test series for iconic opponents quickly and silently excluded South Africa from the list, for reasons that have not been disclosed.  England decided to focus almost entirely on matches against India and Australia instead.  Bangladesh, a nation new to Test cricket will likely go a decade between tours of England, and while they may not be currently the greatest of draws, the reality is that they never will be under this global regime.  In discussions on these boards, D’Arthez did the mathematics on England’s recent schedule, and as such deserves to be quoted in full:

Since the start of 2011, there have been 47 matches between Australia and England across formats. A few of those were in World Cups / Champions Trophies T20 World Cups, but still. Compare that to the number of England / South Africa games which stands at 14. An eye-watering three of those were Tests. Pakistan stands at 10 (mostly all from the UAE tour of 2012). Bangladesh stands at 2 games in the World Cup, both games won by Bangladesh.

Australia has played 47 games against England in that period. They have played 6 against New Zealand. 4 against Bangladesh, and 3 against Zimbabwe.

India have played 42 games against England. 31 against Australia, and also (surprisingly) 31 against West Indies. 12 games against Pakistan, 11 games against Zimbabwe and 10 games against New Zealand.

Now I am aware that this snapshot may not be fair, but scheduling is not rational: we have had 3 Ashes series since the last time Australia played Tests against New Zealand for instance, or England played against Pakistan. So it is impossible to take a “fair” snapshot courtesy of the ICC.

Schedules are simply becoming increasingly dominated by teams of financially similar standings to make more money. Yay for the scrapping of the FTP. So you get a group of India, Australia, England, who dominate the fixtures between each other. England plays close to 50% of its ODIs against Australia and India for instance.

It is only going to get worse.  The other nations seeking the scraps as they are dropped from the top table, and playing more lucrative ODIs or T20s against each other when they have no one else to play against, rather than Tests.  Furthermore, what is the point of a nation like Ireland seeking Test status when this is environment in which they will be operating.  They have already been kicked in the teeth over the reduction in size of the World Cup – reduction in number of teams that is, the number of games will be barely affected, and now the Tests they hope to play will be thoroughly devalued, if not scrapped entirely, except when the Big Three deign to notice them.

Clarke attempted to make the claim that he was acting for the good of cricket, and in a nauseatingly self-justifying section pointed to his being unpaid in his role.  Curiously enough, this writer is on an industry board, also unpaid, and does so partially because of the professional advantage it gives him.  It’s best left there.

Clarke also refused to answer any kinds of questions about the Stanford affair, an example of sacrificing the values of cricket and the integrity of the England team on the altar of naked commercialism.  That it was arranged with a criminal is actually the least of the sins involved, for a national team is meant to be representative of that country, not a play thing for filthy lucre.  He not only survived that episode, but went on to create his own position of President (sarcastically referenced in the end credits) responsible for ECB dealings with the ICC which both indicates an awareness of where the real power lies, and a complete lack of any kind of integrity or conscience.  Clarke also managed to demonstrate his familiar sense of timing and old-fashioned courtesy so evident at the Wisden dinner (a note here: Lawrence Booth’s rebuff towards Clarke was sufficiently stylish and acute that it will doubtless be noted down for future retaliation by the great man) by not realising he was on the ICC’s own cameras when noting about Collins “that idiot Sam is outside”.

When the viewer is watching so aghast at the naked greed on display that even Lalit Modi appears to be something of a good guy in arguing against what is happening, the trouble the game in is clear.  It is more than right to be deeply sceptical of his motives in suddenly discovering the soul of cricket, but the news today that he intends to set up a rival governing body to the ICC ironically represents the kind of challenge that is not appearing from any other quarter – our film making heroes notwithstanding.

An interesting comment made is that his intention is that it be affiliated to the Olympic movement, and another strand of investigation in Death of a Gentleman is the refusal of the Big Three to countenance the idea of cricket being an Olympic sport.  Clarke tries to defend this on the utterly preposterous grounds that it would disrupt the English season.  And so it would.  Every four years.  When it would disrupt the season in the same way that Tests and One Day Internationals do.  What he really means is that it wouldn’t earn the ECB any money.

T20 would be perfect as an Olympic sport; it would massively raise the profile of the game, it would allow countries all over the world to appear at a major sporting event on a level playing field.  There is no downside for cricket whatsoever, there is only a downside for those who would not be able to control it as it would be organised by the IOC, and it would not make any money for those who care about little else.  Quite simply, they cannot make any kind of rational argument against it, so resort to bluster.

And in all of this, what of the cricket fan?  What of the supporter, who pays his hard earned money to watch the greats of the game?  One of the most pointed comments in the film is that the fans are there to be monetised, and that the broadcasters and boards are the only ones who matter.  The objections to the conduct of the ECB need to be seen in the context of this, for in all the documentation and comment about the changes to the ICC, there is no mention whatever of the interests of the spectator.  Not one word.  Nor is there any reference to the amateur game – which shouldn’t be any kind of surprise when the associates and the affiliates are so roundly ignored and disparaged.

Jarrod Kimber and Sam Collins have made a film that every single person with an interest in cricket needs to watch.  This is all being done in our name, by an organisation that is meant to have the interests of the game we love at heart, by constituent cricket boards who are meant to look after the game in their home countries.  It is nothing other than the complete theft of an entire sport by a self-appointed oligarchy bent on advancing their own interests.   When the English cricket fan watches this international summer, he or she basks in the enjoyment of beating the Australians but laments that only two Tests were scheduled against New Zealand.  It is all part of the whole rotten edifice.  The ECB claimed that the Ashes needed to be rescheduled because of the World Cup in order to prevent players being burned out for the premier one day competition.  It would then revert to a four year cycle.  Oh really.  Is that except for the plans in the 2020s when it doesn’t?

From the village green to the barest patch of ground to packed out stadiums, the subject of this wonderful film affects every single person with a passion for the game.  It is polemical, it asks the right questions, and that it doesn’t get all the answers is not down to any shortcomings on the part of the makers, but entirely due to the reluctance of those in and below the ICC to have their dealings exposed to public scrutiny.

You need to see it.  And you need to digest it.  And tell your friends.  The makers have set up http://www.changecricket.com/ to campaign to get our game back.  It’s up to us all to support them in that, because while we may not succeed, if we don’t try then we have no chance.  And we will deserve all we get.

TLG

Dmitri View – I too have watched the film. I did so last week, but wanted TLG to cast his eye over it too. I’m sure you’ll agree, he’s done an amazing, thorough review. I know Arron is also watching it tonight, and I’d seriously recommend the film to all of you.

This is not about this blogger, or those of you on here, switching horses to another narrative, because the ECB and the way it interacts with us and other bodies in our name is part of the discourse on this blog nearly every day. Jarrod and Sam undertook this venture to discuss test cricket and instead saw the writing on the wall when they started delving deeper. Cricket is another sport being milked for cash, with corporate parasites getting their millions of pounds of flesh in an orgy of self-interest, short-termism and blatant profiteering. Sport shouldn’t be about supply and demand, it should be about equal access. Sport engenders great things in people, makes them strive, better themselves, set themselves targets they may never reach. It encourages camaraderie, spending hours with people, making lifelong mates. In the world we live in that is abused. That love of playing is there, as Gideon Haigh speaks so eruditely, to be monetised.

I can bark at the moon all I like, but cricket is just like all the rest. While the heart-strings are pulled a little by the Ed Cowan portions of the film, the rest did not shock me. Not in the slightest. I sat there getting more and more angry at a world governing body that runs the sport firmly behind closed doors. At an ECB that plays its full part in keeping it that way. It may be in our players short-term interests to trouser more money for playing for England, but who are they going to play against? Australia and India ad infinitum? I remember the 2003 series v South Africa, and the one in 2004-5 too. Five test series, absolutely brilliant cricket, entertaining and thrilling. We’ve not played them in a five test series since, but in the past three years have had mind-numbing, one-sided (results) series. This isn’t growing the game in this country, it’s putting on endless repeats.

I can’t add much more to TLG’s piece, except to finish up with Giles Clarke. I refuse to believe this man still does not hold the wheels of power in English cricket. You barely hear a peep out of Colin Graves, but Clarke still bestrides world cricket like a colossal oaf. Only oafs can be innocent. He isn’t. In no way. The contempt, the disdain, the arrogance, the sheer affront that these two “journalists” should have the gall to question this Ozymandias? How very dare they! England, we are told, are not in his grip any more. The ECB isn’t his. I don’t believe them. Because the same attitudes persist. I’ve not seen a change from them. Not really. Still sticking to the Big Three, still no apology for “outside cricket”, still no recognition of the fans. Clarke sums it up with his advice, which I’ve heard before, that no-one is interested in cricket administration. Jarrod and Sam bring this dripping condescension through. Loud and clear.

It’s a terrific film, has its rough edges, but you can’t deny that the message is clear, despite the critics saying there is no smoking gun, no silver bullet (how ridiculous is that in the context of something else we all remember). It shows the ICC and the three organisations that now dominate to be unaccountable, have no transparent governance, and they’d wish questioners away without a care.

I ain’t going nowhere, sunshine, and nor are Jarrod and Sam. #ChangeCricket could do a lot worse than #AGilesClarkeFreeECB.

@DmitriOld    

@BlueEarthMngmnt

Together, The Leg Glance and Dmitri Old/LordCanisLupus are “Being Outside Cricket”

@OutsideCricket

See more information on Death of a Gentleman at the website – http://deathofagentlemanfilm.com/ – as well as following their Twitter page – https://twitter.com/doagfilm.

ChangeCricket is their new portal, so check that out – http://www.changecricket.com/ while Jarrod Kimber and Sam Collins are both on Twitter at @sampsoncollins and

You can watch the trailer for Death of a Gentleman here: