England vs India: 3rd ODI

Apologies all, work has rather got in the way this morning!

Match thread for today’s decider, and comments below welcome as always.

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England vs. India: 2nd ODI

I’m on holiday, but it seems like no one has put up a post so here one is.

I missed the first ODI too, but it sounds like England’s issues with spin have spread from the Test team. It’s been a very dry summer, so you’d expect this to continue. England also still have issues batting first, which hopefully they’ll address in the next year.

As always, feel free to comment on the game below.

England vs India: 1st ODI

Back to normal. Defeat in the World Cup doesn’t seem to have stung as much as on previous occasions, perhaps because rather than being unlucky this time, England were simply outplayed by a superior side in the end. But perhaps the striking thing was that in many ways, football did come home, as a youthful, inexperienced side managed to engage the public both on the pitch and off it. The use of social media by the players added to the sense of being “our” team, and the normal dismissal of them as millionaire, uncaring young men was placed in abeyance.

In years to come, it may be that this is the most striking element of this World Cup, and yes, its availability on free to air television to truly engage with the nation is a huge part of that.

But it’s more too, an establishment of principles, a desire to play a certain way and the willingness of the players to be a part of that, to sacrifice their personal roles for the whole. Above all else, the generation of hope for the future is what has been taken from it.

And so to cricket, where the feeling of envy for what football has achieved won’t go away. It has happened before, in 2005, but those days are long gone and more than anything, there’s no sense of any possibility that they will return. Sadness and a deep anger at that is a constant refrain.

Thus we begin the ODI series, and in an ideal world this would be the antidote to disappointment, another national side to rally around. If only. Though if even through the newspaper reports, a nation would dearly love to see an England side victorious, and grab at any bit of success there is.

The ODI series against Australia at the height of the summer felt pointless then, and feels pointless now. But it also detracted from what would otherwise have been a fairly sensible schedule against India. Three T20s, three ODIs and five Tests builds the anticipation for the main event well, and the longer white ball format perhaps gives a better indication of the merits of the sides than the shortest form (until the ECB create their latest, anyway).

So in all, this has the potential to be an interesting match up, and cricket finally has the chance to move up from footnote to byline. Progress of a sort.

Comments on the game below.

It Might be Coming Home, but the Players Stayed at Home. 3rd T20.

So here it is, the highlight of the sporting summer!

Having written frequently on the minor diversion of the World Cup, there’s not much more to say, except that it is striking to see how the football team have captured the soul of a nation, not just by their performances on the field, but through their interaction and humility in their behaviour off it. And you know, while loving every moment of this gloriously improbable run to the semi-finals, there’s a part of me feeling the pain of the irrelevance of the cricket team in public consciousness.

Sam Morshead wrote a piece the other day detailing the plans the various leagues up and down the country had for ensuring cricketers could watch the football. Some were prescriptive, refusing to make any allowances, others provided parameters in which to work, and others still (such as the Sussex League) were content for the teams to sort out their own arrangements between them.

Nevertheless, it appears a significant number of matches were scratched, as players decided that a day of cricket just wasn’t for them. There are a couple of points to be made here: firstly that a refusal to accept reality is crazy; a football World Cup is, and is always going to be, the ultimate in a shared experience. The empty seats at Wimbledon at around 3pm indicated the same, that whatever a sporting love might be, it is secondary to something truly national in its shared joy and pain.

The second point is that twelve years ago few leagues made any such arrangements. Certainly I recall for the quarter final against Portugal in 2006, and indeed the second round match against Denmark in 2002 that fixtures went ahead exactly as scheduled. In both cases, the captains of the sides were under instruction from their team-mates to win the toss and bat so we could all watch it. In both cases we lost the toss, fielded and missed the games – for one of them the groans gave away what was happening, in the other it was the cheers.

Yet the most striking thing was that this seemed entirely normal, cricket was a choice, it was unfortunate, but it wasn’t much more than an irritation. Nor was there more than a passing consideration that games should be arranged around the football – we were league cricketers, that’s what we did.

This time, it is entirely different, and while the all encompassing nature of football is one part of it, the other is the significant loss of confidence that cricket can defy another sport and go ahead as normal. My guess would be that first eleven league sides would be reasonably unaffected should they have been compelled to play as normal, but that second and third eleven schedules would be destroyed. It would be interesting to see the evidence of what happened in those league structures that refused to compromise, and whether that perception was borne out by reality.

Perhaps it is no more than the change in society, but there must be a suspicion that amateur cricket is simply in a far weaker position than it was twelve or sixteen years ago, that it can’t ignore a World Cup because when it comes to it, it will simply lose.

Credit to those leagues who saw sense, but the reduced status of cricket is once again a deeply troubling phenomenon.

Comments on the T20 below.

England vs India: Young People Don’t Watch

At least the game this evening isn’t scheduled at the same time the England football team are playing, which means that it’s at least possible some will notice it happening.  On the other hand, the television audiences for the football World Cup have been exceptional even in the games England haven’t been involved in.  The Belgium – Japan second round match saw a peak of 12.4 million tune in, a figure exceeded in 2017 only by Blue Planet, the Strictly final and the launch of I’m a Celebrity.

Once again, it needs to be stated that the World Cup is special, and as a quadrennial event, can capture the public imagination like little else.  Equally, England still being in the competition does affect the interest in other games, as people pay attention to what else is happening in the tournament while dreaming about future opponents.  Nevertheless, the viewing figures are simply extraordinary, testament to the power of sport when made widely available.  Of course, this isn’t a new complaint concerning cricket, and while it might well be a case of not wishing to start from where we currently are, it bears endless repeating when you have the likes of Colin Graves not being held account for comments such as these he made in 2016:

“We’d like to see some live cricket on terrestrial television, but Test cricket will not be on terrestrial television.

“The younger generation do not watch terrestrial television, they use social media. We have to take that into account. It will be a mix‑and-match situation for us to come up with the right formula.”

At the time he said this, few challenged it, beyond the usual minority groups often known as cricket supporters, plus a few others irrelevancies such as broadcast professionals.  But they do not count of course, not when faced with the apologists for the cash cow that cricket has become, who parrot the same line in continuing defiance of reality.  That Graves pretty much got away with it remains a disgrace, and this World Cup has highlighted repeatedly that the refrain from the ECB that young people wouldn’t watch terrestrial television to be just so much more utter horseshit from an organisation that specialises in repeatedly showering equine excrement at every opportunity.

Tonight it’s Belgium v Brazil, and without a shadow of a doubt the audience for that will be many, many times those watching the cricket involving our own country.  Indeed, the principal rival for viewing figures will almost certainly be Wimbledon, followed by whatever else is on the terrestrial stations.  The T20 will be a long way down the list.

There is not a thing wrong with having a balance in cricket formats, nor in broadcasting arrangements.  Indeed there’s really nothing wrong with looking at all factors and deciding to just go for the cash, to say so would at least be honest about the position.  What is, and what has always been the problem is the duplicity, evasion and pretence that it’s for the common good.  The army of useful idiots who failed to hold them to account for flat out falsehoods can be added to the list of those caught out by the apparently surprising national appetite for freely available sporting drama.  The kids in the parks currently playing football and dreaming of being Harry Kane are the reward for that access.

And what of the T20 itself?  England were more or less hammered in the first one, unable to cope with spin, and unable to cope with India’s batting.  It was a good day to bury bad news, that’s for sure.  Whether tonight will be any better is an open question, but the true answer is that whatever the delights of cricket as a game we all love, right now barely anyone in this country cares.  That’s not a problem during a World Cup, for no other sport can compete with it.  It is a problem when no one cares and no one watches either.   And of all the reasons behind that, it certainly isn’t because young people don’t watch terrestrial television.  It never was.  Enough with the excuses.

England vs India: 1st T20 match thread

Let’s be honest, the entire country is going to be watching England against Colombia in the World Cup, and included in that whole country is me as well.

Nevertheless, this is the first encounter between these sides as the meat of the summer gets underway, and ironically enough, were it not for the shoehorned ODI series against Australia, this schedule would make a great deal of sense. When it comes to international cricket, the T20s as the nibbles, the ODIs as the hors d’oeuvres and the Tests as the main course is exactly the right approach, and one that really shouldn’t be varied from.

It’s true that the 2005 Ashes series is often quoted as the paradigm to follow in this regard, for the anticipation built steadily to the point that the first Test felt like the climax to a summer of cricket. But that doesn’t mean it was a complete one off – the last series but one in New Zealand scheduled three of each format, with the Tests last and the T20s first. It presented a rational, balanced approach to a tour and a structure that shouldn’t be varied from in concept.

Elsewhere, the ICC have announced a revision of the punishments that can now be expected for ball tampering. The word “draconian” seems appropriate. While poor conduct needs to be stamped out, the reaction to the actual breaches by the Australian side in South Africa has been extraordinary. The schadenfreude came from the pompous, holier than thou conduct emanating from Australia in the years before, not the actual crime. It can be said that it is welcome that the ICC enforce discipline on the teams, but it is obviously too much to ask that they do so for repeated infractions over such things as over-rates, clearly.

Comments below, mostly based on the bits between the football. Oh and one last thing: here’s a lesson in how to re-integrate with supporters. The hostility towards the England football team has largely melted away after a determined effort on their part to re-connect with the fan base. This doesn’t include treating them like total idiots, and does include a structure whereby the supporters can actually watch their team. ECB take note.