Guest Post – Being The Wrong ‘Un About Selection

Back when I was just a lonely old soul, writing mainly for myself and being read mainly by myself, there were a number of bloggers I made sure I read. Up there with The Old Batsman and 99.94 was “The Wrong ‘Un at Long On” (dormant since 2015). I enjoyed his take on things, when he could get the enthusiasm to write, and along with the Full Toss (Maxie and James in full cry), they encouraged me on in the early 2014 madhouse. Now, in a strange circle of fate, the same Wrong ‘Un at Long On, or as we know him on here, Miami Dad’s Six, has penned an article on the upcoming selection for the Trent Bridge test. Not entirely seriously……

Even though MDS is a blogger, remember, he’s guesting for us, so be nice. My thanks to MDS for penning this piece, and if any of you feel up for the challenge, we’d be happy to have you. Take it away Wrong ‘Un.

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So. About me. My username was a keyboard autocorrect of a cricketing moment (an internet based prize for whoever can decrypt it). I used to pen/keyboard/phlegm-up a mediocre blog myself, but was put off/shamed mainly by the unerring accuracy and thoroughness of others, ahem, mainly Dmitri, who were firing off game-changing dramatic soliloquys whilst I was spouting dribble – this was around about the time our foreign-born number 4 was ditched for shocking off-field behaviour.

This time around it’s a foreign-born number 5 in trouble for shocking off-field behaviour, which usually would signal a spell back in county cricket. To be frank though, not many in the side have really nailed their place in the side to the point where you’d guarantee they’ll be about this time next summer, so you’d fancy that our biffing ginger ninja might be slotted back in almost immediately. We all have our own thoughts on whether or not this may be the best course of action, I for one struggle to get bothered either way.

One thing I *do* get bothered about is selection. There are two main selection issues that regularly rile me, namely either players being treated unfairly OR players given special treatment, and they have been joined by a third type of annoyance – the funky, overly-lauded selection that doesn’t get scrutinised enough.  Thanks, Ed. So here are my main thoughts on selection for the 3rd Test at Trent Bridge.

Openers

Weirdly, Edward’s fresh opening batsman selection is neither innovative (he has been tried before), nor funky (he’s a rather straight-laced, nerdy looking fellow). That doesn’t mean (foreign born) Keaton Jennings is a bad player, per se, and there are certainly normal, Championship-based reasons for selecting him this summer. However there seems to be a media consensus that he’s done pretty well in spite of a run of 29, 42, 8 and 11 not exactly boosting his Test average, which sits at 24.00 after 9 Tests. You’d probably think having picked him that England should persevere for the series.  I’m calling it out as a poor selection, neither funky nor successful. (Foreign born) Gary Ballance was sent away to address his underlying issues, didn’t bother, then came back the same player with the same weaknesses. He got slated for it, yet to me Jennings seems to be entirely similar. Can anyone see him scoring a ton in Sri Lanka? Even a 50? I’d chop him now.

His opening partner’s form is boom or bust. Cook averages 27 across 12 Tests in the past year. That stat doesn’t include the double ton against the West Indies, but includes the unbeaten double ton against Australia. That appears to be where we are with Cook at the moment, huge knocks on flat decks, book-ending long periods of stodgy, footwork-related low scores. It’s a problem quite a few batsmen wouldn’t mind having, but not exactly what you want from your opening bat. The main worry I have is that Cook’s prowess against spin appears to be waning. Historically he’s good against slower bowling though, and with a tour to Sri Lanka and the West Indies coming up, I’d persevere with him, just about, for that reason alone.

Top order

Root = number 3. Bat there, try and get a big score once set.

Then there is something  of a mess from 4 to 8, created by the battery of multi-purpose tools England have assembled, combined with the complete absence of quality top order batsmen. I don’t actually mind Pope at number 4, although in an ideal world we’d have a settled top order which saw him slot in initially at 6, where he plays for his county. He’s just the latest one to get thrown in, not exactly a scientific or funky selection, and he’ll either have a sink or have a swim. Sometimes that’s sport.

For the number 5 slot, I’ve learnt nothing new about Stokes since “the video” emerged, and as he’s been playing since then following an initial suspension in Australia, I’d be happy enough for him to get picked again. However on the basis of him averaging 34 across his career, and not appearing in any sort of nick since he was, ahem, nicked – I just don’t see him as a top 5 batsman unless he really hits top form. Without overloading Jonny Bairstow, I think he is worthy of the number five spot.

All rounders

At 6 and especially at 7, Jos Buttler is the funkiest of Ed’s funky selections. Widely lauded as a huge comeback success after two Tests and a couple of 50s against Pakistan, with a ludicrously premature promotion to the vice-captaincy, he has subsequently flunked. I like Buttler, more than a little bit, however he’s never hit a Test ton. If that doesn’t change soon, we are going to reach a situation where he cannot be picked unless he’s the designated wicket keeper, vice -captain or not. Stokes could slot in at 6 which is probably a more realistic spot that a truly top team would pick him in; if you don’t end up using his bowling, is that any worse than not using Buttler’s wicket-keeping?

Chris Woakes’ place is apparently under threat in spite of a match winning century at Lords, plus a home bowling record with a lower average than both Anderson and Broad. Woakes is an interesting comparison with the other new all-rounder to have emerged. In his early 20s, Woakes came on the scene and did alright, but as he was only trundling along at 80-84mph was told to go and put a yard of pace on, so he could trouble batsmen abroad. Although he did so, and is a perfectly serviceable bowler in ODI and T20 across the world, that hasn’t exactly translated into success in Tests away from home. England will be hoping the (foreign born – ED, he was born in Northampton to a famous Zimbabwean cricketer father) Sam Curran’s left-arm angle equates to more overseas success, although there have certainly been fewer murmurings about his pace than Woakes received. Curran also currently has a lower bowling average at home than either Jimmy or Broad. From the top of my head, so does Toby Roland-Jones. To me that sounds like the foundation of an in-depth analysis of how picking the pair indiscriminately over the past 10 years has denied Graham Onions the chance of 500 Test wickets, but I’ll leave that to someone with more time.

Bowlers

Nevertheless, Anderson and Broad are currently bowling miserly spells and taking wickets. On that basis they get to stay in my XI, which I’m sure them and their 900 Test scalps will be delighted to hear.  As does Adil Rashid, who probably won’t bowl much again, but has done fine this summer the times he has been called on (figures of 3-40, admittedly mainly thanks to Ishant Sharma). No-one wants a situation like the Saffer team of the early 2000s, who couldn’t find a spinner in a Christmas cracker selection – and again Rashid has surely been picked with this winter’s tours in mind.

So my team would be:

  1. Cook
  2. ED’S RANDOM FUNKY PICK GENERATOR WHO CAN PLAY SPIN WELL…MARCUS TRESCOTHICK
  3. Root (c)
  4. Pope
  5. Bairstow (w)
  6. Stokes (vc)
  7. Woakes
  8. Curran
  9. Rashid
  10. Anderson
  11. Broad

Let me know your thoughts, criticisms and mind…

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Guest Post – The Hundred – A Case of the “Haves” and the “Have-Nots”

Intro

We are always pleased to welcome new writers to our blog, to widen the perspective on cricket on this site. We do know that we do get more interest when test matches are on. But what we also know is that the county game is the pipeline that needs to flow, and the Hundred has raised lots of ire. Concerns we share.

Steve has put together his piece on the Hundred. A regular contributor to the Incider, a Somerset cricket blog, SomersetNorth (as his nom de guerre on here will be) has kindly provided this guest post on the impact The Hundred might have on non-selected counties. It’s well worth a read. (Pictures and captions are mine, not Steve’s).

Surrey v Glamorgan in the T20 Blast last July. Full house, but not enough for the ECB

 

The Hundred – A Case of the “Haves” and the “Have-Nots”

The debate about the “Hundred” continues to rumble around cricket. Hardly a day seems to go by without either another ECB briefing providing yet more surreal details of their proposed new “Hundred” competition or a respected voice adding to the landslide of criticism descending upon the heads of the ECB’s top brass.

Scyld Berry weighed in on the morning of the first test with his criticism of the Board. Writing in the Daily Telegraph Berry sets out his case that the ECB is failing in its responsibility to govern cricket’s future and is not administering the present terribly well either. It is an excellent piece but fails to examine what I believe is the real issue, the relative impact the new competition will have on the 18 first-class counties and the stark differences between those that will host the new franchises and those that won’t.

The starting point for Berry’s attack on the ECB is the latest news that the board is countenancing moving away from the concept of the over in its new competition. Yet another idea which convinces Berry, and with which many of us agree, that a large part of the cricketing summer will in the very near future be taken up by something that, literally, is not cricket.

Whichever way you look at it the England and Wales Cricket Board is at a moral crossroads. One where there is the very real prospect that the decisions it is currently taking will change the face of county cricket forever and end the existence of a number of county clubs while severely damaging many others.

More weight is added to the ECB incompetence argument by the way they handled the selection of Adil Rashid. Whatever your views on the inclusion of Yorkshire’s leggie no one can be in any doubt that the board did not handle the whole process very well. From appearing to sit on their hands while Rashid was not playing in the Roses match prior to selection, through the apparent disconnect between player, his county club and England, and on to their failure to see the damage the selection would do to an already beleaguered county championship.

Am I alone in considering it very strange that the ECB, who in the not too distant past, were commissioning reports with the aim of making the County Championship the best it could be to ensure a healthy English test side, appear now to be actively undermining and marginalising the premier county competition?

But there is a more fundamental point which needs to be addressed. One which to date seems to have received little attention from either the ECB or the media. The impact the new competition will have on those counties that will not host one of the new franchises.

Some might argue that we already have a distinction between the test and non-test playing grounds and that the new competition is merely an extension of this arrangement. Worryingly that appears not to be the case. The financial arrangements for the distribution of funds from the Hundred will almost certainly not mirror the process for test revenues. A funding stream remember which currently keeps many counties heads above water.

Cards on the table time, I am writing this from my perspective of a lifelong Somerset fan. Someone who is very very worried about the financial implications for his county club of the new competition and funding arrangements.

Somerset is a very well-run club. A county which has, over the past 10 to 15 years created a financially stable model of how county clubs should be run. A model which has allied on-field consistency (although disappointingly little silverware to show for it) with the redevelopment of the County Ground. A redevelopment which has retained the feel of a county cricket ground while modernising the facilities to a level that were unrecognisable at the turn of the century.

This development has been achieved within the existing financial structure of the county game and has been adapted to maximise the benefit from the many changes in the structure of county cricket that we have seen in the last decade. The funding model takes advantage of the excellent support the club boasts and increasingly significant off-field revenue streams to operate independent of any central hand-outs.

Based on what we know at present, the new competition is likely to occupy the mid-summer block currently taken up with the Vitality Blast. Scheduling restrictions will almost certainly mean that the Blast will be in direct competition to the new format. If this is the case the financial implications for Somerset and the other “non-Hundred” counties will be severe.

The ECB has stated that they believe the new competition will be targeted at a new audience and, by extension, will generate new cash for the game. This is I believe nonsense. There may be a short-term bounce in revenues but beyond that it is hard to see how sustainable additional revenues will be generated. More likely the devalued Blast will see falling attendances and revenues.

Some clubs, such as Somerset, with deeply loyal, regionalised, hard-core support may be fortunate in retaining numbers for the T20. But this is very unlikely to be universally true across the have-nots.

The obvious source of financial assistance for these clubs is compensation from the centre. But will those counties that are “lucky” enough to host the new competition be prepared to share their new-found riches with their competitors?

Whitgift School – An annual fixture, perhaps a site once the 100 gets up and running. But at what cost?

Clubs such as Lancashire, Yorkshire and Warwickshire will certainly see the Hundred as a solution to the debt burden they have accrued as they have re-developed their grounds. These clubs probably cannot afford to forgo the riches their new franchises will generate even if, altruistically, they want to.

Not only will the Hundred take out a significant chunk of revenue for ten counties but it will further marginalise the county game and most likely the red-ball game that those ten clubs will still be expected to run.

The championship could conceivably become even more peripheral in its scheduling than it is at present. Which in turn would make it harder for those clubs to retain its hard-core membership.

The ECB seems to be blind to how healthy the county game is at present. While the evidence of attendance levels for county championship games does not necessarily indicate a successful product the county game now operates at an entirely different level, being consumed more away from the grounds than at them. The recent developments of live-streaming and BBC local radio commentaries has seen astonishing levels of engagement with those unable to get to as many games as they would like. I cannot, in my lifetime, think of a county championship that better engages with its supporters than the current iteration. And that is despite, I would argue, the best efforts of the ECB in the opposite direction.

Somerset, for the reasons I have set out above, are probably better able to ride out the financial storm that the new competition will inevitably generate. But other clubs may not be so lucky. Counties such as Derbyshire, Kent, Leicestershire and Northants, all coincidentally close to potential franchises, will almost certainly see a drift away of support. A drift which if it is long-term will be severely damaging. If this is the case the current structure of 18 first-class counties is unlikely to survive.

But for those “non-hundred” counties that are able to keep their financial heads above water the challenge of being competitive on the field will be that much greater. Take the example of Dominic Bess. Let’s imagine this is 2021 and that Somerset’s young off-spinning all-rounder has just made his test debut and that the Hundred is up and running.

Bess is drafted to the Bristol Bashers or the Cardiff Crunchers and heads off there for a six-week contract. From a Somerset point of view, will he be selected at the end of that contract for red-ball games ahead of an alternative who has been playing championship or second eleven red-ball cricket for the county? From the player’s point of view, wouldn’t it be easier to move to the county club that hosts the Hundred for professional and logistical reasons?

It’s not a huge stretch to see that within three or four years of the new competition being set up the “haves”, having attracted and retained the cream of the player pool, will occupy division one of the championship. A have-not county will have to punch significantly above its weight in a big way to compete.

So, it is my contention that the consequences of the ECB’s new love-child will be far more far-reaching than have been debated so far. I don’t have any confidence in the ECB’s working party to come up with any solutions to any of the problems this new competition presents. Despite it being chaired by the chief executive of Leicestershire.

Chesterfield – The County Scene In All It’s Glory

Many of us who support the poor-relation non-test hosting clubs will see this as the ECB seeking a way of achieving what it hoped the two-division county championship has failed to deliver. There is no doubt in my mind that they wish to see the counties on the test circuit playing in division one and the “lesser lights” occupying the bottom tier.

It is a source of great pride to Somerset as a club that we have been the county that has remained in Division One the longest and seen all the test host counties go down in that time.

So, the question has to be, will the counties acquiesce with ECB’s plans or will they rebel?

Could we be on the verge of a Premier League style break-away where the counties decide to take control of the domestic game away from the board? It is not as far-fetched a notion as might appear at first sight. Certainly not if the ECB continues its headlong rush toward a new structure which will drive a massive wedge through the county game without consideration of the cricketing and financial implications for all 18 counties.

It will be interesting to see how the ECB wins the support of the host counties for the new structure as this may determine whether this possibility becomes a probability. If the host counties only benefit financially to the extent of the rent of their grounds (while the financial gains go to the separately owned franchises), they are less likely to be supportive. Alternatively, will the eight host counties be asked to take on the not insignificant risk of the new competition being a financial disaster as franchises?

It serves as evidence of how badly thought out this new competition is that, less than two years before it starts, there is the very real possibility that a significant number of the first-class counties will suffer significant financial damage which may irreparably damage the domestic game. As Mr Berry says the ECB is failing in its responsibility to the domestic game.

Outro

You can follow Steve on twitter @stevetancock62 and read more of his writing at www.SomersetNorth.co.uk .

He’s also a Boston Red Sox fan!

Guest Post: The County Game

Many of you will know Annie Chave from Twitter (and if you don’t, give her a follow – @AnnieChave) and here’s her thinking about how to change county cricket.  She would welcome comments, suggestions, criticisms and disagreement, but as we always say with guest posts, be nice – it’s a nervy experience to put your first article up.

A Saturday in July in one of the hottest and driest summers in living memory and there is one T20 game in the whole of the first-class cricket calendar and no Test Cricket.  This has prompted me to think how we can rescue County Cricket in our country and restore it to its former glory.  The ECB in its wisdom has negated the importance of the county championship and has relegated it to the fringes of the season, playing most games in April/early May and then finishing off the season at the fag end of the summer in August/September.  They have cashed in on the hype and the glamour of T20 cricket and given some limited importance to The Royal London Cup and the unpredictability of 50-over cricket.

Looking at the problem of planning fixtures, I can see that there is a real dilemma in accommodating three different formats in a sensible and cohesive way.  I’m not claiming to solve all problems, but I’d like to see the three existing alongside each other in a way that can work for each format.  Mine is a suggestion that lifts county cricket into the status it should have if it is to feed into the pinnacle of Test Cricket and gives T20 prime viewing time whilst giving it a lesser importance.

The obvious idea would be to shorten the county game back to 3 days, but this wouldn’t make for great games.  The pitches probably wouldn’t wear enough to bring in the spinners, and they wouldn’t therefore prepare the players for five-day Test Cricket. Games would more than likely end up with no result or, worse still, produce either an artificial one or a declaration ‘bash’, not dissimilar to T20.  I don’t think that playing on uncovered pitches is a viable option.  They bring their own problems.  So, working with what we have, I would keep the county format as it is: i.e. four-day matches, two divisions with two teams going up and two going down.   With an emphasis on consistency, we could play the games over the 22 week season (with rest weeks for The Royal London Cup to be played at different grounds) throughout the whole summer, with 16 weeks (Division 1 with 9 teams and Division 2 with 9) dedicated to the county championship and the T20 competition playing alongside each other.  The T20s could be played on the Friday nights.  The winning team of the T20 Friday game is deemed to have won the toss for the County game that starts the following day – Saturday – and runs until Tuesday, using the same squad.  This way makes the toss less a matter of luck, gives the teams practice for T20 and Test Cricket and restores the importance of the County Championship.  But perhaps the two most important things are, firstly, it will provide the T20 crowd with a link to the following championship match, heightened by a familiarity with the players who feature in both formats, and, secondly, counties will be able to develop a squad that can play all formats, thereby encouraging them not to abandon red-ball cricket.

I know that currently there is a North/South divide for T20 cricket separate from the divisions of the County Championship, but this proposal is that the T20 should mirror the Championship.  The consistency of a weekly T20 games would be massively better for TV rights, and I think home support for T20 matches is strong enough to provide sell-out games.  There would still be a finals day for T20 and for The Royal London Cup to complete their own separate competitions.

The main aim for this suggestion is that we have cricket consistently throughout the summer and not random blocks of various formats punctuated by cricket voids.  I know my alternative programme needs ironing out and that it has its problems, but it’s a suggestion I’m happy to argue over.

Annie.

Guest Post: What Chance Have You Got Against A Tie And A Crest?

Whilst that annoying little thing called work has got in the way of writing this week, one of our resident commenters, Topshelf, has kindly written a piece around the lack of appeal and meritocracy that is so ingrained in English cricket.

As always, we are extremely grateful for people putting the time and effort in to write for us, especially on a subject the other editors don’t have personal experience of. As with all of our guest posts, please bear in mind that for many of our guest writers, publishing on the blog is a new experience for them, so please afford a bit more respect than some of our usual rants.

Over to you Topshelf…..

On the 5th of January, David Hopps commented on Twitter:

“There are 8 private schoolboys in this England XI, some from overseas, even including Yorkshire who like to feel they spread the net wide. Well, well done the private sector for backing cricket. But the net is narrow. That’s all you need to know.”

Lizzie Ammon replied :

“Don’t get me started on county age cricket. The least meritocratic system on earth.”

On the 7th of January, on the way home from the first borough training session of the year, my county age-group son said: “Dad, I reckon I’m the only state-school boy at training now.”

Given that pretty much every conversation I’d just had with other parents had begun “So where’s X going to school?” it seemed he was probably right. (One of my simple pleasures in life is enjoying the moment of blinking panic as other parents try to work out why they haven’t heard of my son’s minor public school, before I put them out of their misery – “It’s just a state school, it’s 5 minutes from my house.”)

Of course, on the 8th of January, England’s 8 private schoolboys finally succumbed 4-0 to Australia.  The predictable blame-game began, and the usual suspects took aim at the county system, bemoaning the lack of true quick bowlers, the emphasis on white-ball cricket, the scheduling of championship cricket, all of which no doubt have a detrimental effect. George Dobell aimed wider, saying:

“The talent pool on which the game relies has grown shallow and is absurdly over-reliant upon the private schools, Asian and ex-pat communities.”

As if to rub it in, we’ve just seen another 10 public schoolboys in England kit capitulate dismally against Australia and a very good leg-spinner, Lloyd Pope’s extraordinary 8-35 sending them spiralling out of the U19 World Cup.

So, putting on my best Peter Moores hat, I thought I’d have a look at the data.

Firstly, a quick comparison. The last time England won the U19 World Cup – in 1998 – only 3 squad members attended fee-paying schools, compared to the 11 Daryl Cullinans this time. England’s best Ashes team of recent times, the 2005 squad, contained just 4 “posh nobs”, while even the 2011 3-1 team only had 6 by the final test. Of course, as is the way with data-mining, things soon expanded. I’ve now looked at every Test debutant since 1990, and every currently contracted county player. I know far more than I ever expected to about the sports scholarship system, and will probably be getting ads for private schools on my laptop until the end of time.

It will surprise no-one that cricket is a sport that favours the public schoolboy. Of 141 players to make their debuts since 1990, 48 (34%) attended at least a private 6th form. For context, 18% of pupils in England do the same, so a recent Test cricketer is almost twice as likely to be privately educated. As you would expect, given the number of state playing fields sold off by successive governments since 1979, the trend is definitely upwards. The 90’s saw 14 private school debuts of 59 (24%), the 00’s 14 of 44 (32%), while this decade has seen 20 out of 38 (53%) so far.

So far, so predictable. Cricket is an expensive sport that requires open spaces to play, and a big sacrifice of parental time. It is hidden behind a paywall, and rarely played in state schools. Much like rugby union – where, amazingly, around 60% of English Premiership players are ex public schoolboys – its appeal to the “working class” is diminishing. It’s little wonder that it risks becoming a niche sport for the privileged few. That is borne out by the fact that of 313 currently contracted and English qualified county players, 138 were privately educated, which is 42%, well over twice what demographics would predict. (Worth noting also that there are another 86 players who are out of the England picture, which is nearly 22% of the total. But that’s another story.)  Many of these schools are more sporting academy than traditional educational establishment, although no doubt they would stress their academic credentials as well. The school that provides the most cricketers, Millfield (with 10), not only has great cricket facilities, it has a golf course and equestrian centre. The school claimed in 2015 to have around 50 former pupils playing international sport every year. Like many others, it has an extensive sports scholarship system in place, and is able to hoover up a great deal of promising talent.

The first thing you notice when looking at recent England test players is a truism. Batsmen go to public school. Bowlers, especially quick bowlers, don’t. It’s the modern-day equivalent of Gentlemen and Players. Of the 46 batsmen to make debuts since the 1990, 26 (57%) were educated privately. Conversely, of the 62 fast bowlers and fast-bowling all-rounders, only 13 (21%) went to private schools. This makes a sort of sense; more and more public schools are recruiting cricketers using sports scholarships, which aren’t cheap, for school or pupil. Often counties are involved in referring promising players, and it’s a lot easier to pick a batsman, whose numbers are usually pretty clear. For a start, they’re allowed to bat long enough to get big scores, while young bowlers are ham-strung by ECB guidelines restricting the overs they can bowl. Bowlers also mature later, and are prone to injury. Very few schools (and counties, who are known to contribute as well) are going to commit tens of thousands of pounds to a promising bowler who might stop growing or develop stress fractures. And I’ve heard plenty of horror stories about how counties treat the attrition rate of their young fast bowlers anyway – one county reportedly considers it a success if 1 in 6 of their late teen quicks makes it to adulthood unscathed.

It also becomes clear that going to a private school gets you a longer Test career as a batsman. Of those 46 batsmen, the private school players get on average 37.3 Tests, with half playing over 15, while the state school boys get only 27.6, with half playing under 7. At this point it would be easy to cry foul, and assume that the likes of Downton (Sevenoaks), Whitaker (Uppingham) and Strauss (Radley) favour their own. However, the truth is probably simpler. A public school batsman has very likely already been selected for his ability – for example Joe Root and his Yorkshire-arranged scholarship to Worksop College – at an early age. He will have had access to years of high-class coaching, bowling machines, and, most importantly, many many more matches than his state counterpart. It’s no surprise that they perform better overall. And having had a good look, I can’t find anything that suggests worse players get more of a go if they come from the right sort of family. Albeit a bowler, the final word on obvious bias should be Mark Wood, alumnus of Ashington High School, who is apparently still in the Test reckoning after 26 wickets in 10 tests at an average of 40.65.

At this point it would be easy to shrug – how could any state school compete? –  and hope that the holy grail of the City T20 being intermittently on free-to-air will miraculously enthuse a new generation of kids. Who’ll still have nowhere to play, and lack the money for kit and coaching. The lucky few will still get a cheap ride through a private 6th form, assuming they start, or, more importantly, keep playing in the first place. Perhaps they can consult The Cricketer’s helpful Top 100 Schools Guide – state schools up to 9 this year…

But state-school participation matters, massively, not only for the obvious social and participation reasons, but also for the future success of the England team. Put simply, if state-school cricketers don’t make it to the top, England’s Test team will be a team of batsmen only.

In county cricket, public school batsmen make up 53% of their total, while quicks are only 30%, the smallest proportion. Nowhere is this disparity clearest than at Middlesex, which has 5 of 7 privately educated batsmen, but only 1 bowler of 8 who’s familiar with an apple-pie bed. Nor is stacking your team with posh boys any predictor of success. Essex won the Championship with only 3 players from the private sector (none bowlers, shock, and the fewest in the division) and a core of locally educated boys. Middlesex were relegated with 13 of 24 posh boys, while Sussex languish in Division 2 with a staggering 15 of 17 privately educated English players. God only knows what Tymal Mills must make of that dressing room.

The England U19 squad’s stand-out bowler has been Dillon Pennington (Wrekin College and Worcestershire), who lets it go at about 83mph. He looks a very decent cricketer, but compared to the Indian opening pair, who both touched 90mph, is a bit pedestrian. No doubt he has been very well coached, but one wonders how much progression he has left in him. If I were a county coach I’d much rather see a raw state-school bowler who has not had his opportunities, and probably has a much greater upside. But therein lies the problem. If state-school cricket continues to decline, and counties continue to outsource the training of their top youth cricketers to the private schools, how will a promising quick bowler ever make it far enough to be spotted? And how will England’s batsmen ever face high class bowling growing up if they all head off to private school to play each other? Does it really matter to the counties if long-form bowling standards drop as long as they drop uniformly? After all, the likes of Tom Curran, with plenty of T20 “skills”, are much more useful in white-ball cricket, where he doesn’t need the raw pace he’ll never have. And we all know that T20 is where the money and the future lies. The men’s Test team clearly struggled against real pace, while the U19s seemed never to have seen high-class leg-spin before. Which, to be fair, they probably never had. I know that Mason Crane exists as a product of the private system; he is an outlier though, lucky enough to be coached at Lancing College by Rajesh Maru, a proper spinner in his day.

So is there hope? The charity Chance to Shine has shown cricket to over a million primary school kids, and Sukhjit Singh, a left-arm spinner at Warwickshire, is the first boy to have been discovered by the programme to make it to a professional contract. The ECB’s All Stars programme is trying to attract the young primary pupil. And in researching this, I discovered the existence of The MCC Foundation Hubs, another charity which aims to provide free coaching to promising state secondary children not yet in the county system. There are already 54 of them, and they have ambitious plans to roll out all over the country. Sadly, I’d never heard of them, and nor had my club, which is something of a worry. And their promotional video has a representative of Eastbourne College proudly talking about the children they have picked up from the scheme as sports scholars!

I occasionally play cricket in a local park early on a Sunday morning. When we arrive the pitch is usually being used by local Afghan families playing a break-neck version of T20 they’ve started at dawn. Everybody from 14 to 50 bowls as fast as they can, spins it as hard as they can, and hits it as far as they can. Maybe if we can get these kids into club cricket through the likes of the MCC Hubs we’ll be able to tap a fabulous resource, and we’ll get our own Rashid Khan, or at least Shapoor Zadran, one day. If we don’t make the effort soon, I really fear for the future of test bowling in this country.

As for my son, well, he’s a bowling all-rounder, with plenty of growth left in him. No private school is going to be coming for him yet. So we’ll continue with club cricket, probably playing more adult matches, hope to keep his place in the county system, and carry on saving up for 6th form…

Once again, many thanks to Topshelf for putting this piece together for what is our 900th post in just under 3 years. As always, if you fancy writing a guest post, please send it to any or all of us. Our email addresses are listed in the ‘contact us’ section.

Paradise Lost – By Maxie Allen

Would you like to know my dirty little secret?

It might shock you. It could well annoy you. It may make you think less of me.

The thing is, I’m English, we’re in the middle of the Ashes, and I have an inconvenient cricketing truth, gnawing away at me.

Shall I just go ahead and spit it out? Well…here goes. I couldn’t care less whether England win or lose the Ashes. In fact, given a choice, and hand on heart, I’d rather Australia won.

Perhaps I’m not being completely honest with you. I want Australia to win.

So now you know.

I am a heretic. An apostate. A traitor.

I used to support England. Oh yes, I followed England with great passion and loyalty. And I did so for more than three decades, dating back to 1983, when I was eight years old.

For all those years, I hung on England’s every move. Every run, every wicket, every result. I cared. I mean, I really cared. If England were hurting, I was hurting. If England triumphed, so did I.  I was a part of the England team, and the team was a part of me. We were indivisible.

In the days before Sky and the internet, I’d watch entire sessions via Ceefax. I flew to Australia to watch the 2002/3 Ashes. I attended test matches as often as I could. And when this happened, I hugged a series of total strangers. But I also supported England unquestioningly and uncomplainingly through all the bad times, and there were plenty of those in the 1980s and 1990s. No one could have accused me of being a fairweather-fan or a Johnny-Come-Lately. I was the real deal.

So what changed? Some of you may already know, or can guess, as you might remember me from another blog, which I used to jointly run, or indeed saw this piece which I wrote in early 2016. In essence, it boils down to a series of events between February 2014 and May 2015 which left me alienated from, and disgusted by, English cricket.

Now, don’t worry – I’m not going to rehash all of that again. I won’t exhume the details.  The point is, nearly four years later, I’m still unable to move on.

But why? Am I being completely ridiculous? Aren’t I taking nose-cutting to spite-facing to an absurd level of masochism? Haven’t I taken these old events so monstrously out of proportion that I now regard one player and one press release as more important than my country winning the Ashes? I fistpump when Cook gets out: am I mad/twisted/deliberately obtuse? Or just too stubborn to let bygones be bygones? Have I thrown out a huge baby with a drop of bathwater?

The answer to all of these questions is – maybe. Perhaps. Arguably. But I can’t help it. It’s just the way I feel.

I’ve been thinking recently about how this looks to my friends. Or to any third party, especially casual cricket followers. They would see my position thus: I have abandoned my national team, the one I passionately followed, as man and boy, and now want their oldest enemy to beat them, and beat them in the Ashes, of all things. And the reason? A few backstage shenanigans which the majority of cricketer followers were barely aware of and have now entirely forgotten. By any rational analysis, my position is absurd. To any England supporter, it must seem insane. But as I say – I can’t help it. And to me at least, it makes sense.

It all began with the very first Test England played after February 2014. As the match reached a dramatic denouement, I found myself – despite being at work – in front of a TV showing the coverage on Sky.

With the first ball of the final over, Stuart Broad took Sri Lanka’s ninth wicket, and a strange thing happened: instead of punching the air in delight and excitement, my heart sank.”Oh God, England are going to bloody win”, I found myself thinking. With the fifth ball, Nuwan Pradeep was given out LBW, and as Broad and Cook celebrated wildly, I felt forlorn and bitter, as if ‘we’ had lost, not won. There was a twist in the tale, however, because Pradeep then called for a DRS review which revealed a inside edge. Reprieved, he narrowly survived the final ball and Sri Lanka saved the game. I was delighted.

This was my epiphany: the moment I realised my cricketing life was transformed. Unconsciously, and instinctively, I now wanted England to lose, not win. A total reversal of the position I’d held so ardently for the previous three decades. And as the months passed and Test matches came and went, my feelings only hardened in that direction. I supported the opposition, because my enemy’s enemy was now my friend.

It wasn’t that I’d calmly formulated my new position by deductive reasoning on grounds of principle. I hadn’t sat down with a pen and paper and sketched it out. I didn’t say to myself “well, as I think x and y about such-and-such, this regrettably but logically means I must oppose England”. No, it was an instinctive emotional response. But the more I reflected on it, the more it made sense, and the more I saw that it was underpinned by a solid rationale.

In a nutshell – and I’m trying desperately not to reheat old material – my view was the people who ran English cricket had made something very clear: the England team belonged to them, and to them only. The team existed purely as a cricketing representation of their corporate entity. Added to that was my sense of betrayal, and also of outrage at a great injustice. This all combined to corrode and nullify any pleasure I could draw from the actual cricket on the field of play. By extension several of the key individuals became opponents. In sport, opponents become enemies, and you want your enemies to lose. Boy, did I want my enemies to lose.

This might not seem very rational to you. Chiefly, my position appears obtuse because of my apparent sense of priorities. I’ve taken a one-off personnel issue, and a few comments by officials, and made them more important than the team itself – and more important even than England beating Australia in, all of things, the Ashes, with all its history and significance. I’ve abandoned thirty years of passionate support to start cheering on the opposition.

That sounds irrational, to put it mildly, but in sport all support or opposition is fundamentally irrational. Is it rational for Arsenal and Spurs to hate each other? Is is rational to cheer on Mo Farah at the Olympics? Is it rational to want to beat Australia at cricket?

The thing is, I didn’t want any of this to happen in the first place. None of what happened was my doing. I mainly feel sad and regretful about it. I wish things were different. And I had hoped for resolution, as I wrote in April 2015 when it looked like the tide might turn, only for those hopes to be dashed.

It would have helped enormously if England had been hammered in the 2015 Ashes, which I know is an odd thing to say. I longed for the defeat of the Cook/Strauss regime, and what it stood for, but despite Australia’s emphatic victories in the second and fifth tests, it wasn’t to be. Australia’s collapse at Trent Bridge cost me dear, because an England defeat would have lanced the boil and cleared the way for a new start.

I now find myself in very strange and lonely place. I am probably the only person in the world who holds my position, and I certainly don’t know anyone else in everyday life who thinks as I do. My friends don’t understand it, and they definitely don’t like it. They think I’m mad, or being a self-martyr, or being deliberately provocative. But I just can’t help feeling the way I do.

When I talk along these lines on Twitter or Facebook I might come across as a troll, trying to wind people up. I’m not really, I’m just saying what I think. And face-to-face, especially when I meet new people, I’m rather coy about not supporting England – embarrassed to admit it. I’ll be talking to a new acquaintance and the subject of the Ashes comes up, and they assume I’m gutted that England are two-nil down. What do I say? How can I explain where I’m coming from, in the space of a normal conversation? How do I make sense of this to someone with a casual, patriotic attachment to the England cricket team, someone who watches just for fun, who has little idea what I’m talking about, who’s never heard of Giles Clarke, and who believes, quite understandably, that England beating Australia is more fun than obsessing about a four-year-old press release?

Speaking of fun…I don’t find cricket much fun any more, and I derive little enjoyment from watching it save the hollow satisfaction of an England setback. I sorely miss what I used to have – not just a team to support, but a community, a family, of fellow supporters. I miss that camaraderie and fellowship, the sharing of mutual experience. I used to be a part of those conversations, but now I inhabit an alien land.

Nor do I even get much enjoyment from memories of supporting England pre-2014. I can’t dig out the 2005 DVDs and relive that series with joy and pride, because I know what happened later, and that has tarnished everything. With the exception of my village team, my whole life in cricket has been a waste. Every England success I rejoiced in now means nothing.

Now, to you this must sound incredibly self-important and self-pitying. You’ll feel that I am whinging about wounds which are entirely self-inflicted. I don’t believe that’s the case, but I’ll understand why you might think that. People tell me to snap out of it. I can’t. People tell me to move on. I can’t. How can you move on when nothing has changed, and nothing been resolved?

One argument in particular is often put to me. Most sports have bad administrators, and most clubs have bad owners. But everyone else puts that aside and supports the players – and so should I. Regrettably, that analysis doesn’t hold true when it comes to English cricket. The ECB aren’t like the Glazers – they’re not outsiders who barge their way in but eventually sell up and move on. It’s the other way around.

Why? Because the only permanent and irreducible thing about the England team is the ECB. Players come and go but the board and its ethos remain, and the ECB configure the team as a representation of its values and philosophy. The England team is a show they’re putting on. Supporting England means supporting the ECB, and I don’t think you can separate them. I’m open to persuasion, but I’ll need a lot of convincing.

What’s interesting, though, is I now watch cricket in a very different way from how I did in the past. England are a much better team when you’re not supporting them. Seriously. Before, if England were batting, I’d fear a wicket every ball. The batsmen looked like sitting ducks. Now I don’t want them do well, England’s batsmen look composed and authoritative, hard to remove. I used to think Australia’s bowlers were unplayable and their batsmen invincible. Now, to my eye, they often look flawed and unconvincing. From my unusual perspective, beating England looks much more difficult than it used to do.

Will I ever have a change of heart? One of my best friends said to me: “when we’re in our seventies, and we go to the cricket together, will you still be supporting the opposition because of something which happened thirty years ago?”. Maybe. Maybe not. I’m not quite sure what could realistically happen which would change the way I feel. Nor do I know what approach to take should my daughter, currently aged two, develop an interest in international cricket. Pretend to support England, for her sake? Is that actually a beneficial thing to do anyway?

Now and again I get the odd England twinge, the occasional conflicted moment, when I forget myself briefly, and feel a brief pang of connection or empathy with the England players and what they’re trying to achieve. For a beat or two I feel English again. It’s usually to do with players. I’m fond of Jonny Bairstow and when he’s batting there’s a part of me that’s pleased to see him do well. Dawid Malan, too.

Every now and again I slip and refer to England as ‘we’, but by using the word ‘slip’ I don’t mean to say there’s a pretence, or that I’m deliberately trying to subvert my instincts through stubborness. It’s just the old rhythms and cadences of my past life breaking through.

These little ‘twinges’, though – they pass quite quickly and leave me back where I started. What do I do? Do I try to force myself to support England again? Or do I convince myself that I’m just being pointlessly bloody-minded and that if I could only eat humble pie, move on, and support England again, life would be much more rewarding? Again, I don’t know.

I can imagine my hostility fading with the passing of time. But not opposing something isn’t the same as supporting it. Can I ever feel excited about England again? What would it take for my heart to leap with joy, as for so many years it did, at the sight of an England bowler taking a wicket? What might inspire me to cheer when Alastair Cook reaches a century?

I’ll finish by making an important point. Whatever my own position. I’m not trying to convert others. I’m not telling you or anyone else what to do. I’m not scolding England supporters for their adherence to the regime. If you support England, good luck to you, and I hope you enjoy the team’s successes. A part of me wishes I could join you. But for now, at least, I cannot.

Maxie Allen co-founded The Full Toss and has written on cricket ever since, family permitting.

Guest Post – Man In A Barrel Gives Us The Numbers

Just before this latest test match MiaB, before his metamorphosis into Shane Warne on steroids (and not his mum’s diuretics) when it comes to declarations :-), did some interesting, unsolicited analysis of batting trends for England’s key players of the past and present. I found it interesting anyway. Please note this was written before the last test, so if there are any amendments MiAB wants to make, I’m sure he’ll let you know.

I’ll let Man in a Barrel take it from here…many thanks for the time and effort sir. It’s fascinating stuff. As always, comments welcome, and be nice. Well, as nice as you can be!

A New Way….

For a while, I have been trying to think of a better way of assessing batsmen than their career average.  It has some very real disadvantages to counteract the fact that it is widely used and understood and that it does tend to winnow out who the best performers are – no one, for example, disputes that Bradman was the greatest ever and nor can anyone dispute the fact that WG Grace was much, much better than any of his contemporaries, at least when he was in his prime.  However, it does have its problems.  For example Victor Trumper has a Test average of 39.04 and yet most commentators who watched him state that he was the best of his era – 1899-1912.  His average for that period is in fact bettered by, among others, Clem Hill, Jack Hobbs, Ranjitsinhji, George Gunn, RE Foster, and Aubrey Faulkner of South Africa.  For me, though, the real problem is that it gives undue emphasis on a big innings – if you make a score such as 364 or 294, it certainly helps to boost your average although, of course, its impact is mitigated the longer your career extends.  The career average also gives little information on your value to the team at a particular point of time.  Is it better to make a lot of 50s and the occasional daddy hundred or to make a series of 30s and a lot of small hundreds?  Those questions cannot be answered by inspecting your career average because the information simply isn’t contained in that single figure.  Nor does it contain any information about the way your career is trending – are you in decline or on a rise?  To some extent, you can gauge that by common sense and watching how the career average is moving but those are fairly blunt instruments.

To overcome some of those problems, I have been investigating the use of a moving average, as widely used in the investment community to discern underlying trends in noisy data.  The question immediately arises as to how many innings should be included in the moving average.  I looked at a number of options.   An average over 30 innings seems to flatten out the data too much.  A 20 innings’ average looks about right.  Broadly it should cover 10 Test matches – essentially a year’s worth of data – and it is long enough to let a batsman move in and out of form, to show the impact of a major innings and yet not allow it to have too much effect on the new data as it arrives.  For convenience, I will call this measure the Twenty Innings Moving Average – TIMA.

To put it to the test, I put Geoff Boycott under the microscope – 8114 runs at 47.73 in 193 innings.  Obviously these are very distinguished figures especially when you consider that he played to the age of 42, in an era of uncovered pitches, no helmets for the most part and inadequate gloves – in the first part of his career he was often incapacitated by broken fingers.  If you graph it it makes for interesting viewing but I don’t think it will come out in WordPress.  So to present the results, I will use a histogram.  The moving average breaks a series of data into chunks of 20 innings, over which I calculate an average.  Each successive TIMA drops one innings from the start and adds a new innings.  This is repeated until you get to the end of Boycott’s career.  So I have calculated 174 averages.  These I have summarised into how many of these averages were between 10 and 20, 20 and 30, 30 and 40, etc.  And the results are very much as you might expect:

Boycott

10-20

0%

20-30

2%

30-40

24%

40-50

36%

50-60

18%

60-70

17%

70-80

3%

80-90

0%

I think this gives a sense of just how consistent he was.  His TIMA was below 40 for only 26% of his career.  However, if you could see the graph, you would also note that he was in decline towards the end.  His TIMA was above 40 in the Oval Test against Australia in 1981.  Then he went to India and it moved into the 30s apart from a blip up to 42 when he scored 105 in the third Test of that dismal series – does anyone remember Tavare’s 147?  The last time before this that his TIMA was below 40 was the Mumbai Test of 1980, when his figures still showed the effect of his dismal Ashes tour of 1978-79.  He ended up at 37.05, rather below his career average.

Given what I thought was a successful trial of the method, I then moved on to the current team, starting with the obvious comparison, Alastair Cook.

Boycott

Cook

10-20

0%

0%

20-30

2%

5%

30-40

24%

23%

40-50

36%

40%

50-60

18%

21%

60-70

17%

7%

70-80

3%

2%

80-90

0%

3%

A slightly higher percentage below 40 and more time averaging between 70 and 90 but pretty comparable to Boycott.  However, his early career was much more consistent.  After the Ashes tour of 2010-11 and his feats against India in 2011 the swings in his TIMA become very noticeable.  The last period of time his TIMA was above 60 was in the wake of his 263 at Abu Dhabi and only lasted until the Sharjah Test.  The last time it was above 50 was in the recent Mohali Test against India, after his last century to date.  It bears out the importance of LCL’s focus on the number of big scores he has made lately: there have not been many.  By the end of that tour his TIMA was at 41.68 and it has continued to go south.   TIMA also highlights the prolonged period when he averaged less than 40 between the 2nd innings of the Chester-Le-Street Test of 2013 and the 1st May 2015 match against West Indies when he got his first century since the 130 against New Zealand at Leeds in 2013.  After the recent Oval Test, he is hovering in the mid to low 30s.  It has dropped from 54.53 at the end of the first innings of the Mohali Test to 33.50 today, in the course of 11 innings.  The decline in comparison with his career average, which is still 46, is marked.

Turning to Joe Root:

Boycott

Cook

Root

10-20

0%

0%

0%

20-30

2%

5%

0%

30-40

24%

23%

7%

40-50

36%

40%

30%

50-60

18%

21%

35%

60-70

17%

7%

8%

70-80

3%

2%

13%

80-90

0%

3%

6%

These are impressive figures by any criterion.  The only times his TIMA was below 30 was during the 2 Ashes series of 2013.  It hit a pinnacle of 84.75 in the Lords Test against New Zealand in 2015 – after innings of 98 and 84.  More recently, since the Sharjah Test of 2015, his TIMA has bounced around between 57.39 and 43.17.  More worrying is that his overall time series shows a declining trend but that is probably because he hit such a peak so early in his career.  He is just reverting to a more “normal” level.  Another point of interest is the really low amount of time he has spent below 30.

With these 3 batsmen, the results just confirm what we know already, I suggest.  Now let’s see what we learn about the more controversial selections.  Jonny Bairstow for example:

Boycott

Cook

Root

Bairstow

10-20

0%

0%

0%

0%

20-30

2%

5%

0%

30%

30-40

24%

23%

7%

14%

40-50

36%

40%

30%

16%

50-60

18%

21%

35%

22%

60-70

17%

7%

8%

14%

70-80

3%

2%

13%

4%

80-90

0%

3%

6%

0%

The sample size is smaller – only 50 data points.  But 44% is a lot of time to spend averaging under 40.  The point of concern is that since the Dhaka Test last year, his TIMA has gone into steep decline, from 71.24 down to 41.05.  I am sure that LCL will remind us that it is 25 innings since his last century.  However, it has stayed in the 40s for his last 6 innings, against his career average of 40.86, so I believe he justifies his position.  If your TIMA is above your career average, it does suggest that you are making a real contribution.

Boycott

Cook

Root

Bairstow

Stokes

Moeen

10-20

0%

0%

0%

0%

0%

0%

20-30

2%

5%

0%

30%

14%

45%

30-40

24%

23%

7%

14%

62%

17%

40-50

36%

40%

30%

16%

24%

28%

50-60

18%

21%

35%

22%

0%

11%

60-70

17%

7%

8%

14%

0%

0%

70-80

3%

2%

13%

4%

0%

0%

80-90

0%

3%

6%

0%

0%

0%

Stokes and Moeen have quite similar records.  Stokes has 2120 runs at 34.19 from 63 innings; Moeen has 2090 runs at 34.26 from 68 innings.  But the TIMA shows a very different picture.  Stokes has been below 40 for 76% of his career and has never climbed above 50.  Moeen’s figures are, in one sense, far superior in that he has spent more time above 40 but it must also be said that he has also been in the 20s more than Stokes.  If you look at Stokes, you would expect the 258 to have a massive impact on his TIMA.  In fact it raised it from 27.15 to 35.45, so poor had his record been over the previous 20 innings.  At the time it dropped out of the TIMA computation, it dropped from 46.37 to 34, which highlights his real lack of consistency.  This happened a mere 7 innings ago and he has stayed in the mid to low 30s. In his last 20 innings, he has been in the 40s nine times, ten times in the 30s and once in the 20s, with a highpoint of 46.47 after Mumbai.  These are disappointing figures for a #6.  In comparison, Moeen’s last 20 innings have shown TIMA in the 40s and 50s, with just one blip down to 35.17 when his 155 against Sri Lanka fell out of his moving average.   But it immediately went back above 40 when he scored 146 at Chennai.   As a result of the Oval Test, his TIMA has dropped to 33.  Moeen’s TIMA has dipped below his career average and Stokes has blipped above his: perhaps the selectors have the right batting order.

And just because I am a controversialist, guess this batsman:

Boycott

Cook

Root

Bairstow

Stokes

Moeen

?

10-20

0%

0%

0%

0%

0%

0%

0%

20-30

2%

5%

0%

30%

14%

45%

0%

30-40

24%

23%

7%

14%

62%

17%

14%

40-50

36%

40%

30%

16%

24%

28%

44%

50-60

18%

21%

35%

22%

0%

11%

37%

60-70

17%

7%

8%

14%

0%

0%

5%

70-80

3%

2%

13%

4%

0%

0%

0%

80-90

0%

3%

6%

0%

0%

0%

0%

Yes….KP

Thanks MiaB. Any excuse for a KP shot…

cropped-wp-1500506510756.jpg

 

 

Guest Post – “Suits, Not Boots” by Simon H

Simon H is the man I look to for updates on the governance of the game. Here is his take on the events of this week….as always, many thanks to Simon for his time and effort in putting this together…. He e-mailed me this last night and there’s an update at the bottom to reflect further events.

SUITS, NOT BOOTS

It’s been a stellar few days for those of us (and we number literally in our half dozens) who find cricket governance fascinating. The administrator-media complex that runs the game have produced three stories at more or less the same time, so here’s some attempt to sort out what’s been going on:

  1. The ICC.

As LCL has already written, there has been an ICC board meeting in Dubai. I’m very much a newcomer to trying to understand the ICC and don’t claim any great expertise here. Firstly, those who remember the world pre-1990 may remember something called Kremlinology. This was how outside observers tried to understand the goings-on in the USSR without virtually any official sources – no minutes, no press releases, no interviews, no diaries, no leaks, no non-attributable briefings, no former members pontificating in TV studios. The ICC offices in Dubai feel very much like the Kremlin, except they’re uglier and less drafty.

So, from a handful of statements that have appeared, and from the sterling work of the handful of journalists who are interested, what can we glean? This was an ICC board meeting, featuring the heads of domestic boards but not, as far as I can gather, Shashank Manohar. The formal ICC meeting is next month (I thought it was going to be in Singapore but it now seems to be in Cape Town). ICC board meetings don’t appear to generate any minutes (not that they are ever anything less than next-to-useless) and I don’t think they have any formal power. However, informally, they seem to matter a great deal in preparing issues for the ICC meeting proper.

The big story emerged, of course, on the first day in the lack of a majority for the draft two-division plan for Test cricket. The plan needs seven FMs in support and only had six. India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe were the four against. This was apparently ‘understood’ without a formal vote and was used to prevent the plan even being discussed. Therefore, a measure backed by 60% of the FMs, presumably most of the associates if anyone bothered to ask them and 72% of players according to a FICA survey (although that may be deserving of some scepticism) has been quashed. The most that seems possible is a play-off between the top two in the rankings (hands up who’d like that to Pakistan – and India). Money talks and democracy walks in cricket governance.

That headline story may mask that other measures won approval at the board meeting. ODI and T20 leagues were supported. This will necessitate ODI series being standardised at three matches of each – and every team will have to play the other top thirteen at least once in a three year cycle (hmm, I’ll believe that when it happens). The leagues will be used for qualification to ICC tournaments. It was also agreed members retain control of Test fixtures and the ICC continues to have no power here. Most importantly, there appears to be some move towards revenue-sharing with England, Australia and South Africa keen to pool their TV revenues and other boards welcome to join. This has the potential to be massively important and needs more discussion among cricket-followers. Cricinfo report that changes in the Indian TV market are the driving force behind this and a sharp decline in those revenues is expected. There has been an assumption that sharing means it would be equal – but that remains an assumption.

The background to much of this appears to be a rapidly souring relationship between Manohar and the BCCI. The head of the BCCI has been visiting Srini and playing the card straight from the Srini handbook – threatening boycotts of ICC events, starting with the 2019 CT. Resentment at funding for the CT compared to the T20 WC has been cited – Manohar disputes their figures and the chances of any of us knowing who’s right are as great as a recall for Nick Compton. The internal politics of Indian cricket are something we’d all better learn to start taking an interest in:

http://www.firstpost.com/sports/bcci-vs-icc-battle-gets-murkier-india-may-pull-out-of-champions-trophy-2017-2993924.html?utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitterfeed

And although it’s hardly been mentioned, all this would seem to leave Manohar’s plan of handing back 6% of India’s 22% ICC revenue-share as dead in the water….. which I rather suspect was, ultimately, the point.

  1. City-franchises

Not to be outdone in farcical cricket governance, the ECB have been building up to their very own D-Day. The interminable debate about city-franchises has led many to tune out of the issue – but the crunch meeting is soon upon us as September 14th looms. The proposal needs a two-thirds majority and Nick Hoult, who’s reporting on this has been in a league of its own, reports the ECB are close to achieving the numbers they need.

This isn’t the place to debate again the merits of city-franchises. Whatever one thinks of the idea, the methods of the ECB are the issue here. They’ve presented county chairmen with five options – but to discover these “options”, the chairmen have had to sign ten year gagging clauses. We may discover what these options are later next week once this meeting is done. The ECB’s conception of options might turn out to look rather like that expressed here (starting at 14:55):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jllMX_bQx7U

Then there is the role of our media chums. Curiously, a number of writers who have taken a not exactly critical line of the ECB in recent years have suddenly discovered a rampant enthusiasm for city-franchises. One got an extended holiday with his mate out of it. Others have been convinced more easily. They get to know confidential ECB survey evidence that has not been published. They don’t know how that survey was conducted, and whether the results are worth the paper they’re written on, but they’ll repeat them anyway:

https://twitter.com/theanalyst/status/773787861342650368

https://twitter.com/theanalyst/status/773834112750723072

They’ll use their Twitter accounts and magazines they’ve somehow come to edit as platforms for not debating an issue but prosleytizsng a cause. Maybe they are genuinely convinced? Maybe after the nonsense of the last two years, they don’t deserve any benefit of the doubt……

Finally, Nick Hoult captures in a nutshell what lies behind all this:

https://twitter.com/NHoultCricket/status/773990826120736769

  1. Eoin Morgan

While ECB chairmen are gagged for ten years, certain journalists discover that Eoin Morgan has told Strauss he isn’t going to Bangladesh:

https://twitter.com/JohnSunCricket/status/773991330221522944

Certain other journalists then have pieces out that proclaim that signifies the end of Morgan’s England career forever:

https://twitter.com/Anarey_NLP/status/773974634609905664

There will be widespread rejoicing among certain BTL communities where who can hate Morgan the most seems their main amusement.

It turns out Morgan has some good reasons, based on past experiences in Bangladesh. Lawrence Booth has produced the best account of these:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/cricket/article-3780211/England-one-day-captain-Eoin-Morgan-gives-strongest-possible-hint-not-tour-Bangladesh.html

Some have already decided it’s because Morgan isn’t English enough. That’s all they needed to know, they’ve known it in their bones all along when he wouldn’t sing the national anthem or miss the IPL to watch it rain in Ireland.

Some are reading Strauss’s comments about not going giving opportunities to others as trying to pressurise Morgan and as a veiled threat. I’m not exactly Strauss’s greatest fan, but I think these were more anodyne statements of the patently obvious. The captaincy will now presumably be between Root and Buttler. We’ve seen there are some doubts about the former as captain before and there has been some talk of resting him in the Bangladesh ODIs. Some may also suspect he would raise more issues about the Test captaincy. Smart money may be on Buttler.

Will others follow Morgan and opt out? If they do, Morgan is damned for influencing them. If they don’t, Morgan is damned for thinking he’s something special. Maybe KP’s intervention might produce some desire among the ECB to show that he was wrong and they will forgive Morgan. Maybe…

SATURDAY UPDATE FROM SIMON…

I should say this was written late yesterday afternoon and quite a bit happened just afterwards. Newman’s article for one. the discovery of Dobell’s podcast for another:


Reading Sharda Ugra on Cricinfo has also opened up a new interpretation of the two-division plan – that the ECB and CA were trying to drive the less attractive parts of their schedule off the roster just before negotiating new TV rights’ deals. It’s a new argument – but if trying to judge whether they are more motivated by short-term greed or a sudden conversion to the principles of meritocracy, which one – based on their recent track record – seems more likely?

Guest Post “40 Years On – England v West Indies, 3rd Test 1976″…by Simon H.

Part Two…Simon H kindly wrote out his memories of this important, but often overlooked but for the battering the old guard got, test match in 1976. In part one we had the build up and the first day’s play. Now let Simon take you through the rest of this match.

You can access part one here.

DAY TWO

The memory has every day of the summer of ’76 sunny and hot but in fact Friday at OT was cloudy. However overhead conditions had little to do with England losing 8 wickets for 34. A pitch that had something for medium pacers and spinners turned out to have a whole lot more for bowlers who delivered the ball at searing pace. Roberts bowled impressively from one end probing Edrich on off-stump until he finally knicked one and then getting one to rear off a length to have Hayes caught at fourth slip. But it was Holding at the other end who was electric. Running in from near the sightscreen it was athletic and thrilling as only great fast bowling can be.

If I may digress for a moment, it is one of the beliefs of the moderns that fast bowlers of the past weren’t really fast. After all, haven’t all objectively measured sporting performances got better over the years? Fast bowlers of the past seemed fast at the time but they’d be medium pacers now, some say. I have to say that , from the little footage I’ve seen of Frank Tyson, he doesn’t look that quick. But look at the film of Holding in this match and he looks quick, very quick indeed. The 1970s speedmen were also tested in early speed-guns and Thomson was found at 99 mph with Holding (who wasn’t then at his peak) not far behind. It isn’t rheumy-eyed nostalgia that imagines this was ‘pace like fire’. It was.

Nightwatchman Pocock soon edged Holding to first slip. However it was an unplayable lifter to Woolmer that knocked the stuffing out of England. Greig tried to counterattack but it had a hint of desperation about it. Daniel replaced Roberts and with his wading-through-water run-up and muscular action produced an in-ducker that bowled the England captain. For all the talk about bumper wars that was about to erupt, West Indies realised Greig’s weakness was to the full ball and didn’t make the mistake of Lillee and Thomo in 74/75 when Greig goaded them into losing their length. Knott couldn’t salvage this England innings and edged to second slip. Underwood got an alarming bouncer and then was bowled as was Hendrick. The bouncer at Underwood was genuinely scary but he had made 31 in the previous Test (without which West Indies might well have won the game) and English bowlers inflicted some nasty injuries  on tailenders in the 1970s (Snow to Jenner in 70/71, Willis to Iqbal Qasim in ’78 and, most famously, Peter Lever to Chatfield in ‘74/75). Holding had 5-17 and West Indies a lead of 140.

England needed quick wickets to keep a toe-hold in the match but like all great sides West Indies sensed the moment to attack. Greenidge launched a second furious attack on the England seamers who looked tame in comparison and although never at his best Fredericks chipped in with fifty before treading on his wicket. When the opposition are effectively 256-1, seeing Viv Richards striding to the crease was just what England needed! Richards survived a few early alarms and at the close West Indies were 163-1.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtWKfhGKw9w

DAY THREE

So far the match had had great batting, great fast bowling, some decent spin bowling and good catches. What it hadn’t had was major controversy. The last hour on Saturday changed all that.

Most of Saturday’s play was actually the dullest part of the match. That one can say that when it featured Viv Richards making a century says something about the rest of the game! Richards had been a little scratchy late on Friday but here he was at his masterful best and some of his late cutting of Underwood was a delight. It was only slightly dull in the sense that a century was so inevitable. Greenidge hit some more thunderous drives on the way to his second century but then Selvey knocked his middle peg out – a moment captured in a photo that Selvey doesn’t like to show every chance he can. Clive Lloyd tried to bat himself into some form and was looking more like his old self before he holed to mid-on to give Selvey his sixth wicket of the match (and the last of his Test career). Otherwise Kallicharran, King and Murray scratched around to no great effect and started to remind everyone that this wasn’t an easy pitch to bat on. A bored eleven year old drifted off into the garden to play some cricket with his brother (cooking apple tree trunk for wicket, Gunn & Moore bat, don’t loft it on the on-side as it would go in Mr Fry’s garden and he was a bit scary) and he missed what was about to kick off……

Lloyd declared leaving England 80 minutes that night to survive and then a further two days to hold on or 552 to make. What happened next Martin Williamson recounts here:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/921731.html

As has been a fault of mine too often, I could see both sides. England were to blame for preparing such an unfit pitch and selecting such an unsuitable opening partnership. As I said earlier, English fast bowlers dished it out in the ‘70s and West Indies’ batsmen took it without (as far as I can recall) any complaint. Complaints about nasty fast bowlers usually boil down to “why haven’t we got any?” There was a nasty tinge to some of the complaints that denied the skill of the West Indies and tapped into some unpleasant stereotypes. But….. Holding did go too far that evening and Lloyd was too laissez-faire about it. That bouncer that just misses Close’s head is a genuinely frightening moment.

Close Holding

I should perhaps say here that I was always immune from the cult of Brian Close. Perhaps I was just too much of a confirmed Southerner? Mostly, I wanted an England batsman to hook like Greenidge. John Edrich was something of a hero though – I liked a dashing opener like Greenidge but a nuggety opener was okay too and anyone with eyes could see that Edrich was having to face some tough bowling. At the time, Surrey weren’t too good and didn’t keep beating Hampshire which also helped.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8kvK-rylWw

 

DAYS FOUR AND FIVE

I don’t have any recollection of watching day four on the Monday. Was I still at school? The match started on July 8th and I remember watching the first day live – did we break up that early in those days or had I pulled a sickie?

Anyway, the records show that West Indies reduced England to 125-9. After all the focus the day before on Holding (and Daniel) it was Andy Roberts who stole the show. Roberts was also one of Hampshire’s and, if he wasn’t as high in my affections as Greenidge, he was still one of ours. Later in his career Roberts cut his pace and became a more English style bowler relying on accuracy and seam movement. In 1976 he was still genuinely rapid, if not quite in the Holding league.

He was twice on a hat-trick and the second time he was denied when Greenidge at second slip dropped Selvey. I can remember watching that but it was late in the day so I’d obviously come back in from whatever I’d be doing. At the time it didn’t seem such a big deal – didn’t hat-trick chances come around quite often? Poor Frank Hayes who’d been picked as a bit of a dasher (he hit 34 off an over once) who might take the fight to the West Indies hung on the longest. His reward was to be promoted to No.3 for the next game where he made 7 & 0 and was dropped never to play again. He played all his nine Tests against the West Indies and ended with an average of 15 despite hitting an unbeaten century.

Rain ended play early on day four so the teams had to come back for ten minutes on day five. Selvey edged Roberts to Greenidge again who didn’t drop this one. West Indies had won by 425 runs. It was the fourth worst defeat in Test history at the time (there have been two worse since) and England’s second worst:

http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/records/283901.html

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/current/match/63165.html

AFTERMATH

The next Test at Headingley was in some ways even better. Unfortunately, the family holiday got in the way of watching most of it and I spent several days in the Cotswolds trying to find a TV or radio so I could find what the score was. We got back in time for the climax and I remember being incredibly upset when Knott was caught behind and any realistic chance of an England win went. Fortunately, the decks were cleared for the Fifth Test and a game of three monumental performances (Richards 291, Holding’s 14 wickets, Amiss’s 203) could be enjoyed in its entirety. The moaning about bouncers became moaning about over rates and about crowd noise and I wanted to become a cricket writer/commentator who would write/talk about his love of the game and not just moan all the time (!).

It would be 14 years and over 20 Tests before England would beat the West Indies:

http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/stats/index.html?class=1;opposition=4;spanmax1=01+mar+1990;spanmin1=01+jan+1978;spanval1=span;team=1;template=results;type=team;view=results

West Indies’ global domination perhaps wasn’t confirmed until they beat Australia in Australia in the first post-Packer series in ‘79/80 – but in retrospect the domination had started at OT. A cricketing dynasty was founded.

England recovered some pride by winning the winter tour in India. West Indies hosted Pakistan in an epic five Test series at home and, with Holding and Daniel injured, discovered two new bowlers in Colin Croft and Joel Garner. (Ironically it was David Holford’s leg-spin that won them the final test and the series 2-1). The West Indies’ reservoir seemed bottomless and the game became increasingly dominated by pace (or at least seam). Mike Brearley wore a skullcap under his England cap to protect the temples in 1977 and on the tour of the West Indies in 1977/78 Graham Yallop became the first batsman to wear a helmet.

This youngster joined one of those cut-price book clubs so he could buy cricket books cheaply. CMJ’s ‘MCC in India 76/77’ was I think the first. Tony Cozier’s ‘Fifty Years of West Indies cricket’ soon followed (with its cover picture of Clive Lloyd driving while Greig stood helpless at slip). I replayed the matches endlessly in garden cricket or on the indoor cricket games I had. I don’t remember listening to the India tour on the radio so either it wasn’t covered or I wasn’t doing that yet. I only listened to TMS when there wasn’t TV coverage and there was no Richie. Richie was impossibly exotic and didn’t keep telling us it was better in his day. I loved listening to him and felt transported to a different, more exciting place. The Centenary Test was shown on TV in a highlights’ package and in the epic Lillee-Randall duel, England at last a batsman who could take on a great fast bowler and win. Australia arrived in 1977 – the Ashes were supposed to be this great thing but it soon became clear this Australia weren’t very good. Lillee had stayed at home and the fearsome Thomo of legend wasn’t so fearsome. And they weren’t the West indies.

 

My thanks to Simon, for a brilliant account of a very interesting test match. Feel free to comment, and to share any memories if you are old enough!

Guest Post “40 Years On – England v West Indies, 3rd Test 1976″…by Simon H.

gordon-greenidge-02.jpeg.jpg
Gordon Greenidge – 1984. Although the post deals with 1976, Gordon needs to be in colour!

One of our loyal commenters has offered up his first main cricketing memory for a piece. SimonH, international governance monitor, statistics maestro, memory man for the game has put together this piece on his first test match memory.

I’ve decided to cut it into two pieces, with the first part the build up to the game and the events of Day 1. The second will finish off the game report, and the aftermath of the match.

As always, I’d love to get pieces from you out there on your cricketing memories, or on anything that catches your eye or you want to talk about. We don’t take anything, as it has to be within the blog’s remit (don’t ask me to define it), but we do certainly like pieces like this.

So, SimonH…. this is your test!

FORTY YEARS ON – ENGLAND V WEST INDIES, 3rd TEST 1976

We all have matches that are particularly dear to us. Some of these are dear to most fans because the game is such an obvious classic – Headingley ’81 or Edgbaston 2005 spring to mind. But others are more personal. Often it’s a first that sticks in the memory. My first ‘live Test was bloody awful. England lost to India at Lord’s under leaden skies.

However the first Test I can remember specific moments from watching on TV has stayed with me and it’s a shock to find it was forty years ago this month that it took place……

SOME CONTEXT

Cricket and me – I had been hooked on cricket the previous year by the first World Cup and my father’s love of the game. It was a love  that dare not speak its name at school though (a West Sussex rural comprehensive) where football was king and cricket was seen as dull and posh (if it was noticed at all). This eleven year old was desperate for the game to show it was pretty cool. I’d watched some of the 1975 Ashes but can’t really remember any of it if I’m honest. I don’t remember the first two Tests of this series either (although I do remember watching the ‘Grovel’ interview on ‘South Today’). The Third Test at Old Trafford is the first Test I remember watching – and it turned out to be a game with everything the sport has to offer, except a close finish. It was also one of the most significant games of the modern era, marking the formation of a dynasty that would rule the cricketing world for two decades.

England – England had been the dominant side of the early 70s in world cricket, at times holding all the trophies (TM). What had seemed a settled side inherited by Mike Denness from Ray Illingworth had capitulated in the original ‘difficult winter’ of 74/75 and I got a clear impression from my father that English manhood had somehow been found wanting. Tony Grieg had taken over the captaincy in 1975 and the side recovered some pride as David Steele stood up to Lillee and Thomson. Although Boycott was in self-imposed exile, the team had Edrich’s reassuring presence at the top, SPOTY Steele at No.3, Bob Woolmer fresh off 149 against the Aussies and the new Cowdrey we were told in the middle order, Greig and Knott to halt any collapses at six and seven and plenty of bowling options that seemed to cover all eventualities (pace from Snow and some bloke called Willis if only he’d stay fit, plenty of English type seamers, spin was in the capable hands of Underwood). There was no winter tour 1975/76 so the team was somewhat unproven but there was little sense that this was a team heading for the slaughter.

West Indies – West Indies had been through a rocky patch after 1967 when the great 60s side started to age. From 1967-74 their only great series’ win was in England in 1973 but around that were some poor results. The middle order batting (with Kanhai, Sobers, Lloyd and new bloods Kallicharran and Rowe) and the spin department with Gibbs still looked strong but (ironically, given what was to follow) they had no reliable opener to partner Roy Fredericks and the pace bowling had lacked any real speedster. It all started to come together for West Indies on the 1974 tour of India as new batsmen Greenidge and Richards established themselves and the attack found a new spearhead in Andy Roberts. However that appeared a false dawn as the team went to Australia in 75/76 and were mauled, both on the pitch by Lillee and Thomson (Kallicharran vomited on the pitch after being hit on the head by one bouncer, Bernard Julian had his hand broken by another) and off it by some crowd behaviour that shocked some of the younger players who’d never encountered such blatant racial taunting. West Indies tried to fight fire with fire on that tour and kept losing wickets to hook shots that reinforced the stereotype of ‘calypso cricketers’ who couldn’t knuckle down under pressure. New captain Clive Lloyd, one of the few to sustain his personal performance on that tour and now able to put his stamp on the team with the Sobers-Kanhai-Gibbs generation departing, was determined to change all that.

Cricinfo recently interviewed some of the participants here:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/998589.html

GROVEL – had there been any previous series more famous for what was said to the media more than any of the actual play? And has there been a more infamous line by a Test captain than Greig’s:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TPQbPszfUI

Greig’s choice of words, and his delivery in that unmistakable accent, hung over that tour. The fact that there was some reasonable thinking behind it was obliterated by his crassness. West Indies had just lost 5-1 in Australia. England had beaten them on the 73/74 tour by hanging on in a series of draws until West Indies collapsed, apparently under pressure and to Greig’s own bowling, in the final Test. Greig himself had been involved in the controversial run out of Kallicharran and seemed to thrive on confrontation. My memory of it at the time is that it was controversial but more for Greig’s brashness and impoliteness than for its racial sensitivity. That only became clearer (at least to a white schoolboy in rural Sussex) as the summer unfolded.

What few had noticed was that in their last series before coming to England, West Indies had taken on India at home. Some fellow called Richards (mainly up until then famous for his fielding in the 1975 WC Final) had scored a stack of runs at No.3. The last Test seemed to have some odd goings on with half the Indian team marked down as ‘absent hurt’. There were accounts of fearsome pace from new bowlers Holding and Daniel – but then hadn’t India been bowled by England for 42 only a couple of years earlier by Old and Hendrick? Perhaps Holding and Daniel were as quick as those two? India had also chased a then-world record score to win the Test before Kingston – so it looked at worst as if the West Indies were still crazily inconsistent. Nothing too much to worry about……

The West Indies played warm-up matches against all bar one of the counties on that tour. Win after win didn’t set many alarm bells ringing. The few who saw them thrash a strong MCC side at Lord’s (including a century for Richards and seven wickets for Holding plus putting Denis Amiss in hospital) warned this was a formidable team. Still, Yorkshire had come within 19 runs of beating them and Chris Balderstone had nearly scored two centuries off them for Leicestershire.

THE IMMEDIATE CONTEXT

Given what was about to happen, it’s still slightly surprising to realise that the teams went into the Third Test after two draws. Not only that – the matches had been quite even. West Indies had the best of the first game after Viv Richards made 232 (I think I remember him saying that was the best innings of his career) but England held on for the draw relatively easily. Steele and Woolmer made runs which seemed to show their performances against Australia were no one-off. England had the better of Lord’s with Underwood skittling the tourists in the first innings and West Indies had been only four wickets from defeat at the end. The match had ended with Greig resisting Lloyd’s call to call things off early and with England fielders clustered around the bat.

However….. West Indies had not been at full strength for either game. Holding and Daniel had missed the First Test and Richards the Second Test. At Old Trafford, they had everyone fit. England, on the other hand, had problems, especially with the bowling. Snow and Old were injured (possibly others too) so England’s pace attack lacked a cutting edge. However, West Indies had collapsed against spin at Lord’s, had collapsed against spin in 73/74 and OT had a reputation for turning compounded by rumours that, as the hot summer of ’76 took hold, the pitch was dried and cracked. England went in with two English-style seamers in Hendrick and, on debut, Mike Selvey, two support seamers in Woolmer and Greig and two spinners in Underwood and Pocock. There was an issue in the batting too – the openers at Lord’s hadn’t convinced (Mike Brearley had looked out of his depth, Barry Wood had been injured by Roberts) so 45 year old Brian Close (who had top scored at Lord’s) was pushed up to open and local hero Frank Hayes (who had made a debut century against 1973 West Indies) was called up. There were promising young batsmen emerging on the county scene like Gooch, Graham Barlow and Randall but the selectors held off picking them (perhaps remembering Gooch’s tough baptism against Lillee and Thomson the year before). Randall was made 12th man which was one of the few times in his career the selectors did him a big favour.

THE MATCH

DAY ONE – Clive Lloyd won the toss and batted. That was what you did in those days. It was the right decision – and made precious little difference. The start of that day is etched on memory. In his first over, Selvey bounced Roy Fredericks who hooked it straight down Underwood’s throat at long leg. Fredericks falling on his wicket in the WC Final hooking was my first cricket memory and now Fredericks getting out hooking was my first Test memory. I’ve never seen Selvey explain why he bowled that bouncer. In his next over, Viv Richards played his trademark walking on-drive to a big in-swinger, for the only time in his career that I can remember missed it and was bowled. Almost immediately , Kallicharran (who like Lloyd and Rowe was never in any great form on that tour) played on. Lloyd was soon caught at slip off Hendrick and West Indies were 26-4.

What followed was one of those times when you know you’re watching something special. When it’s one of your heroes doing it, it’s something even more. As a young Hampshire fan (although I lived about 800 yards over the border in Sussex I was born in Hampshire, all my family were from Hampshire and there was only one team I was ever going to care about), Richards and Greenidge were my heroes. Greenidge in particular was one of ours. With Greenidge and Roberts playing for West Indies and considerable resentment that Hampshire players (despite the team winning the CC in ’73 and coming second in ’74) were ignored by England, I could feel nothing but enjoyment at what Greenidge was doing. A lifetime of not seeing England as ‘us’ and the opposition as ‘them’ was born. West Indies were more ‘us’ than England to me. I liked him because he hit the ball hard. Very hard. And he had the coolest of cream pads. Later the pleasure would be deepened by discovering Gerenidge had not had an easy upbringing and was a complex and at times difficult man. But mostly he hit the ball hard. When the bowler pitched up, Greenidge waiting on the back foot, would throw his whole weight into the drive in a way that wasn’t textbook, and would get him out sometimes, but was mighty thrilling when it came off. Even better when bowlers pitched short, he took it on. If it was wide, he’d cut – and what a cut! If it was straight, he’d hook – and it very seldom seemed to get him out. No ‘high to low’, no rolling the wrists – he’d try to hook it out of the ground and he usually did. He was everything I wanted to be, but wasn’t. If I couldn’t be it, I could damn well appreciate it in others.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UEo2VDnakw

In bald stats, what Greenidge did that day was score 134 out of 211 (193 while he was at the crease). He gave no chances – the nearest he came to dismissal was a top-edged hook that landed between Knott and Underwood. Only Charles Bannerman in the very first Test had scored a higher percentage of his team’s runs at the time (three more have since):

http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/records/283999.html

Not only was it a lone-hand but he scored his runs at a phenomenal rate by the standards up to that time:

http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/stats/index.html?batting_positionmax1=2;batting_positionval1=batting_position;class=1;filter=advanced;orderby=batting_strike_rate;qualmin1=100;qualval1=batted_score;spanmax1=10+jul+1976;spanval1=span;template=results;type=batting;view=innings

It wasn’t quite Roy Fredericks in Perth – but it would do. Greenidge’s main support came from one of the great unrealised talents in West Indies’ cricket, Collis King, who on debut reined himself in to make a handy 32. King would only play nine Tests but would have his moment in the 1979 WC Final when he eclipsed even Viv Richards for a time. He never seemed forgiven after Packer and ended up a banned SA tour rebel. These days he’d have made a fortune in franchises.

England ended the day on 37-2 with Close and Steele out. Batting had looked tough but the match seemed evenly poised. The next day saw a power-shift in world cricket that would last two decades…..

—————————————————

The second part will be put up in the next day or so. My thanks to Simon for all the effort put into this. I don’t remember this test myself, but do recall Viv’s 232 at Trent Bridge and 291 at The Oval.

Sean B’s Briefing – T20 And Counting

As my laptop clings precariously to some sort of working life, I am thankful that Sean B has taken time out to write a piece that certainly echoes many of the thoughts of this parish. I had the great pleasure in meeting with Sean a couple of weeks back, and I am keen to see him write more for us in the future. His pieces certainly seem to go down well. Maybe I can retire to a villa in Hastings at this rate.

Anyway, Sean’s piece is reflective of his mood about cricket at the moment. Read it, and feel free to comment. It was sent over on Friday night, and as far as I am aware, he doesn’t want to change his mind…

 

T -20 and counting

I’m going to be honest, I have no interest in the World 20/20 at all. Not a jot. I’m not bothered whether England win or lose (I felt no emotion when we lost to the West Indies nor when we beat South Africa) or whoever goes onto to win the damn thing. I haven’t watched any of the highlights, nor do I plan to and I haven’t had the scores up at work, which is normally the very minimum for me. It’s a surreal state of affairs for me as it’s the first time in my life that I really couldn’t care less about a televised world cricket tournament. In the past I have always managed to convince myself that we would pull it together at a tournament despite the normal rubbish build up and hence would make sure that I watched as much as possible, but I just can’t do it for this tournament. Now I do include the caveat that I’m not the biggest fan of the one day or T20 cricket, I’ve always been more of a traditionalist and preferred the ebb and flow of Test Cricket, nor do I really attend any International T20 games though I do normally go to a couple of domestic games a year, but this is more an excuse to meet up friends and have a beer or two. When England won the world T20’s in 2010, it was only really in the final rounds of the tournament that I started to become really interested in the tournament when it became apparent that we might actually go on and win it. Now despite not totally enthusing about the white ball fare, I would normally at least watch it on the TV when it’s on or at least settle down in front of the highlights at the end of the day, but not this time. I’m disillusioned with the game and perhaps even worse, I feel actively disengaged from cricket for the first time in my life.

 

How dare you not throw your support behind Eoin’s young guns some outraged individuals might scream, you “outside cricket” lot are the worst type and spend too much time shouting about Mike Selvey and the ECB rather than supporting the team. And yes it’s true, the absolute and total refusal to cover the most important issues in world cricket to protect your buddies from the former and the endless levels of corporate bullcrap, naked greed and total incompetence from the latter has no doubt soured my view of the cricket world, but by no means are these the main reasons. We also have the Kevin Pietersen question and how one of the world’s most talented T20 players can’t play cricket for his country (I unfortunately accepted that he wouldn’t play Test Cricket when Darth Sith Strauss told him he wouldn’t be considered after scoring 300 odd) because the phony administrators and those who hold personal grudges against have him, have decided that “he doesn’t come from the right type of family” and ultimately, they’d rather go with less talented, but easier to manage individuals. You wait until they do the same to Ben Stokes in a few years time. To them, it doesn’t matter that they weakened and significantly reduced our chance of winning the tournament, nor do they care what the fans think, pay up and shut up is the order of the day now and they have plenty of willing accomplices in the Media to carry out this line. Indeed no-one could be fooled by the Daily Mail exclusive, when Eoin Morgan was trotted out in front of Nasser Hussain (and no doubt a fair number of the ECB’s press office) and declared “That door is completely shut. Kevin will not be picked. That’s from me.” He owed Andrew Strauss a favour for keeping the England captaincy after an absolutely awful World Cup, this was his payback, sell KP down the river or sell yourself down the river and unfortunately it’s a bit of a no brainer really. This again annoyed and angered me, but it didn’t surprise and although again, it plays a part in my current cricketing malaise, it’s not really the main reason for my current disengagement.

 

Personally, I just think my disengagement has been building up over the past few weeks and months, hence my absence of any guest posts for the past few months. I have attempted 2 or 3 pieces in that time but have simply never got round to finishing them or have given up and binned them halfway through. I must admit the grim reality of the Big 3 carve up has been weighing heavily on my mind and the fact that our own board are not just complicit in the most disgraceful act in cricketing history, but have actively got into bed with India and allowed themselves to be repeatedly violated has brought even more shame on already shameful organisation. I thought things couldn’t get any worse, when Giles “the cockroach” Clarke decided that Alan Stanford seemed a genuinely nice guy and the sort of chap that it would be good to do business with; however they have got worse, much much worse, as we’re now in the drivers seat of a bulldozer heading straight towards world cricket in return for the cash that the BCCI are offering. The Cockroach is the driver, the ECB are the passengers. The evidence of what cricket has in store for us over the next few years has been demonstrated with some vigour at this World T20 tournament and it’s a nightmare vision, one where you pinch yourself that you’re not dreaming; however it is not a dream, just a grim reminder that cricket’s best days are well behind us. This is the reason why I can’t bear to watch the World T20’s, if I did then I feel that I might be in someway adding some sort of credence and credibility to the Big 3 and ICC when they deserve none. So whilst we’re looking at the World T20 tournament, let’s examine the sort of thing that has beset the competition from the outset and the sort of thing that we can get used to in the future:

 

  • The Tickets – you want to come and watch the game and support your team, well tough luck, we’ll release them 2 weeks before the event. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
  • The Politics – India and Pakistan playing the hokey cokey, will they, won’t they, game. Governments posturing for power, sport a very distance second.
  • The Organisation – We’ll tell you what’s happening when we want to and switch grounds at a moments notice, moan all you want.
  • The Associates – No you’re not welcome at our party.

 

These are simply the 4 most important things in any tournament and the BCCI & ICC either through laughable logistics and decision making processes or more likely because they don’t give a rats arse, have absolutely pissed up all of them. Those that have watched the games have told me that all of them are being played in front of half empty stadiums in a country that is supposed to adore the sport (however I’m sure the administrators will point to the sold out game between India and Pakistan in defense). Fans are meant to be the lifeblood of all sports, but obviously cricket is the odd one out, the ICC and the Big 3 don’t give a monkey’s arse about the fans. Simply pay your money and keep quiet at the back, you’re customers not fans now, there to line our coffers. In Death of a Gentleman, Gideon Haigh asks the question “does cricket make money in order to exist or is it now the case that it exists in order to make money?” I think it’s very clear what the answer is now.

 

And then we come to the Associates and this is the part that makes me the most angry. How is it that in every other sport the growth and expansion of the game is paramount to the health of the sport, but in cricket we are actively trying to constrict the game? The treatment of the Associates at this tournament and throughout the past few years has been absolutely scandalous. The ICC may bleat that it’s a 16-team tournament, but anyone with any sense (Dennis Freedman has obviously lost his) can simply see the first 2 weeks as qualifiers to win the right to lace the big boys shoes, Christ half the teams weren’t even in the country when the tournament began! They are the warm up act, the matinee, the token effort by the ICC to show they are expanding the game. Oh and what reward do the Associates get for turning up, go play your games in Dharmasala during the monsoon! They may as well have held them in Aberdeen in January. Nothing angers me more than watching a group of committed and in the main talented players being forced to feed off the cast offs from the Full Nations table. Preston Mommsen (amongst others) absolutely nailed it when he remarked “In general, it’s tough to attribute our lack of getting over the line, i do go on about it, but there is a lack of international cricket for us. Since the 2015 World Cup I have played in one ODI match – in 12 months. So, you tell me how I’m going to improve my skills and develop as a cricketer. That definitely has something to do with it. Playing under pressure, being exposed to a higher level of skill, exposed to different conditions, you know it all adds up, every little percentage. You know unfortunately that’s just the way it is and we try and handle it in the best way we can. However, it probably does take its toll.” What was the reaction from the ICC? Absolute silence, although Harsha Bhogle did manage to come up with this pearler “You can either moan about how little you have or you can make the most of whatever you have. For the hungry, opportunity resides everywhere”. For the record, for some of the associates the most they’ll get to play against the Full Nations in the next two years is at most two or three times and many will get none. £100,000 out of a £500,000 yearly fund to put on a ODI against a full nation team is totally unfeasible. Yep that opportunity certainly resides everywhere Harsha.

 

So why does the ICC and the big 3 give less than 2 f*cks about the rest of world cricket, let alone the Associates? Well we go back to Gideon’s quote again – it’s the money stupid. Imagine if the World T20 was a true 16-team tournament divided into 4 x 4 groups (as it should be in my opinion) and imagine if some of the Associates got through and knocked out the likes of England and India? Well that’s simply not good for business, they don’t have the crowds or the support and the large television audiences to attract the large advertisers, so best not take a risk in that case then, it’s our club and our cash and everyone else can go jump. Quite simply the ICC does not run cricket for the good of the fans or the sport anymore, it runs it for the good of the sponsors and the good of their cash-flow and they won’t let anything get in the way of it. So for those who choose to watch the T20, I genuinely hope you enjoy the spectacle, I however won’t. I have now seen glimpses of the future of world cricket and it looks a long dark road ahead.

 

@thegreatbucko