One of the joys of Test cricket is that you can dip in and out of it as work and other commitments allow. That has certainly been the case for me, as I missed the first four sessions due to seeing some of my family. The upshot of which is that I’ve missed the fall of twenty three wickets (live, at least), and instead witnessed a fairly steady accumulation by New Zealand towards what might already be an unassailable lead.
The day began with the hope of a wagging tail for England fans, which obviously fell apart within minutes. Stuart Broad is a long way from the batsman who recorded a Test century at Lord’s twelve years ago, Foakes has yet to recapture his batting form from a few years ago, and Parkinson must be totally unprepared for facing this New Zealand attack at such short notice. They managed to eke a small lead for the hosts between them, but that was the best anyone could expect.
New Zealand’s second innings begans much as the first did, with a flurry of wickets. Young, Latham and Williamson all fell before the Lunch break, which certainly gave England a chance of winning a Test for the first time in nine matches. However, it’s also important to retain a sense of perspective about things, particularly with regards to the quality (or lack thereoff) of this England team. Only a complete idiot would have suggested that England were clear favourites to win this game at Lunch, even if New Zealand were 38/3 at the time.
Conway gloved a legside delivery to the wicketkeeper just after the Lunch break, but that was where the good news finished for England fans. Mitchell and Blundell went on to score almost two hundred runs and put England very much on the back foot. The ball seemingly died and England’s fast-medium attack (plus the inexperienced Parkinson) were simply unable to trouble the batters.
It bears saying that England bowling reasonably well (for the first few sessions, at least) is not, and should not be, a surprise. At home, there is a plethora of fast-mediums who can trouble virtually any batting lineup in the world. Even when abroad, England would have a perfectly fine Test bowling unit if they could stop injuring their fast bowlers for a few months. The greatest improvement for England in this game has been in terms of their catching. It felt (and, not having CricViz’s database, that’s all I have) like England were dropping about half of the chances which came their way this winter. In the past two days, I’m not sure if they have dropped anything. A lot of this might be down to luck, as the chances have mostly gone to England’s best outfielder in Jonny Bairstow. Even so, it makes a huge difference when England’s bowlers only have to create ten wicket-taking chances rather than fourteen or fifteen.
There has been a lot of vitriol directed towards the MCC regarding their extortionate ticket prices, and not before time. One thing which stood out to me today is the frankly poor condition of the playing field. Leach’s injury seemed to come from his slide causing a divot, which tipped him forward onto his head. Mitchell, Parkinson and Broad have all had similar issues when fielding near the boundary. These kinds of incidents always remind me of Simon Jones’ ruptured knee in Brisbane, and I hate seeing it. Between this and a lot of low bounce on just the second day, it certainly doesn’t look like much of the MCC’s copious finances are spent on maintaining the pitch.
McCullum may well be watching this match and wonder what he has got himself in for. No batting to speak of, a bowling unit gutted by injury (even moreso without Leach), and very little time to turn things round. Although I believe he’s signed a four year contract, it’s hard to see him surviving if he is the first England coach to lose a home Ashes series in twenty-two years. He’s got to at least demonstrate progress in just fourteen months. If he was looking for positives to take, it seems likely that they will bat on the third day. This will mean that they won’t really have to deal with a deteriorating pitch, and will generally face batting-friendly conditions.
Of course, England fans will be all too aware that batting-friendly conditions haven’t helped them in the recent past and probably won’t here.
The Cricketer Magazine has decided to do another Power List, of the great and the good in the game of cricket and ranking them in order of said power. Once again we appear to have been sadly overlooked on the entirely spurious grounds of being completely irrelevant to anyone of importance. Lists matter particularly to those who think they might have a chance of being included, as they scan desperately up and down upon publication and react with feigned indifference as they realise their name is missing. The magazine has approached it differently this year, by inviting people not completely barking mad to judge it, which is extremely disappointing from our perspective, given that The Cricketer Editor putting himself at number 39 a few years ago (doesn’t time fly) provoked us into doing our own – once we’d recovered from laughing.
So here’s our own Power Cut List, comprised of those who genuinely have influence and have made a monumental balls of everything, those who just annoyed us, and those we really like and have desperately tried to find something to have a go at them about just to be contrary. If you’re on this list, sorry. If you’re not on this list, not sorry. Or maybe the other way around. It’s completely capricious, and is very much a team effort – so you won’t know who to blame except us as a collective.
There is no particular order to this list, just whoever the editors decided to have a crack at first. As before, we fully expect return fire – that is after all the point of it.
This year’s recipients:
Jonathan Agnew – Currently (but for how much longer?) the mainstay of the BBC’s Test Match Special coverage. Has skin thinner than rice paper and is known to respond to any criticism by chucking his toys so far out his pram that they reach orbit. Has an extraordinary command of basic Anglo-Saxon that has yet to reach the airwaves, placing him behind Andrew Strauss and David Gower in the Inadvertent Public Broadcast Swearing league table – though miles ahead in the Twitter DM equivalent. Still has legions of adoring followers who can’t quite bring themselves to believe that delightful Aggers may not be as charming as first appears. Best friends with Jonathan Liew.
Malcolm Conn – Australian “journalist” (stroll on, that’s stretching it) about as likely to be fair to England as the ECB are to invite us over for a cup of tea. Constantly banging on about England players born overseas while going very quiet when Australian examples are quoted back to him. Still in therapy after England won the World Cup but known for upholding his role as a fearless interrogator of Australian cricket through consoling Australian cricketers caught cheating, to the point there was genuine confusion over whether he’d been appointed as Cricket Australia’s media liaison officer / press conference bouncer in the wake of Sandpaper-gate.
Michael Vaughan – Some people are born to lead. Some people are born to follow. Michael Vaughan is one of those rare individuals who manages to achieve both, often at the same time. Frequently speaking on any topic, bravely ignoring any questions about a lack knowledge or forethought. Despite this, somehow not the most annoying commentator on TMS.
Sir Geoffrey Boycott – I’ll be the first to say that the honours system is archaic, random and illogical. Even so, the ennoblement of such an objectionable individual as Boycott really sticks in the craw. Rebel tourist, violent convict, and utterly without empathy for other people. An all-round terrible human being. Despite this, somehow not the most annoying commentator on TMS.
Phil Tufnell – He turned being a mediocre spinner (having a worse Test bowling average than Moeen Ali, Jack Leach, Monty Panesar, James Tredwell to name a few) into being famous. Lacks any kind of insight in cricket commentary outside of possibly how a spin bowler should try to be economical. His bosses apparently overlook this tragic lack of talent, and he will almost certainly be a big part of the BBC’s TV plans next year due to his celebrity status. Despite this, somehow not the most annoying commentator on TMS.
Graeme Swann – The most annoying commentator on TMS, which is saying something. The nonstop stream of forced banter is like an ice pick being stabbed in my ears. No doubt a big part of the BBC’s big plans for their TV coverage next year, which could see Swann become the new Danny Morrison. I do not mean that as a compliment.
Jonathan Liew – One day there will be two people left in a press centre and one taxi. At that point maybe Jonathan will contemplate the bridges he burns. While he’s up there in the talent stakes when it comes to writing, he lapses into Ronay-isms, being more in love with his own work than the job he has to do – in search of THE angle. While picking fights (and yes, having them picked back) with the doyen of the blue rinse set is possibly a public duty, appearing to be a dick doesn’t help. But that’s the place he’s chosen to be, and in some ways its admirable because he does hold truth to power. I wonder, though. If you write for an online-only publication, aren’t you really a blogger in disguise?
Eoin Morgan – England’s World Cup winning captain who happens to share his disdain of red ball cricket and the County Championship as much as his paymasters at the ECB. Led the revolution in the ‘new brand of white ball’ cricket that has proved far more successful than any other previous brand in England’s history but has still remained loyal to the ECB’s ‘dressing room harmony’ mantra. Likely to become a T20 gun for sale in the near future, which is fine unless you want him to perform with the bat in any big game. Former pen-pals with Oliver Holt, who has seemed to go a little quieter now that Morgan is demonstrating his true worth by parroting the ECB’s line in support of the Hundred.
Paul Newman – Being chief cricket writer of the Daily Mail is an interesting place to be – he’s been there a while and shows no signs of moving on. Head of an establishment sport at a snarling outlet like the Mail is going to be tough for a chap who by all reports we hear is a pretty decent fellow – a consistent line we hear from his colleagues. That is until you have a pop at one of his talking points, when he can snarl and spit like, I don’t know, an irate blogger. He’s been less of pest recently, but retains his place on our list for works past. The anti-KP, pro-ECB, Cook fanboy stuff. I have no idea why that rubbed me up the wrong way. He’s on Mount Cricketmore for a reason. Then I realised he isn’t. Oh well.
David Gower – Now ex-presenter of International Cricket on Sky who is keen to blame ageism rather than the fact that he has been mailing it in for the past few years. On his day, Gower is still a joy to listen to and it was a little bit of a tear-jerker watching his final exit on Sky. Why have Sky got rid of him? Well maybe, in his own words, he “hasn’t got a fucking clue”. May be a safe pair of hands to anchor TMS if the BBC tire of Jonathan Agnew’s late night tirades, certainly unlikely to call anyone a c*nt in public. Has a penchant for fine wine, light aircraft and the odd shocking apartheid comment.
The Hundred – The behemoth which is casting a shadow across the next year in English cricket. People seem to be either of the opinion that it will solve all of the game’s endemic problems or destroy half of the professional teams in the country. The truth is probably more bland, but still damning: It’s going to be a bit shit. The level of play will be marginally above that of the better county T20 teams, the coverage will be nauseatingly bad, and the expenditure by the ECB on largely pointless things like fireworks and other gimmicks would make Croesus blush.
Elizabeth Ammon – Let’s be clear here, being a woman in such a historically male dominated world as sports reporting isn’t going to be easy, nor should she have to put up with the pretty vile abuse she receives from all too many just because she’s a woman and therefore in their tiny minds incapable of understanding or commenting on cricket. It’s idiotic, moronic and says far more about those knuckledraggers than anything else. But it does not mean there is a general immunity from any kind of criticism whatever, nor that there is much moral high ground in being utterly outraged that other people might hold different opinions to her, especially on county cricket. Has blocked us on Twitter, for something so minor we couldn’t remember what it was, but it’s her right to do that, and was met with a shrug.
The IPL – Seen as the original evil curse in the eyes of the England management team, it has now become ‘the learning place’ for England’s white ball specialists. Somehow the answer to all of English cricket’s ills despite the fact that the tournament has mainly been designed to make MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli look amazing in the eyes of the Indian public. Expect at some point soon for another 10 teams to be added and for the tournament to last almost half a year before the Chennai Super Kings win it again. Known as a haven for some of the most cringeworthy cricket commentators around. Has a propensity to have “exciting” final over finishes on command. You wouldn’t bet on that every day, would you?
Barney Ronay – There is a trend in cricket writing, actually sports writing, where the author is actually writing to be told how dashed clever he is – if they were ice creams, not only would they lick themselves, they’d smear themselves with chocolate sauce before doing it. There are plenty in that genre, but Barney is among the best/worst exponents of this craft. If craft it is. The point of his articles, and his tweets, aren’t to inform, to report, to entertain you, to perhaps give you something to think about. It’s about “how damn good am I” and “look what angle this pseud has come up with”. It’s the over-weening self confidence and attitude that gets me – it’s snarking at those who disagree, bemoaning those who don’t worship his brilliance, and yes, annoying the hell out of a recreational writer who knows a charlatan when he sees one. Have a nice day Barney.
David Lloyd AKA Bumble: The main reason for why the mute button was invented. Bumble likes to cast himself as the man of the people and he has proved his case, if that means endlessly parroting the ECB’s agenda and refusing to answer any questions on anything that remotely matters to cricket fans. Establishment through and through, despite his protestations, and very happy to leave his morals at the door in favour of still clinging onto his Sky gig even if he somehow makes Shane Warne sound lucid in comparison. Desperately trying to appear hip with all the success of a 70 year old heading over to Ibiza in skinny jeans, a glow stick and an LP of Andy Williams. His mascot races, books and Bumble specials (see the Kings Road video if you fancy trying to rip your eyes out of their sockets) are about as funny as genital warts but far more painful.
Andy Bull – Guardian journalist/writer who popped up on our comments this year after some mild comments from one of our number, and it being helpfully pointed out to him by someone. Thanks for coming Andy. It was nice to hear from you. You spent ages on your little self-justifying tome, links and all, but impressions count, and I don’t remember you sticking it to the ECB when they needed it being stuck to. Then we might just have avoided this Hundred nonsense if you, and the rest of the press, had opened their eyes and seen it as the preview for ECB treating the hoi polloi like shit. But you live in your reality and I’ll live in mine. What MFing Side You On?
Sanjay Patel – Chief polisher of the turd that is The Hundred. Speaks like a politician, in that every statement seems to be a combination of wishful thinking, half-truths, and blatant lies. As such, probably the favourite to succeed Tom Harrison if any company would be prepared to offer the current ECB chief executive more than £700,000 per year.
Tom Harrison – I saw the other day someone who will remain nameless say Harrison deserves his £700k because it’s the going rate for snake oil salesman, lying three faced pricks, selling polished turds in Management Speak Bollox (MSB), while alienating pretty much most of the existing customer base, who just happen to be in charge of a sport. It’s especially worrying when that individual not only sticks his snout in the trough with incredible pay increases while his sport shrinks, he believes he’s been placed in this position to save us from ourselves and to save the sport. His modus operandi? 1. To blame and call names – the Obsessive County Cricket fan – they felt his misplaced ire. But if you are the architects of the dire problem…. not a bad word – Giles Clarke and the preceding shit show are not to be mentioned. 2. Think of an idea, run with it, sell it, ignore the peasants, secure patsy interviews and deny reality. Copious mentions of stakeholders, partners, pathways, culture and “the game” do not mean you. Love or loathe the incumbent at Number 10 but the PM gets paid 20% of this rate. Harrison is a liar, a dissembler, a fraud, a charlatan, a zealot, an idiot, a bully, a clown. But hey. £700k is the going rate. Downton must be sick. He would have been worth millions.
Colin Graves – AKA CostCutter Colin. He is still here as Chairman of the ECB somehow. I don’t think even Colin Graves can believe he is still here, but there he is still giving out Silver bats, awarding Ashes Test Matches to Headingley (no conflict of interest what so ever of course) and appearing on high profile presentations. Thankfully, it appears that his contract extension also contained a mute button, so he is unable to insult the counties or any other international opponent England might have to face in the near future. Will probably receive an OBE in the near future from our archaic class system as a forward thinking entrepreneur. Proud owner of a brand new cupboard under the stairs at the ECB’s HQ.
Paul Farbrace – If the sky darkens and one of the 30,000 evil characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe shows up to take over the world (honestly, I can’t be the only person to watch these things saying “Who the hell is that, then?” every ten minutes), good old Chuckles would seek out a camera, laugh a few times and tell everyone that Iron Man just needed to execute his skills a bit better. It’s not a bad approach to life, and given some of what he’s been through probably reflects well on him to point out the inherent unimportance of sport. Even so, just once in a while a serious answer would have been nice.
Dominic Cork – A marginal inclusion, which might upset him if he gave a crap. The former all-rounder who got on everyone’s nerves, and resident of Stoke City’s car park during transfer deadline day (until Stoke got relegated), his most notable achievements this year have been getting Derbyshire to T20 Finals Day, and a Verdict (sorry Cricket Debate) in the wake of the first Ashes test defeat, with Charles ‘n’ Bob where he acted as if Tom Harrison was holding his nearest and dearest hostage. And no, I’ve not forgiven him from his anti-KP outbursts, of course I haven’t.
Mike Selvey – Highly successful ex-International Bowler (with a grand total of 3 caps to his name) and ex-Chief Cricket Correspondent of the Guardian before they finally saw sense and kicked him onto the street, not that he is bitter at all. Well known to have skin which is about as thick as water and a Twitter account in which he is now able to spout the same rubbish as he did when he was at the Guardian, with slightly less adulation than he feels is deserved. Currently enjoying a stellar campaign as President of Middlesex County Cricket Club, who are reversing backwards faster than a Michael Vaughan opinion. He doesn’t make decisions but acts like he does until called on them, and then says he doesn’t. Clear? A marker of cards and well versed in quoting unnamed sources, which naturally the public don’t deserve to have access to, because, well he is the Lord of the Manor and knows better than all you plebs. BOC still mourn the day he decided to abandon the construction of his blog, because it would have been bloody hilarious. Still sending love letters to David Saker when last checked.
Don Topley – Harry Gurney ideas, with a more human face. Not seen anything, ANYTHING, about the Hundred he doesn’t like. Doesn’t seem to contemplate that it will possibly be the death knell for the county he played for, and the county his son currently plays for. But we recognise the sacrifice, Don, and no doubt Tom will thank you someday. Maybe the ECB need your help. And yes, I do remember that catch at Lord’s. Those were the days.
Michael Henderson – There is, in every form of work, the example of someone who is there for reasons you can’t really understand – a totemic reminder of days past maybe? At the Cricketer Michael Henderson is still given writing gigs, still paid for his opinion, still earns from his contemptuous snobbery, and no-one seems to understand why. It is (for my good fortune) the only place I see his work these days, and its not pretty. Whether it’s barely concealed dislike of others (as the last one was), or snobbish references to the right kind of people in his eyes, or some stupid outdated cultural reference that has no bearing, no relevance, other than to act as some “upper being” spouting to the unwashed, it angers nearly every month. Yet it’s still printed. How did he get away with the September piece? If it hadn’t got mass objections, I guess it tells you a lot about the readership of the Cricketer. An anachronism in a world with pretty shitty people writing isn’t a good place to be. Go, in the name of God go, and take your poison pen with you. You can reference some opera singer as you push off out the door.
Simon Hughes – He’s always rubbed me the wrong way, from the first time I saw him on Channel 4, being referred to as ‘The Analyst’ when the insights he gave were about of the level I’d expect from club coaches. Still using the name about 14 years after he presumably last provided regular analysis on TV seems like taking the piss, quite frankly. He loves the sound of his own voice, is arrogant without much justification, and is hilariously poor (given his nom de plume) at offering even the vaguest analysis of any tripe the ECB sends him. His editorial policy is questionable to say the least, and his podcast is like being stuck in a lift with the three most boring people on the planet for an hour. Nice guy though.
Nasser Hussain – Ex-England captain and one of the most frustrating presenters in the game. There are times when he can be thoughtful or downright spiky which can really add to viewers enjoyment in watching the game, just look at his piece about Root’s technique with Ponting during the Fourth Test or his series about Cricket in Mumbai, which was fascinating. However there are other times he either feels compelled to spout the ECB’s prologue or is so banal that he makes Botham seem cutting edge. Having a Daily Mail column isn’t helping things much either. Supposedly has a big nose and is tight. Wow. The japes they have in the Sky commentary box are just wonderful.
Robert Key – In life it is all about being in the right place at the right time. As a T20 commentator, he’s tried to balance analysis and bantz. Recently the former has been pants, and the bantz has been rank. For this, it appears promotion as a junior David Lloyd for test duty beckons. I suppose someone has to, but is this really the best we can do? And yes, I am bitter that every time I saw Kent play Surrey, this man made my life a misery.
David Warner – For Australian cricket to make such a pig’s ear of the Sandpaper affair that it caused twinges of sympathy for Warner in this parish was quite exceptional. That he’s managed to make himself about as popular as an itch down below is rather beside the point. The mood lighting, arm around the shoulder (literally) poor ickle Steve and Cameron press conferences contrasted wildly with the way Warner was thrown in to a barely disguised hostile one. He then confounded expectations by refusing to dish the dirt (dammit) but instead acting contrite and providing the waterworks fully expected of Australian cricketers caught with their hands in the cookie jar. New gentle Davey didn’t last particularly long, though longer than all of his innings lasted in the recent Ashes series. Last seen trying to get out of Stuart Broad’s pocket.
Geoff Lemon – A number of things amaze me. Michael Henderson writes articles for the Cricketer. Martin Samuel thinks he can write about cricket. Today’s rap artists compared to Public Enemy. Jason Roy as a test opener. You get the picture. Geoff wrote a book. It won lots of awards. Never shy to march out of step from received wisdom, I thought it was (for large parts) utterly atrocious. A Jarrod Kimber tribute band, playing tired old metaphors and similes, attempting to be Gideon Haigh. But everyone else loved it. His excoriating takedown of Channel 9 was a career highlight – but that was a long time ago. I didn’t think Steve Smith’s Men was a highlight. I make no apologies. Perhaps Rusty might tell tales on me for saying so.
Jonny Bairstow – England stalwart who is known to throw his toys out of his pram every time anyone suggests that he isn’t quite a good enough keeper and has a gap in his defence so large that you could fly a jumbo jet through. Currently trying to do his best impression of James Vince by making 20 odd before attempting a shot that Stuart Broad would be embarrassed with. Known to be about as bright as nightfall in the Sahara Desert.
Ed Smith – Someone from a public school who inexplicably gets a job for which he has no experience or track record, despite being banged to rights for plagiarism in his former role. You can tell if England are ahead in a game or not by whether Sky’s cameras can pick Ed Smith out in the crowd. In fact, it’s arguably more accurate than WinViz. His one shining success in terms of Test selection was Jos Buttler, who averaged 24.70 this summer. Generally speaking, a lot more misses than hits in his selections so far.
James Taylor – Someone from a public school who inexplicably gets a job for which he has no experience or track record. On the plus side, no one seems certain about what his role actually is, apart from almost always being pictured with Ed Smith. About as interesting as watching paint dry in interviews.
Sir Andrew Strauss – Strauss appears to be the man getting all of the credit for the men’s World Cup victory. He hired Trevor Bayliss, he was in the selection meetings, he explicitly made it the priority for English cricket. That’s fine. But it also presumably means that he’s responsible for the bad things too. England’s Test team, for example. Their lacklustre T20 record. The backsliding of the women’s team from the heights of 2017. Aside from all that, it’s difficult to forgive him for his disastrous launching of The Hundred. It’s genuinely incredible how inept it was. Essentially telling existing cricket fans that it wasn’t for them because “mums and kids” were the priority. Insulting those mums and kids by saying that the only reason that they didn’t already like cricket was because they were too stupid to understand it. Truly, this belongs in a textbook teaching students how not to promote a new product.
Harry Gurney – Started out at Leicestershire and yet wants to get rid of or demote the lesser counties so that ‘top’ players like him can get more money. Not awash with self-awareness, bless him. I had to check to make sure he didn’t attend Radley College, because his approach to winning friends and influencing people is remarkably similar to that of Andrew Strauss. Has more Twitter followers than you or I, so there.
Martin Samuel – Putting Martin Samuel on cricket duty is a public affront to decency. It would be like your humble author being tasked to write about ballet (a load of skinny people dancing on their tippie-toes to some god awful tosh music). When the Ashes comes round, old Martin pulls the Oiliver (deliberate typo) Holt stunt of saying “I’m a SPORTS writer, dammit” and gets to unleash some putrid shite onto the Mail website; a forum awash with the stuff. What the proper cricket writers must think of this oaf, the cricket equivalent of the hippos in Fantasia, or any hippo actually, being let loose is anyone’s guess. I await the “Samuel on Stumps” anthology book or live tour announcement any day now. It’ll be a ripper. Cricket writing needs Samuel like a fish needs a sunbed.
John Etheridge – Chief Cricket Correspondent for the Sun. I genuinely don’t think there’s any more I need to say. After the events of this week, I wonder how he can remain. I suppose getting paid a small fortune travelling the world watching cricket is, as Chicago once sang, a hard habit to break.
Shane Warne – Aww mate, you’ve got to be prepared to lose in order to win. Warne is like one of those individuals in the pub who keeps banging on about the same opinion for as long as anyone will let him. I reckon even Warne tires of his own voice at times. Used to be known as the best leg spinner ever, but now more synonymous with plastic surgery, terrible banter and frequently bedding younger women. The bastard. Soon to become the head coach of the new Hundred franchise at Lords, which will no doubt massively upset many of the MCC members. A small win for us fans who will have to put up with this turd of a competition.
Virat Kohli – A character that divides opinion. In India they adore him, but not like they adored Sachin and still do Dhonut. Outside of India, most appear to think of him as a flash, gobby, unsporting oik. Me? I am worried about his neck. He hurt it instead of playing for Surrey. I still wonder, to this day, how Guildford would have coped. Will probably end up with 80 ODI hundreds, we’ll remember none of them, and no-one will care.
MS Dhoni – AKA Dhonut. Is to run chases as I am to work deadlines. Whereas in my younger days I had the stamina to pull rabbits out of hats, deliver work from nowhere and get the job done, now the sands of time have prevented me and I have to start the task earlier or fail. There’s a lesson MS. Unfortunately when I fail, I get a bollocking from my bosses. When Dhoni fails, his fanboys and girls threaten anyone who dare question the great god Donut with fates worse than death. Like watching Dhoni ramp the run rate up to 12 an over, and manufacture T20 games to go to the last over. I have absolutely no reasons to question anything here. Really I don’t.
Tim Paine – Has a reputation as a nice guy, but this is very much relative to his predecessors. Still allows gobby shits like Wade and Lyon to mouth off at the opponents, and still cheats if he can get away with it. The most annoying thing for me was his insistence on handshakes before games. His team gets caught cheating, everyone else piles in about all of the (objectively worse) other stuff Australia had been doing for years, so why did they think they could force the opposition teams into a PR exercise like that.
Nick Knight – In keeping with his status as the most vanilla of broadcasters, I had to go and check what I’d said about him last time. It mostly consisted of him saying “would you believe it?” repeatedly, and that’s absolutely dandy, because since Knight just repeats “would you believe it?” all the time, it seems appropriate to do the same to him. Would you believe it?
Angus Fraser – Grumpy former England and Middlesex bowler and now even grumpier special guest on the Verdict. Spends most of his time looking like he’d rather be anywhere else than on TV and responds to any questions he’s asked with the look of someone who has been asked to recite the first 200 numbers of PI with someone standing on his testicles. Currently overseeing the complete demise of Middlesex as Director of Cricket, which has proved to be a veritable banquet of mirth for 2 of our editors and yet has made another of our editors very sad indeed.
Ian “Wardy” Ward – “Great question Wardy”. If you are looking for a point where the scales tipped from my eyes, that was it. The arch-enemy, the zealot with not-a-lot, the establishment money guzzler, with so much to defend (Tom Harrison), treating his TV interviewer with contempt by using his nickname – and the interviewer smiling away. Pat Murphy, for one, would not have stood for that crap. Wardy’s post-match interview technique has turned from probing and incisive, to “why are you so great”. And now he’s reportedly moving into Gower’s seat as presenter. While good with Masterclass, the perils are there, the warning signs are flashing, the whispers of being too close to the players are louder and louder. Let the new era, or error, begin.
Steve Smith – One of our number proudly points out that as far back as 2010 he insisted to all and sundry that Smith was destined to be a Test player of repute while everyone else was laughing themselves silly at his bowling being smacked around the park and his batting was all over the place. His batting is still all over the place of course, but with the difference that no bugger can get him out any more. This startling insight and genius punditry would be more notable were it not for said writer also insisting that David Warner wouldn’t last 15 Tests. Has infuriated everyone all summer for managing to have a technique similar to a drunken crab while selfishly refusing to get out to anyone. Eventually won around the English fans to the point that he got a standing ovation as he walked off after his second innings dismissal at the Oval, which at least had the benefit of shutting up the more sanctimonious short memory Australians who treated booing as though it was the worst crime since Bodyline. Which they’re still whining about 90 years on come to that.
Joe Root – What happened to you Joe? Just a couple of years ago, you were a young cheeky chappy with a grin fixed on your face and the enviable problem of scoring too many fifties. Now you look like you’re ten years older, you’re more likely to get a duck than reach a half-century, and your captaincy is almost making us long for the halcyon days of your predecessor. What have the ECB done to you?
Trevor Bayliss – Ex-England Head Coach who had as much interest in county cricket as the rest of the editors do for Kabbadi. Played a key role in changing the mentality of our white ball approach and deserves credit for helping to win the World Cup; however Test Cricket always seemed a bit of an after-thought for him. Likely heading for a career coaching various T20 franchises across the World. Liked very much by the England players but don’t ever try and pull his shorts down as Mark Wood found out. Should be knighted for services to scented candles, whale music and yucca plants.
Kevin Pietersen – Officially branded a “genius” by Sky TV, five years after said “genius” was sacked so we could pick Gary Ballance, and keep a crap captain in power. I haven’t been as offended by a replacement since Technotronic turned up at a PA, and neither of the two main protagonists showed up. Anyway, said genius still has all the media etiquette skills of the animal he is trying to save and sometimes he should can it, but hey, he’s interesting, annoying and you’d still watch his greatest innings over any other English player not named (possibly) Bell or Gower. And I annoy my wife no end with the “Because they’re my mates” impression from that Sky documentary, which amuses only me. Rumours are Tom Harrison wants to appoint him as PR head to convince sceptical county fans that the Hundred is great. If Carlsberg did piss-takes…..
Stuart Broad – Fantastic Test bowler and even better comedian on the pitch, Test cricket would be a lot poorer without his various celebrappeals and complete lack of understanding of how DRS works. At one point, he was considered England’s next all-round great, but was in decline before getting hit in the face by Varun Aaron and since then his batting has looked like it has been based around the Devon Malcolm school of batting (he has a higher test best than Mark Waugh!). Has finally learnt how to pitch the ball up after 10 years of trying and now has his own rental space in David Warner’s head.
Jimmy Anderson – Legendary England swing and seam bowler who has transformed himself from wild tearaway to metronomic grumpy wicket taker par excellence. Has an end named after him at Old Trafford which probably represents the greatest achievement any male could wish to obtain, though I may have slightly misunderstood what that’s about. Has reached the point where his cricketing prowess allows the great and the good to defend him even when he’s not behaved particularly well on the field, a privilege reserved to a very few. Subject of complaints that he hasn’t had a knighthood when batsmen are queueing up for them. Made an observation in the documentary The Edge that had one of our number falling off his chair at the known for certain brazen hypocrisy of it.
Glamorgan – One of just three counties not to develop a single men’s England Test cricketer in the past 10 years, but the only one which hosts international games and a men’s team in The Hundred. It would benefit English cricket immeasurably if they split off to become the Welsh national team. It probably wouldn’t damage the development of Welsh cricketers either, to be honest.
Sir Alastair Cook – It has been a contention of mine that the single most divisive figure in English cricket in the past decade hasn’t been that batsman who was sacked, but rather a batsman that was extraordinarily backed. In being forced to be the face of a regime who treated the supporters as the bien peasants, Cook took up the cudgels and milked it, and in turn got the love of an entire media gang. The Cook era is a key one for English Cricket. It’s not about his stats, it’s about what he stood for, either intentionally or not. Backing Alastair Cook became a matter of faith, a matter of your applicability to be a real CRICKET fan. You had to love him. Or else. I can’t be humorous, or wise crack about this. This was a cult, with the dullest leader imaginable. As long as Outside Cricket has breath, Cook will be here. The handsome prince of English cricket. The cult leader of the insipid. The face of the ECB. Jonathan Agnew’s BFF. Records be damned.
The T20 Blast – So called mediocre tournament that the ECB is desperately trying to get rid of despite growing crowds and fan affiliation. Supposedly can only attract mediocre white ball players such as AB de Villiers, Aaron Finch, Glenn Maxwell, Rashid Khan, Michael Klinger, Mohammed Amir and Faf du Plessis to the tournament. Likely to eventually be phased out for something the ECB management team designed on an empty packet of fags between lunches, because they know better than the fans after all. Still not enough women and children for the ECB’s liking.
Somerset – Lesser county somewhere near Wales that was last in the national headlines for King Alfred burning some cakes. Worth pointing out that he went to Somerset to hide from an entire army looking for him. And succeeded. In more recent times the 14 residents of this backwater have not only discovered Twitter, but have launched a takeover, leading some to the mistaken impression that they’re important. Currently playing Minor Counties, probably.
Cricket Highlights on 5: I reckon a highlights programme with commentary from Michael Vaughan, Graeme Swann and Mark Nicholas would probably make kids have nightmares about the sport and certainly not want to pick up a bat unless they were able to use it to hit said commentators. Certainly not one for the casual fan as it’s the first and last programme I will probably ever watch on that channel.
New Zealand cricket team – On this list primarily because they’re so damn likeable, even in the cruelest of defeats. Imagine the howling from the England camp and press if we’d have lost in such a manner.
Russell Jackson – For one day only, this man made himself look an idiot. But he didn’t keep it to himself.
Dean Wilson – Poor old Dean, he so desperately wants to leave his position as Chief Correspondent of the Mirror to become the next ECB head of communications. So much so that he is happy to trot out any old rubbish the ECB gives him. Was referred to as a journalist during lunch in a gathering at the 5th Test, which is probably the first time that has ever happened. It is well known that being the Chief Correspondent of the Daily Mirror is more akin to be deputy train manager of the Island line in the Isle of Wight. Likes a free lunch or five.
Piers Morgan – Unaccountably left out of the last Outside Cricket list due entirely to the ineptitude of the writers. Chief cheerleader for Kevin Pietersen, which is about as useful as having Katie Hopkins appear as a character witness. Acknowledged in the KP documentary that this may not have been entirely helpful, which is probably the only occasion he’s ever come close to an apology. The blog will be forever grateful to him for infuriating those Inside Cricket sufficiently that they responded by giving us our name, and then leading one idiot to publicly say that we were his online agents. One of our number has played cricket against him on a couple of occasions, where he increased the sense of outrage by coming across as a fairly pleasant bloke. Totally unacceptable.
Gordon Hollins – Ex-Chief Operating Officer of the ECB and now Managing Director of County Cricket (haha), Hollins is still there owing to the fact that he now resides in a small basket next to Tom Harrison’s bed and has stopped soiling the carpet. Over qualified for the role as an ex-Commercial Director at Durham CCC, which naturally didn’t stop him from taking a steaming dump on his former employer. Wheeled out when either Tom Harrison or Sanjay Patel have more important things to do like meet a sponsor or count their money.
Sam Morshead – Erstwhile digital editor of the Cricketer, who has shown exceptionally poor judgement by failing to include himself in the Cricketer’s own list, breaking all convention and tradition, and thus showing himself to be far less of a man than Simon Hughes. Has feet of a type last seen in the Lord of the Rings, and looks a bit like Frodo too, come to that.
Jim Maxwell – Legendary Australian radio commentator who is a welcome visitor to these shores every four years – or more frequently as the ECB and Cricket Australia determine for financial cricketing reasons. Has rarely put a foot wrong on air and is a pleasure to listen to. Makes this list by virtue of the fact that he quite plainly cares vastly more for the health of English cricket than most of his English colleagues, and is not shy of saying so, and he liked and commented on one of our tweets (we’re so shallow). Good on him, but while it says a lot about him, it says far more about those others that this is the case, and that’s pretty scandalous in itself.
Middlesex – Every single Middlesex player and member seems to be a champagne-quaffing, tweed-wearing, Waitrose-shopping stereotype who looks down on Jacob Rees-Mogg for being too common. Despite their ostentatious demonstrations of wealth, including their own official diamond merchants and Porsche dealerships, they still can’t afford their own ground and have to rent one from someone else. This is fair enough, considering London prices, but you would think that they would be able to find one which was at least level. I would certainly complain to my landlord if I was living in a property with a lopsided floor. That a professional (and international) cricket ground has this issue is, quite frankly, embarrassing. More worringly, ex-Middlesex players seem predisposed to finding other jobs in cricket once their playing careers end. They tend to be jobs which they lack the experience and talent required to do it fully, which means that people (including us) notice them: Administrators, selectors, coaches and journalists. No sector of English cricket is untainted by Middlesex. Of the forty-ish ex-cricketers in this list, at least ten played for them. One of our editors is slightly less than impressed with this entry.
Mark Robinson – He deserves enormous plaudits for taking the England women’s team to the heights of success, culminating in a thrilling World Cup win in 2017 at a packed Lord’s. Thereafter the team went into reverse faster than an Italian tank, and by 2019 Australia weren’t just beating England, in England, but were handing out a a thrashing game after game. Another lauded when successful by Lord, but excused when the wheels fell off (the players fault, natch). Resigned his position as a result, thus demonstrating a degree of integrity scarcely ever seen in ECB circles and certainly not from those who slashed the investment in the women’s game and sacrificed the successful and growing Kia Super League on the altar of the Hundred.
Mark Ramprakash – Former England Test Player and England batting coach, who managed to make a huge mess of both jobs. His main achievement as coach was to bring down the England batting unit’s average to around his career Test average and whose mess is now being tended to by Graham Thorpe. Firm believer in accountability, as long as it is not his accountability being questioned. Likely to end up in ‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here’ this year.
Jason Roy – I understand that professional sportsmen have a lot of self-confidence. That it may even be part of the job. Would any great, unlikely, unbelievable sporting moment if the people involved weren’t absolutely convinced that they were 100% certain to triumph? Even if the chain of events to get there was so improbable that their belief was verging on delusion. But, even acknowledging this, how on Earth did Jason Roy think he could be England’s Test opener?
Pavel Florin – Romanian superstar cricketer who managed to move from figure of fun to cricketing icon faster than a Jofra Archer bouncer. His enthusiasm for the game is boundless, the faint whiff of condescension from those approving of his efforts mere moments after laughing at them unmistakable. Undoubtedly a welcome voice in terms of spreading the word of cricket beyond its traditional boundaries, which is one reason the ICC wouldn’t dream of making use of him. Cannot be forgiven by any club cricketer anywhere around the world for having a Cricinfo profile when we do not.
Andy Nash – Most akin to a reformed smoker lecturing all around him on how appalling it is that other people are partaking. Former Somerset Chairman and ECB board member whose trenchant opposition to the Hundred would be slightly less confusing had he not been part of the group that passed the idea in the first place. It may well be that this is an entirely unfair reading of events, since the opacity of all ECB decision making is such that voting records don’t necessarily mean agreement. Nash is now reduced to shouting from the sidelines about how terrible it’s going to be while absolutely no one Inside Cricket engages him. He is (of course) correct, but he is now experiencing the kind of cold shoulder to his views experienced over many years by that tiny, unimportant group of people called cricket fans.
AB De Villiers – Like the guy who turns up at your annual Christmas Party unannounced after having left the company 8 months ago, AB did exactly the same at the World Cup as there weren’t any 20/20 leagues going on at the same time. Well known for bouts of extreme tiredness that can suddenly be cured by a large wedge of cash being waved in his face. Expect the same thing to happen at the next World Cup unless the Albanian Professional T20 league are offering big money.
Mr Maximooo – AKA Vinny Sandhu, the hugely excitable commentator of the inaugural European Cricket League. Took to shouting “Maximooo!” extremely loudly when a six was hit, which was highly amusing at first, but started to grate somewhat in a tournament that turned into a real life version of Stick Cricket, with virtually every ball disappearing out of the park. To his credit, he acknowledged that point afterwards, and his clear love of what was going on endeared him to a small but increasingly dedicated audience watching cricket being played purely because the players loved the sport, and so did the commentators. A Celebrity Death Match with Danny Morrison beckons.
DAB Radio – Needs a particular entry in here simply because for years we’ve been told that digital radio is the future, that we all need to chuck our analogue receivers out, and that having DAB in the car is far better than some crackly old signal on 198 LW. But here’s the problem: It’s shit. It’s monumentally, utterly shit. Any journey undertaken that involves travelling more than 50 yards beyond Broadcasting House involves more drop outs than the first year of a media studies course. On one occasion, I managed to miss two England wickets in the period while it was searching madly for a signal while driving on the motorway, which says a hell of a lot about England’s batting, but even more about the utter pup we’ve been sold as a viable means of listening. I don’t know who was responsible for this complete shambles, but I’m going to find out and write a strongly worded letter – mostly because if I say it on digital radio they’ll only hear the first two words before it cuts out again.
World Cup Super Overs – Anything that is designed to be finite and then fails to be so, thus making the decision of the winner on the number of boundaries scored is always going to get on our goat. Interestingly enough those who whinge about it most aren’t our Kiwi friends but legions of Indian and Australian fans, who didn’t actually make the final. Ca’ Plus Change.
Lawrence Booth – Glory-hunting Manchester City and Northants fan (possibly a unique combination) who occasionally writes nasty things about the ECB in his sideline as Wisden Almanack editor. Has a fairly routine Daily Mail column that still looks like Shakespeare next to Martin Samuel’s cricket forays, but disappears between January and April on a long holiday.
Kumar Dharmasena – ICC World Umpire of the Year 2018, which is about the most damning statistic about the health of umpiring in our international game. More known now for giving shocking decisions and a complete lack of understanding of the rules of cricket. Somehow makes us pine for the days of S.Ravi, who he has miraculously made to look like a competent umpire.
Ricky Ponting – Sometimes in life, you get to meet your heroes. And all too often they show that they have feet of clay. Disappointment is often the result, a bad memory to taint the good ones you have. Imagine then the even more acute disappointment to be found when Ricky Ponting decided to go entirely the other way. He had been a monumental pain in the arse as batsman and captain of Australia, partly because he was so bloody good, and partly because he was combative, fantastically bad tempered and insistent that he defined where the line was while the rest of the world rolled their eyes. His appearance in the commentary box this summer was therefore a massive disappointment – not because he was bad, far from it. Instead he was engaging, witty, brilliantly incisive and came across as a thoroughly all round good egg. This. Is. Not. Good. Enough. We want our Australian enemies to be the bastards we always expected them to be, not to turn out to be delightful. That Mitchell Johnson had rocked up and been equally engaging merely made it worse.
Derek Pringle – Why me? Why do I have to write about this person? What have I done? Other than the wikipedia article, which we talked about last time, and the fact he’s written a book that I’ll wait until it gets to £0.01 on Amazon secondhand to buy, and that he’s some bon viveur now used for those talking head pieces on Sky, and that he’s the Chief Cricket Writer at the Metro, what else is there to say? I’m warming to him? That I shouldn’t have been mean about him? Hell No. HELL NO.
Ellyse Perry – You could say that she was the female equivalent of Steve Smith in terms of her complete dominance over the England team this summer, but it’s not quite true. She is better at bowling than Smith. Has done absolutely nothing wrong and is a powerful standard bearer for women’s cricket. Unfortunately, she’s both a bloody good player and Australian, which in itself is grounds for excommunication.
Sheldon Cottrell – Ok. We get why he does the salute and, as reasons go, it’s not a bad one. The only problem is that it’s been done before (and in an infinitely funnier manner) when Marlon Samuels did it to Ben Stokes and got away without having the bat wrapped around his head. There’s merit in it as long as you’re first, and he wasn’t.
Kumar Sangakkara – A batting career similar to Steve Smith but with attractive shots already marked him out as a cricketing great, but in retirement he’s managed to improve his standing even further. Firstly by doing Sky masterclasses that are so impressive Sky daren’t repeat them 30 times a day, and second by quite pointedly doing commentary that ignores David Lloyd’s banter and talks about the game itself. Has a delightful habit of pausing for a few seconds after a fellow commentator has talked about wicket-keeping to make it abundantly clear he thinks they’re talking bollocks. Sangakkara then goes on with all the skills of a diplomat to explain why. At this stage the suspicion is growing that this is all too good to be true, and at some point he’s going to rip his face off and reveal he’s the leader of an alien invasion.
Innocent Bystander – Bestriding Twitter like a gambling colossus. Friend of the blog (we think) and all round top contributor to social media. If there’s an irrelevant, gobshite T20 league in the world, and it’s playing, he’ll be on it, making the readies – watch out for the Kazakhstan regional T20 any day now, and IB will be on the Almaty Matters, while his bete noire will be favouring the Astana Stammers. Very convinced of Australia’s position as self-appointed arbiter of world cricketing etiquette, he doesn’t, at all, go on about it.
Michael Clarke – One of the list of Australian cricketers who highlight the difference in approach between Cricket Australia and the ECB when dealing with the “shit bloke” problem. In the wake of tragedy he conducted himself with a dignity and sense of leadership that caused many cricket followers of all nationalities to assert with awe that they’d happily follow him to the gates of hell, and has since then steadily eroded the goodwill by the simple medium of absolutely refusing to shut the fuck up in the commentary box. In decades past Richie Benaud used words sparingly and when he felt there was something worthwhile to say. Clarke observed and learned from the example of Benaud, but unfortunately by misunderstanding the brief and assuming that every single one of the silences needed to be filled. It is deeply impressive to be so much the anti-Benaud that grown men have been known to weep, or worse still, turn over to TMS to listen to the witterings of Graeme Swann instead.
Ben Stokes – England’s best player across all 3 formats who has basically piggy backed the rest of the England team this summer in the Ashes and in the World Cup. Victim of a horrendous piece of gutter journalism from the Scum, which he handled both intelligently and maturely. Still barred from enjoying the bright lights of Bristol’s glorious nightlife due to a small misunderstanding.
Mo Bobat – The ‘behind the scenes’ driving force of Ed Smith’s currently highly successful selection policy. After all, it is mandatory to have such a resource to rely on to pick a successful white ball opener who has never batted for over 2 sessions in a red ball game and a plucky, if not quite talented enough 33 year old county specialist for the Test team; That’s why he is paid the big bucks after all. Well known to do a “chuckles’ in that he suddenly appears in the papers when all is going well, yet suddenly goes missing in action when they’re not. Last seen in Teesside building a wooden canoe for reasons not currently known.
Ian Smith – There was a period fairly early on in the World Cup final when Smith was on commentary with Michael Atherton and Michael Holding. There followed half an hour or so of cricketing nirvana, as the three of them talked with intelligence, humour that didn’t veer into slapstick, and deep insight into the game of cricket that was an unadulterated pleasure to listen to. His calling of the super over was commentary brilliance, and made everyone regret his departure at the tournament’s conclusion. So what is he doing on this list? Well he still can’t pronounce fish and chips properly and I’m sorry, but that’s enough reason for anyone.
Simon Kuper – Have you read that Ed Smith interview? Have you? Any pretence of remaining a hard hitting journalist evaporated in the opening stanza. “Ed Smith, England’s chief cricket selector, has been irritatingly over-blessed by the gods: brainy, courteous, a former England batsman, admired author and well-dressed man. This morning he strides into a King’s Cross café in sunglasses and a wound scarf that scream Saint-Tropez, 1963.” But it gets better when he asks the startling naive: “Today is day four of the fourth Ashes test. Shouldn’t he be in Manchester watching England-Australia?” The correct answer is “Because they were about to lose the Ashes, and he didn’t want the cameras on him,” you pillock. The easiest answer is usually the best one, Simon. Call your next book Cricket Against The Plagiarists. Instead of worshiping one.
Peter Lalor – The fact that everyone knows about Lalor for the fact that he got wrongly charged an exorbitant amount for a beer at the Malmaison in Manchester rather than for anything he has ever written about says a lot about his journalism. I mean who has $99,000 AUS in their account? My card would have spontaneously combusted at 1/10th of that cost.
Matt Prior – Cycling guru who used to be fairly handy with the willow and gloves for England. Has kept a fairly low cricketing profile since retiring from the game, low enough to avoid making an appearance on the KP documentary because he found it too difficult, though The Edge was apparently worthy of his input. Resurfaced recently to quite gloriously provoke Shane Warne into a fantastically Australian response that reasserted their national obsession with telling everyone else where the line is and (even better) managed to get Chris Adams caught in the crossfire.
Denis – Cricket “writer”, shit stirrer and now a government spokesman for Pakistan. The world of cricket writing takes you to curious places, curious situations and curiouser outcomes. Does he still write a blog? I have absolutely no idea. We might spell his name wrongly one day, too.
Bob Willis – It remains the case that England having a bad day or (better still) a catastrophic day gives cause to wishing to tune into the Sky Cricket review just to see how Uncle Bob will respond to it. He rarely disappoints, providing significant entertainment with a generally epic rant that causes no end of amusement. Tends to be less comfortable when Charles Colville asks him a difficult question or (worse still) reminds him of something he’d said previously that contradicted it entirely. Given the ruthless culling of Gower and Botham, his time in the chair may be somewhat limited but he remains worth having just for the baleful sneer usually aimed at England batsmen who fully deserve it.
Scyld Berry – There is a place in cricket and in journalism for the gloriously bonkers hack who switches between acute insight and the most unadultered bullshit, seemingly at will. His player ratings are the stuff of legend, particularly during the Cook era where the sainted one managing to put his shoes on the right way around was generally worthy of an 8. Hasn’t quite got the hang of Twitter where people have been known to answer back to his tweets.
Gary Ballance – It’s ironic for Gary to be blessed with such a surname when balance and poise are the two things he severely lacks at the crease. If you believe Twitter, you’d have thought that England had left out the new Brian Lara rather than a chubby Zimbabwean whose foot movement looks like he has 2 bricks attached to each boot. Dropped twice owing to the fact that his pads are an even bigger target than Shane Watson’s.
Chris Silverwood – Has somehow managed to persuade Stuart Broad and the rest of the English bowlers to pitch it up in useful conditions, which is something that many have tried and failed before. Naturally this is totally unacceptable behaviour and will harm his chances of becoming England’s Head Coach massively despite leading an un-fancied Essex team to the County Championship. Will probably be let go in the next England revolution for a bowling coach who wants to put the wind up the opposing batsmen.
Wisden Cricket Monthly – Here’s a funny thing. During the World Cup, the bulk of the writing staff for this prestigious magazine appeared to have been seconded to the ICC’s own official World Cup site. Let’s just say that their reporting on the ICC’s machinations in future will be treated with considerable caution.
Mexican Waves – Probably one of my biggest bugbears. Just watch the bloody game that you’ve bought overpriced tickets for and drunk ridiculously expensive pissy beer. Anyone who is found starting one of these should have the choice of facing Jofra Archer in the nets for an hour without a helmet or becoming Simon Hughes’ full time secretary. That should cut them out in next to no time.
Twitter Pseuds – You know how this works. A player strokes a cover drive off a reasonably decent bowler, in a televised match, and it’s not enough, by heaven it isn’t, to say “cracking shot”, it’s “I want to take that cover drive for dinner, wine it, dine it, and take it to a luxury spa for a three week getaway in a tropical paradise”. That sort of shit. That sort of nonsense. There are many culprits, BR isn’t just the former initials of our national railway and VE isn’t just the day the world celebrates the defeat of Nazi Germany. Yeah. At least our Twitter feed is funny!
Guardian Below The Line – BTL. A haven for the unaware, over praised, self assured, convinced of their own brilliance, and masters of fawning over Lord, Victor and any other writer who gets their well-heeled juices flowing. While some of this parish still venture into this land of one-eyed, where the blind is king, it has been avoided for many a day by those keen to maintain sanity. Blogs are for ruffians they say. Scoundrels. Bilious Inadequates. Non-county cricket fans. There are no think tanks in Southern Ireland, ECB fanboys can speak and thrill themselves, and the beat goes on.
Sky Cricket Channel Subscribers – Not all, but you know the kind. The one who pays THEIR subscription, and when a world-scale event gets to a Final, and is put on free-to-air for long-term benefit, complains that they have paid their subs, so “Why should those who don’t pay when I do, get to experience what I have paid MY MONEY for”. They proliferated on the Guardian which, as self-awareness goes, is either miles ahead of your time or you are a weapons grade idiot. They think the bigger picture is their Sky bill, and THEIR sacrifice for English Cricket. After all, “it’s only a cup of coffee a day to subscribe”. Really. I have two espressos a day, and they cost 60p. Where the hell are you buying your brew, you gullible twits? And that’s not a day pass on Sky, I can assure you. I don’t hear the moans about Sky not picking up all available overseas cricket, endless repeats of Masterclass and their own series, and Legends of Cricket. No. Don’t let the hoi polloi in, whatever you do. I PAID for this.
Sky Subscribers who don’t have access to BT Sport: The last away Ashes highlighted a particular breed, the smug tossers who have a Sky account, but who don’t have a BT one. All of a sudden they started complaining and whining about having to pay for cricket, even though it was, to use their above justification, just a coffee or two a day. It wasn’t just ordinary people on Twitter either (you can always find someone to complain about something). It was journalists and even the ECB piling in to object to a broadcaster other than Sky daring to show England play cricket, and finding that they might have to spend a bit of their own money to do so. The lack of self-awareness was astounding, as though the aristocracy had been denied their particular wine supplier because Laithwaites (oh my, shudder) had hoovered up the contracts. Some might say that being that wedded to thinking Sky were the good guys was somewhat instructive about where their loyalties lie, but we couldn’t possibly comment. Oh, ok we will – it was frankly embarrassing.
Paul Downton – We simply couldn’t have an ‘outside cricket list’ without the man who helped give us our ‘nomme de guerre’. Sorely missed for his press conferences, interviews and any other time he was on TV as he made the rest of us look like Professors of Classics from Cambridge University.
Marnus Labuschagne – Labooscayne, Labuskakne, Laboochange, Laboochanya….oh sod it.
Isa Guha – Erstwhile commentator who has managed to break up the laddish banter on Sky. Announced that she will be the lead presenter on the BBC’s Hundred coverage – Why Isa? Why?
Ali Martin – Chief Cricket correspondent for the Guardian who has restored the their cricket coverage to something resembling normality after his predecessor got moved on. Still won’t meet us for a beer mind and definitely needs to do something about that beard.
Matthew Wade – Australian gob-shite whose mouth is far more talented than his ability on the cricket field. England allowed him to score 2 centuries in the Ashes to cement his place in the Aussie squad. You’re welcome Australia.
Giles Clarke – The original cockroach who has finally been turfed out of the ECB. Responsible for many of the ills befalling English Cricket.
Jofra Archer’s Twitter account – It’s all getting a bit tedious now isn’t it.
Michael Holding – Often seems more interested in what is going on in the horse racing than on the cricket field; however he brilliantly put the execs at Sunset & Vine in their place during the World Cup. One of our number met him at Lords this year and can confirm he is a top guy.
Peter Moores – Former two time England Head Coach with a penchant for nicking the best players from smaller counties. Hasn’t stopped him from being relegated twice mind. So much for the English coach of his generation. Likes data.
Ashley Giles – New Director, England Cricket. Given the benefit of the doubt as he is still new in post. Nailed on to make the list should we ever do another one.
Andrew Miller – Only to remark that one of our editorial board thinks the sun shines out of his rear end and that he should write more. Have we forgotten someone?
This list is arbitrary, unfair and the result of the four of us having to wait a few years before we could have our views expressed on certain individuals (outside of our tremendous Glossary, of course).
If you’re on the list and are offended, then good, our work is done here. If you aren’t, you are either too good, too dull or now too irrelevant for us to write about.
In the age of social media, outrage is never too far away. Sometimes it’s over a big issue, but very often it’s not, as people work themselves into a frenzy over a matter that no one had considered before to any great degree, let alone got themselves into a moral fury. In such circumstances the usual approach is to shout ever louder, and certainly never consider that someone with a different opinion might have a valid reason for feeling that way. Debate goes out of the window in a cacophony of noise and tempestuousness, and a subject that all told has limited importance suddenly becomes a cause celebre entirely out of proportion to its significance.
So it is with the curious case of Adil Rashid’s recall to the Test team for the first match against India next week. It is perhaps a slightly surprising decision, but it’s not the first slightly surprising decision, and Ed Smith has probably raised more than a few eyebrows with his inclination to think beyond the narrow parameters employed by England selectors over the last couple of years. Certainly, if some of those currently screaming are to believed, he seems to have discarded the “good bloke” (in the opinion of the ECB hierarchy) qualification in England selection that has caused no end of rancour since 2014 and seemed to defy the natural conditions of every workplace in the land. To that end, it has to be said that Smith hasn’t made a bad start. Whether individual selections are agreed with or not is entirely beside the point, his refusal to follow the path of least resistance thus far is actually rather refreshing. Given the criticism Smith has had for his past troubles with other people’s work (and rightly so – the attempted ignoring of that issue is precisely why it keeps cropping up), it isn’t always easy to give credit where it might be due and, in this case as with any selection, no one knows whether it is inspired or destined to fail. But the point is that he has shown himself prepared to take that risk. And you know what? Well done Ed Smith.
Picking a nice safe England side is easy – we can all do it, who the hell needs selectors if that’s the intention? And if the results aren’t good, well, dump a couple and bring in the latest flavour of the month on the county circuit and see if he sinks or swims. Not the selectors fault if the team isn’t good enough, they’ve all had a crack at it. See? It’s easy.
That’s why the selection of first Jos Buttler and now Adil Rashid is in itself something to be praised. Not necessarily in terms of the players themselves, for that is an arguable point, but because it implies a willingness to do more than be confined by the exceptionally messy structure of the English professional game. And herein lies the rub. For the protestations about the supposed “integrity” of the County Championship are laughable when they come from those who have agreed to, and indeed supported, every diminution in importance of what is supposed to be the proving ground for the Test team. Over the last few years red ball cricket has been pushed ever more to the margins, to the point where the bulk of it is played in April, May and September, a situation only likely to deteriorate further once the heart of the summer is given over to whatever format the Hundred ends up with, alongside the T20 Blast that also too must be given priority.
With that being the case, the role of the selectors has become either extremely easy or extremely difficult, depending on which route they go down. If they choose to only select those players who commit to the County Championship, then they lose those who disappear to the IPL (as was the case with Buttler) because that’s when most of the county matches are played until September. Complaining about players doing that is senseless. Cricketers will go where their opportunities are, and this is particularly the case for those who aren’t central to the Test team for whatever reason. If it’s a Ben Stokes, his position is sufficiently secure that it doesn’t matter – he’s in, subject to Her Majesty’s Courts And Tribunals Service – but if it’s a Jos Buttler, by no means safe in Test selection terms, it is an opportunity to maximise the income from a short career given no security in a full central contract. What on earth do people expect? A player to plod along for a relative pittance in the county game in the vague hope of a call up? Perhaps that’s exactly what they expect, yet it is always the case that the expectations of prominent sportsmen and women among the wider public jar utterly with the way they live their own lives. Offer someone a job paying twice the money, and their own loyalty vanishes in a puff of air, with few suggesting they ought to have paid more attention to the social dimension or their responsibility to a wider group.
Thus, the selectors have a dilemma. Choose who they believe to be the best players, and they are open to the accusation of ignoring the County Championship. Fail to do so, and the side they select may not be the best one available. In the case of Buttler, selecting him worked spectacularly well, his batting proving to be a highlight in both Tests against Pakistan, which certainly set him apart from anyone else. Furthermore, his selection was welcomed by the great and the good, despite barely any first class cricket over a couple of years, and with little success on the rare occasions that he did so. Indeed, since 2015, Buttler had played only six Championship matches before his Test call up, yet this was considered more than sufficient to be selected for the England team – or rather, it wasn’t, but he was called up anyway. There was plenty of scepticism about that too, but he did well, and whatever happens with him in the future, Ed Smith can feel pleased and vindicated about his decision. And rightly so too. But here’s the point: Some were uneasy with what that said about the County Championship and those players involved in it, or more pertinently not involved in it. They were subsequently drowned out by the acclaim Buttler received but they weren’t wrong to raise that question, and when they do so about Rashid they aren’t wrong now either. The debate about the merits and indeed existence of the County Championship as constituted are entirely valid matters for discussion, particularly given the concerns over the future of Test cricket, but it needs to be done from a position of consistency and not a scattergun approach based on who the latest shiny toy is.
The ones who really are wrong, the ones who invite irritation and contempt, are those who cheered to the rafters the choice of Buttler as being creative thinking, while raging about the selection of Adil Rashid now on the basis that it undermines county cricket. This is preposterous cognitive dissonance, made worse by their inability to remember what they said the previous week. In that period when Buttler has played six Championship matches, Rashid has played twenty-four, and the last time both played a Championship match was at the same juncture. It is nothing but sheer hypocrisy to approve of one and decry the other. Ah, but Rashid gave up red ball cricket they say, that’s the difference. But is it? If Buttler isn’t playing County Championship matches, then what actually is the difference? Gary Lineker has retired from international football and I haven’t, but we’ve both played the same number of games in the last few years. It isn’t a matter of what people say, but what they do.
To add to that, the structure of the County Championship itself strongly discriminates against spin bowlers anyway. The early and late season fixtures tend to help the medium-pacers who do a bit with the ball (much as Darren Stevens is a legend, it’s not perhaps his particular skills we should be seeking to emphasise) , meaning that the likes of a Rashid are of limited value, and perhaps more importantly, may not even be selected. Why have a potentially expensive leg spinner in the side in a match where the seamers are going to do the bulk of the bowling? In the Division One bowling averages this season, you have to go down to 32nd place before you find a possible England spinner (Amar Virdi) who has bowled more than 100 overs this season. Given the structure of the County Championship now, spin as a choice is thoroughly marginalised, and Rashid is far from the only one pointing this out. English cricket has not been brilliant at producing top quality spin for a very long time – Graeme Swann was a wonderful anomaly – and the endless search for one who can measure up is only made harder by playing the game in conditions alien to spinners until it comes to the main Test matches where they are called upon to perform miracles, and then criticised when they don’t.
It is here important to note what Rashid himself said when he announced his sabbatical earlier this year:
“That [lack of high summer red ball cricket] was a big part of it. Early season, I may not bowl much. A couple of overs here and there. Doing that, I wouldn’t get my rhythm — two overs before lunch, a few overs before tea. That wouldn’t help my confidence. At the stage, I’d just be going through the motions.
“It’s not a permanent thing. It’s for this season, to see how it goes, how it unfolds and what happens. See what my mind says and what my heart feels. If it changes I could be going back to red ball cricket next season.”
Very, very little of the discussion around Rashid’s selection has focused on this issue, at least until today when Jason Gillespie wrote in the Guardian about the matter, implying there was far more going on here than the narrative about a player who simply didn’t want to play red ball cricket any more. What the truth of that is, is going to be a matter of perspective, but it is at least refreshing to read an alternate take on the character of Rashid, and from someone who is in a strong position to reject the lines of those who insist they know more than anyone else, always, just because.
This doesn’t exempt Rashid from blame, for his decision to quit red ball cricket was clearly a disappointment to Yorkshire, and explains some of their misgivings over his call up, with the proviso that as Gillespie says, this is not a straightforward matter. But it does provide a degree of context, as does the at times weird treatment of him by England. He has undoubtedly shown exceptional ability at carrying the drinks, and as a result England appeared to choose him for that role on a repeated basis. When he did play a full Test series, in India, the opprobrium heaped upon him for failing to win the series bordered on the bizarre, and caused more than one or two to question why he was singled out so specifically, particularly when even some members of the media have confirmed that there was a whispering campaign against him. Attacks on his character were many, in a way few others have received recently, and that too must have contributed to his decision to stand down from red ball cricket. There will be some who consider this confirmation of the supposed character flaws but there is little quite so distasteful as the feeding frenzy among certain quarters of the press with someone either they don’t like, or they have been briefed not to like. Casting aspersions as to the motivation behind such behaviour is easy, lazy and dangerous, but it didn’t need that for many to find the persecution of Rashid far beyond what was acceptable from supposedly professional observers.
Selvey is of course one of those – never slow to remind people of his in-depth knowledge, even of golf, and back in 2016 he wrote:
“Rashid, though, is sailing close to the wind with his club and career: there are sceptics about, some with a greater depth of knowledge than most, and his card has been marked.”
This is classic Selvey, the statement that he is far brighter than everyone else, and that he has the inside track. It is highlighted not because it is wrong, but because of how the repeated nature of the attacks are principally on character, with the cricketing ability being secondary to that. Players must fit into the prescribed format defined by others, or suffer public vilification on a repeated basis, and lest anyone try to pretend it’s just about Rashid, it’s been seen far too often with far too many “difficult” players to be coincidental. Naturally, if the player answers back, this is then considered further evidence of the character flaw, as has happened with Rashid for daring to respond to Michael Vaughan’s comments. This is the justice of witch dunking.
The worst part of this is that his selection has been the excuse for this to start again. There is not the slightest thing wrong with considering Rashid of insufficient standard to play for the England Test team, but the highly personal flavour of some of the comment betrays a personal antipathy that is startling to see. Few will believe that Rashid represents the second coming of leg spin in this country, but most will accept that whether it is him or someone else, the cupboard isn’t exactly well stocked with alternatives. His tour of India has been portrayed in many quarters as an unmitigated disaster, which is a curious reading of events. Sure, he was a long way from being outstanding, but he did take more than twice as many wickets as anyone else. To put it into further context, Rashid’s 23 wickets in that series came at the cost of 37.43 per wicket. Not brilliant by any measure, yet the 17 wickets taken by every other spinner combined that England selected came at an average of 62.53. Not only is that a huge difference, but it’s also entirely symptomatic of likely England spinners’ performances in India with the exception of a single tour.
When considering the performances of England spinners in India this century it is hardly a tale of derring do. Rashid’s wicket-taking measures up perfectly well against most others, and his average is certainly not out of kilter with what should be expected. It appears – as with Moeen Ali all too often – that Rashid is berated for failing to perform above and beyond the level that should be expected of England spinners overseas not called Swann.
This still doesn’t mean that he’s the answer, and it absolutely doesn’t exempt him from debate over whether he is sufficiently good to be in the team. Nor does it mean that his selection having given up red ball cricket shouldn’t be worthy of scrutiny, but it does mean a few other things: Praising the left field selection of Buttler and screaming about the one of Rashid is nothing but rank hypocrisy. Failing to consider how we got to the point where a player who plainly wants to play Test cricket gave up the red ball version of the game is an abrogation of thinking and in a parallel universe, Adil Rashid is being praised for answering his country’s call. Lamenting the loss of integrity of the County Championship while simultaneously applauding every move the ECB makes to sideline it even further is both stupid and taking everyone else for a fool too.
Adil Rashid may be a successful pick. He may not. He may not even play, which would be an entertaining irony. Either way, Ed Smith has certainly stayed true to his expressed determination to bring a fresh approach to his role. And the ever lamentable section of the press corps have stayed equally true to their own lack of principles. Only one of those things is a pleasant surprise.
To say there has been a storm in a teacup over the weekend around the availability of certain individuals for the last County Championship game of the season, is me putting it mildly to say the least. There have been claims of dark rumblings going on at the ECB, with rumour and counter-rumour around who would have the influence to pull certain players out of the game and their reasons behind this. We also had the reaction to the news that Adil Rashid had pulled out of the last game of the season, with terse tweets and wild accusations flying left right and centre.
To deal with these both in order, whilst it is undoubtedly disappointing that Jonny Bairstow has been pulled out of the last game and one can also argue that it is particularly poor PR from the ECB, considering the focus that County Cricket has been under over the past couple of weeks, the conspiracy theories don’t really wash with me. The Director, Comma may have spent his career in County Cricket as a Middlesex player and was for a while hobnobbing with the Middlesex board whilst he awaited to be anointed to the position of the saviour of English cricket, but I don’t think the he’s likely to risk his reputation by favouring one county over another. Strauss for all his faults, is nothing but shrewd, and is also unlikely to care enough about County Cricket to actively do his old county a favour at the expense of Yorkshire, he has bigger fish to fry these days. It is though worthwhile remembering how much cricket our international players have played this summer (let alone this year), especially those like Bairstow, who have been picked across all formats – i.e. 7 Tests, countless other ODI’s (I lose county) and 2 T20 games all packed into a narrow summer period. We also must remember that we also have 7 Tests, around 8 ODI’s and at least 1 T20 game in the next 3 months before Christmas too. This is an extraordinary amount of cricket packed into a 6 month period and it gets even crazier next year, so I can’t actually fault the ECB for choosing to rest the majority of their players before the subcontinent tours for fear of burnout (obviously there is a strong argument that we shouldn’t be putting our international players through this type of gruelling schedule, as it’s a one way road to injury, stress related illnesses and burnout, but that’s a whole different argument). In an ideal world, we would have all of our International players fresh and available for the last game of the season, but this is the reality and hence is the reason why central contracts were introduced in the first place, after all the experience of our international players turning up to play Tests after being flogged by the Counties in the 80’s & 90’s didn’t exactly reap brilliant results back then.
With regards to the Adil Rashid situation, I always thought there was a little more to the eye than the terse statements emanating out of Yorkshire yesterday; this from Andrew Gale, I felt was unfortunate and indeed only fanned the flames – https://twitter.com/GaleyLad/status/777485164758831104?lang=en-gb. Of course, there were plenty of those who decided to jump on the bandwagon, accusing Rashid of being a traitor and unfit to wear the Yorkshire shirt again, without truly knowing about the full situation but that’s Twitter for you. This however, wasn’t just confined to angry Yorkshire fans (and there seemed to plenty of them on Twitter yesterday), certain ex-Chief Cricket Correspondent’s couldn’t reserve the opportunity to have a dig – https://twitter.com/selvecricket/status/777524503027019777?lang=en-gb, who said that certain members of our press don’t hold serious grudges around certain players they believe aren’t from the ‘right type of family’. Of course, it then emerged today, that it wasn’t just because Adil fancied lying on the sofa watching Cash in the Attic and eating Pringles in his pants for a week, which the statement below clearly shows.
The Yorkshire response has been somewhat baffling, as they would’ve surely known this when the squad was announced and thus it could’ve easily been headed off at the pass with an announcement that he was missing because of family reasons; however this smacks me of Strauss’ “understand but disappointed” stance with Eoin Morgan, and we all know that won’t end well. I’ve been at work all day so haven’t been able to check Twitter to see if those calling for Rashid’s head yesterday, have shown some contrition now more of the facts have come out, but I certainly know the ex-Chief Correspondent of the Guardian hasn’t, nor has he been slow in telling the world that he doesn’t rate him either:
‘Rashid, though, is sailing close to the wind with his club and career: there are sceptics about, some with a greater depth of knowledge than most, and his card has been marked.’
I guess those sceptics that the ex-Chief Cricket Correspondent referred to also happen to go by the name of Mike Selvey too, after all, he’s never one to hesitate in telling the public how right he is and how wrong those who disagree are. He won’t be missed…
There has also been the announcement that the new intake of graduates aiming to complete the Andy Flower ‘flavour of the month’ winter tours has been announced – with 50, yes 50, players getting to spend the winter jumping over obstacles at Sandhurst, having their actions remodelled at Loughborough and then hoping to prove that they are from the ‘right type of family’ in front of the Moodhoover in Dubai. Lucky, lucky guys. This has been mentioned a 1,000 times but just how Flower is still part of the England set up after the 2014 Ashes debacle is beyond me, and more to the point, Flower taking some of our more talented younger players and getting them to ‘play dry’ is not what the supposedly new and dynamic England team are supposed to be about. I bet Bayliss is thrilled. Colin ‘mediocre’ Graves may be number 1 in the so called powerlist, but if you are an aspiring international player, then there is one person and one person only you must impress and that is of course, ‘old smiley’ Flower. Forget about Whittaker et al, they’re only there to take the flak away from Director, Comma when the team plays badly, it’s still the old school special relationship that decides whether you have a future in the International game, full stop. Nepotism still stinks badly as it ever did….
On a final note, and back to the cricket thankfully, the final championship game starts tomorrow with the title’s destination yet to be decided. Whoever does go on and win the championship will fully deserve it, as this season has seen some of the most competitive and thrilling championship games in a long time. I know county cricket splits many on this blog (two of the writers of the blog are very much pro, whereas the other would prefer to stick his head in a shark tank); however whatever your persuasion, the fact that 3 teams are still vying for the title and could win it in the last game is a refreshing change compared to the normal status of after “Lord Mayor’s show”. Although (and here comes a little whinge) it would have been nice for them to schedule the games a little later in the week, so that those of us with jobs might have had the chance to watch some of it, but as we know the fans will always come last in the ECB’s thinking. As a side note, it is interesting that Sky has eventually agreed to show the Middlesex vs. Yorkshire game after rightly taking a bit of a hammering around not giving two f**ks towards the county game. It was fairly amusing to see the blame storming on Twitter around who’s fault it was that the the most important game of the season wasn’t due to be shown live (can you imaging the outcry if that had happened with the football?), though my simple guess is that the management dolts from Sky and the ECB simply forgot that we even had a 4 day competition, after all, anything that isn’t City based T20 is mediocre in their eyes.
For those that do have an interest in the county decider and are lucky enough to be near a TV (or even better, watching it live at one of the grounds), then feel free to comment below.
I know many of you were coming on to this site yesterday looking to the reaction I might have about the news that Mike Selvey is not being retained past September of this year. Many of you no doubt thought I’d be delighted. That I’d be revelling in the so-called downfall of one of this blog’s most prominent targets. That I’d be chuffed to see the ending of his writing. That it would be revenge for what happened to KP, and the part people like me thought he played in it. I think some might even have wanted me to gloat.
You probably think I’m laughing my head off right now. You probably want to think that this is something I wanted to happen. Well, you would have been wrong, because the clue was in a post I wrote a few months ago when Bunkers was getting the push from the Independent.
One other point. I know I’ve been a critic of Stephen Brenkley, or Bunkers as he’s known on here. Mr Aplomb was one of those guilty men who drip fed us some crumbs of information but never really told us what went wrong on that Ashes tour. I will remember the salt in the tea analogy as a particular Bunkers piece. Today he took to Twitter to say that he’s written his last piece as The Independent’s Cricket Correspondent, and that’s sad. He also said he has two weeks more to go and he’d write for the I if they wanted him to. I’m not rejoicing. Brenkley’s loss to the media coverage of cricket should be a bloody beacon of woe for the game. I’m not sure who will be taking over at the I, but I’ll bet it won’t be a full time correspondent. Let’s see. It didn’t seem the departure of a retiring man, but one of a paper cutting costs. Maybe things will become clearer.
That it is a disaster for the game when prominent cricket writers are dispensed with on cost grounds. It is a sign the game is losing its audience. A commercial reality writ large, so large, that the ECB can’t keep ignoring it and hoping for the best, can they?
Because I’m not a fan of someone’s writing (and I’m not) does not mean I want to see them sacked. That would be churlish, unsympathetic and nasty, and believe it or not, I might have a part of the first in me (relentlessly so, perhaps), I’m not either of the latter. At least, I don’t think I am. Selvey was (well still is) an integral plank of the written media and the cricket writing genre cannot cope with huge positions being downsized and big personalities being dismissed. It is the canary in the goldmine for the game. As each year passes without a meaningful, well promoted, cross-platform access for the majority to the big events, so another year passes with less people engaged in cricket. When I was growing up cricket was an integral part of the fabric of the nation. Now it appears like an elite indulgence. While the cricket writers of today aspire to the levels of those of yesteryear, anyone without satellite access might as well read Harry Potter, for all the tangible evidence they get of this derring-do. When Ben Stokes played that innings in South Africa, the ECB should have begged, scraped, whatever the BBC to play full highlights of it on their website or Iplayer. When Stuart Broad skittled out the Aussies at Trent Bridge, the patchy wicket highlights were an improvement on nothing, but nothing compared to seeing it live. And you see, as each of those people who have drifted away from the game are further distanced, so the needs for relatively highly paid “experts” diminishes.
It can’t be hard to see, for the likes of Selvey, Pringle and Bunkers, that the sport isn’t what it used to be in the public conscience, and thus as the audience diminishes, so does the need for their salaries. It is brutal, it is hard to take, but we are dealing with commercial realities. The 200 or so who have offered their lachrymose comments on the County Blog are not going to be enough to pay Selvey’s wages. Because, by and large, most of us don’t buy the Guardian (nor the Indy, nor the Telegraph) and read the content for nothing. The alternative for the vast majority is not to pay for access, it is not to read them at all. The Telegraph limit the content you can access free, so I limit myself to that number of articles (and get around it when needed). That is the pure reality of the space we live in now. The free internet news access is a disaster for most, but taken for granted by many.
Of course, I’m taking a leap of faith on the financial rewards of being a journo. I simply have no idea what they are. But I’m wagering given seniority, reverence and output that Selvey was pretty well recompensed compared to someone newer on the scene. Those tasked with making money, which newspapers need to, aren’t going to see his faithful few supporters as anything other than collateral damage. A few might not buy the paper again in disgust, or not access cricket content, but the opportunity to pontificate below the line is always an alluring one, in the same way blogging is for me. They’ll be back, by and large. Do you thing wctt, palfreyman et al are going to up sticks and go somewhere else?
On a personal level, losing a job is a terrible thing, and on that level I genuinely wish Selvey well going forward. If that makes me a hypocrite in some eyes, well so be it. I can’t help that. Those people that think that are probably the first to misrepresent what I say in any case, so f for Freddie them. On a writing level, I was never a fan and that pre-dates 2014. I’ve said it many times when we’ve run the worst journalist poll, that I have not lost any faith in Selvey because I never really had any in the first place. But I do see how those that used to love his writing felt very let down by the post-2014 fall out. KP has made his feelings known in a typically tone-deaf tweet today, and in many ways I think that these incidents with Cook, Flower, Clarke et al were the beginning of the end. He saw one of his peers, Pringle, alienate his audience so much with his misjudging of the mood that it was no surprise when he was given the push. Now, a bit further on, the fickle finger of the feckless newspaper industry is pointing at Selvey.
I don’t actually believe it was the furore that brought him down. The interaction below the line post-2014 has been aggressive because of the Tyers Twitter Tendency (see glossary) that Selvey was one of the prime examples of, but it drove hits. We didn’t see what we thought we should be seeing – a journalist acting as our representative, not as someone giving off the appearance of being an ECB stenographer (and he did in my eyes), but it got people going. There was a consistent groundswell from “our side” that was almost begging Selvey to be more open, but he closed the door, and his plaudits loved him for it. So while some of his output was, undoubtedly, of considerable quality, it kept coming down to the KP question. The damage of 2014 has been very widespread, as you know, because I’ve mentioned this schism constantly.
When 2014 was ongoing, the likes of Selvey and Newman, Pringle and Bunkers provided me with tons of material to fisk. While Selvey was waging his campaigns, his picking apart of Adil Rashid, his defence of the realm, his pet theories of wind directions for ODIs and where to pick hitting boundaries, there was always something to react to, to provide material for the blog, and comments for the supporters of us here. Like him or loathe him, he provided things to react to, in much the same way as Downton did. Our material is diminished by his departure. But that’s me being selfish.
I’ve never interacted with Selvey (that I know of) and nor him with me. Fine. I don’t live and breathe for journo’s attention, no matter what some of them think. I have been critical of him, of course I have. I don’t share some of the love for him, there’s no doubt about that. But he is a position lost to cricket on a national level, and that can’t be good, and on a personal level, I’m not cheering his dismissal. I’d be surprised if anyone thought I would be. It’s indicative of a sport downsizing. If you are happy with that, then I think you are wrong to be so. But I suspect that’s not a universally held view.
One of the elements of the notorious description used by the ECB (and PCA) which provided the name of this site was the implied attitude towards those who at amateur level played the game, or who watched, bought tickets or paid television subcriptions. It was a perfect demonstration of their opinion of the plebians who merely provided all the revenue to allow those either within cricket administration, professional players or indeed journalists or broadcasters to earn a living. It remains one of the most despicable statements ever used by a sporting body towards those upon whom a game relies, and that statement is still carried on the ECB website, and no apology or even acknowledgement of it has ever been made.
But on its own, in isolation, it could perhaps be seen as the botched missive of an idiocracy which most people could brush off and laugh at. Except the trouble was that this attitude was pervasive, and not just within the ECB, it went through every level of the international game. Indeed, the attitude of the ECB was carried forward into the highest echelons of the international game. The film Death of a Gentleman outlined the perspective that supporters were merely there to be monetised in detail, and the ECB were not just complicit, they led the way alongside India and Australia in attempting to grab as much filthy lucre as possible.
The power grab by the Big Three (one suspects that rather than hear the dripping contempt of that phrase, some within will view it as a badge of honour) was largely about increasing power and increasing the revenues to those boards, entirely at the expense of everyone else. The remaining Test nations would be worse off, the Associate nations might as well give up, and for a nation like Ireland, the possibility of Test cricket had receded into the distance and has little appeal to it even if they were to achieve it.
Dmitri yesterday wrote a piece about the anniversary of the removal of Kevin Pietersen as an international player. Even back then, people were told to “move on” and naturally enough, those who always seem to back the ECB no matter what were quick to repeat it. But as so often, they miss the point. Pietersen is one tiny part of a wider jigsaw, and in the grand scheme of things, one of the least important. But what that episode did demonstrate above all was the utter contempt for those who are Outside Cricket not just by word, but by deed. That attitude, irrespective of whether one is a fan of Pietersen the player or not is precisely the reason the ECB, and Giles Clarke in particular, had no compunctions whatsoever in behaving the way they did, and the reason it was so important is that it highlighted the naked greed and lack of any interest in the consequences so demonstrative of that arrogance. It was not just that they abrogated their duty of care for the game, they showed they didn’t care about the game at all, merely their own narrow self-interests. The expression of lofty superiority by authority was echoed in similar ways across the globe, and while Pietersen had his own problems and was to at least some extent the architect of his own downfall, the lack of interest in the game itself reached the point where players were not turning out for their national teams, preferring instead to play the T20 leagues, and the captain of South Africa – South Africa no less – was openly debating giving up Test cricket. Different circumstances, entirely different situations, yet it was possible to draw a direct line between all of them on the basis of the lack of interest the governing bodies had for the integrity of the game.
The Big Three carve up had the consequence of drawing the vast majority of the game’s revenues to themselves, impoverishing the remainder of the Test playing nations and killing any prospect of the game expanding beyond its rather narrow boundaries. Cricket became the first sport in history to deliberately reduce its footprint on the planet. It went further, with Clarke’s flat rejection of the idea of T20 cricket being an Olympic Sport, mostly on the grounds that it wouldn’t make his board any money, whatever he said, while slashing the development funds to non-Test playing nations and turning even the Test playing nations outside India, Australia and England into nothing other than vassals. The three countries took complete control of the ICC, ensuring that all ICC events were to be held solely in their own territories over the following ten years (though no one expected that to change at the conclusion of the agreed period) and challenging all the others to simply lump it or face being excluded from the kinds of tours that would allow them to survive as cricketing entities.
Some journalists objected, and objected vociferously. In Australia Gideon Haigh was scathing as only he can be, in England Scyld Berry broke ranks from his colleagues to condemn it outright, while Wisden in the form of Lawrence Booth sounded the alarm for cricket as a game. Since then Nick Hoult at the Telegraph has frequently written about the machinations both within the ECB and beyond. Cricinfo too raised the matter, with Jarrod Kimber impressively furious and of course along with Sam Collins making Death of a Gentleman, while Tim Wigmore has repeatedly castigated the powers that be for their duplicity and selfishness concerning the wider world game.
From others. Silence. From the Guardian, nothing – really nothing. At the time of writing, there is still nothing on the ICC meeting today. From Mike Selvey, their chief cricket correspondent, absolutely nothing at any point on the whole topic. This is no surprise, for Selvey is known to be close to Giles Clarke to the extent that a paper that has prided itself on investigating injustice has appeared to be an echo chamber – indeed a direct hotline – for the views of the ECB. Selvey’s first response on TMS to the potential for major change in favour of the richest boards was to profess ignorance of the whole matter and regard it as unimportant and when Death of a Gentleman came out he refused to watch it. As far as anyone knows he still hasn’t. It is shameful that newspaper has ignored the matter, it is despicable that they have made no effort whatever to cover it, preferring instead to imply approval of Giles Clarke’s claim that no-one is interested in administration, apparently even when it fundamentally changes the nature of the game. Colleagues such as David Conn may have views on that. For cricket lovers who have adored the Guardian’s previously excellent coverage, it is a dereliction of duty that they will find very hard to ever forgive. That it requires blogs like this one to point this out, and to try, in our own small way, to back up the work of those excellent journalists in asking questions and making criticisms is unacceptable.
Unless there is some kind of statement to the contrary, the assumption must be this is deliberate policy, for it is rather hard to believe a journalist of the quality of Ali Martin is purposely ignoring the whole subject.
Today the ICC held a meeting which largely reversed the changes made a year ago, the status quo ante prevailing. This can be viewed as progress of a sort, though Tim Wigmore wrote an excellent piece on Cricinfo pointing out the limitations of what has happened. It is well worth reading:
Wigmore is completely correct, and points to Lord Woolf’s scathing assessment of the ICC at the time, to which we now more or less return. And yet even this does provide some grounds for hope, and perhaps practicality dictates that in one board meeting the only possible immediate means of rolling back the changes was to re-instate the previous constitution. The ICC under the jackboot of India, Australia and England would have in short order killed at the very least Test cricket as we knew it. The West Indies, already in crisis through their own administrative ineptitude have reached the point where they are uncompetitive against almost anyone, their best players preferring instead to play the shortest form of the game as hired hands – and who can blame them? The battering received in Australia was greeted with sadness in some quarters, and with outrage amongst those who have delved rather more deeply into the wider problems. It was only going to get worse, the alarm bells were well and truly ringing when AB De Villiers made his statement about giving up Tests. The clear revenue increase to the majority that applies now at least buys a little time.
The ICC statement from today is worth reading in full:
It is a curious thing when an ICC statement provides some degree of cheer for the cricket fan. The removal of N. Srinivasan back in November when the BCCI withdrew support and the subsequent installation of Shashank Manohar as ICC Chairman provided the first glimpse of the possibility that the theft of the world game by an avaricious few might just come under scrutiny by those with the power to change it. The other Test playing nations, suddenly aware of their position as turkeys who had voted – or been forced to vote – for Christmas, had raised objections to their diminished status, but the constitution gave them virtually no prospect of changing anything. It required the BCCI in particular to take the lead. Manohar was swift to demonstrate things could change, saying upon his appointment:
“I don’t agree with the revenue-sharing formula, because it’s nice to say that India (BCCI) will get 22 per cent of the total revenue of the ICC, but you cannot make the poor poorer and the rich richer, only because you have the clout. Secondly there is another angle to it which nobody has thought of. India generates money because the other countries come and play in India. If you do not have a fierce competition, the broadcasters are not going to pay you and the sponsors are not going to sponsor your events.”
He went on:
“I don’t agree with the three major countries bullying the ICC. That’s my personal view, because as I have always said, an institution is bigger than individuals. You cannot guarantee which individual will occupy the top position in either of these countries. And, the ICC constitution, as it stands today, says that in all the major committees of the ICC, these three countries will be automatically there. So all the financial and commercial aspects and the executive committee will be controlled by the representatives of these three countries which according to me is wrong.
“You should have the best man, whether he comes from Zimbabwe, or West Indies, or even from an associate or affiliate to work on a committee, who will promote the interests of the ICC.”
Simple statements of truth, but it garnered attention because it was entirely at odds with everything that had gone before. Premature it may be, but there is at least a hope that the new man at the top actually gives a shit about the game. From today’s press release, one line stood out in particular:
“No Member of the ICC is bigger than the other”
Others have been quick to point out that as currently constituted, this is not true, for India in particular have the power that no one else does, and as the major driver of revenue in the game, that is certainly not inherently wrong by any means. And yet the statement has been made, and while they are merely words, they are good words. And this is where ideas begin. At long last there is at the very least a statement of first principles that he and the ICC can be held to. This is some small progress.
Another item was that the chairman of the ICC could not hold office with any of the boards. This has direct consequences for Giles Clarke, as President of the ECB. He has long aspired to be ICC Chairman, but to do so he will have to give up his role at the ECB. And yet the indications are that despite previously appearing very likely to get it, the change in structure has crippled his prospects. Australia and South Africa have already made it clear they won’t support him, Sri Lanka are reported to be reluctant. Given Clarke’s unpopularity in much of the ECB, it would be an irony if the English were the only ones in favour, and it is tempting to wonder if they are even more in favour if it means ridding themselves of him at the same time. Either way, there will be few in mourning for the dissolving dreams of a man associated with the carve up of the world game like few others.
Other elements from the press release include conducting a review of the T20 leagues and their impact on the world game. T20 is a reality, and could – and should – be something extremely good for the game, as it raises the profile, popularity, and yes, the revenues of the sport. That we are in a position where it constitutes a threat to Test cricket and international cricket more generally is not inevitable, and never was. To review this is again progress, with the tantalising prospect of providing a context for Test cricket in particular, as the form of the game most under threat.
Is it an answer? No. Is it even the outline of the answer? No. But does it provide the smallest semblance of hope that international cricket, and Test cricket in particular, has a future? Just the smallest. It is a start. If it goes no further, then the downward spiral, which has been paused today, will resume. But nothing is inevitable, and with the right people at the helm, things can improve. Today is a good day, the despair is slightly lessened, and maybe, just maybe, Mr Smith has gone to Washington.
Last year I put the whole of the UK media in to the Hall of Dmitri, so it leaves me open to start picking them off individually. So while Jim Holden’s article might have had a place all of its own, or Paul Newman might deserve true consideration for his commitment to anti-KP wordsmithing and excessive pro-Cook prose, or Stephen Brenkley could take his arslikhan to a new dimension, there is only one who can really walk through the hallowed portals this year. That man is Mike Selvey.
Often hard for journos to remember they are read by many many more people online than few bilious inadequates who dominate comment section. – Mike Selvey, 8 May 2015
During the KP business last year, Selvey was annoying because he seemed to have a firm feel on next steps in front of others, and when he didn’t, he’d been seen to bolster credentials of people who later got jobs. There was the “how Downton was an inspired appointment and he was a good and safe man on the tiller”. No-one remind him of that one, eh? Then there was how Andy Flower was the second coming, and that the 2013-14 Ashes debacle really could’t be pinned on him. How about his wailing against the dismissal of Graham Gooch, gnashing his teeth at players who had stopped listening to him as if that was all he needed to do – talk? But most of all it was the proposing, repeatedly, of Peter Moores as the obvious choice to replace Flower. He was unshakeable in his contention, firm in his belief. Not forgetting, of course, how he was good friends with our bowling coach in the face of evidence that our bowling was regressing alarmingly, maintaining support as you would for a friend (and that still rears its head – see “the enforcer” comments which, as our readers showed, came from Saker and weren’t a “media construct”).
So the judgement is sound, but what got worse is that as these contentions looked more and more ridiculous, Selvey got more and more hardline, and that has upset a lot of readers on here. It’s easy for me because I’ve never really liked him as a writer or broadcaster, but to see people on here who thought he was a top journo and a decent TMS man turn on him was revelatory. When it came to the crunch, after a debacle of an Ashes series, Selvey, writing for the putatively sceptical of authority Guardian, revelled in the role of the Company Man. A more loyal scribe to the powers that be you could not find.
This year he has grated on the commenters on this blog like no other. He has made his position abundantly clear. He has no time for the likes of us. Hence the bye-line on the blog. We are “bilious inadequates”, “vile ignoramuses” or “social media zealots”. I’m not asking for an invitation to the Cricket Writers Christmas Shindig, but what I am looking for is someone who is there to represent all shades of cricket supporter, not just those who think the sun shines out of the ECB’s backsides. Because if you are looking for critical dissemination of the running of England cricket, you’ll be seeing Selvey’s heels, but anyone upsetting the applecart will get it with both barrels. I’ll let others determine the motivation, because there is one major theory doing the rounds.
So this year he is our journalist emeritus idioticus for a number of reasons. Contempt is top of the list. Now I get people will not exactly invite their critics in for a cup of tea, but Selvey’s attitude is remarkably dismissive. I have looked at this post a lot (it was originally going to be the third Dmitri, but I wanted to be fair) and can understand being riled by nonsense. But I don’t think he’s tackled by stupid people.
There was this quote around the time of Moores’ dismissal:
Too many people here do not understand how journalism works. And too many look for conspiracy where there is none. And do you seriously think we would give up the sources of our stories? Get real, as Farage once said.
There’s that theme again. “You don’t know how journalism works” as if the securing of information is some sort of complex, unsolveable equation that only those with the special gift can solve. Your job entails watching cricket, analysing cricket, listening to anodyne press statements and indulge in gossip and intrigue to find out what is happening as background. How you do it and who your sources are is your stock-in-trade, and probably requires you to be slightly ruthless but also not backward in coming forward. But to me, the only special skill you need over the likes of us is the ability to develop contacts while not betraying them. So save that £5 for the first pint, journos. If they really mean keeping in with the ECB while maintaining enough of a link to provide stories, then that’s not a skill I’d be singing about.
But the last part of his dismissal above sums up how far up their own arses some have gone. “Do you think we would give up the sources” he wails. What the fuck is this? Nuclear secrets? Industrial espionage? It’s bloody gossip and it relates to the future of OUR England team, not some cosy cabal of journalistic purveyance to maintain THEIR relevance. For without the backstories, they become us with a paid ticket in a shady stand. No wonder they wail when people try to pin them down on who stabbed who in the back in OUR team…. without their “access” it’s Wizard of bleedin’ Oz time. They would be virtually irrelevant.
The piece could go into many things this year, but to me two items really summed up Selvey’s year of antagonism and they are:
The Attitude to the issues raised in Death of a Gentleman – Selvey made, it seemed, a virtue out of the fact that a cricket correspondent for a major national newspaper did not bother to watch a film which tried to expose the workings of international cricket (as he revealed on CWOTV). Now, whether he thinks Sam and Jarrod are a couple of chancers who love to indulge in conspiracy theories, the sort of which Selvey would never indulge in, is by the by. It’s the sort of story the Guardian should be lapping up. Potentially corrupt officials governing an international sport in naked short-term, corrosive self interest. To our shame our board is part of this disgrace. Our toffee-nosed, dismissive, disgraceful ex- ECB head, who manouevred himself into the role of our international representative has committed these acts in our name. An important, widely discussed in cricket circles film is out there, and he’d not even watched it? If that is acceptable to you, fine. I think it’s pretty shoddy. As I said above, there are reasons out there that seek to explain this nonsense. Let them stand until they are disproved. On the key topics he seems to have reasonably well developed views. He’s clear that the Olympics won’t work, instead of seeing the massive advantages of trying to do so – that seems remarkably similar to another key individual – and talks the way he does to anyone who disagrees.
Adil Rashid – I have not seen anything like it. Selvey has been waging a one man campaign against Adil’s selection the likes of which is unprecedented in my memory. That any number of 80 mph trundlers have been selected for overseas tours that were going to be played on flat decks with a Kookaburra ball passes with little comment, but a leggie with success in county cricket who bowls under 50 mph is beyond the pale? I may be being unfair, but really? If you’ve been told once that he bowls too slowly, then you’ve been told dozens of times. No-one here believes that Adil is the answer to our spinning woes, but we should at least give him a try. He can spin the ball, the wrong way for many English players, and he can also hold a bat (as he proved when nearly saving the Dubai test). But he was briefed against:
There is a view, though, one held within the England set-up, that Rashid bowls too slowly for Test cricket where the demands of batsmen are not to try to score at seven an over with fielders round the boundary.
There are also doubts about how comfortable he would be in a Test environment.
Although I am struggling to find the smoking gun at present, I do believe he was also scathing about his injury at the time of the Lord’s test. But that one above is just odd. Who had those doubts? Why are they telling you? Why are you putting this out there?
Then there was the Abu Dhabi collapse by Pakistan which Selvey put down to him increasing his pace (not discernibly, according to my scribes here). It has been a bizarre campaign against a new player to the squad (relatively). I have no idea what this is about.
Selvey’s dismissive attitude towards his critics is, in some ways perfectly understandable. There’s been quite a few sightings recently of “he’s a good bloke, really” statements by people we speak to and read. They are aware how a group of people feel about him. The censoring of comments to his articles, the wonderful responses to tweets, all the received wisdom and sniffiness. Of course, he doesn’t care. Why should he? All I can say is that I read the Guardian a lot less now, due to him.
I have a huge amount of anger towards the press corps, yes for Pietersen, but also for what they did in 2014 to prop up a corrosive, rotten edifice because of reasons they’ve never quite explained, but no doubt will form a chapter in the elusive tome “How Cricket Journalism Works”. The anger is derived from that, it will take a long time to go away, if, indeed, it ever does. This year Selvey gets the nomination, aided by Pringle’s demotion to virtual irrelevance and Newman winding his neck in. The readers here are the reason why – as I said, I try not to read too much of what these people say now, but I’ve seen enough – because they feel let down.
No doubt this will be filed away as another attack. I think there are messages in there. But hey, they don’t really care. Why would they? We just want to be them, don’t we?
Now my flabber was gasted. I mean, this is really just utterly superb. A puff piece? Selfey accuses someone of writing a puff piece?
This is like shooting fish in a barrel, even before we look at the hilarious mis-spelling of Paul Hayward’s name. I’m a bloke who often falls foul of the old auto-correct, so perhaps jumping on that was a tad harsh. Maybe I jumped on it because it included the words “puff piece” and “star” columnist.
I mean, puff piece..
In the process Cook, a genuinely good man and one of the greatest of all England Test batsmen, was subjected to a disproportionate amount of abuse, some of it carefully orchestrated and relentless, of a kind that, in my experience anyway, has never before been directed at any England cricketer.
Against Sri Lanka the margin between winning and losing the series was as slender as could be: six inches more carry on the final delivery at Lord’s; and survival of two more deliveries at Headingley
A classic of its genre.
Without question, though, the other members have been sufficiently convinced that whatever else they may feel, the fact that India is “inside the tent pissing out”, as some like to term it, rather than the reverse, is actually something of a political coup.
As a collective, the team had forgotten how to forge partnerships. There was a complete systematic breakdown of the batting unit. It may say more about them than Gooch, but it is said that many of the players – and shame on them for it, if true – simply stopped listening to the record. Maybe it was a generational thing: Gooch is 60.
Augmented by this tremendous Tweet:
Desperately sorry for Goochie, a fount of batting knowledge and a massive work ethic. Some stopped listening.More fool them.
The fact is, that I’ve not even mentioned the Tweets about Saker, absolving him of all blame, and the countless times he’s backed Cook when he was under pressure for his place, no doubt believing he is vindicated. Calling for KP’s return, or considering it, is every bit as much puffery as the crap he wrote about Downton, or Flower, or Gooch. I laughed hugely at this nonsense.
I’ve not spoken a lot about Pietersen recently, but the tide of fury is rising. In the past two or so months, since Strauss came out with that pile of drivel about trust and what-not, I’ve seen a decided change in approach. The mere mention of Pietersen’s name is to bring in some sort of collective shock, or even worse, collective contempt. Mention him to one of the media behemoths so staunchly stood behind the aristocracy of the game, and it’s no better than “zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz”. Muppet did it the other day, the contemptuous prick that he is, as if our wishes and concerns are of no relevance to him.
Remember the arguments made by media folk, and those anti-KP’ers at the time…. “There’s no vacancy….who would you drop……this team needs to grow and develop”. As with most of the pathetic arguments about KP, that one has been shot out of the water. By dropping Ballance after a rickety start to the summer, and promoting Bell up to three, they created a vacancy, as many thought might happen. Now, as much as Bairstow deserves a place in the team, should KP not be eligible for consideration? Note, those of you who think this is all black and white and are quick to throw their nonsensical bollocks at me, I’m not saying KP should be an automatic choice, but 8181 test runs seems rather persuasive when looking for evidence. But you can’t just shut down the debate because you don’t like to hear it. Strauss cut off one of our options on “trust”. This may be that Cook doesn’t want him back, but neither Strauss nor Cook have the guts to tell us that, instead we heard it via Dean Wilson in the Mirror.
Pietersen, in the eyes of his critics can do no right. He has finished his T20 spell in St Lucia and this coincided with a test loss. I suppose that is his fault. He has an ego – news to you, pretty much all top level sportsmen do – and probably thinks he should be playing. Many of us share that contention. This argument isn’t going to die with any zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz tweets, or people telling the likes of me and Maxie to stop it, we’ve got no chance of him coming back. It, as always, spectacularly misses the point. It’s personal politics, and it’s potentially harming England. I think it was, and probably still is, especially driven by Giles Clarke (and potentially Cook and Flower, although who knows how influential he is now). And yes, KP’s book is not irrelevant, but these are grown adults and they should sort it out. It’s not too late.
What I won’t let go is a tweet like this. I won’t give the name, but I’ll copy what he tweeted to me a couple of days ago.
it was only a matter of time before the worst thing for English cricket was heralded as a saviour again #unavailable
The worst thing for English cricket. That’s just unutterable bollocks and despite frequent points that you may question many things, but you can’t question what he gave to England by way of entertainment and match-winning innings (hey, the worst thing for English cricket saved us an Ashes series. What did the second worst thing do?). I don’t get it. I call Graham Gooch “the devil” but christ on a bike, I don’t demean his batting, his great innings, his determination because I don’t like him. Bloody hell. This was a man WHO TURNED HIS BACK ON ENGLAND FOR MONEY and he gets revered above by Selfey, while KP TURNED HIS BACK ON MONEY FOR ENGLAND and gets slagged off! Hell.
I also know of no-one who thinks KP is a saviour, which also appeared in that tweet. Another sweeping generalisation of the position perpetrated by numpties. My line is this – is he in our Best XI? Simple as. I’m sure Bell’s sour demeanour at present and stupefying lack of form is absolutely intrinsically vital for this team’s performance while someone who might just go out and give it a whack would be a dressing room cancer the likes of which we’ll never recover from.
But on Day 5, this looked in jeopardy. One man held the line. While all the other top batsmen got out, one man rode an early piece of luck to then just take Australia to the cleaners. Aided and abetted by a spin bowler people derided, that one man kept the dream alive and then made us believe it was all over. Without that one man, Australia would have been chasing 200 or less to win the Ashes in 50-60 overs. You want to know what would have happened without that one man’s innings, you saw exactly what in Adelaide 18 months later.
So, all you “haters” out there, remember that. Remember it when you boo him. Remember it when you spit out YOUR bile (for that’s something I’ve been accused of) on the various sites. Remember it when you demean a great career. Remember it when you slag him off relentlessly as some sort of traitor despite the fact he was sacked, has been abused by the cricket authorities more than any other player I can remember, treated with disdain and contempt by a media in their back-pockets because maybe, just maybe, he didn’t like them. He is a bit arrogant? So what? He scored masses or runs, loads of hundreds, played injured (and was then slagged off if he took time off to cure or rest them). never gave less than his all (remember Headingley 2012, before textgate, when he opened the batting for the team in the second innings?) and yet still there’s this hatred. For what?
I get it. People don’t like him. People despise him. I happen to enjoy his batting and to me that matters. Until someone comes up with more than a half-arsed dossier, leaked like so much to do with KP was, and tells me how it was, then I will believe there’s a stitch up and that the main sufferers are those that want the best players playing for England. I understand the other view – about building a new team, under new players with a solid figure as coach – but I disagree with it. The bile, if you want to call it that, comes from the zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, and the demeaning of his record and his contribution. The almost Orwellian erasing of his history, the Lynton Crosby-eque “dead cat” mention of his name among media types. The sheer fact that a score of 355 is dismissed casually by many.
By the man in Mumbai, the conductor at Colombo, the harrier at Headingley and the bringer of brilliance in Bridgetown in the World T20. Yeah. He’s been the worst all right.
(Before people say the individual meant going forward, he had plenty of opportunities to clarify that, but he never did.)
The worst thing for English cricket? Really?
After all, you can only get better from a 400 run smashing, can’t you?
I wrote this last night. I didn’t enjoy writing it and have had thoughts about whether to publish it. Quite a lot of the time I try to be humorous when having a pop at a journalist, but in this case, I couldn’t find the humour. Is it our fault?
So read on…..bilious inadequates.
There are advantages and disadvantages of being 3500 miles away when stories break. I’m a bit more removed from the sources of the stories than if in the UK, but also I’m not at work and I do find this sort of thing quite relaxing, believe it or not. But this Moores story is one of the oddest in an odd 16 months or so. Once again a major story is put out in advance of the agreements being signed or deeds being worked upon, and the ECB’s media strategy, whatever it is, has gone up in smoke. The new man in the role, name not known at present, hasn’t had a much better time than his predecessor.
This is not an ECB leak. We’ve been assured this by all and sundry, except, interestingly, Jonathan Agnew who appears to be jumping to the conclusion that we have. BOC has been informed that this was not an ECB leak, but will not be told who has spoken. Fair enough. But you could be forgiven for thinking “so what” if they did tell us. What difference would it make? Luke Sutton had been tweeting away yesterday about how bloody unfair it all was, and I’m wondering out loud about who might be the source, but I am only guessing. This isn’t right. It can’t be right. The ECB may be anal about leaks, but they seem pretty hopeless in stopping them.
Which brings me to dear old Mike. He’s been on form today. Let’s go through a couple of his golden greats. I like this one:
Too many people here do not understand how journalism works. And too many look for conspiracy where there is none. And do you seriously think we would give up the sources of our stories? Get real, as Farage once said.
This is getting out of hand. You ain’t the victim here, Michael, the paying cricketing public are. You get to sit around, write and watch games as a job. Many of us would love that role. You seem to think it better to sit behind your keyboard admonishing the great unwashed for being reasonably on form when it comes to the way the governing body has acted for the last 18 months. To say “too many people here do not understand how journalism works” is hilarious. You don’t have the faintest idea how social media and blogs work, as judged by your dismissive attitude to anyone disagreeing with you. I fundamentally disagree with a number of journalists, but have a decent online relationship with a few, because, to a degree, I get how journalism works. What I don’t get is how what you does works? When we see Moores shabbily treated like this, what are we supposed to do? Say “oh, well done ECB. Another bang up job done.” Even if the ECB did not leak, THEY ARE SACKING HIM AND THEREFORE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THAT INFORMATION. You made a decision and decided to tell certain people of that decision and no doubt stressed its confidential nature. If that person then went on to leak it, you’d have to question your judgement. Or am I being too harsh here?
Which brings me on to part two of Selvey’s beauty. “Too many look for conspiracy when there is none.” Nothing drives me, and I suspect those who comment on here in record numbers each month, more mad than this “I know what is going on but I’m not tellling you.” Then, to compound it, they make less than subtle digs at your sanity for thinking there might be more to things than meet the eye.
The ECB are firing a Head Coach, which while I’m not completely against the decision, is a shocking development and the way it has been “released” to the public, by what appears on the face of it to be a synchronised piece in three newspapers at 12 noon, screams out for someone to try to connect the dots! “Too many see a conspiracy” when clearly someone has coordinated this piece of information’s release (that’s how it looks). So we’ll question the timing, the synchronisation and the content. This isn’t the 19th century where we just take the view of our Lords and Masters. We try to investigate, try to get to the bottom of this and theorise. Because, at heart, we are inquisitive and want to know what is going on. To dismiss this as the work of “conspiracy theorists”, which is a dog whistle for “nutters” – a charge thrown at us regularly, and dismissed just as easily as the accusations of the morons throwing it – is insulting your readership. I’m so sorry about that Mr Selvey Sir (I tug my forelock).
In the third part, I don’t expect you to give up your sources, because I understand to a degree how journalism works. I’ve learned a lot talking to some journalists about it, funnily enough. I share as much as I can with my readership, because I don’t want to betray trusts. I’ve never been asked not to say something (I don’t think so) but recognise that balance needs to be struck. However, once my information is confirmed I let people know what I know. Don’t tell me to get real (because I believe this stuff is aimed at the likes of me and my readership). You get real. Work out why the people BTL have turned against you in large numbers in a way not seen anywhere else. Work out why Ali Martin, Nick Hoult, Lawrence Booth, Scyld Berry, Dean Wilson and even John Etheridge get better social media reactions than you. Because they don’t treat their readership like the shit on their shoes. Don’t go hiding behing a ridiculous article by Ed Smith (he’s so clever, just ask him) to prove that those who disagree with you are just a voluble minority (who can be ignored), when that minority are pretty adept at reading between the lines, and don’t like this secret squirrel bs. The secret, silent majority may pay their ticket prices and pipe down, but then who is to say that they aren’t thinking “this is a bit of a shambles, isn’t it?” You can’t keep assuming their silence means consent.
Peter Moores, although he’s not a favourite on here, has never ever had his commitment questioned. He’s tried his hardest, and although I think he should have gone after the World Cup, has tried to keep this team on the road. The “antis” should not ever question that. It was the ECB who gave him the hospital pass, it was the ECB who “bigged him up”, it was the ECB trumpeting every success, backed up by a largely compliant press who were always primed to provide six inches of mitigation if we just held on for a couple of balls more. Lots of us had doubts, ongoing doubts, but we were told to pipe down about them because we beat India in a test series. We may have had those doubts, but I’m not here to bury Moores. I’m here because I get angry when I see someone treated very, very badly by authority or whoever it was who leaked this. Moores is another one spat out by this machine. Excuse me if I theorise over what happened. You get real.
I see journalism. I see a victim. I’ll theorise.
Contrast this with Ali Martin’s reponse to wctt:
And you’d been complimentary about my work early on too. Ok, I have seen both your comments today and while they stung a wee bit, no one is more aware that my writing style is not a patch on some of my illustrious colleagues than myself. What I would say is that while they turn out the beautiful flowing prose, I work very hard to source cricket news stories and share it with the readership as soon as I can turn it around. Not every piece can be Cardus – it’s news, ultimately, and that is my brief. When it comes to great writers, the Guardian had an abundance.
I respect Ali’s work a lot. He gets “us” to a degree and if I’m not putting words into his mouth, doesn’t think a great way to carry on is to piss off his customer base. Which includes those who disagree and those who agree.
Often hard for journos to remember they are read by many many more people online than few bilious inadequates who dominate comment section.
As we all know, the man we think this refers to most appropriately, even if Mr Tyers might not, is Mike “Selfey” Selvey. His attitude to the great unwashed over the past year has been reprehensible, and if he doesn’t feel loved back, well that’s his fault. He has written articles praising Flower and Gooch despite the disastrous Ashes series, and most memorably for me, telling us all how great Paul Downton would be as MD of the ECB. We all know how that has gone. I’ve not seen one word of contrition on his part for that load of old hogwash.
So if there’s benefit of the doubt going around on a comment or two, the inclination in this parish is not to give to Selfey, because he gives none to any critic. Or at least it appears this way. So when he writes something like this, we’ll grab probably the most obvious end of the stick:
There is a familiarity to it all. Since the back end of November, England have played 15 ODIs and the first seven of those were against Sri Lanka in that country. The result of that series – Sri Lanka winning it by five matches to two – is largely irrelevant when it comes to this match given the entirely different conditions it will be played in.
It is true to say that had Alastair Cook opted to take a break by missing it rather than using it as a team bonding session, he would almost certainly still be leading the squad here now. Such is fate.
Let me do a bullet point breakdown of all this. It needs a decent examination:
The tone – throughout this is laced with “I know the inside track and you don’t”. That is, we can’t possibly get to the full story because we are mug punters and they are journalists. The art of journalism is to act as our representatives in that room, not as some sort of privileged conveyor of the establishment’s screed. So results don’t matter, the English wanted a bonding session and Cook was/is possibly a case for special treatment. How else could we think? Because we don’t know….
History – Re-writing it is cool. If Cook, as Selvey supposes, chose to miss the Sri Lanka ODI tour, does anyone here seriously think he/the toxic brand would have got away with it? Do you actually think it was an option on the table? Even the toxic brand couldn’t pull that one on us. So, frankly, even raising this is bunkum. But it implies he knows something we don’t. I’m sure he does, but raising it in late February when selection for the ODI tour to Sri Lanka was in September, was it not?
Results are irrelevant – Clearly they weren’t. If Cook had struggled, but we’d won that series, then he’d still be in place. The fury would still be there, but losing the series 5-2 combined with the lack of form Cook showed meant he was dead. Results weren’t irrelevant.
The Sri Lanka tour as team bonding session – International cricket as a practice match, as something not to get up for, as something that it doesn’t matter how you play. To use the over-rated, and overused, quote by Steve Archibald, team spirit is “an illusion glimpsed in the aftermath of victory” and bonding in defeat rarely ends well. I don’t know, you don’t have to look too far back to see how that defeat thing helps team mates get on. The fact is that while some games are defintitely more important than others, and we are not ignorant of that fact, if these games were “largely irrelevant” then more shame on the England team for taking that approach. They were equally irrelevant to Sri Lanka, after all, because surely England don’t have the monopoly on not giving a shit, and they still roused themselves to stuff us. Fans cannot tolerate being told international sport doesn’t matter. Do you think an Aussie takes the field thinking that? They are the standard we are aiming for. New Zealand certainly didn’t think their preparation cricket was largely irrelevant. Maybe, by bonding session, the press thought they might get another Ian Bell as crap leader leak….
Oh, I’m sorry. I’ve ranted about a largely irrelevant when it comes to this game. Well, yes, it is. But you can’t tell me that the Sri Lanka series is treated as an irrelevance by the media. They tell you that by their team bonding nonsense. So no, I’m not giving them that out. After all, prior to that series, anyone remember the journalists weather forecasting abilities when citing how stupid this tour was?
The cult of Cook – opinion is divided as to whether Selfey, who has claimed for a while that Cook should pack in ODI cricket, meant with his line that if Cook had missed the tour it would be good or bad that he’d be here. Undertones of the good servant reek through this piece, and I’m inclined to believe that Selfey believes Cook perished through his own good intentions rather than any masterplan. Well, there was no masterplan. Cook was dropped because his presence was not tenable. He wasn’t making runs. He wasn’t scoring fluently. He looked miles off the pace. He was losing ODIs as captain. He was the story. If he’d missed this series and gone straight to the Tri-Series and cocked up there, the fury would have dwarfed the level it reached in Sri Lanka – and that was hot enough. The story of the whole tour would have been Cook, even if he hadn’t been there.
The comments section on the below thread have remarked on Fred’s comment. In case it gets modded, I have copied it here.
That’s it, I’m done. I’ve officially passed the point where I think the shallow and xenophobic cricket press in Australia is worse than English cricket writing. English journalists use longer sentences and more adjectives, but stripped of that it comes to the same thing. Bollocks.
The above sentence is just breathtaking in its delusion. If only Cook hadn’t played, he’d still be selected now for the team? What a fool he was to walk on to the cricket field! There was no problem at all with Cook, just that he chose to play the wrong series, but of course did it for noble reasons.
“Such is fate”: he could have been leading England to glory now if he hadn’t come unstuck in Sri Lanka?
He used it as a “team bonding session”? A seven match ODI series against Sri Lanka, the country that just beat them at home? A fucking bonding session?
By way of comparison, every Australian who speaks about playing cricket for Australia has awe in his voice when he talks about playing for his country. Doesn’t matter who, where, when or what, it’s playing cricket at the highest level, for their country, and they all jump at the chance, and they want to win. They’re not there to bond.
This sentence, and the editorial tone of Guardian cricket, indicates the malaise of English cricket.
Here’s another one not giving Selfey the benefit of any doubt. I don’t blame him. Not in the slightest.
On another paper our old favourite, the nomination for Cricket Journo of the year pocketed, has been having his say on Eoin Morgan not singing the national anthem:
The anthem issue is a contentious one because it throws up the whole dynamic of national identity, which is more complicated in cricket than most sports. Morgan is not the first nor the last international sportsman who has chosen not to sing (Darren Sammy was the only player to sing Rally Round the West Indies before the match against South Africa) but it has been noted in Morgan’s case because is a Dubliner now at the helm of the England side.
‘It’s pretty simple,’ said Morgan. ‘I have never sung the National Anthem whether I’ve been playing for Ireland or England. It doesn’t make me any less proud to be an English cricketer.
‘I am extremely proud to be in the position I’m in and privileged to be captain of a World Cup side. It’s a long story but it’s a personal thing.’
Morgan chose not to tell that long story which is a shame because it leaves him open to conjecture as to why he will not exercise his vocal cords.
It’s because he’s Irish, Paul. We’re not stupid. If we’re going to have a pop at people for not singing the anthem, then watch our football team. They don’t have a dual nationality issue to offer as a reason. Maybe we should focus on those born and raised on these shores for their “failure to show enough national pride”.
But the bottom line is that it is his choice and it is better surely to be true to yourself rather than, as some dual nationals in England’s recent history have, belted out the anthem for effect.
Or you could just have a go at Kevin Pietersen.
Finally, I couldn’t let go of the little nugget in George Dobell’s article on the proposed changes to English cricket.
Other suggested changes includes a rebranding of the ECB – the current brand is seen as toxic – as Cricket England & Wales.
Because this will change all of our views.
Unless Paul Downton and Giles Clarke are excommunicated then you could call it Late For Dinner and you aren’t going to fool any of us. It is an insult to all of us who pay such close attention to what is going on that you could actually imagine this being something that would calm us. How about doing your jobs properly, apologising for your stupidity and adopt a real new approach and we will be accommodating. Having a coronation for a Chief Exec, shunting the bete noire upstairs where he can dip his snout in the trough, and keeping the disaster that is Downton isn’t the way.