Lost in Space

It’s been a fair while since I’ve  written a piece, and it’s been like an itch that needs scratching.  The last few months have been fairly manic with work, but after next week it should be a quieter period, just in time for Christmas and then January and February, which are my easy months of the year, comparatively.

I’ve also been doing some research on a bigger post to come, and have notes scribbled all over the place.  Picking the right time to do that is perhaps the biggest question.

The approaching series is the one in South Africa, historically always one of the marquee series, and thus one where excitement is building, right?

Hmm.  Over the last week we had the nominations for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, and the observation that despite a truly fantastic year, Joe Root was missing from the list.  It was also pointed out that at the same time, a woman footballer was on there, and much wailing and gnashing of teeth ensued.

From a couple of cricket writers.

From the wider public there was the sound of complete indifference.

Now, the reason for me apparently picking on a female footballer there was deliberate.  You see, not only are those matches visible on terrestrial television, but it goes further than that.  Participation in female football has been growing rapidly in the last few years, and in the next 12 months or so, it will exceed the male participation in cricket in this country.  Add to that the higher viewing figures for the Women’s World Cup, and realistically, why should there be the slightest objection or even query?  By these measures, women’s football is simply more important to the English people than cricket is.

Is it really?  Probably not, yet one of the defences the ECB puts up to cricket not being on terrestrial television is that it is available on Test Match Special on the radio.  Yet here we have an Ashes winning year with one player across the calendar year proving genuinely exceptional and becoming the number one batsman in the world, and he wasn’t included.  But the fundamental point is that people do get missed off these things, that isn’t the story – the total indifference to it is.

Few would argue that the SPOTY award is more than a bit of fluff, yet it is symptomatic of the decline in interest in the sport generally that Root being left out didn’t cause a storm of outrage, instead it wasn’t even noticed.  Go to the pub, sit at the bar, raise the subject amongst those interested in sport and see what the reaction is.  There’s a slight raising of the eyebrows and a response of “oh yes.  That’s true”.  This is more dangerous to the game here than anything, when the sporting public don’t even realise until it’s pointed out.

When this debate occurs, the question of terrestrial television coverage is always rejected with the line that the drop in revenue from doing so would be a disaster for the game, and that terrestrial coverage wouldn’t suddenly change everything.  This is true, yet it is what it always has been – a complete straw man argument.  No one is arguing that it is a panacea for all ills, it’s a deep seated concern that there won’t be much of a game to support at this rate.

Ah yes, but crowds remain excellent and there is strong demand, so the story goes.  Yet this year there were day one tickets available for the Lords Ashes Test, on the day of the match.  Trying to find this kind of information out from the ECB is nigh on impossible, and so the supporting evidence for this assertion is a simple one – I looked at the Lords website and went through most of the process of buying one to see if I could.  It’s unlikely there were many, but the point is there actually were some.

Let’s just think about that; day one tickets, on the day, for the Lords Test, of an Ashes series.  And England had just gone 1-0 up.  Cost is a big part of this for certain, the exponential increase in ticket prices and the gouging of supporters by the ECB (funny how the huge rise in income for the ECB hasn’t held ticket prices down) has probably reached a point where a substantial number of those who would go simply don’t solely for this reason. Yet the alarm bells should be ringing loudly, and the biggest concern is they don’t seem to be.

It didn’t help of course that the Ashes series itself was such a dreadful one, five completely one sided matches with barely any drama or uncertainty beyond the first day and a bit.  But to counter that, the two Tests against New Zealand were truly magnificent, cricket as entertainment at its best.  It still didn’t make much difference.

With most specialist interests, there’s the matter that anyone writing or talking about it is doing so in an echo chamber, the only people who react or read it, or argue back are those who have the same interest, and thus it can be talked about at great length, entirely oblivious to the fact that no one outside of it cares.  This is where cricket now is.  The national press do cover the game, but if the Sun stopped writing about it (tucked away four pages in from the back) would anyone care?  Would anyone outside of the few even notice?  It seems unlikely.

Out of sight, out of mind is the most dangerous state for any sport to reach.  For decades the lamentation that football has taken over the national consciousness at the expense of cricket has gone up, but it’s gone way further than that now.  Rugby union is miles ahead, notwithstanding the England team gloriously completely the full set of the three “major” team sports all going out at the group stage of their respective World Cups (the football team’s failure is positively superb by comparison with the other two), in fact rugby league probably is.  Cycling, tennis, athletics – they all now have a much broader appeal than cricket does.  It’s nothing more than a minority interest, and the slump in people playing is as good an evidence of that as anything else.

If you were to visit some of the London parks, the removal of the cricket pitches by the councils is something that has been highlighted over the last few years.  Yet a question that is never asked about that is what if the councils are right?  What if they have removed them not just because of the expense, but because no one really cares if they do?  It’s not like it was met with strong protest, more like quiet grumbles at the way things are going.

The national team is the pinnacle of any sport, and also the showcase of it.  For all the talk about the dominance of the club game in football, nothing pulls in viewers or captures the imagination like the national team doing well – younger readers may need to ask a parent – yet despite the defeat in the UAE, the England cricket team had a reasonable enough year post World Cup, and for most of the wider public, it simply passed them by.

A South Africa tour should be highly anticipated, England don’t win there often, and despite the hosts comprehensive defeat in India, it will be a stiff challenge.  But will anyone notice?  Will anyone even realise it’s happening?

The wider ramifications of the ICC power grab are yet to unwind, the complicity of much of the media in allowing that to happen with no objections or investigation as shameful as it ever was.  But the bigger issue right now is the game itself, and where it is in this country.  And for the first time I am starting to truly fear for its future, not just at the top level but throughout.  The mendacity and self-serving nature of the avaricious ECB is a subject to which we will return time and again.  The danger is that it reaches a point where even when it’s put in front of the public, they still couldn’t care less.

 

 

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We Know Nothing – Part 1

At the moment, we are researching a series of posts on the cricket media, so I thought I’d kick off with a little (ha ha, as if) historical perspective as regards this blog, and the predecessor that was HDWLIA in relation to comments on the media. Let us begin around ago….

In the middle of the furore over the Hong Kong cricket match, many of you on here will remember this tweet from a member of our press corps which said:

“You have no idea how cricket media works. I’ve offered to meet to explain but you prefer to spout nonsense form (sic) anonymous blog”

I’ll keep that one.

My frustration with much of the cricket media has been a common, and some would say (very) repetitive theme throughout the last two years. Of course, it was principally sourced from the incidents in the fallout from the Ashes whitewash, but it’s beyond that. It really is, and this scene setter seeks to explain why and how.

The predecessor to this blog, How Did We Lose In Adelaide (still available if you know where to look) had rumbled around for quite a while before it got noticed. For six or so months, probably from around April to November of last year, it hit its peak in terms of the pique it derived from the cricket media. While I would not be as so bold to admit I know entirely how cricket media works, my heavens, I had gained a jolly good taste of how it did, just by watching their reporting, their behaviour, and in some cases, their arrogance. Back then I would take an article, and tried to dissect it (fisking). I was angry. I may well have been off target, but it was from the heart. That blogging captured the drive within me. Sometimes I wonder where that has gone.

(I’ve always said my aim was to get to within three universes of the sort of stuff Fire Joe Morgan did for baseball, where journalists were routinely targeted. They were talented professional writers doing that. I was a sole muppet, with an anger issue…. whatever I did, it seemed to work)

Things died down in the New Year, as HDWLIA closed down and Being Outside Cricket started. There was a brief renaissance of interest during the KP furore of May and the Ashes, but the tone then was completely different. We were aiming at the ECB, and had, actually, been doing that for quite a while. After all, the press weren’t really trying.

But here’s a fact. I was absolutely more excoriating of the cricket media last year on HDWLIA than I have ever been on Being Outside Cricket. I read back my attacks on the big beasts of journalism not hiding behind a paywall from those days last year, and I go full on. Now, maybe that’s because I didn’t really believe journalists would read it, because hit rates then were less than 100 a day and very few people were picking up on it. I was just one of those annoying gnats that you could shoo- away. In many ways, that has not changed.

So, let me go into the way journalists have interacted with me. I had occasional tweets answered early on, and put comments on line. I had a regrettable debate with Jonathan Agnew after a “convivial evening”, which ended up with someone threatening me with physical violence, which was nice (I’d called Agnew obsequious, which  was out of order and we made peace). I think the starting point of more interest was at the test match at Lord’s against Sri Lanka last year.  On that test match night, Jarrod Kimber let me know that he was reading out the “10 Worst Journalists” column to the attendant media. In his words, some were mad at being on the list, some were mad at not being higher. What he did say, was that many there read the blog, including those I’ve been told by others never do.

It’s a bit intimidating really. But I tried to be fair, and probably didn’t succeed. So while I am by no means an expert on the cricket media – we’ll delve into this a little later – the opposite applies. The cricket media’s overall knowledge of social media is laughable, in my experience. They rely squarely on the comfort blanket offered by social media’s lunatic fringe, by lumping those in there trying to make a point as trolls. Ed Smith, in particular, is good at that one. Others ignore the well-made salient points made to them on Twitter, and just pick on a ranting one to have a pop. I’m not saying it’s easy seeing your work dissected by the hoi polloi, but if you go on Twitter, you know what you are going to get. I got some fearful abuse over the KP post last year. I got some this Ashes summer too. It’s not nice. But that’s the price you pay.

One thing struck me from when Jonathan Agnew tried to break bread with Maxie Allen last year on a podcast. He said something along the lines of “if you come into my house and started calling me names, I’d chuck you out. That’s my approach on social media.” Well, yes, fair enough, but how many people with serious points to make are totally ignored without kicking up a fuss, and I’m referring to a number of the selective tweet responses in the para above? I’m a case in point. I called him lamentable and obsequious, and got blocked – entirely up to him, but it came with consequences for me. He then made peace the following day, so we called it quits, and have got on OK since, although our paths do not cross nearly as often. But I wouldn’t have got to that point without being forceful to start off with. I’m not as down on Agnew as others on here, but that’s their right.

My raison d’etre is not to become in with the in crowd. I’d much rather be friends and get along with people than have steaming rows with all and sundry, but I’m not courting anyone. It’s not good for me to be angry and arguing, and after a while, screaming and shouting becomes annoying and self-defeating. So let me strike down casual myth number one about my interaction with the cricket media. I do not want to become a journalist / reporter. That is not my aim, and I don’t know how many times I need to say it. It is also not attention seeking (although I can do it very well as this blog proves), and the clue is in the use of a pseudonym and my unwillingness to meet people. Some people call this cowardice. Don’t bother with me then, because it isn’t changing any time soon. That is the antithesis of “attention seeking”. So my lack of knowledge about the cricket media isn’t keeping me going to get into the game. So perhaps we’ll leave that sorry canard alone, eh? Others have got into journalism, to newspapers etc, and got contacts along the way by blogging. Fair play to them. That isn’t for me. At Lord’s, this summer, I was stood five feet away from Agnew. If I was an attention seeker, I’d have said hello.

What this (Being Outside Cricket) blog did less than the last one was to hold the cricket media to some sort of account in my own style. Again, Jarrod has said to me “why do you blog about people the vast majority of the cricket world don’t give a shit about?” Because it was fun. Yes. Fun. I adored the way they tripped up over themselves in knifing a cricketer they clearly did not like (and if they did, they did a passable impression of hating him), while being on the same side as an organisation headed, at the time, by a bloke I’m confident many of them can’t abide, bigging up charlatans, propping up a captain who, on form and captaincy ability at the time should have been dropped, and giving a passable impression, as Mark frequently comments, of being the ECB’s “stenographers”.

What I got to understand rapidly, is that the one thing that got cricket in the papers was something to do with Pietersen – look how many times his Tweets are converted into news stories. In their own way, this was their attention seeking. Even now, KP makes the papers. I’d wager he’s still the most famous cricketer in England, and only Cook might rival him. His exploits in over-the-way T20 competitions still get mentions. I understood this about the cricket media. A story with KP got hits, got comments below the line where applicable and sold advertising. It still does. Vic Marks alluded to him in his recent piece on Jason Roy. Fomenting antis were over it like a bad suit (remember, we’re obsessed). So chalk that down as something I know about cricket media. And you didn’t have to be Einstein to work that out.

The cricket media have their own jobs to do, and it was something that I was criticised for in Brian’s review in Wisden Almanack (and jeez, I will always have that little gem….) in not seeing their side of the story. Well, I’m awfully sorry about that, but when an organisation (ECB) treats its own fans with such utter contempt, it’s hard to see their side when they won’t see our’s. Our hopes were pinned on at least some of them asking the right questions and having a feel for what a good constituency of their readers might be feeling, at the right time. At the time he was sacked. Instead, they slept. Or stuck the knife in. I never sensed that they cared about that sacking, and said so. Suddenlt there was a wave of people who came along for the ride. Those that read, or read (in past tense) the blog over the past 18 months felt, and still feel incredibly let down by our fearless press have, in some instances, turned their back on England. This doesn’t matter in a world of small-minded administrators. Those that care a lot can be disenfranchised. I can’t watch England in the same way again.

The ECB are never going to give access to bloggers (not sure that I’d want that, but Chris, perhaps, would be more  up for that as it suits his personality better than mine), so our hopes were pinned on the cricket media. We were appallingly let down, whether they like being told it, or care. How we saw the cricket media work there was putting access above adjudication, prejudice above pressure, long-term comfort over short-term revolt. Coming to mind, especially, was the fact it took 10 questions to get to KP in Downton’s first conference when we’d been waiting two months for any answers. Then, hilariously, more than one of the media were falling over themselves to tell us how great JPM’s finest was. The re-writing of history over Downton has been to see how the cricket media works. Not many of them were thinking “blimey, he’s out of his depth” until the end of the summer of 2014 at the earliest. A fair few of us were. We recognise that sort in our daily lives.

Since then, the pressure has died down on the media, and I’ve not been doing the fisking I used to. That’s fisking (analysing an article line-by-line). Why? Well, for the first thing they are quite time consuming and some newspapers make doing it a real tedious affair. Second, I’ve not felt the need to. Much of the fisking was because people were pretending there were no leaks (hence the repeated use of the “good journalism” meme on here – as in here’s another piece of good journalism “such and such is set to be dropped, we understand”) and also that ridiculous contentions were being put up about KP in particular without tangible evidence to back it up. The relationship between the journalist and reader should be that we either enjoy their style, or we trust what they say, and I was pointing out that I (me, and I write for me alone) liked neither their style nor trusted them in many ways.

I’ve also not issued the results of polls on the worst journalist, and thus not added comments to them. Why not? Because, to be frank, I don’t read much of what they write any more. It used to be fun picking up on their contentions blatantly accessed from sources we’ll never be a party to, or some of their ideas they’ll stick to come hell or high water, but it gets a bit repetitive (another Wisden criticism). The name of our recent winner is at the bottom of the post. It’s no surprise.

A few weeks ago we saw them, briefly, at their finest. A piece of good journalism here, a breaking of an embargo (an embargo, for heaven’s sake, it’s not a top secret report for God’s sake) there, and all round tut-tutting about it. These are the last throes of the dinosaurs. An ECB edict, issued under embargo to a press in need, protected from the punters of course, who don’t need to know before someone with a commercial imperative, and it’s leaked on social media. They haven’t a bleeding clue. Then, hilariously, the big story (Bell’s exclusion) was missed.

You see, the reason I like reading George Dobell and Jarrod Kimber and Gideon Haigh is that I trust them. They have their opinions, and I will listen to them and decide based on what they say. Sure, they have their favourites, because they are human beings, and we all have biases. I don’t believe (well, in some cases I have no doubt) they take dictation from the ECB or other authorities. They call it as they see it. This blog regularly votes them in to the best journalist poll, and we waxed lyrical about George in particular last year. Indeed, I think a sign of how highly he should be regarded is that in some cases, people were disappointed in some of his stuff, and voted him in the worst poll this year. That’s interesting to me.

TLG and I will be talking more about the media in the short term. In the years I’ve been doing this blog the reactions to a couple of recent events really piqued my interest. The golf day stuff, which I stayed out of by and large, and the Hong Kong game. It piques Tregaskis’s enough to write his epic published yesterday.

So be prepared for some more nonsense, and I hope you enjoy it.

Finally, I can exclusively reveal here the winner of this summer’s worst journalist award, as voted for by the readers of Being Outside Cricket. It’s Mike Selvey. No shock there. The rest will follow…. a new entry at number 2, and at number 4 for instance.

Selvey was a landslide winner because he exemplifies how we see the cricket media “working”. In the past 18 months he has been contemptuous of those who dare to challenge his view, has undertaken some of the most appalling briefing against a player I’ve seen in ages (Adil Rashid – it went beyond opinion on the pace he bowls at when he went after him at Lord’s this summer) and his world class tweeting. Just recently Tim Wigmore alluded to something a little more concerning, and no, we didn’t miss it, and nor did you, commenters. He’s number 1 for a reason.

This post was written, mostly, a fortnight ago. I’m sharing it now in the light of Tregaskis’s piece. We’ll be discussing that for days to come, an important blogging milestone of undoubted depth. It took a chance, and his style of writing, leaning towards FICJAM but without the ego, and thus superb in its nature, is beyond what I could possibly achieve. He has sought to be honourable when no such honour is reciprocated by most. I wonder where we go from here. TLG and I will pick up on it more and more, because it has not gone away.

Hong Kong Phooey

And if you don't say we want,
And if you don’t say we want, “Hi-yaaaaaa”

UPDATE – David Hopps has commented on the matter at hand in the original post (Click).

It has been an interesting last 24 hours. David Hopps kicked off the fun with a scathing article on England’s fixture with Hong Kong. All the details of what followed are contained in the Someway, Somehow post below.

Today we were told that the CEO of Hong Kong cricket, Tim Cutler, had written a statement on their website to clear up some misunderstandings. This has been retweeted by Lawrence Booth, John Etheridge and England Cricket on my timeline. I’m sorry chaps, but I don’t believe this as the whole story. I’ve worked in a press office and this looks like a statement that’s been worked on a while. There is also the really important issue here, and one, that I am afraid goes back all the way to the beginning of 2014. Andrew Strauss mentioned the word. Trust.

We do not trust the ECB. Hong Kong cricket, even if it wanted to, could not kick up over this without making an implacable enemy of one of the big three, and in the current ICC environment, who’d want to do that? Andrew Nixon, who reports on the Associate nations with a passion to be admired, is adamant that, yes, of course Hong Kong wanted an ODI against England. I’d see it as a non-league football club getting drawn out in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup away at Manchester United. It sort of defies belief that they wouldn’t want that with the commercial exposure that might bring, and the chance for other local cricketers to aspire to the same. They have ODI status so why waste that opportunity?

Now, the line to take is that an ODI was never an option. You can rearrange a test match due to a terrible event (see Brisbane last year, and the extra day in the Emirates), you can rapidly schedule an entire series (Sri Lanka ODI to replace West Indies tests), but you can’t organise an ODI in a month? Hong Kong cricket seemed to indicate that they sought the possibility of an ODI while also claiming that a one day practice match with a white ball and coloured clothing was better preparation for the Intercontinental Cup (a four day match). There’s also the mentions of money, which of course governs all, and yet from the start the best practice was most important.

Read the statement. David Hopps remains somewhat sceptical.

And while David continues to beat this path, we can’t be dismissed as conspiracy theory nutters.

So it comes to trust. This is what you damaged, chaps, when you allowed yourselves to be used as an ECB conduit. When you failed to stick up for us as being “outside cricket” right from the outset because you needed access. When you failed to acknowledge the leaking, left, right and centre (one even saying they were anal about leaks) in the last embers of the Ashes series, and let personal emnity to an arrogant cricketer get in the way of exposing what went on. Instead we were asked to take you on trust, and we had no desire to. In my view it reached the bottom with the Ian Bell awayday leak – that was poor. I’ve no doubt the media were scurrying around looking into it yesterday, but it’s amazing how they’ve done so when it is to protect the ECB’s reputation. Hong Kong are a bunch of amateurs compared to this machine. Once that press release praised Tom Harrison for working “behind the scenes” (he’s the CEO of England Cricket for crying out loud, why does he have to work behind the scenes to persuade his own body, he’s the bloody leader) to help associates and Olympic cricket, I had my tin hat on, turned the heat up in my mum’s basement and started salivating. Oh yes. Good old Tom. Well, I don’t trust him for starters. In ECB circles, trust is all. We know that.

So all we saw yesterday was a minor schmozzle where the ECB (who else would be affronted by Hopps initial report) wanted the record put straight (Ireland in April chaps? Let’s encourage those associate nations) and the journalists were prepared to act as Sir Walter Raleigh. I don’t expect them to like (or care) what I think, but that’s what happens when you have an arrogant, ignorant cricket board, a media who whistled their tune when the going got hot, and a load of angry cricket fans.

That’s the bed and we are all lying in it.

And, of course, it didn’t take long.

I’ll let the statement stand.

Hardly

I was in good cheer when I read another tweet yesterday, and which I’ve seen in today’s amazing episode of The Cricketer Magazine.

I mean, seriously. I am getting to be seriously crotchety in my old age, but I hate this shit. I realise we live in a corporate world, where sport has to flog itself to maximise the revenues for its players and so forth. But Hardy’s doesn’t own the Ashes, and they aren’t some commodity that can be flogged to death to some corporate with ties to the sport as deep as a puddle. But no, let’s have it hawked out and retweeted by the players so they can earn a few more bucks. Let’s have all the interviews by England players sponsored so they can earn a few more quid. I even saw an advert on Twitter by Specsavers using the Ashes.

While I don’t doubt the sporting commitment of any of these players, there seems far too much of players hawking themselves to flog a bit of the sponsors wares and not enough actual proper engagement with the hoi polloi who follow them around. The team looks appallingly distant still. I get no more of a warm glow from Alastair Cook as I do from my neighbours on the other side of the estate I live on. I hate how sport has become a corporate vehicle, so it’s corporate first, second, third, fourth and so on, and the punter comes a distant last. The corporate pays and gets the finest seats, the best service, and fuck me blind, decent beer. We sit in the cheap seats, have to somehow manage to carry four beers in a paper/cardboard contraption that happens to break if it gets to wet to a crowded seat, with eff all leg room, to be bombarded by nonsense, have official rehydration breaks, have the most prestigious test series in the game paired with an investment bank every time it is mentioned over here (it was never the Cornhill Insurance Ashes, was it) and drink absolute piss masquerading as one of Paul Sheldon’s selection of “fine beers”.

Their priority is to make money – the players and the administrators. To soak the asset. If they see off some of the low earners or recalcitrant fans, well that’s just collateral damage. They probably wouldn’t drink Hardy’s wine, probably think Waitrose is a bit too pricy, wouldn’t have a scooby who Royal London are, think tap water is fine to drink, don’t use an investment bank and so on and so forth. Stuff ’em. After all, they are outside cricket.

Commercialisation is a growing annoyance, and don’t tell me the journos don’t think so. Agnew, for one, was livid he had to go through this “interview is brought to you by…” crap. The players seriously don’t help themselves when any interview they have is done under serious media management and only on the premise that they can hawk something for a few bob more. This tweet summed it up…

Which brings neatly on to Betway’s new “employee” in his Editor’s notes in The Cricketer…

“Alastair Cook has been called a weasel and a coward and other derogatory things. He does not deserve any of it.”

Ah. But calling someone who scored 8181 test runs a c–t is ok. Rah Rah. The article has decency all over it. Alastair is a thoroughly decent man. If you get a chance, read it. It’s like a bloody love letter. There seems no recognition that there is another interpretation of all this. That Cook has never truly explained the decision that he must have been party to to (a) exclude Pietersen and (b) as Dean Wilson reported, I believe, at the time, that he maintains a veto over his return. I call not explaining this as, yes, a form of cowardice. A form of weasel behaviour. He may have very good reasons, but I’ll bet he’s storing them up for a lovely autobiography somewhere down the line. Hughes, of course, conflates the cowardice line with actual facing up to quick bolwing in a marvellously ridiculous finale…

“He (Cook) is the antithesis of the men who say, “It’s the way I play.” He is constantly evolving as a player and as a leader and is about to confront the fastest attack and feistiest foe to visit these shores for many a year. So whatever you think of him, don’t call him a weasel or a coward.”

Bloody hell. Instead, we’ll just laugh at this piece of analysis (as previewed in comments below) in a tweet from Tickers.

Indeed.

I’m sorry, but Lovejoy, complete with stupid mug shot is at it again in The Cricketer…

“Obviously the above are moot points if England themselves have a divided camp and are still being forced to answer questions about the captain, opening batsman and other extraneous stories that refuse to die down. Alastair Cook must shrug off any worries about the hierarchy and apparent criticism from the media and get back to enjoying the role of prolific run scorer and team captain.”

Count the many ways this is laughable.

Bruised

Evening all.

Personally it has been a tough week for me. Nothing that ends the world, but the sort of week that knocks the confidence, hits the self-belief and makes you question what you think you should do. I did, at one point, think that I might give the blog up for a while, at least until the Ashes, but that was but a fleeting thought. There’s the brilliance of thelegglance to support on here, and there’s also lots more I want to say. So, while bored out of my mind on a training course this week, I jotted down some ideas for future posts and direction. thelegglance and I will get together to discuss some changes to the blog, and perhaps some of the ideas I have and he has. We will let you know what is decided.

The one thing with this blog that amazes me, still, is how from small incidents, major stuff happens, if only at the blogging level. Without the throwaway two press men reviews in the post last week, one of our number would not have tweeted the link to the top five mentioned, and then we would not have had Pringle calling me irrelevant. I’m not one to ever let a snippy comment go unblogged, so off I went, then followed by thelegglance last weekend, and now by Maxie’s opus on The Full Toss, which it goes without saying, I recommend to this house.

From little acorns do these blogging oaks grow, but what’s the relevance? I had a discussion on Twitter DM with a well-known (I think on here) figure in the reporting game who said he wished I dealt more with the actual cricket than journalists who no-one really gives a shit about. Like all constructive comment aimed my way I considered it. A lot. Then came being told I wasn’t strategic enough to build a brand identity and push a plan through cost me a promotion (how I laugh inside at that, not) and I begin to question myself. Am I aiming in the wrong place? Am I just becoming a stuck record? Have we peaked (hits are noticeable on this blog when the news is bad) and could we sustain this blog through “good times”? Is it worth sustaining? How do we do it?

I’m not satisfied. I used to be easily satisfied, but not now. This is too precious to me to give up.

I wandered around for a long time in the wilderness until I got noticed. I then set about keeping the limited audience I had in a flurry of furious posts, each one dripping with anger at the press, the ECB and yes, Alastair Cook. I’m over none of that. Not one bit. Without that anger the well runs dry. I now almost hate the game I love for the fact that nearly every facet of it brings me to rage. The lack of terrestrial coverage, the patronising of New Zealand as if awarding them just two test two years after awarding them just two tests is somehow ordered by some Cricketing authority on high rather than the ECB’s actual choice of oppenents. The victories in the ODIs, and the manner of the defeats, are laudatory, but for the love of all that’s holy, it’s 2-2 and there has been enough dumb nonsense in this series that we now seem to think it is OK to overlook because we are playing positively (and the bowling looks absolutely clueless). There is the very good point thelegglance made about how this rush to gush is now overtaking the inquest that should have taken place about how the team played in the World Cup. Instead we’ll have it all laid on Moores’s door for the failure (Farbrace was in that dressing room, so don’t give me all that) and no doubt the C–tmaster General’s door for the brave decisions. One of our scribes rightly said that we don’t look to the players for the successes, but at the coach, or someone who puts in place strategies. I’ve always said with strategies, that when they are successful they have many parents, but when they fail, they are orphans.

I’ve just read Steve James’s “The Plan”. I might do a review of it when I calm down. It has some interesting nuggets, especially in his willingness to blame anyone but his Zimbabwean colleagues, and some insider stuff that if true, casts an interesting shadow over some of the decisions taken after the book. But it was a throwaway line on Moneyball that got me.

I’m a massive baseball fan, and both the book and the movie of Moneyball omit one incredibly salient fact that is missed about those Oakland A teams. It wasn’t about value for money and all that, but it was about the fact they had a brilliant pitching rotation. They had great pitchers in their midst to start games. The Red Sox this year have, on paper, a really good hitting team. They absolutely stink this season because their starting pitching is atrocious. I go on a blog where they ask you to predict the record of the team for the season. I was the only one who didn’t have them down as having a winning season. It is, in baseball, a lot about getting bang for your buck. It is also about your scouts, your player development, your drafting ability to get good players of your own.

Peter Moores loves this book. According to Steve James, he passed a copy to Flower who also liked it. It’s a good book, tells an interesting story, and pretends that Billy Beane is some sort of out-there genius. It tells the story of running a sporting franchise where the As didn’t have the most money (far from it), didn’t have the best stadium (very far from it) and didn’t play in the best city (I can’t comment on that, but no-one really mentions Oakland in the tourist guides). So he had to look beyond the athleticism and at the numbers to see if he could get value. Beane got older players with a couple of good years left (stop laughing at the back) who may have been looking for one last hurrah. Beane got players who didn’t necessarily have the best physical condition, or who had individual styles that the trainers and physiologists would have kittens over (Samit Patel……any England fast bowler that goes to Loughborough) or develop his own players quickly and get them in the team to trade them for other pieces – which is what a club team does, but not an international one. The thing I believe Moores would probably have taken out of this is the data. The numbers. Not the traditional ones, but the things like WAR or OPS+ that the statsguru’s of baseball love. But that doesn’t really translate to cricket. Take KP, who is berated for having an average of just 47. He has precious few not outs as he’s a risk taker. In my view. How is that translated to the press? “It’s the way he plays….” “A player of great innings not a great player” or the best of all “inconsistent”. I didn’t see anyone try to get behind those numbers too hard.

Moneyball is about running a business, that is why it’s written by a prolific business writer. England are if not the wealthiest team in cricket, than they are second. And they just lost a test in May to a team without a pot to piss in. I hope the new man has nothing to do with such trite twaddle. Sadly, I think Strauss would probably melt into a warm puddle at the very mention of it.

I have rambled off, which is usual, but the point I’m trying to make is that this journalist probably thought Moneyball was some wonderful text because Flower liked it. It needed investigating. I read this stuff. I’ve read virtually every self-congratulatory tome about the Red Sox winning it all in 2004 due to these techniques (of course, buying up one of the best pitchers on the market and having the second highest payroll in the game had sweet FA to do with it). I’m a sports nut who laps this stuff up. But not with an uncritical eye. When someone tells me a book like that helped shape a couple of England coaches’ philosophies, I want to know why.

I’ll never be able to scratch that itch completely. I’ll always be searching for the right point, even if I find out it is wrong. I want to know. The pieces recently by much more precise, beautifully crafting authors like Maxie and TLG than I, hone in on their targets like laser guided missiles, and we are all the better for it. I’m far less accurate, but hope I make up for it in my desire to find out. I’m still not satisfied that I’ve found out what I want.

So it gets to the point, where, yes, I confess, I hope Alastair Cook fails as a batsman, because he’s a wretched leader of men. I get to the point, where, yes, I confess, I see England wins as something to dread for the stupidity of the reaction they garner from people who should know better. I hope Strauss falls on his arse for backing a Giles Clarke line on KP (for that is what I think it is) and he leaves that post with the ridicule his predecessor garnered. I will not forgive those who branded the likes of me as “outside cricket” for turning me off an England cricket team. Even one with players like this.

I’m not falling in love with them. Not one iota. Until that whole top edifice is cleared, Clarke has absolutely nothing to do with the ECB, that there’s an apology to those they insulted, I’ll despise them with every f–king fibre of my being.

When I was a child, I played cricket in the street. I played with 10 other kids on a council estate in Deptford. I watched Botham’s Ashes. I watched the great 1980s West Indies teams. People talked about cricket all the time. Going to my first test match was a thing I will always treasure (1997, Oval, Day 2). I have this game in my soul. I come from an era where it mattered to kids of all social classes. Now?

Yeah. I’ve no right to be angry at all. No I’ll carry on with all of them. And now I don’t have to play the good little foot soldier role in the office, I’m ready to up the ante.

Night.

Lament

Well, good morning/afternoon all. It has been an interesting one to wake up to, I have to tell you. I’ll leave “proper” politics because there’s a ton more places to look for it than on here, and it divides rather than unites which is never good in my book. So let’s talk about the sort of politics we all love to indulge in and that’s from the good old ECB.

I think you all remember the aftermath of the Ashes debacle when in the infamous February press release, the most heinous crime anyone could perpetrate in the English cricket firmament was to breach the sanctity of the dressing room. There were certain journalists who were said to be “anal about leaks” but that didn’t stop them talking out of that orifice on a daily basis. The people on this board, out there in the world aren’t stupid, and they know these stories don’t just appear out of thin air. These journalists have contacts, have their way to read the runes, because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be doing their jobs. I’m not sure it is, as John Etheridge I believe once said “more good journalism than leaks”, but it’s something that annoys us all.

So we can’t be all up in arms because the news leaked regularly about Kevin Pietersen and not be when it affected Cook (in December when his sacking from the ODI captaincy got out) and now seems to be for Moores. I know the journalistic corps will accuse me of naivety and all that, and that this is how the world works, but it doesn’t make it right. I’m going out on a limb here and say that although I didn’t support the appointment of Peter Moores (reeked of a pre-ordained Flower-inspired stitch up) and don’t particularly rate him as an international coach (this progress we are making seems rather ephemeral to me – as Grenada / Barbados seems to indicate) he comes across as a very decent man trying his best, and the one thing that those people deserve above all else is to be treated with the same decency. If this is proved, and I note Lawrence Booth for one is saying this didn’t necessarily come from the ECB, to be from high-placed official sources then more shame on them. This is not the way a new and improved organisation does business, and if it is one of the exiting old guard doing it, well….. you know what you should do about that.

The responsibility for a leak goes to the source of the information. So if the ECB told someone in confidence that the decision had been made, and then this gets out, it’s the ECB’s fault for trusting that confidence. The fact is that if this is the case here, and that’s the message coming out here, there’s always the convenient “plausible deniability” on behalf of this organisation which seems to make key decisions ahead of appointees taking up their roles. Indeed, Strauss hasn’t even been officially announced yet, and he’s supposed to be the one either doing the sacking or rubber-stamping it.

I see one of the commenters BTL on the Guardian is going on about us conspiracy theorists again. I’m glad these people are so trusting of those in authority to think that way and just let those running the game to do as they please, no questions asked. Trust those inside the game. But from the outside there seems to be a bit of a power struggle within the ECB and I have no idea how it is going to pan out. The deserved sacking of Downton, a man who should never have been appointed, seems more and more like a piece of meat thrown to us “slobbering hordes”.  We then replace his role with something not yet defined, and when they found out that not many people were interested in a Downton-lite role, the new revolution stumbled across an old pillar to effect whatever it is Harrison and Graves think is needed, which at this stage, we don’t have a clue about. Memo to all here, I’m not buying what Harrison is selling, not at all. Now to appease the hordes again, we are going to fire a coach AFTER a series where we could have looked at new players, but the coach and captain were too keen to bolster positions and didn’t try much. This isn’t a new bold strategy, but something else too familiar. Clueless, aimless and now heartless. The absence of a decent media strategy, treating people in their employment with dignity and class, and allowing things to just get out there, however they get there, isn’t great. It really isn’t.

Lawrence Booth, Jonathan Agnew and Ali Martin can all put their side of the story any time they like – they are more than welcome to here, but I would not expect that. How this news got out there matters to people. It speaks of an organisation seeking to regain our trust, to re-engage with us, to make us proud of the England cricket team again and to bridge the divide. This is not what is happening. The divisions aren’t now a simple chasm down the middle framed by a decision to sack Pietersen. They are becoming fractures, along familiar fault lines, but fractures nonetheless. Those that were original members of the outside cricket club see more of the same. Those who were more attuned to the ECB way of thinking see appeasement of the great unwashed. Those of a more sceptical bent than the ECB line to takers see increasing incompetence and doubt creeps in, like rot in a wooden building. The Cook fans see devilment in every utterance on the doubts in his form. The KP fans see an ECB talking out of both sides of its mouth. The ECB are further away than ever from gaining public trust. Their ultimate test was to keep their traps shut and do this the right way. They haven’t. It’s a bloody PR disaster.

Just one thought, that could negate much of this, but not all. The only explanation that gets the ECB partially off the hook is that the leak came from Peter Moores himself, or someone close to him. In which case we can make our own judgements on him. That said, it would seem a little out of character, wouldn’t it?

Infamy

In an act of self-indulgence, I am commenting on the mention of this blog in Wisden. I have a copy of the article, from the editor himself, and I’ll have to say it’s an interesting take on the blog.

One topic dominated the agenda of the English cricket media in 2014.
England’s brutal and irrevocable decision to dispense with Kevin Pietersen, and its deeply unsatisfactory aftermath, prompted serious attention from some of the blogosphere’s best writers. In terms of quantity and passion, Dmitri Old at cricketbydmitri.wordpress.com stood out.

Old wrote thousands upon thousands of words, mostly excoriating the
ECB. While at times the effect was like being repeatedly hit over the head with one of Pietersen’s bats, his blog acted as a valuable conduit for deep resentment at the ECB’s administration of English cricket. This was exemplified by their reference in a press release to people “outside cricket”, intended as a response to one of Piers Morgan’s many incursions into the saga – but which was latched on to by Old as evidence of the board’s lack of empathy with the fans.

First up, thanks to Brian Carpenter for including me in his review. It is interesting to see how your blog is viewed by those outside my usual comment client base. I actually grinned when I read the bit about “repeatedly hit over the head”, but at the time when this blogger was that mad about things, there was always gold in them there hills in which we could pick apart the arguments. I could repeat and repeat, because the press and the ECB repeatedly gave us the ammunition.

I am, by my nature, quite a modest person. I really find praise and that sort of thing awkward. Don’t get me wrong, I like it, but I don’t claim credit often. But I do think this blog (along with TFT of course) has done the most to put “outside cricket” front and centre over the last year. We’ve never let it go, even if it means I’m likened to a bludgeon. Repetition hammers home the message. I don’t apologise for it. I don’t think Brian means me to either, but there are a number who tell me to let it lie. Never. Not until I get the sense that the authorities do anything more than pay lip service to what this small, noisy band of cricket tragics say. This sport does not need to become more exclusive, more insular, more arrogant – it needs, to use their bloody horrible phrase, to reconnect with the public.

However, Old didn’t take aim merely at those in authority: he also trained his sights on the traditional press, some of whom he viewed as Establishment stooges. In one or two cases, he might have had a point. But the press coverage reflected, in part, the vulnerabilities of cricket journalists, who have a symbiotic relationship with administrators and players: the administrators grant access to the players, who provide interviews and quotes. Most bloggers have no such privileges, yet this very freedom from professional dependence means they can shoot from the hip.

This is a really interesting debating point, in my eyes. Let’s go back to when KP got dropped. There is a substantial section of the England fan base that said “good”. Fair enough. I have always said they are entitled to their opinion and I’d never want to shut that down. That part of the fan base, shall we say, was more than adequately represented in the journalist corps. We pick on Paul Newman a lot here, but he’d got the inside track, by hook or by leak, and there appeared glee in reporting the end of his career. The other big beasts, such as Pringle and Selvey, and I’d say Etheridge too, had nailed their colours to the mast.

Those of us who saw a batsman top of the run charts for his team, albeit, we know, not a stellar record, being the main man to pay the price as unfair, and in my case as a fan, antagonistic, weren’t the beneficiaries of much supportive press. KP split opinions. He still does. The main conclusions to be drawn, from totally outside, was that the press had either personal grudges they weren’t prepared to go into, or they were too close to members of the establishment. Selvey was possibly the worst case, with his piece supporting Downton on his appointment, his Cricketer love letter to Andy Flower, and then his praising of Moores. It’s easy to draw the conclusion we have.

Now, I will admit, that at some times I might have gone a bit wild. But as I’ve explained to the Editor, I come from the background of a football club’s message board. Nuance and reason didn’t work. They just didn’t. You needed to put your argument forcefully. If that’s shooting from the hip. then I’ll agree.

The main gripe, as Brian would know (and he’s limited to space) was our frustration with the journalists was the TTT – Tyers Twitter Tendency – which is “we know more than you, trust us, it was the right decision”. That intimated that there was something, but the proles couldn’t know. I still don’t. Innuendo, unattributable briefing and “I’m not going to comment” isn’t going to cut it in this day and age. And yes, I went on and on and on. I still do. But it is interesting to read these views.

Where Old sometimes fell short was in failing to recognise that journalists find themselves in a different position; in any case, the press as a whole weren’t quite the Establishment mouthpieces he felt them to be. But his obsessive refusal to let sleeping dogs lie – together with an urgent, punchy delivery and a nice line in song-lyric titles – was the most distinctive aspect of the blogosphere in 2014, even if it ultimately prompted the feeling that, at some point, he would need to let go. And in February 2015, he appeared to do just that, taking his blog down, his point eloquently made.

That is very kind of Brian, and while I disagree a bit (and I see the Establishment / Press relationship a little differently now to what I did – amazing what speaking to people does) it’s fair comment. I do listen to these things, and I recognise my style is not for all. I am clearing out the spare room at the moment and came across my old school reports. For English language (and my old English teacher follows me on Twitter) I was accused of all sorts of stylistic abominations. My history teacher called my writing style brutal. Maybe I’ve always been a blogger, and my “florid prose” isn’t to all tastes. But it gets the message across.

There is no secret that I was a nobody who no-one talked to 15 months ago, and now I’m a nobody that speaks to lots more people. I don’t over-estimate any influence I have, but I do know this blog resonates, because mainly the posts are backed up by salient, well honed arguments from many similarly angry commenters. It’s a bit raucous, very angry, and yes, we get things wrong. But it has made it’s mark.

I also see this blog as an extension of How Did We Lose In Adelaide (and Brian wasn’t to know that a new blog had taken its place) so excuse me if there is any confusion over which blog is which!

The conclusion to the article on the relationship between press and blogger is also worth a read, but I think that’s for another day. But it is an important discussion that I think I have a different view on.

My thanks to Lawrence Booth for allowing me to “fisk” the article. My thanks to Brian Carpenter for the review of this and other blogs, and my thanks to all who have supported, and all who hate what we say. It keeps the petrol flowing into the engine.

PS – Do you miss the song-titles?

The Colo(u)r Of Money

Many of you have already picked up on the wonderful exchange between Hughes and Newman, after the Bogfather had kindly showed them the way to the Dirty Dozen.

If you haven’t, here it is….

I hope that shows Hughes’s comment above (just checked and it does).

Many of you have taken this as a complete dismissal of the words of the people on this blog, which we shouldn’t be surprised about. It’s not as if the great unwashed have been given a say so far, so why change now. But it is something that we still see coming through their writing and other appearances, and is what is now going to be known as the TTT. This stands for Tyers Twitter Tendency.

Readers for a while know exactly what I am on about, as it derives from a tweet by Alan Tyers in February 2014:

This can be summed up best by the fantastic tweets from Simon Hughes, aka the analyst, in his responses to The Bogfather:

We’ve done this tweet already, on the post “Quietly”. He just jumped on a list containing JAMES BRAYSHAW and thought I was only going on about culprits. Want strange? Read one of his “editorials” in The Cricketer.

Classic TTT. “Ooooooh, I know who the real cuplrits are, and you don’t…. because I’m an insider and you aren’t……”

So when challenged to put up…

“Can’t tell you”. Why not, big man? You subject to a confidentiality clause as well? Worried anything that disturbs Downton will mean less of your puff piece interviews in The Cricketer? No. I call bullshit. If there were culprits, as he puts it, then shame them, with evidence, not hearsay and innuendo like he does with Pietersen. Don’t hide behind this change from within stuff.

How interesting though that Newman reacted to the list. Now, as you know, Paul Newman doesn’t like my stuff. He’s never said so in print, but he has said so by blocking me on Twitter. Wonder how I can still link your stuff, sir? It’s not hard. I can understand being cheesed off being told you are a shill for the ECB decision makers (until one came along) and the most anti-KP presence on the new circuit, but blocking me for questioning why this is so? Do leave off.

He got one thing right on those tweets. I’m not important as one person. But as a blog with quite a decent hit rate, along with the Full Toss, we have a small voice that is growing, and has caught some attention. One press guy described the blog to me as the best one holding the press and decision makers to account. That was nice. But I’m not here for the ego, I’m here because I enjoy it (most of the time). And what I enjoy most is fisking articles like this.

Frustration was clear in the voices of Peter Moores and Alastair Cook as they fended off repeated enquiries about Kevin Pietersen’s future more than a year after he had seemingly been banished from international cricket for good.

Getting worried, Paul? Getting worried that a person with a test hundred since your beloved captain made one might get back into the team? And hang about, weren’t you banging on about how rubbish Moores had been at the World Cup? Do you want to stay consistent on that? Oh, you’ll claim this a factual representation of what happened, but Moore especially, needs to feel the heat. Cook, well, I’ve given up with you lot ever challenging his lamentable record over the past two years in all formats. Seems he’s a protected species.

Well, there is only one person to blame — and that is Colin Graves. The incoming ECB chairman has been responsible for the mixed messages that leave the England team in as big a state of turmoil and internal rebellion as ever.

Well, I’d humbly suggest that Colin Graves wasn’t the architect of England’s brilliant World Cup campaign, and if we’d done well in that, the clamour, for what it is worth, would have been a great deal less. After all, your constant line is that the only way to shut people up is for England to keep winning. So there isn’t only one person to blame for doing, as Tickers says:

Graves has forged an excellent reputation in English cricket as chairman of Yorkshire for the way he bankrolled and transformed the club, but his initial forays into the international game have been little short of an embarrassment.

I’m not embarrased? Anyone else think he is embarrassing? Are you embarrassed not because of this, but because he may be attacking your casus belli, Mr Newman (the persecution and exclusion of Pietersen)? Really? OK, some of his and Tom whatisnames ideas are a bit off beam, but as you will say later on, you agree with one of the most controversial. All of his forays into the international game are an embarrassment, but one that could potentially bankrupt the counties isn’t? Way to pick and choose, sir.

He has become the loose cannon of English cricket — and he has yet to take up office.

He’s yet to take up office. Of course, he’s the deputy to Clarke at the moment, so he is in office, which is why us refuseniks are greeting all this with scepticism and a great deal of care. You’re worried because if KP makes a comeback, your fox (and all those that made the decision) has been shot. So while you call this man the loose cannon of English cricket, you save your powder on Paul “outside cricket” Downton and Giles “right kind of family” Clarke. We know you can’t include James “Gary Ballance” Whitaker because he’s tight as a drum when it comes to talking. He’s about as much a loose cannon as a speak your weight machine.

It all started on March 1 when he gave an interview to Garry Richardson of the BBC, who is known for his persistence and admirable success in coaxing ear-catching sound bites from interviewees.

Dacre won’t like you praising someone at the BBC. Also, note. Garry Richardson got someone to say something interesting. A lesson for you lot, maybe? See also, BBC employee Pat Murphy.

So when Graves said that Pietersen — exiled for valid reasons after the last Ashes debacle before producing a nasty autobiography that only supported the ECB’s decision — had to be playing county cricket to earn an England recall, it was put down to Yorkshire straight-talking.

A nasty autobiography. Your paper has the rights to the definition of nasty. I don’t think the book did Pietersen any favours, but on the first part, we are all still waiting on these “valid reasons” that you cling to like a piece of driftwood. It’s a clash of personalities with Andy Flower mainly, and we can’t be having someone who might make test hundreds playing because he cheesed off one of the officer class. What a load of cack. Keep rolling on with this nonsense.

Yet subsequently, most importantly in a phone conversation with Pietersen, Graves has done little to play down the 34-year-old’s chances — even if privately the chairman is said to be perplexed at the media’s ‘spin’ on his apparent opening of the England door.

The “picking the team on merit” ethos, which we want, which any country seems to want, goes out the window if it means picking someone who won’t keep his gob shut and might make 8181 runs at an average in the high 40s, who may have a couple of years left and may, just may, be BETTER than those currently playing, including a captain who can’t buy a century at the moment. But hey, you keep on keeping on. Graves may, or may not, be playing a game. We don’t know, and evidently, nor do you.

If Graves, who has apparently assured senior figures that he does not want Pietersen back, really had no intention of encouraging the maverick, then he has made a right old mess of it.

These the same senior figures who told you Surrey hated his guts and never wanted him to darken their door again. Called that one right, sunshine. Remind me, who is piling on the guesswork here, John? Me or you lot?

For he has created a soap opera that will run and run now Pietersen has rejoined Surrey and put huge pressure on a fledgling England middle order who made significant Test progress last summer.

How dare Pietersen still want to play at the highest level. How dare he be cheesed off he’s escluded. How dare the poor little darlings in the test team now have an excuse to fail. How dare there be pressure on them to perform.

Not to mention completely undermining managing director Paul Downton and national selector James Whitaker, who have repeatedly clarified England’s stance on the batsman over the last 14 months.

If I’m nailing my credibility to these two, I’m bang in trouble. Downton is a joke. Everyone on here, most on Twitter and all those who see him in action, including the vast majority, I reckon, of your press corps colleagues think he’s totally and utterly out of his depth. Also Whitaker doesn’t do press conferences, and has spoken around three times that I can recall in public (that is three occasions he has spoken to multiple outlets). You let out one of your off the record sources there, sir?

And if Graves disagreed with the original decision to axe Pietersen, then he had a duty as deputy chairman of the ECB to say so then, not wait until he had taken over from Giles Clarke.

He might have. I don’t know. But note, earlier he doesn’t take office so he shouldn’t be saying anything. But now because he has an office, he should. This is belting stuff.

That is not all. Since his Pietersen outburst, Graves has said that there will be an inquiry if England do not beat a ‘mediocre’ West Indies in the upcoming three-Test series.

Well. most of us were calling for this after the Ashes last year. And also, although I love West Indies cricket, even their own people think this is a mediocre team. Come on. So do you. So stop pretending like he’s offended the lorded classes with this comment. If they lose this series, heads should roll.

This prompted the respected Barbadian commentator Tony Cozier to liken the comments to Tony Greig’s infamous intention in 1976 to make the West Indies ‘grovel’.

Because “mediocre” has all the racial connotations of a white South African telling a black team that he intended to make them grovel. I mean, seriously. This is nonsense from Cozier and it is nonsense from Newman to repeat it. Put it more alongside the “worst Australian team ever to tour here” comments of 1989, or “can’t bat, can’t bowl, can’t field” from one of our own at Ashes 1986-7.

Then Graves came out with the ridiculous notion of reducing Test matches to four days. This would be achieved by introducing the unrealistic target of playing 105 overs a day — a move that would destroy the primacy of the ultimate game.

I don’t agree with it, but it’s not ridiculous, and it’s not speaking the unspeakable. The guff that came with it about corporates and families was nonsense, and the thought that we might get 105 overs in a day is unrealistic in a world where TV demands a five minute break every hour, and there’s no real disincentive not to slow the game down. But there’s something to work around.

If Graves wants to make himself useful, then he should concentrate on his supposed main aim of introducing a 10-team English Premier League franchise Twenty20 competition. Everybody bar a few myopic counties wants that.

This isn’t ridiculous because Paul agrees with it. Tremendous. Nice to see “a few myopic counties” there as well to reinforce his view that he’s in step and everyone who disagrees is myopic or ridiculous.

He could also do something about a crippling fixture list that will see England play 17 Tests in the next 10 months — a key factor in why they have fallen so far behind in the 50-over game and just endured the worst World Cup in their history.

Some of us mentioned this around two years ago. Nice to see you join us here. However, hard to see how a future fixture list meant we cocked up the World Cup. We had a very light winter of cricket, playing just 12 days of cricket between October and January. And we were crap. Care to explain how fixture congestion caused this? Should we not play in our summer? Also, not sure it is in Graves’ gift to cancel our tours, given he’s not in office yet, Paul.

There is much for the ECB’s new regime — which includes new chief executive Tom Harrison and communications director Chris Haynes — to do, but all the new chairman has done so far is make things worse.

We share your scepticism on this front. I don’t trust Graves as he has been part of the furniture, and if England falter and KP is scoring runs, the cry will be for him to come in, and if we are told there is no place for him, the alienation will be complete. Betrayal of the worst kind is raising hopes to dash them. You seem to want to finish KP’s career and take glee in it. If Cook can’t lump it, then he’s the one with the issue and needs to get over himself, but you are never going to write that. Unless there’s blatant insubordination which we’ve not been told about. But also, I have a healthy mistrust of all authority and I don’t like people telling me someone is great before they’ve proved it. Indeed if they have to rely on that testimony, then they probably aren’t.

I am worried Tom Harrison hasn’t shown his face. He’s becoming a bit Downton-esque on this front as again, we are being told how great he was before he spoke and disproved that notion. The new press officer can hardly do worse than Colin Gibson and his entourage.

Colin Graves should think very carefully in future before he speaks.

Or Paul will block you on Twitter.

Quietly

I don’t know. I don’t know. I just don’t know why I bother some times. Last night’s post. Twitter can really peeve me.

Look. Let’s be clear about this. I thought I needed to do something a bit different to get us out of the malaise of constantly going on about the World Cup and also the KP / Graves stuff. I was also hoping that post might catch some attention because although I’m not, really not, driven by hits, reaching 50000 in one month would have been nice. As it was, I failed by around 250, but I gave it a go, and thought the Dirty Dozen was a different thing from my always popular Journalist countdown, which I’ll do soon enough, and other criticial pieces or awards, like the Dmitris. I thought it might get me over the hump, is slightly different to those usual pieces and would get people commenting. I have sort of drawn the conclusion that this blog gets hits when someone says or does something stupid, rather than being based on what I write.

The Bogfather has gone to some of our old friends and tweeted it to them, and in reply the analyst called it a “strange list”, saying the real culprits lie underneath. Good grief.

This was not a culprits list of English cricket, you absolute muppet. It was a list of people who cheesed me off. JAMES BRAYSHAW is on it for crying out loud, and he has the square root of fuck all to do with the England malaise. So my list is no more odd than calling Jim Holden’s piece “terrific”. It would be an odd list if it was solely to do with England.

If truth be told I have ongoing twitter convos with a number of journalists. I am mellowing, somewhat, towards some of them, but can’t help but think that they still believe we are a bunch of swivel-eyed nutters who rant for pleasure. I want to be able to watch a cricket team play really good, winning cricket, preferably without acting like school bullies, and do it with a bit of joy and a bit of verve. I’m sure you are nearly all the same as me. I despise the petty politics, the schoolmaster class warfare bollox masquerading as the ECB in the last year, aided and abetted by the print media. They sided with these muppets, and they have to decide why. Some still hide behind their personal animosity towards Pietersen to prevent them actually saying “you know what, they’ve got a point about Downton, you know.”

Newman did not annoy me in the last quarter, for instance, as much as those in the list. I have to say that in some regards coming across some of the old Wisden Cricket Monthly magazines, when he took over from Doug Ibbotson on the SE county cricket watch made me sad for what he’s become. They are really pretty good. The anti-KP thing is getting really tiresome now, and it has to stop. If he’s good enough, he should play. End of. Let’s not mess about with semantics.

I have said a billion and one times that I’m not after anything from writing other than expressing an opinion on a sport I love, one of the few left. On Sunday the MLB season starts, another sport I love, and if the Boston Red Sox show signs of life this season, my attention could quickly be drawn from cricket. That their 2014 season was a train wreck only fuelled my cricket ire. I have no test tickets this year, for the third summer in a row. I have no plans to go to any specific games this season, although I’m sure to go to one or two. Money’s tight, priorities change. I love blogging, but as you can tell, work is tougher for me now, the responsibility, if not the pay, has increased, I’m knackered when I get home, and churning out the stuff is still enjoyable, but god, when people like Hughes can’t even analyse this, then I’m in trouble.

Some of you who read this may feel that my ever changing moods, and my unpredictability when it comes to my actions is a bit me, me, me. That’s who I am. I think Zepherine may have summed it up best about my “anxieties”. It fits me well. Things make me anxious. I still get a little nervous when those I criticise read this stuff. If it didn’t, I should give up. But in my view they deserve it. I want England to do well, not fail. I hope that’s clear.

Anyway, I don’t want four day tests, I thing Graves is coming across as a bit of a tit at the moment, has anyone seen Tom Harrison yet, and has Downton been locked under the stairs again? Think I’ll stick with Soap and Shower Gel.

And no, I’ve not been drinking so that’s no excuse.

Have a good night while I chunter to myself and start pacing up and down.

(An odd list)

Obvious

Quote….of….the….debacle. Jim Holden, Sunday Express…

It is obvious to me, and it should be obvious to anyone with the game’s best interests at heart, that this admirable cricketer must be at the centre of the renewal and regeneration that is now urgently required.

This admirable cricketer is one that has not scored a test ton in nearly two years, has been woefully out of form for as long as anyone can remember, is not a captain of any tactical nous that we’ve noticed, has presided over a whitewash to our most impacable foe, and lost a series at home to Sri Lanka. He’s shown himself to be tactically inept, not contributing runs, whiny in his dealings with the press, and resistant to those characters who may actually question this.

Your definition of obvious is different to mine. You do not have the monopoly on the “best interests of the game”. On the contrary, continuing with a bunch of losers will only turn more people off.

I used to rate Jim Holden. I really did. This is nonsense. Arrant nonsense. D’Arthrez did a more formal fisk, and I encourage people to read it.

History has proved beyond any doubt that Pietersen, for all his batting talent, is not a character that a suffering team can rally around. Alastair Cook is.

You really have to laugh. Losers rally around a loser, a nice loser. It’s that “good environment” that threw the World Cup hopes away, not ditching Alastair Cook.

Ho Ho Ho…. Here’s “The Analyst” who obviously doesn’t use his advertised skill when it comes to our captain…

D’arthez Fisk…

“THE most significant words of another week of trauma and torment for English cricket came not from the motor-mouth of Kevin Pietersen but the normally reserved tongue of Test captain Alastair Cook.”

Funny, I don’t remember Kevin Pietersen calling anyone a C**t on live air. That is the kind of speech I associate with motormouths. As for “normally reserved”, he has taken that to new extremes. We have been waiting for his side of the story for nearly a year now. And the confidentiality agreement expired in October 2014.

“They revealed the depth of his fury and discontent about being sacked as one-day skipper on the eve of the World Cup – and by association with the chaotic shenanigans that currently surround the England team.”

So, is Jim Holden implying that all is not well within the ECB? Funny that, people like Dmitri, Aaron and many others have been saying that for years. Cook seems a bit slow to catch up – but presumably only because the shenanigans finally affect him. He is still quite happy to be mute about the sacking of Kevin Pietersen. And he has not had much to say about the half dozen batsmen who outperformed him, and were dropped for that heinous offence.

““I think you saw the dangers of making such a big decision so close to a tournament,” said Cook of his ruthless dismissal as ODI captain.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. However, if you had the testicles, and the best interest of England cricket at heart you would have walked away from the ODI side months before, probably after that “galvanising” interview you gave after the Aussies beat England yet again in an ODI.

(LCL comment – Ruthless? Jesus. Wait until the last minute and that’s ruthless. Should have happened months before that. Everyone knows that. This sort of thing…. just despair of these people.)

“It looked like the lads were shell-shocked from the first two games. That’s when you need real leadership to steer you through. I would have loved the opportunity that was taken from me.”

Yeah, we saw that leadership in the Ashes. Were apparently you galvanised Pietersen in looking disinterested. And he was promptly sacked for not responding to your excellent leadership skills. The only one who did not act shellshocked on that tour was Stokes.

““The selectors thought it was best for English cricket, but hindsight has probably proved them wrong.”

Hindsight has not proved them wrong. Who knows what depths England would have plumbed if you had been there. Bell certainly batted better than you would have done.

(LCL comment – this is great. This is taking the getting better while not playing ethos to an absurd level. We were ranks for over a year with him as our ODI leader. Hindsight now means he was better than that? Good grief.)

““The Test team was in a good place (before this). There was a feel-good factor last August. Now a hell of a lot of confidence has gone, and we have a repair job to do.”

You mean, the players forcibly bought into the nonsense that you had defeated the greatest touring side since the West Indies of the 1980s? That is confidence inspiring.

“Cook is a sportsman who always chooses his comments carefully. From him, this is pure dynamite.”

Like when he said that Prior could play as long as he saw fit? Like when he said that Buttler was not ready for Test cricket? Like his glorious defence of Anderson in Jadejagate? Like when he hurled some expletives to Mathews after the Mankading incident? Like when he promised to give his side of the story on the sacking of Pietersen?

This is not dynamite. This is simply a foot soldier, who angry, that he has been denied his request for foie gras, decides to pout a bit about his superiors.

“They came in a week in which the chairman elect of the ECB, Colin Graves, was thoroughly undermining national selector James Whitaker and England managing director Paul Downton by having direct telephone talks with the outcast Pietersen.”

Pray tell, how is it undermining Downton? After all, he is not the one who makes selection calls. Mission creep anyone? As for Whitaker, who presumably, between muttering Gary Ballance’s name every 4 seconds, professes that selection should be based on merit, I have not heard one meritocratic argument against considering Pietersen for selection, from Whitaker.

“What does Graves think he is doing? He has not yet started his new role, and he has no business talking to any player right now, never mind one in the wilderness from the England team for more than a year and who has caused such discord with vicious attacks in autobiography.”

And did not apply to Downton last year? Or is this simply a case of: “any decision I agree with must be taken, no matter how improper it is, but any decision I disagree with is improper per definition.”

(LCL – spot on D. Downton did all his undermining before he started the role and plenty of that leaked, sorry was the source of good journalism, before February. Unbelievable double standards.)

“Almost in tandem came credible reports that the outgoing current chairman Giles Clarke would refuse to sanction the dismissal of head coach Peter Moores, Whitaker or Downton.”

He only gets to make those calls until May this year. Then Giles can charm the ICC in Dubai.

“What an unholy mess.”

Unholy mess? Who could have predicted that? Who? Why, people on places like TheFullToss, and the predecessor of this blog did. How? They actually looked at how (in)competently the ECB dealt with the fall-out of the Ashes, how the press was refusing to take the ECB to account on a plethora of issues. People like us practiced more journalism than you seem to be capable of Jim.

It seems that a civil war is raging out of control in our national summer game – with an Ashes summer a few months away and the England side shortly to fly off for a Test series against the West Indies.

“In nearly 30 years of reporting on the state of English cricket I cannot recall a more troubling time.”

Probably because the troubled times in the past, led to action. As dismal as the 1990s were, the press was not supine, and the ECB at least gave the pretense of TRYING to fix what was wrong with English cricket. The ECB’s current stand is to blame those “outside of cricket”, to tell the “stakeholders” to pay up AND shut up.

“Strategic decisions appear to be made on a whim. Nobody has the wit or the authority to take the tough action that is required.”

And you were complaining that Graves was overstepping his mandate by merely hinting that all was not well. You were implying that Moores and Whitaker were doing splendidly well? You said Giles Clarke had the authority to sack Moores and Downton, the two biggest disasters off the playing field in 2014. Yet, you state he has no interest in doing so.

“There can be no wonder that Cook felt he had to speak out forcibly. He is a sane voice amid the bedlam.”

Sane voice? I have given a few examples above, why that is a questionable assessment at best.

“It is obvious to me, and it should be obvious to anyone with the game’s best interests at heart, that this admirable cricketer must be at the centre of the renewal and regeneration that is now urgently required.”

Admirable? How many players has he thrown under the bus to protect his 300k / year bonus for being the captain? How does it benefit English cricket to play a guy with a three-inch tear in his achilles? As a wicketkeeper to boot! How does it benefit English cricket when Matty Prior has to give the team talks, because “that admirable cricketer” can’t rally the troops? As for renewal and regeneration, how did that pan out in 2014? Embarrassing loss upon embarrassing loss.

“Cook is 30. He has the robust support of all the players barring a couple of inevitable malcontents and the self-serving giant ego that is Pietersen.”

The malcontents? Who would that be? The half-dozen players who were dropped for outbatting Cook? The players who could not get into the ODI side, because the square-jawed deer in the headlights had to waste a slot? The people who don’t dare to speak out, as they are aware of what happened when someone did. We’re still waiting for an explanation that sounds a bit more coherent than “He was like … uh … difficult”.

“Throw him to the wolves and English cricket will plunge even further into crisis, as the pitiful World Cup display illustrated with crystal clarity.”

Funny, the ECB just did that by keeping him on in the ODI side for far too long. Make up your mind Jim.

“As for Pietersen, what are his motives in all the politicking and talking he does? His book painted a picture of a man deeply disenchanted with playing for England, a cricketer bereft of joy.”

Pietersen does not suffer from Stockholm syndrome. What is next? Will you insist that victims of war crimes, or grave criminal offences, will be talking all lovey-dovey in their memoirs on the horrible events?

“Now he seems to think he can return and all will be sweet and rosy and smiles and laughter in the dressing room.

This is nonsense that belongs to Alice in Wonderland.”

Just as Cook actually leading his side well. Pity that the people in la-la-la land dominate in the press and in the ECB.

“The other day Pietersen said: “I’ll do anything to play for England.” Well, let’s take him at his word and cast a few suggestions his way.

If he’ll do anything, will he apologise sincerely in public and private for the savage and unwarranted personal attacks he made on Matt Prior and former head coach Andy Flower in his book?’”

Funny that NO such demands were made of in no particular order, Swann, Anderson, Broad, Strauss (on live television), by the press. In fact the press celebrated misogynistic abuse hurled by Strauss at him.

(LCL comment – maybe after Andy Flower and the ECB say sorry for leaking for the best part of five years prior to that dismissal)

Strauss said no less than: “”I’ve always got on very well with Kevin. I’ve tried to be honest with him, and he’s been honest with me.”

Which suggests that everybody called each other c***s and c***s in the dressing room, or that gasp players other than Kevin Pietersen are lying about matters. Take your pick.

“Will he eat humble pie and admit it was outrageous that he agitated to have team-mate James Taylor removed from the England side?”

It has been denied by Taylor himself. Taylor had all of two Tests and two ODIs before Pietersen was sacked.

(LCL presumably no-one else agreed with that assessment given he wasn’t picked for two years after that)

“Will he denounce in the strongest possible terms the despicable comments made by his great friend Piers Morgan 12 months ago describing Cook as a “repulsive little weasel”?”

Will you denounce Strauss? For offending merely 25 million people. Will you denounce Selvey, who called that utterance a highlight of the cricketing year? Or do you think it is splendid PR, if you promote the sport as a highly sexist, misogynistic and stone age affair?

(LCL – Why the hell should he?)

“Will he refuse the offer of special treatment and a personal meeting with Graves and just throw himself into the mix like any other player in county cricket?”

That is the question. As for special treatment: is it that strange to want some reassurances that selection will be based on MERIT, rather than “face-fittingness”? That is not a strange question since a bowler with a FC average of close to 50 in the past 2 seasons has been picked to tour the West Indies.

“Will he admit that his enthusiastic desire to play against England a couple of months ago for an Australian Prime Minister’s XI was nothing but a cheap publicity stunt deliberately aimed at embarrassing English cricket?”

He was in Australia. He was in good form, and there were injuries for the PM’s XI to deal with, as well as ongoing series with India and the Big Bash league. I suppose they could have asked Cook, but then they might have been just as well batting with 10 men.

“I can’t imagine Kevin Pietersen will want to do any of this.”

I can’t either, as long as you’re happily celebrating double standards.

“And it’s just as well, because a return for him could only prolong and intensify the current agony.”

Yeah, losing by playing crap cricket is to be preferred to losing by playing exciting cricket.

“History has proved beyond any doubt that Pietersen, for all his batting talent, is not a character that a suffering team can rally around. Alastair Cook is.”

Remind me how successful 2014 was? How excellently he batted? Remind me who was the batsmen that offered to help (and did) help the bowlers with their batting techniques? Who was it who had the brilliant idea to work on fitness rather than batting practice after yet another humilating Ashes loss?