Dissecting The ECB’s The Hundred Talking Points

“By the way I’m not a lackey for the ECB, I’m not a spokesman for them at all. We try and hold them to account.” – Simon Hughes

That’s a direct quote from the most recent edition of Hughes’ amusingly-titled “Inside Cricket” podcast. In his defence, I genuinely don’t believe he is a lackey or spokesman for the the ECB. Rather, I think he shares the same world view as many senior ECB people and so will naturally come to the same conclusions. I always find it amusing when people cite complex conspiracies such as a secret cabal running English cricket, when simpler explanations are available.

It was the first (and likely last) episode of this podcast I have ever listened to, enticed by Simon Hughes’ promise that he would “try and make time” to answer as many questions as possible about The Hundred. It may not surprise you to learn that I have a lot of questions about The Hundred. 103 in fact, which I emailed to him. Most were short questions about specifics regarding the competition, since so few details are currently in the public arena and I strongly suspect that most of them haven’t even been decided yet by the ECB.

What I hoped for was a few morsels of information about The Hundred that hadn’t already been leaked, and the only thing which would fit that description was the announcement that the team names and logos wouldn’t be announced until the end of this season, after the Ashes had concluded and just a month before the draft.

Instead, the 48-minute podcast spent most of its time relaying, often in great detail, what I can only assume are the ECB’s talking points regarding The Hundred: Why they would argue it is needed, and what they hope it will achieve. With Simon Hughes, Simon Mann and Dean Wilson offering few counter-arguments to this massively pro-The Hundred message, I thought I’d take the time to rebut them instead.

Why Have Hundred-Ball Innings?

Simon Hughes: “Well one interesting point is when the T20 was orginated in 2003, the iPad hadn’t been invented. Six years later before the iPad was invented in 2009 and, in a way, that was a key innovation because the iPad, and obviously the smartphone from on the back of iPad really, has enabled teenagers (even us, actually) to watch videos and films and anything else on your tablets or on your smartphones and that basically has effected a lower concentration span. So the concept of T20 which is sort of three hours’ entertainment has become too long for the teenage market, who are now obsessed by […] Fortnite which is the game that is just taking over the world, the teenage world anyway, and you can play a Fortnite game in half an hour/forty five minutes. So their concentration span, I’m sad to say, my teenagers’ concentration is about that of a gnat. We don’t want to just pander to teenagers.”

“So that was why they’ve gone for a shorter format. It’s just that people’s time, people’s concentration, is less than it was. And the perfect time for a bit of evening entertainment, you look at movies, you look at football, even going out for dinner I suppose, it’s two hours isn’t it? An hour and a half, two hours. And three hours is just getting a bit too long.”

To begin with, I should put this quote into context. Simon Hughes was answering a question from a 16 year-old fan of Test cricket about why the ECB didn’t go with T20 instead of the new format. Hughes then spends a couple of minutes explaining that ‘kids nowadays can’t concentrate for longer than an hour or two’, to paraphrase his answer. To a 16 year-old Test cricket fan. I don’t think much self-awareness was being shown there.

He overlooks the fact that many kids seem quite happy to play more than one round of games like Fortnite back-to-back, or binge-watch several episodes from Netflix. The issue then wouldn’t be a short concentration span, but whether they’re allowed to do so by their parents.

I also suspect that Simon Hughes is simply echoing similar complaints from past generations. For at least the past hundred years, and probably more, many parents have derided their children’s contemporaries for being less intelligent, less strong, less respectful than they were as children. Whilst now it’s tablets and smartphones, it used to be television, or rock music, or jazz music, or whatever was in fashion at the time.

But even if we granted the premise that attention spans are shorter now, and that cricket must adapt to survive, that still doesn’t explain why the ECB specifically chose The Hundred as a format. By eliminating one-sixth of the deliveries from a T20, it cuts the length of a game from roughly three hours to two-and-a-half hours. Surely, if we want kids who can only concentrate for forty-five minutes at a time to follow it, that’s still far too long? T10, with innings lasting approximately forty-five minutes each, would be a far better approach.

Simon Hughes: “They’ve done a lot of research on it, and I know people that are “Research. Well why can’t we have the public account of the research?” I think we’re going to get that, actually, very shortly. But the precis to the research, and they’ve done it with the ICC, with the ECB’s various agencies, they’ve even looked at UN data as well. They’ve tried to be quite exhaustive, and I believe them.”

“Why won’t they publish their research? Well they are, apparently. They’re going to be publishing it shortly so we can all examine it. We have to believe them, that they’ve done a good job.”

Well for a start, we don’t have to believe the ECB. To choose the most pertinent example, the ECB appeared to sell the new competition to the counties, broadcasters, the MCC and fans as a T20 league. They even set up a “T20 Board” to develop the new competition. I’m sure you can probably think of other cases where the ECB has apparently been guilty of purposeful deception.

It seems safe to assume that the much-vaunted research from the ECB played a part in creating The Hundred. The major issue I have with the ECB’s approach to publishing their analysis is that, after more than a year of being cited and hyped by proponents of the new competition, I can’t see it being anything other than a let-down. There are very few things which  have met people’s expectations after a year of anticipation. No matter how articulate, no matter how scientific, no matter how complete, I don’t see how anything the ECB releases now could match up to the image of the research they have built up: As an unassailable triumph of logic which demonstrably showed that The Hundred was the only reasonable course of action.

Simon Hughes: “They [the ECB] really are trying to listen to people, but also proceed with their own vision. I think it’s important to show leadership, and they are showing a bit more leadership now so that will hopefully ultimately give people more confidence.”

Or, to paraphrase, “Let people talk but do whatever you wanted to do anyway.” I fear, if the ECB does ever release the information about its research and consultations, this is more or less what has happened. Not that it matters particularly, since it seems very difficult to find any members of the public (and certainly current cricket fans) who the ECB has consulted about The Hundred.

The Hundred Brings Money Into The Game

Simon Hughes: “[The ECB received a £225m deal] principly because they came up with a new tournament. They would not have been able to raise that amount of money and also got the exposure from the BBC, the buy-in from the BBC, if they hadn’t created a new tournament.”

This is just wrong. The argument is clear enough: The TV deal reached in 2018 had one significant difference from the previous deal, the inclusion of The Hundred. The new agreement almost tripled the value of the last one, and therefore The Hundred must be responsible for this increase. But surely no one can genuinely believe this? The main difference between eight years ago and now is that Sky have a competitor who was prepared to bid significant amounts of money for the rights to show sport.

In the previous negotiations, Sky’s only concern regarding their financial offer was to determine the lowest price that the ECB would accept. It bears saying that the TV deal reached from 2006 onwards wasn’t a massive increase on the previous deal when Channel 4 was airing 6 Tests per year. People talk about it like the ECB doubled their TV revenue in exchange for taking cricket off the airwaves, but that was very much not the case. In truth, I strongly suspect the Sky has had the exclusive TV rights to English cricket for far less than they should have been worth.

On this occasion however, Sky weren’t just bidding against the ECB’s low self-valuation but also BT Sport. BT have deep pockets, having paid a reported £80m for the rights to Australian cricket over five years. With most of that happening after midnight UK time, I would assume they would be willing to pay quite a bit for the rights to English cricket.

To use an analogy, imagine you’re selling a house without a shed. One person places a bid which is significantly below your asking price but you need to sell and so, in the absence of any other offers, you accept it. A few years later you sell your new house, which does have a shed. Two people bid on it, with the competition between the two pushing their bids above your asking price. You didn’t sell your new house for more because of the shed, but because there happened to be two people interested in it.

Simon Hughes: “The football broadcast rights have slightly declined over the last three/four years, just slightly, whereas cricket has started to climb and you want that sort of ascendancy to continue.”

Again, I would take a different lesson from these facts: That the ECB missed the point at which they could have made the most money from a Sky/BT bidding war by allowing Sky to possess the rights for a span of seven years (with a five year initial deal plus a built-in two-year extension). Had the ECB been able to negotiate an agreement two or three years earlier they could well have been offered even more.

Simon Hughes: “What the ECB say is that even more money is now going to be spent on promoting the County Championship and the Royal London, and obviously the Vitality Blast, because more money is coming into the game. So hopefully those tournaments are going to benefit as much as The Hundred”

Simon Mann: “[Tom Harrison] said it’s [The Hundred] already been a success. A lot of people thought that’s a really strange thing to say, it hasn’t even started yet.  But of course what he meant was because they have brought in all that revenue.”

The problem with this argument is that, I believe, Sky did not bid separately for each bundle of TV rights they bought. If they had, then we could easily see that they paid (for example) £40m to show The Hundred and judge the profitability of the competition from that. Likewise, the BBC’s £13m annual payment also includes the rights to have highlights shows for English international cricket and three T20Is live. Separating the true revenue of The Hundred from these overall figures is therefore open to interpretation, with supporters of The Hundred saying it’s bringing in more money whilst opponents will argue that it’s bringing in less.

We do know how much the ECB thinks The Hundred will cost over the first five years: £180m. That is a lot of money, however you look at it. If those figures were accurate, I’d expect the ECB would make a slight profit, or at least break even over the five-year period, assuming the value of The Hundred’s TV rights are worth somewhere around £40m per year overall.

However, the annual cost has almost tripled from the £13m figure which was projected just a couple of years ago. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to suspect that the eventual costs might be much higher than the ECB anticipated. It’s clear from the fact that there is over £12m budgeted for ‘event production’ and ‘on-field-marketing’ (ie cheerleaders, fireworks, mascots, posters, etc) in the first year alone that the ECB are willing to pay almost any price to ensure that The Hundred is a success. Including not making a profit.

Who Will Attend The Hundred?

Simon Hughes: “It’s aimed at everybody. Everybody who wants to watch cricket, whether it’s a new audience or an old audience. They just want to put on a fantastic show with the best players in the world.”

“They want everybody to watch cricket. They want as many people as possible to come to the game, to see what a great game cricket actually is.”

So this is clearly a better answer than Andrew Strauss’ “mums and kids” mantra from The Hundred’s initial press junket. It has the benefit of not excluding current cricket fans who are neither mums nor kids, for example. But it is also somewhat glib, if there are not actions from the ECB to accomplish this rather bold target.

You might ask yourself why mothers, children and other people prefer not to attend the T20 Blast and other cricket currently. Well the ECB appear to have narrowed it down to three reasons:

Simon Hughes: “Firstly, the complexity of the game. People do not grow up with cricket now, so they don’t understand it. Secondly, the time. Every game now is taking three hours and even more. And then thirdly, most importantly, a lot of people feeling the Blast is not a game for them because it’s largely middle class and largely white, and particularly a kind of beer-fest. […] It has become a piss-up, actually.”

That would lead you to an obvious conclusion: A good way to bring in a new audience who have felt excluded from cricket grounds would be to eliminate beer sales. Well, apparently the ECB disagrees:

Dean Wilson: “I’ve actually asked the ECB ‘Will you have alcohol-free games? Is that part of the idea?’ and no it’s not.”

Another factor which will discourage people with children will be the late starts. It seems safe to assume that no one involved at the ECB, the BBC or Sky would want any games to occur whilst most adults are at work. Likewise, they won’t want any The Hundred games to clash with the three Test matches being played in August. Given that the Tests will cover three of the six weekends during The Hundred, that leaves just three weekends (six days) in which the ECB could schedule cricket before 6pm without angering one of their media partners.

Simon Hughes: “I mean just look at the spread of the women’s game, for instance. As a result of the Women’s World Cup final and victory in Lord’s a couple of years ago, suddenly there’s so many more girls playing the game. They probably won’t go to many cricket matches, but The Hundred tournament could attract them. So I think there is this massive latent interest in the game that they want to tap into.”

“Actually, the IPL audience is now 40% women. And actually, at games it’s nearly 50%. If you go back ten, twelve years […], how many women would you see at a one-day international in India? Probably twelve? It was 95% male. So, without wanting to sound as if The Hundred is just appealing to women, that is clearly a core market.”

First, let’s just ignore Simon’s poor maths skills. One thing I constantly think is that we should never look to India and the IPL when trying to determine how to run English Cricket. India has a population somewhere around twenty times larger than England and cricket is by a large margin the most popular sport in the country. It is highly unlikely that you can take an example from the IPL and apply it to English cricket. The situations are so dissimilar that it will always fall apart.

It turns out that many women, like virtually everyone else who isn’t a drunk man, don’t like spending time in the company of a few thousand drunk men. And if most games in The Hundred are going to be held in the evening, and the host grounds are going to be doing everything they can to encourage beer sales which increase their profits, then there are going to be a lot of drunk men in the crowd.

Dean Wilson: “There are a lot of people in these cities. There are a lot of people living there, a lot of people working there and a lot of people visiting them. And actually it’s all those people the ECB are trying to encourage to come along of an evening to go and watch The Hundred. And so if there’s one or two, if there’s a group of people who find it a little difficult to get into those cities to make it worthwhile, and they might not come along, then so be it. But actually it’s the people who are drawn to those urban areas that they want to encourage to come along to these games.”

Evening games would also discourage people from outside the host cities from attending. They would particularly struggle to use coaches or trains if games finished around 9pm. Not everyone has the editor of The Cricketer magazine offering to drive them to and from the grounds, after all.

So to sum up: The ECB wants everyone to attend The Hundred. Everyone who lives locally, likes a drink, and doesn’t mind staying up late.

Who Will Watch The Hundred On TV?

Dean Wilson: “We’ve talked a lot about research that they’ve [the ECB] done and I have spoken to various people involved with the planning of The Hundred over the last year or two, and the idea about an ‘unknown market’ is actually that there is a market there. There is a huge number of people that are in some way connected to the game, that have some kind of an interest. Even if it’s just going to a game once, or following certain accounts on Twitter and social media, or whatever it might be. But what the ECB are desperate to do is make those kind of slight bits of interest and turn them into proper engagement.”

Simon Hughes: “What they’ve [the ECB] based some of their research on, or some of their ambition on, are those figures from 2005 which was that eight to nine million people watched the climaxes of some of those 2005 Ashes Test matches on Channel 4, so clearly there is this perception of a national interest in cricket that is still there. That was fourteen years ago, but people don’t just suddenly lose interest completely. And actually the audiences on Channel Five highlights programmes and even Sky for the live programmes occasionally gets over a million. So there is this latent interest in cricket. When the story is a good story. When there’s a narrative. When there’s something you can follow. When there’s […] appointment-to-view. When you know it’s on.”

I think it’s an undeniable fact that there are a large number of disenfranchised cricket fans in England. Over eight million people were watching at the same moment when England won the Ashes in 2005. It was almost fourteen years ago, but most of them will still be around, still remember.

Which overlooks the slight flaw in the ECB’s logic: That this latent cricket audience were presumably fans of Test cricket rather than the shorter formats. I think that the Test highlights on five get more viewers than the ODIs and T20Is, and that more people listen to Test matches on the radio than England’s white ball games. Certainly some of them will watch The Hundred, at least when it is broadcast on the BBC, but by no means all.

Simon Hughes: “The key is getting the best players, and obviously marketing it well. But once you’ve got that, then you’ve got the chance to tap into a latent interest in the game.”

Simon Mann: “When the IPL is on, […] if the Kolkatta Knight Riders are playing, I’m always checking my phone to see when Andre Russell is going to be battting. If I find he’s coming out to the middle, I’ll go downstairs and switch the television on. It’s about creating that sort of interest, that sort of appointment-to-view cricket, that sort of buzz around a competition where you have these star players. You’re right about these star players. You’ve got to have them, the players you really want to see, that really get you going.”

Simon Hughes: “Box office players.”

“The best players”? “Box office players”? Let’s recap who won’t be appearing in The Hundred:

That’s a lot of the ‘best cricketers in the world’ who won’t be playing in The Hundred. Most of them, you might argue. In fairness, the first three groups could apply to virtually every other major T20 competition around the world except for the IPL. The last two could be a significant issue in terms of perception of The Hundred, however.

As far as I can tell, no major T20 competition clashes with another. This allows the best overseas players to travel the world as mercenaries, which in turn helps promote the leagues internationally as those players will probably have fans in many countries. Some of the best and most popular of these cricketers happen to be West Indian. Andre Russell is one name which quickly springs to mind.

By scheduling The Hundred against the West Indies’ T20 tournament, the ECB are robbing themselves of some explosive players and lessening the appeal of the new competition to cricket fans in England and around the world.

What About The Other Ten Counties?

Dean Wilson: “There will be cricket there [Somerset].  That’s the thing. That’s one thing I don’t think you can realistically complain about: A lack of cricket in the summer”

Simon Mann: “For Annie [a Somerset supporter], there will be fifty-over matches at Taunton but without the best players playing.”

Simon Hughes: “Some of the best players will play. Someone like Alastair Cook might be playing in fifty-over cricket. He wouldn’t get picked in The Hundred, but he might not play T20, but he would play fifty-over cricket. It’s not just going to be a tournament for university graduates and a few schoolkids and a few second XI players. There’s a lot of cricketers, this is one of the things Tom Harrison said all along, he worried about was, there were going to be eighty cricketers involved, eighty professional English cricketers involved in The Hundred, as in ten or eleven per team English-based, as well as all the overseas players. Which leaves around 250-300 professional cricketers not employed, so he was very keen to find something for them all to do, and there’s loads of decent cricketers out there who will be playing in this fifty-over competition. It’s not just going to be a tournament for the has-beens and never-wases. [wasses? Not sure how to spell that]”

This was the part of the podcast which gave me the incentive to sit down for several hours and transcribe several parts of it verbatim. The logic of these answers were so baffling to me, it gave me a headache. Within the space of a few minutes Simon Hughes suggested that “box office players” were a major reason why people would watch The Hundred, but also that county fans would be happy to watch without their team’s own best cricketers.

Try and work that one out…

What Will The Hundred Achieve?

One common thread from the ECB is that The Hundred will, defying all sense of rationality and reason, solve all of the problems in English cricket. Here is a selection of examples taken from the podcast:

Simon Hughes: “How many times have English cricketers been nominated for the BBC Sports Personality Of The Year. Very rarely. And it’s because cricket just doesn’t have the profile. So, for me, it’s getting cricket’s profile much better, getting column inches in the papers, getting cricketers on The One Show, getting them on the various peripheral programmes which taps into the general public, and the general public are more aware of the high level of skill of these players.”

To begin with, there’s nothing currently stopping the ECB from encouraging (or forcing) England players to go on The One Show, panel shows, chat shows, or any other popular TV shows. I would love it if English cricket went on a media offensive and plastered themselves across daytime and evening TV, and they can do it with or without The Hundred.

Andrew Flintoff was the last cricketer to win the BBC Sports Personality Of The Year Award in 2005. It’s not like it was particularly common before though, and the last one to win before that was Ian Botham in 1981. As for nominations, Jimmy Anderson was on the shortlist in last year’s show. The year before that, Anya Shrubsole was nominated for the Sports Personality award whilst the England Women’s Cricket Team won Team Of The Year. I’d agree with Simon that cricket isn’t in the public eye as much as I’d like, but the BBC awards show seems like a very bad way of proving it. Two nominations in two years is not what I would call “very rarely”.

Dean Wilson: “We touched on participation as well, and they’ve got various plans and projects in place to try and encourage the number of people playing the game to increase. Even more formats of the game, Last Man Stands, tape-ball cricket, things like that as well.”

“If you look at the Big Bash where cricket is the national sport of Australia, it is the one sport that has been played consistently in all territories as opposed to AFL or soccer or anything like that. But these other games have grown, AFL in particular, and have encroached on cricket’s area and what Big Bash has done for Cricket Australia, perhaps more successfully than any other tournament, is increase the participation numbers of young kids signing up to join clubs. It’s almost like a steroid boost to all the clubs, local clubs, the grass roots of Australian cricket. They’ve been overwhelmed by the number of kids inspired by and encouraged by the Big Bash to go and take up cricket on a more regular and formal basis. And actually, to my mind, if that is the kind of success, if that is the kind of impact that The Hundred could have and does have, then it will all be worth it.”

This might surprise you to read, but I absolutely believe that The Hundred will significantly improve junior participation in cricket. Any English cricket on a major Freeview channel would have that effect, regardless of the format. What I have my doubts about is the ECB’s ability and basic competence in maximising the positive effect of this exposure.

The example Dean Wilson cites here is apt, because Cricket Australia’s approach in getting Aussie kids to their local clubs seems light years ahead of their English counterparts. A well-designed, well-run system of many parts which all work together in unison. The ECB were so impressed they hired CA’s ‘manager of market development’ to implement a similar system here, but unfortunately either the budget or the ECB’s patience ran out and All Stars Cricket was all they had to show for it.

The ECB’s strategy document for the next five years, Inspiring Generations, does mention that they will be creating new participation programmes to tie in with The Hundred, but I see no reason to think they will be any better managed. Instead, as has been the case for decades, it will be up to the clubs to take care of the kids without significant help from their governing body.

Simon Hughes: “I know that the overall plan, if it’s a success, is to get some private investment involved. So people might buy teams, big financial companies or individuals, as we’ve seen in football, as of course we’ve seen in the IPL. And those investors can create their own noise and marketing and general promotion around their team. That just brings in more revenue, it gradually grows the game as we’ve seen has happened in the IPL.”

This seems incredibly optimistic to me. There are, as far as I can determine, two main reasons why someone buys a sports team. The first is for profit. Many rich people will invest in anything which will make them money, whether it’s works or art, bottles of wine or a cricket franchise. The issue I have with this scenario is that I can’t see the value for it from the ECB’s perspective. An investor will only purchase a franchise if they are likely to benefit financially, in which case they take that money out of the game to use elsewhere. Surely it would be better for the ECB to keep control of the teams and keep any profits the teams generate?

The second group  are those who are happy to lose vast amounts of money simply in order to own a team. These are usually mega-rich individuals who are happy to invest large sums in purchasing players in exchange for the adoration of fans or simply their own enjoyment. For this second group, I can’t see why they’d be interested in purchasing a The Hundred franchise. It will be a team that has existed for only a few years, so it’s not like they’d have been fans from childhood, and quite frankly the low public awareness of English cricketers (outside of assorted court cases) makes it unlikely that there are 8 super-wealthy individuals willing to pay millions of pounds to rub shoulders with them.

The podcast panelists also list the following things to expect after the first five years of The Hundred:

  • The Hundred is still being played in 2025
  • Other broadcasters will try to get the rights, including the BBC attempting to buy the rights for every game
  • Increasing attendances
  • The English public placing importance on The Hundred
  • More companies will be interested in sponsorship, including several “cool” brands
  • Increased youth participation
  • More families watching The Hundred
  • The Hundred becoming the key property in English sport
  • Other countries copying the format (which the ECB will license)
  • The Hundred becoming an Olympic Sport

Call me cynical, but I have some difficulty believing any of these will happen.

So there it is. A 5000-word post about an abysmal 48-minute podcast. If there’s one thing I’m almost certain of, it’s that I’m not listening to ‘The Analyst Inside Cricket Podcast’ ever again…

As always, I look forward to your comments below.

 

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Nostradamus And The Ghosts Of Cricket’s Past

With the Indians triumphant in Australia, South Africa dominating against Pakistan and New Zealand comfortably beating Sri Lanka in the end, it’s that time of year when cricket news is in short supply and the various media outlets (or those that are left) look for something (anything) to fill their pages with until the new English season begins.

Unless the ECB does something monumentally stupid again, which is by no means out of the question, the media looks to pad their pages with the ‘player rankings of the last series’ or the ‘10 best innings by our saviour Sir Alastair Cook’. We at BOC are not entirely immune to this, so we have come up with a few things that we’d like to see in the year ahead, that are unlikely to happen. This is meant as a humorous take and something not to be taken seriously, unless any of the below does happen, then of course we will claim credit through our fantastic cricket insight:

  1. In an effort to garner more favour with the London masses and to get with the times, Lords declares that every Saturday at the Test will be a ‘no toff’ day. Ticket prices are reduced for the day, the champagne tents are all shut and anyone wearing the egg and bacon colours, a blazer or red trousers is automatically refused admission. Though fancy dress remains banned (some things will never change), the Saturday at Lords is something all players begin to look forward to due to the more lively atmosphere and the lack of ‘Hooray Henrys’ sleeping off their long lunch in the member pavilion.
  2. During one of the T100 ball trials, Tom Harrison is hit square on the head from a Jos Buttler six and sadly suffers a permanent brain injury. After a long search through a top headhunter, the ECB finally secure their wish of finding someone with Harrison’s knowledge and foresight and hire Barney the Dinosaur. Though there is initial scepticism from the public about Barney’s credentials for the role, however he soon wins the public round by cancelling the T100 forthwith commenting ‘any stupid animal’ can see this a total dog of an idea.
  3. Adil Rashid has a stunning World Cup in England and finishes as the top wicket taker with 24 wickets at 11. To make things even more special for Rashid, he hits the winning runs in the final against India and reveals a T-shirt with the slogan ‘talk nah Mike’. Mike Selvey works himself into such a furore that he spontaneously explodes.
  4. There are suspicions of foul play in the Ashes, when a recently returned David Warner is seen wheeling in an industrial sander into Lords. This is further exacerbated by two individuals with a striking resemblance to the Marsh brothers dressed up as groundsmen taking a rake to the pitch. The Australian mens team is found guilty and sent home in disgrace and is replaced by the Australian Women’s cricket team. Thankfully the women’s team is far more competitive than their male counterparts finally losing a tight series 2-1.
  5. Colin Graves decides to branch out from cricket and try his hand as a current affairs commentator. Sadly this goes predictably awry when he calls the royal family ‘completely average’ in an interview and that they ‘should be slimmed down and modernised’ to reach out to a new audience, mainly the mothers and children in society. Graves is locked back in his cupboard for the rest of the year.
  6. In a surprise move, both the BBC and Sky Cricket agree on a ‘no dickhead’ rule in the commentary box. In one fell swoop, Messer’s Vaughan, Boycott, Swann, Hughes, Bumble, Botham and Warne are immediately removed from our airwaves. The nation rejoices as they are replaced with sensible cricket focused commentators such as Rob Key, Ian Ward, Alison Mitchell, Isa Guha, Marcus Trescothick and Jeremy Coney. In other news, Michael Vaughan is deported to Australia on a permanent basis so he can join in on the Channel 7 ‘bantz’ and Shane Warne has his passport revoked permanently.
  7. Simon Hughes decides that being the ‘Editor’ of the Cricketer is not enough for his enormous ego. After ranking himself as the most important person in cricket in his magazine, Hughes decides to spread his wings and publish a book re-writing the history of Catholicism, undeterred by having no understanding of the subject nor being a Catholic. Things get particularly strange when Hughes turns up to work every day in full priest attire and declares himself available for the position of the next pope. The Catholic Church outraged by such slander decides to nail Hughes to the cross above the mound stand at Lords. Everyone in the world nods sagely with approval.
  8. Sir Alastair Cook, now no longer eulogized over by the national media after his retirement, even though Sky decides to show his last English century in every rain break, decided to get  back into the national limelight by signing up to ‘I’m a celebrity, get me out of here’. Unfortunately Cook, completely overwhelmed by his surroundings and unable to suppress his hunting instincts, shoots up the whole set killing a number of endangered species in the jungle. Despite all this, Cook finishes an honorable second in the tournament owing to the fact that people keep forgetting he’s there. Jonathan Agnew goes berserk on Twitter.

harrison&graves

The above is meant to be a lighter take on some of the issues affecting cricket in 2019, I mean there is no way that Lords bans the upper classes and lets the ‘Hoi Polloi’ in especially as business people need to be entertained through expensive hospitality packages. The other predictions, well you never know…

Joking aside, there is a serious angle to this article as cricket faces up to one of the biggest challenges that it has faced in a very long time. For me personally, the main thing that I would like to see in 2019 is a return to the game I and many others on the blog first fell in love with many moons ago, no matter how remote that chance may be. Cricket has got lost in the vortex of various power struggles, administrator incompetence, obscene greed and the constant need of the authorities to keep changing the game. The main result of these being that the fans that have followed the game for many years and have ‘put their money in the administrators pot’ are now walking away at an alarming rate. In what other sport, would you get other administrators making whole sale changes to their core game? You don’t see golf reducing the majors to a two-day event, nor would you see tennis being played by 6 people on court or snooker being played over the best of 3 frames, yet cricket can’t help itself, all in the name ‘finding these elusive new fans’ whilst alienating those that have followed the game for 20 years plus.

We are also seeing cricket fatigue on a major basis, with the Big Bash a great example of administrators trying to cram as much in, irrespective of quality, to feed the golden goose. The Hundred, if it ever gets off the ground, will be exactly the same. A behemoth crammed into the county season, without any support of fans or the counties, purely designed to try to make the ECB as much money as possible whilst they can still can, badged under the name of ‘growing the supporter base’. Some people are big white ball cricket fans and whilst it doesn’t appeal to me, I can understand the game has an element of skill that is different to the Test arena. What I can’t understand is how anyone bar the gamblers, would want to see the same players play the Big Bash, IPL, T20 Blast, BBL, Emirates T10, CPL, PSL, Hundred, Mzanzi Super League etc week in, week out. That’s without the questionable undercurrent that underlies more than a few of these tournaments.

Of course, the huge influx of white ball cricket has been massively detrimental to the red ball game, as this gets pushed further and further into the extreme margins of many a domestic season. Even if I wasn’t suffering from cricket fatigue especially with regards to the National team, my ability to watch any of the county championship has been massively reduced, with most games now starting on a Monday, no doubt to fit in some more time for the white ball game. Most counties have the opportunity to play on a Saturday once or twice during the season and whilst in the past people would have said that this was down to not clashing with club cricket, the fact that people playing the sport is at an all time low with many clubs unable to field a full side, make this argument completely redundant. This of course, has directly contributed to the reduced quality currently seen within the Test arena, with many players who come into the various Test sides, lacking the quality or patience to become successful at the longer format of the game. T20, T10 or Hundred ball rubbish has completely changed the outlook of many a young cricket player, with many now more satisfied to make money in the shorter format of the game than to hone their skills to be successful at the longer format. This is why we are seeing so many mismatches in the Test arena, with away series wins very much the rarity (well done India btw) as batsmen and bowlers are unable to adapt their game to foreign conditions having been bought up on seaming or turning pitches exclusively. The Test arena is a mess at the moment and I don’t see it improving any time soon. Australia can’t cobble together a decent batting attack, England have had the same problems at opener, number 3 and in the spin department for what seems like an eternity, India’s win away from home is very much a rarity and that was against a poor Aussie side, the South African’s are talented but flawed with the same being said for New Zealand and Pakistan and the rest aren’t really worth writing home about.

As for English cricket and especially the ECB, when they are not actively shooting themselves in the foot, they are busy trying to sting the remaining fans for what they can. £100+ for a day at the Ashes with two poor teams, I’d rather not thank you. The forced hundred ball format, which will probably push the English game further to bankruptcy rather than attracting the new fans the ECB cravenly desires it to. This interestingly enough has led to a number of high-profile, unlikely pariahs campaigning against it on Twitter, not that I would ever suggest that this is rather hypocritical as a number of them could have voted against it in the first place (the ‘this isn’t what they promised line’ holds no sway with me, I wouldn’t trust the ECB to make a mustard sandwich let alone organise a new cricket tournament). The constant pandering to Sky to protect their ‘oh so special’ TV deal, whilst the tacit refusal to acknowledge that taking the game away from ‘free to air’ is a major reason why cricket has become such a peripheral sport is truly gobsmacking. The constant leaking of ‘ECB propaganda’ to friendly journalists (used in the loosest possible terms) to feed to the masses is again shameful – just remember “Alastair Cook good, Kevin Pietersen bad” and another reason why the fan base is both shrinking in size and those that do still follow are completely divided in their views. I could go on, but I think everyone knows that anything else I write will not be a singing endorsement of our administrators, nor do I have a platform that is long enough.

For me personally, this is a particularly sad state of affairs and a big reason why I am not as active as I was on the blog. I used to be a massive cricket fan and more pertinently a fan of the England cricket team. I would get upset when England lost in the Test arena (I became immune to losing in the white ball game some time before) and often it could ruin my weekend, I went on 3 foreign tours and before last year had been to at least one Test day in England for the previous 16 years (and often more than one day). I’ve lost my passion however, as a bit like Dmitri, I write best when I have a bit of fire in my belly and an unjust cause to rile against. However, I’ve got fed up at shouting at the stars for a team I have little in common with against a board that holds its’ fans in complete contempt. Sure I still enjoy watching Test cricket, but these days I prefer watching series that don’t involve England and/or are competitive, which as I mentioned above is more of a rarity than ever these days. I no longer rush back from work to watch the highlights any more, nor do I get up 2 hours before I need to, so that I can watch a session before I head out to work, I’m fatigued and more than a little fed up and the reason for this sits at the very doorstep of both our national and international administrators.

I hope that I’m wrong and equally hopeful that I can regain the passion I had for the game I had a number of years ago and when I started writing for BOC, but I’m not holding my breath. The ECB continues to alienate me from the game I have followed for 25 years and barring a dramatic change in their modus operandi, it won’t just be me walking away from the game but many of those who have supported English cricket for a lot longer. The ECB might not mourn their loss now, but irony does tends to have a wicked sense of humour in the long run.

I Know That Job You Got Leaves You So Uninspired – The 2018 BOC Poll

Come on people, one last push for 2018. It’s poll time, and we need you to participate to make this work.

First up, the most important input. We have Mount Cricketmore – four personalities that embody cricket in the country, if you are an insider – and each year I will put one up for re-election.

BOC Rushmore v2

In my editorial judgement, Giles Clarke and Mike Selvey are firmly carved into our rock, and their term of office, should we last that long, will mean Selvey up in 2021, Clarke up in 2020. With Harrison seen as the architect of the Hundred, and its debut due for 2020, having him up for re-election right before then will see his name go forward in 2019. So this year the decision is should Simon Hughes be replaced. Before we do that, we need a candidate.

Now, I’ve been racking my brains for potential replacements, and am not coming up with much outside of one. So with all due deference to perennial annoyances like Paul Newman, Alastair Cook’s fanboys and girls, Piers Morgan or whoever else takes our fancy, there seems one obvious candidate. It is a vote off between:

1, Simon Hughes stays

2. Colin Graves is carved into stone.

Now we have the key business over with, now to the other essential votes. Either do so by posting them on the comments or to me at dmitriold@hotmail.co.uk – or our collective e-mail if you know where to find it!

  1. Best Journalist of the Year
  2. Worst Journalist of the Year
  3. Best TV / Radio Commentator of the Year
  4. Worst TV / Radio Commentator of the Year
  5. England international cricketer of the Year
  6. World international cricketer of the Year
  7. Best innings by an England player in international cricket
  8. Best innings by an international player in international cricket
  9. The worst thing about cricket in 2018
  10. The best thing about cricket in 2018

Finally

11. Any ideas for the blog?

12. Your views on social media going forward.

13. Any good cricket books you have read that you could recommend?

I always look forward to your feedback, and hopefully we can do something with the results over the Christmas period.

Thanks in advance!

Swim The Ocean In A Hurricane

Hello All. I’ve missed the birthday, the Outside Cricket Day and KP sacking day while cavorting across South America. Hope you all celebrated accordingly. Paul Downton should be our media’s greatest embarrassment. I’ll never tire of reminding them…. Good luck Kent.

A lot of water has flowed since the Alastair Cook 244 not out that made me throw my hands up in despair at both the press and the twitterati and think that the efforts we (I) make to bring some sort of discourse to cricket talk is like throwing shit at the wall. The fact is that the Ashes brought some form of motivation to write that had been missing for quite a while. We threw ourselves into the series, with live blogging, reports and comment. When the series was gone, and the Ashes a dream, that some thought it more important that an individual shove it back down the throats of critics than stop to properly analyse the stuff we’ve been banging on about since the 2013/14 tour shouldn’t really have surprised me.

I have grown progressively tired of cricket. There is something to be said that throwing yourself into something so completely, as I have for the past four years, is bound to leave you in a state of exhaustion or despondency. They call it burn out. Chris’s excellent piece this week about the rain delay, and how cricketing educations were formed in either watching old highlights or listening to excellent discussions on the TMS radio feed, just remind me what we’ve lost. In fact, I keep saying “we” as if I’m talking for a lot of us, when I really mean “I”. I’ve lost the innocent love for the game, the need to watch the sport to enjoy it, and maybe it is being a blogger that does it. That I feel I have a position to justify rather than just to write and comment on what I see. I’ve devoted so much time to this place that sometimes my evenings at home revolved around watching the comments come in and react to them, or to monitor what happens on Twitter. It became a madness, an obsession. You might even call it an addiction.

What drives me is complacency. What drives me is stupidity. What drives me is injustice. What drives me is that I enjoy (ed) writing. What didn’t drive me is any sort of fame. Any sort of recognition from the cognoscenti. Any sort of patting on the back from a respected source. I still think my old stuff is my better stuff. I still think that the pieces like the ones Chris wrote this week deserve the attention because they come from the heart from a bloke who shares the same values as me – writing from the heart, the soul, rather than from some cynical need to be recognised or wanting the glory. But I will be associated with being pro-KP until the end is nigh, and anti-ECB to the extent that I have to employ a cleaner to scrape the bile off the screen.

As these days pass, and I’ve been away for 11 days in Colombia and Peru with work, so about as far away from cricket as you can get (although an England captain was born in Lima), it is worth reminding yourself why cricket, a sport that is doing its best to alienate the people who kept it going for the last 20 years, is something worth saving. Moments picked from the cluttered memories of yore. How I played a Kent Cup Semi-Final, dropped the bloke who scored 80 and won the tie for the oppo, and then being picked up by Dad to tell me Gordon Greenidge had made a double hundred and chased down 340 to win the Lord’s Test in 1984. Or sleeping on a grass bank at Croydon and missing most of the first innings that I would ever see Kevin Pietersen play. Of being there when Ramps made his first class triple century, scratching through the 290s like a man who had never wielded a bat before. Of that walk down Vulture Street in 2002. There was watching the end of Botham’s 149, but loving the 118 at Old Trafford much more, and recalling Jim Laker’s mis-commentary still when he gets to that hundred. There are memories across all formats – how I stayed outside not to jinx the run chase in the War at Edgbaston ODI against Pakistan – or how me and my new student mates stayed up all night to watch the 1987 World Cup Final on my portable colour TV.

As I sit here now, I look across my living room to the bookcase full with cricket books. I’m reading Ben Stokes tome at the moment – it isn’t as bad as I feared and has an interesting take on how teams perform when they’ve clinched series that contrasts somewhat to the insulting bollocks the media and their acolytes put forward to us mere idiots – but there are tons of secondhand books that I’ve ordered off Amazon. I want to know more, I always want to know more. I look at the DVR recorder, which has the ODI series between India and South Africa to watch knowing I can programme it from a Lima hotel, or a Barranquilla airport, to record the cricket just as long as Sky sticks to its schedule. I look at Sky Cricket Channel and think of the missed opportunity from my selfish eye. I’d be replaying the entirety of test matches like Edgbaston 2005, Bridgetown 1999, and more besides, but they prefer pre-made packages of greatest evers and masterclasses. Who prefers practice to playing the game? I’m not a freak of nature like AB, so what can I learn? That might just be me.

As we move forward on the blog, I want to relive a golden memory of cricket. It wasn’t perfect, of course it wasn’t, but there’s now a shroud of defeatism wherever I look, and that includes myself. I have to admit, I couldn’t give a stuff about T20, I have a whopping cold, inherited from some dodgy aircon in Lima, and it’s taking some shifting. I’m hardly likely to be up with the lark to watch something like that Auckland farce the other day. But I’m told that’s what I want to see more of. The tests don’t start until the end of March, and I might be slightly more committed by then. You don’t have to be Einstein to realise that the readership here are not too interested in the T20 stuff either. I’ve tried to work up enthusiasm but I just can’t. A World T20 maybe, but only if it isn’t being used to silence critics of the ECB policy. Does the near 500 runs of the other night compare to Lara’s 153 to win v Australia, to Sachin’s might and majesty, to the obduracy and sheer all round genius of Jacques Kallis, of sitting in the sun watching Colly and KP put 300 on against Australia and we still lose. Not even close.

But what keeps me alive, what will make me post again, what will raise my ire and make me do this to myself is the sheer fucking complacency, and I apologise for the swearing but the blood boils, of people like Simon Hughes. This man is a copper-bottomed disgrace to the people he purports to represent – the readership of the Cricketer and the fans of the game who listen to his punditry. Earlier on I mentioned complacency.

If this had been written by Tom Harrison, we’d be raising hell. It’s risible to call the organisation that insulated itself by throwing its lot in with the Big Three “fearless”. People who stick up for the current county system are “domestic sport’s unruly skirmish” – what as opposed to the perfect order and beauty of the ECB in the wake of the 2013-14 Ashes when the unruly “outside cricket” mob had the damn cheek to criticise the bloody idiots, and when Hughes was one of those in the vanguard protecting the morons. But the tin hat on this particularly stupid introduction has to be “this is the new regime’s diligently researched and meticulously constructed attempt to eradicate [county debt]”. They’ve set up this T20 competition to save the counties. You have to be having a laugh. Let’s leave aside the diligent research and meticulous construction that haven’t really been shared with the “obsessives” that this is meant to save. Hughes has laid down his cloth for the ECB, and whether they care or not, and I suspect they think he’s as laughable as we do, they’ll use it. One of the main organs reporting on the game has spoken. Even in his introduction he’s been sold a pup by the ECB. We don’t know the team names yet, and I’ll bet we’d all have guessed where the 8 teams would be located (maybe a toss up between Bristol and Cardiff).

You know, we’ve been in Wisden, we’ve been contacted by a couple of journos, we are aware a number know about us, we get good traffic, we have a presence online. Did anyone think to talk to us, or to get the views of people on here. I think we’d have dealt with it properly and given all the information due consideration and respect. After all, what unites us all is a love of the game. We want the best for it. We have ideas. We have been told on many occasions to be more constructive. That we have a voice to use but we spoil it by not being obsequious and respectful enough. That’s what those at the top want. People to tell them how great they are. One day they might actually ask one of the most frequented cricket blogs out there what our views might be. Hell, they might even get some constructive responses. There’s as much chance of that as there is of me being editor of the Cricketer. Shame on this stupidity.

I’m not the answer. Never pretended to be. I have a voice, a view, and so do you. I’ve lost the desire to raise it, and instead of wondering why people like me, and others, feel the way we do, by asking what ails us, what makes us shrug our shoulders and why we turn off when we should turn on, the powers that be and the majority of the media pay us lip service and tell us what we should like. Sport where results don’t matter, but bodies watching and paying do. Sport where history doesn’t matter, but manufacturing events do. Sport where complexity and ebb and flow are anathema, and don’t matter, but where momentary wizardry, flash pyrotechnics and noise mean we will enjoy ourselves. I don’t call that fear. I call that recklessness.

Ah well. 1700 words on a semi-return. When I said I’d had enough that late December morning, I had. I still have. People who should know better said it was Cook, my hatred for him and my inability to give him due praise was the answer. I know who they are. It wasn’t. It was people who should know better who have let the ECB off a 4-0 drubbing to an ordinary Australia team and put Cook’s excellent innings on a pedestal to do so. I never thought I’d never post again. I just thought that I needed a break. Six weeks or so of not really writing hasn’t refreshed me one bit. It’s just been a gap in my rage. I liked the ODI side, I loved their spirit, their energy, their flaws. Then I remember the Ashes and the anger resurfaces. Maybe it doesn’t matter any more. Maybe it is time to call it quits. Right now, I think we are on a precipice.

All the best.

Peter

The Outside Cricket(er) List

When a publication gets bored and runs out of ideas, it turns to lists.  Whether that be “Five Things We Learned” or a wider list, it’s lovely clickbait because it manages to irritate just about everyone, whether the inclusions are too low, too high, not on it, or because the list itself is preposterous in the first place. (Is this author having a go at The Dmitris, or the journalist list?)

This week it was the turn of The Cricketer, with their Power List of English cricket.  Oddly enough, we weren’t on it – presumably we were in 51st just behind the editor of Wisden, who they eventually remembered, probably when they realised he dared to criticise people.  Objectively understandable – who would ever read the editorial of the world’s premier cricket book?  Who would ever write article after article about his excoriation of the game’s governing bodies?

The real trick is then to nominate yourself to be on the list, but only the worst kind of self-important, smug, arrogant idiot would dream of doing that.  So between the three of us we’ve come up with our own.   It’s a list of those who adore the sounds of their own voices, who fully believe that they are far more important than anyone else, who rest with absolute certainty in the superiority of their own existence.  And are not shy about letting us know.

It’s a team effort, it’s not listed individually, so you’re going to have to blame Dmitri, TLG and Sean equally.  Oh and feel free to slate us in return, that’s the whole point of it after all.

There is an order to this, but trust us, we’ve not spent more than 5 seconds trying to work it out.  Anyone upset by where they are…..good.  Our work is done.

We Worship At Their Altar
No Surprise Omissions

Stephen Brenkley

By all accounts one of the most charming, delightful men you could ever wish to spend time with, a chatterbox who entertains all those around him, and who often wrote beautiful prose.  It was therefore particularly unfortunate that he didn’t turn his mind towards asking some of the more obvious questions that should have occurred to him.  Had the misfortune to be at the Independent in the dying days of that paper, and whose departure was symptomatic of an organ that was going nowhere.  Has been rather quiet since, and while his output may have been criticised, his loss to the cricket community is simply rather sad.

Ian Botham

Perhaps with hindsight Botham’s mastery with the ball over his career was down to the fact he had about 30 fielders at any given time.  For surely there can be no other explanation for the uncanny ability to point out that England should have had a 26th slip fielder in place mere moments after the ball has gone through the vacant area.  In this, he is at least more accurate than he tends to be when trying to forecast the future instead of the past, his notorious 5-0 prediction for the 2013/14 Ashes proving accurate as long as no one mentioned who to.

Dermot Reeve

A fixture of cricket coverage during the noughties, a period he clearly misheard, deciding to consider his time on air a mere interlude between visits to the toilet carrying a small bag and a rolled up £50 note.  Special mention must go to his outstanding explanation of reverse swing as being akin to the uneven underside of an aircraft wing.  Planes fell out of the sky a aeronautic engineers absorbed the reality of the new, radical theory.

Nick Knight

I’m sure some are amazed he’s here.  In fact Knight himself would probably say “Would you believe it?”  To be fair Knight says “Would you Believe It?” to almost anything; indeed it’s quite likely his default response to missing the bus. There are perhaps few greater exponents of the art of speaking the most bleeding obvious of the most bleeding obvious in the cricket world today.  It has been said the poor man has splinters from such an outstanding ability to sit on the fence – I prefer to focus on the way he casually ignored the fastest ball ever recorded by nudging it round the corner for a single.  Not for Knight the glorious out of the park for six shot, oh no – the nurdle for one, the special ability to be a key part of history, yet for no one to remember his role in it.  Few have ever so beautifully summarised the point that television is a medium than Knight has – for it is neither rare nor well done.  A medium medium.   A chicken tikka masala with a keema naan. Inoffensive to all, memorable to no-one.

Paul Newman

He’s blocked one of our number on Twitter for a start. One prong of the Essex Mafia, and a conduit for the ECB line to take on everyone’s favourite scapegoat; the one thing not in his favour is his lack of gravitas. But it takes some sort of special individual to make the KP issue so personal. Some of his work read like a screaming teenager shouting “No. No. No.” I often wonder what it was that set him off, but then it really crystallised when he allowed the dignified silent man, the Flower of Andrew, to have his dignified say. Couldn’t have been a larger dose of cats out of the bag since Millwall drew Hull in the FA Cup. I have to say I was stunned. After all, Newman did the talking in 2014, and Flower’s lips never moved.

John Etheridge

Old school journalist, who never forgets to mention that he came from the University of life. Gloriously misreported that Kevin Pietersen had returned his gifts from his 100th Test match and then vowed to investigate when proved wrong. The investigation must be extremely thorough as it’s been 2 years and 85 days and we’ve still heard nothing about its result. Desperately keen to be seen as a serious journalist and known to get extremely pissy when asked “why he bothers as no-one reads cricket in the Sun”.

cropped-australia-2006-sim-1-306.jpg

Kevin Pietersen

Ooh controversy.  One of the most sublimely talented batsmen in the world, the one who can pull off an innings in Colombo that ghasts the flabber, and a friend of this place rather obviously going back to the frankly idiotic initial sacking and cretinously stupid refusal to consider him after the small matter of a triple century.

Trouble is, he’s a knob.  You know it, I know it.  He’s an amazing batsman, who is so good his international record is frankly a disappointment.  But he’s an idiot.  There’s being opinionated, there’s  being a rebel.  There’s even being right – and the worst crime Pietersen ever committed was that dreadful tendency to be right on so many occasions, and for the ECB to quietly do exactly as he suggested, even though he was very obviously wrong at the time, right?  Who would ever forgive that?  Especially those who have less talent, there’s no way they could ever even think about accepting such outrageousness.  But there’s being right at the right time, and there’s being right at the wrong time.  And then there’s being right at the right time that you’ve managed to turn into the wrong time.  Hang on, slight pause to check I understand that sentence – oh yes, got it.

Pietersen is one of the most insightful, intelligent commentators on the game out there.  That so many refuse to listen to things which are actually rather good is partly his fault.  There are lots of villains in that whole sorry tale.  Pietersen is sadly one of them, even if not the worst. In the last 30 years, there has never been so clear and obvious case for banging heads together as l’affaire Pietersen.

Ravi Shastri

The commentary darling of the BCCI and well known for his over the top praise for every Indian cricketer ever. Known to share the same commentary manual as Knight, Nick with gems such as “If India want to win here, then they will need to play well”, “Edged and….taken” and “the next few overs will be crucial” Ravi is always on hand to state the bleeding obvious time and time again. Has since been dumped as India’s head coach which left him “surprised and disappointed” but no doubt come the winter, he will lighting up the Sky studios with his unique take on how everything in India is amazing.

I wanted a picture of Colin, but Giles wouldn't give us the key.
I wanted a picture of Colin, but Giles wouldn’t give us the key.

Colin Graves

The bar is set World Limbo Dancing Championship low when you follow Giles Clarke into the head of the ECB hotseat. That you couldn’t even make your KP statement stick two minutes before backtracking quicker than Frank Bruno against Mike Tyson second time around, spoke volumes for your ability. Wants four day tests, and absolutely loves the word “mediocre” which probably should just be the title of a book based on his reign so far. Well, mediocre will do when “A damn effing laughing stock” probably won’t make the shelves at WH Smith’s. Number 1 on The Cricketer’s list, which is amazing as I couldn’t think of a single good thing he’s done yet. Plus, just what is that £1m guarantee thing in the ECB accounts? Perhaps we should be told. Mediocre financial data there.

Channel 9 commentary

“Hey Brays, guess what Warnie and Slats went out for beers and pizza last night and boy are they hanging, boom they’re goes another four, went like a tracer bullet to the boundary, that went even quicker than Tubbs opening the door to the pizza delivery man, haha”. And so it goes on, the cricket commentary team where talking actual cricket is likely to get you sacked and where the arrival of Mark Nicholas in the box represents a glorious interlude of cricketing erudition. It’s like watching a middle aged episode of the Inbetweeners where a load of ex professional cricketers see who can outdo each other in the banter stakes and holler loudly whenever there’s a boundary. Then there is the deliberate idiocy in how Brayshaw and team declare how they have never heard of the Indian fast bowling coach or of the Pakistani leg spinner, after all, these teams are just there to make up the numbers and should not detract from the amazing Australian team. Oh and they don’t take criticism that well either, as Brad McNamara highlighted when launching an ill conceived tirade at Gideon Haigh after he had gently criticised the commentary standard of channel 9. Glass houses and all that.

Andy Flower

Since his appointment as Grand Vizier at the ECB, Flower has disappeared from the radar of many.  But he’s still there, and he’s still exerting influence.  This is a good thing, for losing the expertise of someone who has had such an important job would be extremely wasteful – though not so wasteful the geniuses at the ECB didn’t think it perfectly reasonable to dispense with Duncan Fletcher.  Maybe it was because he wasn’t the Best Coach of His Generation or something.

Flower had a decent enough record as England coach, and the idea that he’s the enemy of the state is no more reasonable than believing he is descended from the heavens to dispense wisdom and success.  But the determination that everyone bend to his will is as flawed as it always has been.  The briefings to the media about players that seemed to include things that only Flower knew according to those on the receiving end of the headlines didn’t exactly engender trust.  And now the England Lions get the benefit of that.  Aren’t they lucky?

Jonathan Agnew

Aggers is a late entry on this lise, first of all because crossing him invokes the fervent fandom’s ire, and we can vouch for how that plays out from personal experience. Secondly, even we have to pad out stuff like this. Agnew generates plenty of heat and light from those who don’t buy the folksy charm and think he’s an establishment stooge. We have to reflect that on here, although it has to be said, he’s not really part of the problem. But he gets in for the reaction to the infamous Clarke pic. And how he reacted with other blogs. Come on….

Giles Clarke (also taken in Hluhluwe)
Nearest pic to an Old Bore that we have….

Michael Henderson

How this curmudgeonly old writer still gets gigs is beyond me. He’s allowed to spout off about this and that each month, looking back and never forwards, seeking decorum and manners in the game he rarely shows in his pieces. If you are looking for tolerance, look elsewhere. I can only imagine he’s kept on as some poor man’s Swanton tribute act, and instead of being amused my his grumpiness, he just enrages. I’m sure he would absolutely love this site. About as much as I love root canal. I’d like it that way.

David Lloyd

This is like criticising fluffy little kittens. Everyone loves Bumble, don’t they? Well, yes, to a degree. The problem comes when he stops being a cricket commentator with great humour, into an attempted humourist talking over the cricket. This tends to happen more in T20, where yes, we should give less of a toss, but still. Yes, Start the Car was amusing. The first ten times. He’s low in our pecking order because this is pretty harmless stuff, but one of us, in particular, has had his fill. It’s good to be contrary. So let’s name fluffy little kittens because some of us are allergic to cats.

Chris Stocks

He really went for Nick Compton, didn’t he? What on earth was that all about? At least he got in touch to ask how he was perceived, and that’s decent. But you can’t get away from the pieces. But we do have sympathy for freelancers!

Guardian County Cricket Blog

This will resonate with a few.If your face doesn’t fit, if you dare to relate our domestic game to our international, if you dare to question the sacred cows below and above the line, then woe betide you. For you will be damned for eternity, or at least until you abide by the unwritten rules. Suck up to the admin, be deferential to certain characters, and be whimsical. Oh yes, be very whimsical.

Simon Hughes

Put himself number 39 in his own Power List, above the Chief Cricket writer at The Telegraph, the single best England batsman of the last decade and clickbait king combination in history, the editor of Wisden, England’s current best all rounder, England’s best all rounder who works for Sky, and every single one who picks the England team as a selector. I’d understand it, just, if you were John Etheridge, Jonathan Agnew, or Jonathan Pierce. But if you walked down the street and picked out a random person and asked them who Simon Hughes is, I’d bet a majority who answered would pick the former Liberal Democrat MP! When you aren’t even the most famous person with your name, well that’s hard yakka. We’ll always have that Dobell exchange though….

Since this went to the original typesetters, we’ve had some small interaction. We’ve had those patronising tweets, where we are extremists and he is unbiased. I mean, really. I mean REALLY. Have a day off. Because “went off in a huff” is the language of equanimity. Let’s put it this way. This tweet…

….does him no favours.

Jimmy Anderson

There’s a peculiar difference prevailing in the world today. Be a grumpy so and so, scream at players when they make mistakes, provoke and get involved in physical confrontations, and the press will defend you to the hilt. Smack a ball down a deep fielder’s throat and you’ll be lambasted as irresponsible. Jimmy may be one of our greatest ever bowlers, but we enable his behaviour. And, well, frankly, this as well….

FROM JOHN JEFFAY AT CASCADE NEWS LTD 0161 660 8087 / 07771 957773 john@cascadenews.co.uk Syndicated for Lancashire TelegraphLANCASHIRE cricket hero Jimmy Anderson has launched his own menswear brand.And he models the clothes in pictures that will hit his female fans for six. Jimmy, 31, who has represented England in over 80 Test matches and over 160 One Day Internationals, is working on the range in collaboration with fashion firm Chess London. It will be launched at a VIP bash in Manchester city centre on May 1. Jimmy said: “I have been heavily involved in the whole process, from initial sketches and compiling the mood board to designing each piece and editing the collection, which has been an incredible experience.

Lord’s

We don’t have many positions for entities rather than people, but we couldn’t leave out Lord’s. Look, we get it is where everyone wants to play, but to go there as an ordinary spectator is to be classified as a second class citizen, shuffled behind people who patently don’t have mirrors in their houses. Dressing up like a clown is clearly a sign of intellectual, moral, and let’s face it, financial supremacy over the proles. Then there are the queues – because they’re always shocked to find people want food or drink, the appalling views in the lower stands, the pervading sense of patronising people and those effing champagne corks. Who, or what do they think they are?

James Whitaker

But what is he for?  I mean I’ve written loads of stuff on other people and I keep coming back to this one point when I think about Mr Sublime Interviewing Technique.  And that is…..I don’t quite know how to word this.  Oh yes.  Um.  How about “What is he for?” Answer – to bring Ballance to the proceedings…

Back to School, Back from the farm
Back to School, Back from the farm

Alastair Cook

You could have two entries here. One is the Mills and Boon character, the handsome doe-eyed (and they are his own doe eyes, not the one he shot) England captain, fighting against the odds to reach success while those beastly enemies try to take him out by pointing out his long period without centuries, and his appalling captaincy that used to coincide with the number 4. On the other is the man who has only to pass 50 before grown men collapse in paroxysms of ecstasy, retweet more than One Direction fans after the latest band break up, and then claim he’s been subjected to a media battering. Combined you have a strong contender for the top spot in our list. Oh, and he’s not England’s greatest ever batsman, before you start going on about that, either. Bring on the Cooky Crew…

Andrew Strauss

Well known for his role as Director, England Cricket and for calling KP a c**t on national TV and getting away with it. Strauss is the darling of the MSM, the man who decided that his trust is the only prerequisite to be playing for England, stuff talent and runs, and a man who Gary Lineker referred to as “extraordinarily petty and immature”. Director comma still believes that KP ended his career, never mind the fact that he couldn’t hit it off the square and has taken great pleasure in ending the former’s international career too. Currently being deigned as the saviour of England cricket alongside Cook, Alastair by his mates in the MSM and last seen desperately trying to push the merits of the ‘super series’ to fans who can smell bullshit 1000 miles away.

Dave Richardson

Grow the game? What is this nonsense? it’s our game and our money and we’ll do what we always do by making the rich even richer and the poor even poorer, 3 team World Cup anybody? Last seen whilst serving as PA to Anurag Thakur.

Peter Miller

One of the more talented cricket writers out there, who has a body of work behind him to be proud about.  So why would he ever make a list like this (That’s an in-joke between TLG, Dmitri and Sean, and a pair of Old Shades)?  Well the trouble arises when certainty about his own wit and knowledge supercedes the more natural uncertainty that most people have.  Miller’s Twitter timeline is a delightful example of being so sure of himself that anyone daring to disagree is considered thick.  He’s keen on making political points, and that’s fair enough for anyone, but it remains instructive that anyone so sure of themselves that those who hold perfectly legitimate different opinions are regarded as the lowest form of life in his eyes.  And that is the problem – contempt for the views of others in one field is illustrative of the same contempt in all others.  Only the arrogant can ever be so certain.

Charles Colville

Well Charles…the Sky man who is only known for being Bob Willis’ cannon fodder. He surely can’t believe he has still got the gig despite knowing next to nothing about cricket and regularly being schooled by Mark Butcher, Rob Key and Marcus Trescothick, who don’t even pretend to hide their disdain for him. Posh, obnoxious and clueless never makes for a good combination for commentators; however it does tick all the boxes for a Director role on our glorious board, expect him to be the next MD of the ECB.

Peter Moores

The outstanding coach of a generation unfortunately turned out to be not that outstanding at all, even second time around. Primarily utilised by Paul Downton as a tool to ensure Kevin Pietersen could never return to the England fold, Moores did his usual job of talking a great game and then disappointing on the pitch. The lead up to the 2015 was at best comical and the results on the pitch were even worse, proving that Moores had paid no attention to the way ODI cricket was evolving. He then kindly hammered the nails into his own coffin by declaring that he would have “to look at the data” after a hammering by Bangladesh. Now working as a consultant at Nottinghamshire CC, which judging by their form this year, hasn’t exactly proved him to be the outstanding coach in which he was proclaimed. Special mention goes out to his wife, who after a vino or two, is not afraid to stomp onto Twitter searching for those who dare to declare that his time in charge wasn’t a roaring success.

Any Excuse....
Any Excuse….

Giles Clarke

In recent times thesauruseseseses (er, not sure where to stop there) have updated their entries to include Clarke as a synonym for “odious”.  Indeed all cricket fans should be encouraged to do a Google search for both terms and ensure that it comes up as a suggestion in the search box.  His finest moment in a career of James Bond villainy is undoubtedly his starring role in Death of a Gentleman where his patronising, sneering arrogance has led actors like Mark Strong and Jeremy Irons to watch and learn how to portray a character that audiences automatically hate.  Where Clarke excels is in his total disregard for any other human being and disdain for any contrary view.  Such things as actually loving the game of cricket are not for him, when instead it is purely there for his own self-aggrandisement.  Lawrence Booth still lives in fear, looking over his shoulder every day to seek out Clarke’s henchmen intending to finish what the great man started at the Wisden  dinner (this may not be entirely true).

Like all great supervillains, Baron Greenback has his sidekicks, and the superb insertion of Oddjob into the Guardian to act as chief cheerleader remains one of his finest achievements.  Add in a sense of righteousness that removes any hint of self-doubt and you have a man who superbly manages to represent every single thing that is wrong with the game. What a diamond he is.

Pringle - Erase KP

Derek Pringle

It is always instructive to visit Del’s Wikipedia page, purely for the deliciously cruel entry about him that reads “Pringle’s first-class batting average exactly matched his bowling average, indicating that he cancelled himself out perfectly.”  But his true metier has been in journalism, where he created a dedicated following of readers, who were united in despising every piece of vitriolic hatred that passed for a newspaper column.  The only ones who approved were those who hated Pietersen even more.  The best journalists have the rare ability to necessarily criticise players who have by definition made it to the top of the game.  Only Pringle had the extraordinary ability to arrogantly belittle those so much better than he ever was.  These points about him won’t worry him in the slightest, for he has that wonderful ability – let’s call it Clarkitis – to consider the views of the little people to be beneath his pay grade.  The feeling of contempt is entirely mutual.

Paul Downton

Where would we be without Paul? We wouldn’t have a name. We wouldn’t have been able to keep this (and the previous) blog going without his material. We wouldn’t have had aplomb. We wouldn’t have had the dossier. We wouldn’t have had the “best coach of his generation”. We wouldn’t have had the Agnew interview (and one of our number wouldn’t have had death threats). To do a FICJAM to AndyInBrum, “He’s so out of his depth he’s below fish with lights.” We miss him. We needed him to get through “difficult winters”.  It’s hard to be “fresh” and “exciting” and instead we need to be disengaged.  Also noted for having his English corrected by Kevin Pietersen, who responded to the charge he was disinterested by denying that he’d been uninterested.

David Gower

This is all about disappointment.  The most talented player of his era, hell the most talented player of almost any era.  I’ve spent hours waxing lyrical about Gower innings to the young (i.e. therefore stupid – apparently it’s a meme), mentioning the most sublime cover drive ever seen, the most delicious cut shot, the most perfect pull (unless it was a fraction too full and knocked off stump out).  And he’s a posh boy, he’s ideal for TV.  And he was too, he was wonderful.  But in more recent times he’s gone all establishment – the insistence on refusing to mention the Great Satan (Pietersen FYI) because it might cause palpatations at Lords, the general stroppiness when anything or anyone dares to challenge orthodoxy.  Where did it all go wrong?  You were the Bojo of cricket, the upper class boy who was the rebel incarnate, and unaccountably popular with the masses.  And now you’ve gone native.

Nothing is as disappointing as being let down.  Oh David. What price criticism from the studio for flying a Tiger Moth over the team now.

Ed Smith Is Really Clever
Copied from an original piece

 

Ed Smith

Failed England Cricketer and now author, philosopher, philanthropist and more recently plagiarist. Never hesitates to remind us how incredibly clever he is by dropping in notes about 15th century Umbrian history or Virgil’s Aeneid into his cricket writings. His ability to destroy the morale of a whole dressing room which then kicked him out on his ass, has naturally led him to be proclaimed “the next Jonathan Agnew” on TMS and the Course Director of the MA History of Sport at Buckinghamshire University. Currently lying low on social media after being found to have copied and pasted one of his Economist colleagues pieces on stress and claiming it as his own. Not as clever then as he thinks.

Danny Morrison

I’m all for enthusiasm.  Really I am.  But there’s enthusiasm and then there’s being the kind of person that you see come into the pub and pray to whatever sky fairy you hold dear that he won’t come and pull up a stool next to you.  Danny Morrison (or DFM as I call him – work it out, it’s not hard) is unquestionably one of these.  Picture the scene as you quietly sip your pint, only to have someone next to you screaming that the way the barman has delivered it is the best he’s ever seen, that there’s simply no pint in existence that could ever compare, and that while the bar staff run for cover in terror, he then turns to everyone else and invites them to partake in excited appreciation of said beverage.  Just for God’s sake no one tell him there are crisps under the bar, probably of various different flavours.

It’s always been an idle thought that the commentary box has anything sharp removed just prior to a DFM stint, and his colleagues are allowed solely a hip flask in order to cope with the ordure created from order over the following half hour.  It takes something truly special for cricket fans to be actively looking forward to the commercial breaks, where a Safestyle advert counts as a reduction in the volume.  Drinks breaks in DFM covered matches should be increased to one every other over, allowing desperate fans to run outside and put their heads into a bucket to cool off.   But you know, it’s what the people want, right?  It’s cool, it’s down wiv da kidz (innit).  He must be popular with someone, or he wouldn’t be there.  But who?   Um, seriously who?  Answers on a postcard please*

*They will be ignored – just so you know.

Stuart Broad

Is gaining rapidly on Jimmy Anderson as England’s leading wicket taker, without ever getting quite the same amount of coverage for his achievements.  Divides opinion like few others not called Kevin, with some calling for his dropping despite a truly world class bowling average over the last few years.  He will not be satisfied with it, mostly because of his absolute certainty that he has been denied around 300 lbws by the combination of appalling umpiring and a DRS set up that is biased against him.  It must be biased, because when he walks out with the bat the dastardly umpires switch round the settings so he is given out every time he is struck on the pads (quite frequent) and then DRS upholds it no matter how many times he reviews it.  There should probably be an investigation into this clear example of bias.

A major redeeming feature is a pathological love of winding up Australians.

Dominic Cork

A few years ago there was a Test series in New Zealand.  Actually they’re fairly regular, but this was a specific series and I can’t remember who they were playing anyway.  It matters little, in the way that Tests played by New Zealand so often tend.  Anyway, it was raining.  That happens too.  And with a morning wiped out, Sky  – who had spent at the very least pub money in getting Cork and Mark Butcher in to the studio, had to fill.  And fill they did, Charles Colville (who is going to get a right slagging elsewhere on this page to my undying fury – there will be words ) deciding to simply ask Butcher and Cork about cricket at the highest level.  It was glorious.  The following day rained as well, and the cricket viewing public tuned in to watch two old Test cricketers (Er. Old.  Looks at birth certificate.  Bugger) reminisce about players, series, conditions, opponents, structures and anything else in their minds.  For a cricket fan, it was nirvana.   To the point on the third day the fact play was possible was a fundamental disappointment.  I wanted to hear more.  In fact I wanted a dinner party with Cork as a guest, I wanted to know everything.  He was wonderful, Butcher was wonderful, Colville was wonderful.

All of which makes it so hard to understand why Cork has to be such an utter twat the rest of the time.

The County Chairmen

The rulers of the English game.  In itself, it doesn’t have to be a problem, after all someone has to do it.  But here’s the problem, cricket isn’t like football, where the clubs are the power and the money.  County cricket is a loss maker, international cricket is a money maker.  And yet the counties are the ones in control and they are the ones who dictate everything.  What that means is that all the international arrangements are handled in terms of how it can best support the counties, and the county chairmen.  The English structure has managed to create a delightful situation where the counties leech of both the top level and the clubs beneath them.  Nice work if you can get it.

Chris Gayle

It’s hard to know what’s worse – the stuff Gayle comes out with or the response to it.  When he decided to chat up a journalist on air, the howls of outrage echoed from one side of the world to the other.  And then there was a long debate about the nature of it, whether it was sexist, what defines sexism and so on.  All of which missed the point rather spectacularly that it was still boorish, rude and disrespectful first and foremost.  Gayle is wonderful at belting a ball over prodigious distances, but has an uncanny ability to annoy and enable the holy to engage in virtue signalling.  Ultimately this man’s place is in the wrong.

Michael Vaughan

Captain of the most famous Ashes winning side now turned mouthpiece for ISM Sports Management and Stan Collymore impressionist on Twitter. Vaughan never fails to have an opinion on anything, unless of course it contradicts that of Neil Fairbrother, you’ve got to bring home the bacon after all. Campaigned mercilessly for James Vince’s inclusion in the Test squad even if everyone and their dog can see he is patently not good enough and will no doubt do the same for the next batch of ISM inductees. Occasionally seen writing in the Telegraph in favour of whatever Director, England Cricket has briefed him on.

Dennis Freedman

A ubiquitous Twitter and blogging presence, with that oh so unique Australian sense of humour that generally involves ignoring any Canary Yellow disasters and shouting “look over there” at anything English. Being maganimous in victory is easy, to be arrogant when you’ve been thrashed is far more satisfying.  So thus it is that Olympic medal tables can be dismissed as Britain being four countries rather than one, and awkward stats like Yorkshire doing better than the whole of Australia ignored.  It’s a good game of course, and one we all like playing.  Which is why Dennis himself will be inordinately thrilled at his presence on this list. That’s Denis with one n.

Mark Nicholas

He is to Richie Benaud as I am to Neville Cardus. And I didn’t go half way round the world, suck up to the powers that be and pretend to support Australia to further my career. Crackerjack. His written pieces in Cricinfo exist only to give Plagiarist Ed something to live down to.  It is a measure of how far Channel 9 have sunk that he is clearly and by a distance the best thing on it.

Nasser Hussain

Ex England captain and one time promising commentator who actually asked difficult questions of the ECB but has since sold his soul and insight for bucket load of cash from Sky. Now mainly seen wandering around ECB sponsored events asking innocuous questions to England’s band of up and coming warriors and writing pre-approved hagiographies in the Daily Mail. Always the butt of the jokes from fellow commentators for having a big nose and being tight – oh the lolz.

The IPL

Some things in life deserve a serious tribute.  And the IPL is one.  There are few such magnificent money making adventures in the world of sport, and the owners of the franchises can indeed sit down, raise a glass and appreciate how they’ve superbly exploited a love of cricket to their personal benefit. It’s a touch unfortunate that artificial teams that no one remotely cares about change around every year, and even more so that the police seem to take such an active interest in what’s going on.  But what does that matter – feel the cash.  Appreciate the dosh.  Hang the rest of the game, this is where it.  is.  at. And. Ya.

Ali Martin

We like to go against the grain on here.  Not for us the open goal of quite a bit of journalistic stupidity over the years, no we prefer to attack the nuance, the subtlety, the clear problems in the media.  And thus, so it is that Ali Martin finds himself on this list.  More acute observers of the largely nonsensical output of the media may be puzzled, they may indeed consider Mr Martin to be one of those who has irritated few, who has criticised where it is due, who has praised when needed, who has offered up pithy and occasionally subversive tweets daring to take the piss out of the ECB.

And that’s the damn problem.  No one can be that good. No one can have been in his role all this time and not managed a single article on here complaining he’s an idiot.  Not even the fact he’s a mate of the wife of one of your writers justifies the reasonable, critical and generally objective journalism Martin puts out.  To be blunt, this is not what is expected of the Guardian, whose cricket writing has tended to be beautifully pro-ECB throughout (The Telegraph has been the anti-establishment paper on this – which just goes to show the world is more screwed up than you ever imagined) to the point the good old Grauniad have thoroughly enjoyed the company of Giles Clarke in various hotel suites.

Sorry, it’s not acceptable.  It’s not what we’re used to, and to be blunt about this, things were so much better when Martin was at the Sun covering the Zimbabwe element of the Under 19 World Cup while John Etheridge enjoyed the hospitality of a full England tour.  Reasonable and balanced coverage?  Call yourself a cricket journalist!

Elizabeth Ammon

Oh Lizzy, where to start? No, you’re not Mike Selvey, insulting your followers doesn’t work or make you look clever. Trying to follow Lizzy on Twitter is akin to putting ones head in a sand mixer and hoping for the best. Lizzy is great if you follow her peculiar brand of cricket, but try and disagree with her about anything, then she will not hesitate to tell you that you know nothing and are an idiot of the worst kind. Desperate to be part of the MSM, fortunately her talent isn’t as strong as her bite.

Mike Selvey

Bilious inadequate, eh? Social Media zealot, you say? Vile Ignoramus? Charming. A man who launched a thousand quips, his presence at the Guardian as some sort of teleporter for the words of Chairman Giles, he bestrode the media world like a colossus, until the Guardian packed him off, with a stream of WestCorkian tears trailing behind. If you didn’t play, you couldn’t say. He made fruitflies an acceptable insult, made calling someone a C*** a moment to cherish, and if you dare question his greatness, well, you were just plain impertinent. Rather loved being called Lord Selvey by his adoring public, many of whom became rather less adoring quite swiftly.  His departure has been the journalistic equivalent of Steve Waugh’s Australian finale. By the time it was finished, I think we were all glad.

An empty suit, by pure coincidence
An empty suit, by pure coincidence

Tom Harrison

Played a bit of county cricket, so you thought he might know that the doddery old sods in charge of the shires know more about survival in harsh climates than Bear Grylls. They ain’t about to take some secondhand TV salesman with a sharp suit and a line in sweating gibberish at his word, when they’ve had Vodafone and Paraguay Mining Inc beating at that door before. Or was McLaurin Tescos? Who gives a stuff. Anyway. good luck with that reshaping of T20 old bean. You may come across as a straight talking hard nut, but to us here, you’ll always be an empty suit we’ll never trust.

David Saker 

Best mates with a certain ex Chief Cricket Correspondent of the Guardian and an ex England bowling coach who had one method of trying to get the opposition out, i.e. bang it halfway down the pitch and hope for the best – see Headingley 2014 as a prime example. Successfully turned one of our most promising fast bowlers into a quivering wreck and after successfully making the Melbourne Renegades one of the laughing stocks of the Big Bash, is currently the new bowling coach for Australia, where I guess he has been advocating the need for the bowlers to ‘get in the oppositions faces’.

Shane Warne

The thing is, you need to lose to win.  If you want to win a game, you need to lose to win.  If you win, then it’s because you lost to win.  If you lose, it’s because you won to lost.  Oh hang on, that doesn’t make any sense at all.  Warne never said it, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he had, since the verbal diarrhoea reaches such proportions that there’s almost nothing you won’t be fairly sure you’ve heard him say.  It’s always a clue on commentary – the momentary silence while a colleague tries to think of creative ways to politely say “that’s a load of shit, Shane”.

When you have a true great, a titan of the history of cricket, a man who stands second on the all time list of wicket takers, who would have been  first but for an unfortunate episode where he was incapable of reading prescriptions, anti-doping regulations, team orders, WADA guidelines….errr perhaps just incapable of reading given the lack of plausible excuses for the ban.

As a commentator Warne has managed to nail that oh so difficult niche, whereby he witters on talking utter crap, yet retains the attention of the audience because maybe, just maybe, there will be a nugget of actual insight.  And let’s be clear, Warne doesn’t lack insight – the bigger problem is the Herschelle Gibbs level of intellect. It does limit it a touch.  He’s also so delightfully Australian.  Not content with slating Alastair Cook to the point that even the residents of this blog were getting feelings of fatherly love and sympathy for the England captain, he also manages to go full on C’mon Aussie C’mon without realising there’s someone next to him who might remember it differently.  Things like, oh I don’t know – the laughable claim Australia never doctored their pitches for Best Spin Bowler In The World Shane Warne for example.

Atherton could barely disguise his incredulity.

Graeme Swann

Like the mate you knew from when you were growing up, you know the one who behaved like Jay from the Inbetweeners, been there, done that, completed it mate. Swann believes he is the best thing since sliced bread and has the banter mode to live up to expectation. What most of us see is a middle aged, ex-international spinner who decided that he didn’t quite fancy being whacked around the park in Melbourne and decided to pack his bags and leave in a huff. The man who believes that Test tickets are but a mere £20, Bantersorous Rex  is truly a man of the people. Tim Lovejoy has a new heir to the throne.

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Jade Dernbach

One of the authors of this blog in particular takes great umbrage at being offended. Jade didn’t like the fact that I criticised him not for his bowling, but for some irresponsible batting when a game might have been saved. As I saw he returned for the ‘rey recently, I clicked on his Twitter timeline to see I was still persona non grata. Given his performances for England, his position as a standing joke as a “finisher” across the whole of social media and press, to take umbrage at li’l ole me seemed rather, shall we say, petty. But it’s his right.

The English Medical Staff

Do they have something against people with first names starting with M? With Cheese, who made everyone know he was playing through pain, they let him carry on with a tear in his achilles that ended his career. With Mark Wood, even Director, Cricket was questioning what the hell was going on. But there are green shoots. They told England not to pick Stokes and Anderson at Lord’s, and the selectors backed them. Mr Dignity played absolutely no part in the furore that ensued. That furore went strangely quiet when Stokes broke down again and Anderson said it would have been too early.

———————————————————————-

This list is arbitrary, unfair, unreasonable and the product of three blokes in the pub deciding who to have a go at.

On that basis it’s every bit as important as the Cricketer’s list.  Glad you approve.

Sean, TLG, Dmitri

 

#39 Mis-steps

I’m really sorry to do this. But let me just put this excerpt from The Cricketer out there. It’s not a great copy, but it is readable. A piece by Simon Hughes (aka #39).

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News Hughes. We were there. We documented it. We commented it. Don’t lie to us. Don’t omit Strauss. Don’t pretend that this was informal – he gave up money to have a go, and Graves spoke out on the radio – and don’t pretend Pietersen was the author of that sordid episode as the comment “went off in a huff” implies.

This is why I do what I do. I can’t abide this distortion. It treats the public like idiots. This excerpt is from the Power List piece on COLIN GRAVES. This incident made Graves look like an imbecile. Not the most powerful man in cricket. Strauss finished KP’s career, probably in alliance with about three other people. Graves was made to look a clown.

#39 getting high on his own power trip. This is nonsense.

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.