eSports. That’s not what they call sports in Yorkshire, or at least not just that. It’s where people compete against each other using computer and console games. It’s a big business, and the very best can garner millions of pounds in endorsements and sponsorship alone whilst millions of people pay to watch streams of elite gamers in action every day. Fans of traditional sports (and few sports are more traditional than cricket) might be snobbish about it, but it’s a real thing which seems like it’s here to stay. At a time when public gatherings and almost all forms of human contact are being discouraged, it seems the ideal moment for the virtual world of eSports to take centre stage.
To that end, The Cricketer magazine launched their own digital version of the T20 Blast. The Quarantine Cup is a competition between 11 county teams on Cricket 19 for the PS4, with actual players from those teams at the controls. It tries to bridge the gap between the real world of cricket fandom and the virtual world of eSports by providing a online tournament which could appeal to the loyalty of county cricket devotees.
There are just 11 out of 18 county teams represented, although they were all asked. Several just couldn’t find a player with a PS4 willing to take part, with many apparently preferring the Xbox platform. There are some big names left out, with Middlesex, Somerset and Yorkshire all having failed to find a player. The participating teams are then split into two groups, where they play everyone else once in five-over games.
The season opener yesterday was a very one-sided affair, with Tymal Mills’ Sussex side crushing Kent’s Imran Qayyum by 47 runs. The presentation was pretty slick, with a few custom graphics provided by The Cricketer’s digital team and live commentary by Adam Collins and Dan Norcross. Given that the games have five-over innings, they only last around half an hour and don’t outlast their welcome. There were phone interviews with the two players afterwards too. All in all, it’s a pretty entertaining way to spend an evening.
The group stages are scheduled to take place for the next three weeks, with games at 7pm on weekdays or at 2pm and 5pm on the weekends. The full timetable, plus all the other details, are on the competition’s webpage at TheCricketer.com. Just to warn you all, there’s a 30 second advert for The Cricketer magazine at the top of the broadcast with a voiceover by Simon Hughes. Don’t worry though, he’s not in it at all after that.
Meanwhile, we asked for people to tell us their best and worst club performances on Twitter and got some crackers in response. If you have any you’d like to share, especially if they’re worth more than 240 characters, we’d love it if you put them in the comments below.
“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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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:
England’s Test cricketers, at least for most of the competition
Most international cricketers, due to the competition running at a busy period of the ICC calendar
Any overseas cricketers who choose to play in the CPL
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.
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 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
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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….
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.
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.
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.
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…
@MaxieCricket@DmitriOld you have a valid voice in the game but do yourself no favours with extreme unbalanced criticism of unbiased opinion
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….
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?
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…
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.