I Steal From The Beggar’s Plate

First up, some house notes.

TLG and I have full-time jobs and other things we need to do over and above this blog. This means that we put a great deal of trust in you to do the right thing in the comments because we can’t monitor 24/7. We don’t set rules or parameters, we aren’t a newspaper or a paid-for or getting paid to do blog. We’re a couple of blokes with something to say. If we spot something that we think goes beyond what we think is acceptable in the comments, then we moderate (often to decide whether to allow or not). That we’ve had to do so on such an infrequent basis is testament to you, but we also know feelings run high.

If you have a complaint on anything you’ve read that you think is beyond acceptable, and it remains, please e-mail me on dmitriold@hotmail.co.uk or if you follow me on Twitter, tweet me (@dmitriold ) .

With that out of the way, I thought I’d usher in the start of the county cricket season with a little piece on our domestic game.

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Chesterfield 2008

The subject of county cricket is really one of those that can never be solved. I had a go at this Schleswig Holsteinshire and if anything, in the light of the comments from Russell Degnan, I’ve probably hardened in that view. I don’t think the will exists, or the solution apparent, that will give us the perfect domestic structure on which to go forward. There are many out there, many county members, who do not give a flying one about international cricket. They don’t all reside in Yorkshire either. It struck me in my time as a member at Surrey how little the membership cared about their players reaching international honours. “county cricket does not exist to fill the England team” was a very common remark.

County cricket is increasingly becoming like exclusive art galleries. It may be of substantial aesthetic value, of increasing nostalgic value as it ages, and available only if you are really committed to it, and that may be the problem. No-one is advocating demolishing old institutions and starting again, but we live in an age where a repackage here, a new broom there, can create something from nothing. After all, our top division was always the envy of Europe (with the possible exception of Italy) in the 80s and early 90s, but repackaging as the Premier League, giving clubs a few more quid, and lo and behold, the whole projection has changed. Despite the product sagging a little in the past few years, it’s still iconic enough to get the largest TV deal in UK sporting history by a distance. All the time this method, of buffering and repackaging, as Mark calls it “making it an event” tempts other sports. Rugby Union and Rugby League went through a revolution, with Heineken Cups and league play introduced to Union, and SuperLeague in Rugby League. The PGA Tour in golf has inhaled every other tour, so that there is now one source of the highest quality golf. Tennis had been a pioneer in this, with the ATP  and WTA Tours. Of course, the inspiration for many sports now is the NFL. The Champions League is desperate to bill its annual football final as the Superbowl of football. The problem with that is that in every year ending in an even number, there’s arguably a much bigger game being played less than six weeks later!

So English domestic cricket stands still. And is there anything inherently wrong in that? It depends on how you “consume” it, maybe?

Some out there on this blog do not bow down and worship to the current county cricket structure. For the purposes of this I’m leaving out the T20 debate for now as that’s separate. From my standpoint there’s not a lot of emotional investment in it. I can compare my feelings for sports teams across the sports – my club loyalties are Millwall, Boston Red Sox, Miami Dolphins, Chicago Bulls, Wigan Warriors, and, of course, whichever T20 team KP plays for!!!! Surrey are on a par with my rugby league favourites. I like it when they win, don’t get too bothered when they don’t.

The great Surrey team of the 1999-2004 era, roughly, coincided with the time I was a member. I got to see  some great cricket, with the common thread for much of my enjoyment being Ally Brown, Adam Hollioake, Saqlain Mushtaq, Martin Bicknell and for the second half, the imperious Mark Ramprakash. It was a golden time to watch them and I thoroughly enjoyed my days out. I was actually committing myself to watch them even more in 2005, my penultimate year as a member, but that came to an abrupt halt when my mum was diagnosed with cancer. I’d seen a few days of the initial games, got down to T-Wells as well, but things were to take a bad turn.

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Tunbridge Wells

The other thing that kept the interest in the County Championship was our annual Fantasy Cricket competition, based on the scoring system that was developed by Fantasy Football. There it was – one point for ever twenty runs, five bonus points for a hundred, minus one for any non-bowler for a score under 10, -2 for anyone at all who was dismissed for 0, one point for a catch, two for a stumping, two points for a wicket, five point bonus for five wickets, minus one for ever 20 runs conceded. Got all that? Teletext and the internet were on overload in the glory days. Legendary pick-ups like Mike Hussey (when no-one knew who he was) got our pub discussions going – Joe Scuderi was legendary for other reasons. Now I doubt I could get four people interested in this – in those days we had leagues of nine or ten! It did mean that team news was gobbled up, any snippets we could get on the wires eagerly awaited, and scorecards followed assiduously. Once the league died in 2008 (I ran it after a succession of others – we had a few people leave work, so got tougher to arrange) county cricket wasn’t an obsession. (I recall another notable thing from the latter days of that competition was I had to get squads and try to classify the players. One Kevin Pietersen in his first season was classed as a bowler in my annual player list. Imagine the glee of my colleague when he had immunity for scores under 10 for a prime batsman, Fantasy cricket was a batsman’s game, and KP racked up double hundreds while sitting at 11 in his batting order! Bastard).

Now how do I see County Championship cricket? A decent day out with mates might be the best answer. Last year I went to Surrey v Derbyshire on a rain-affected day, which was memorable for meeting Benny, and then had a terrific day at Lord’s for Day 3 of the Middlesex v Yorkshire game where I saw Toby Roland-Jones make his maiden hundred, and got the chance to meet  Mr Declaration Game and Mr Tim Wigmore. These days out, especially if we get lucky with the weather, are relaxing, get me away from work, and generally end in great days out with my good mates. The cricket, frequently, matters only when I’m behind the camera. That’s a bit harsh, actually, because I remember snapping away at Surrey v Middlesex through the zoom on the lens, and watching the mastery of Hashim Amla on a raging turner a few years back. That sort of thing isn’t too common, though.

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Too often, county cricket is used by some as some sort of badge of honour, a kind of haughtiness ensues when people discuss it. “Oh, don’t spoil our discussion on the merits of [insert jobbing county pro] with your international cricket stuff. I’m just not interested.” Fine, if that’s your boat, set up a county cricket discussion board of your own. I was warned off this early in my enhanced blogging career (2014) by nonoxcol, when I made the mistake of trying to bring some ECB issue into a county discussion. In my opinion this is part of the problem with the county structures and the long-form of the game. There’s too much inherent snobbery in it. I used to say that when the Beautiful South wrote a song, I thought they’d finish it, and congratulate themselves on how clever they were. That’s the impression I get of a number of county cricket fans. By no means all – I’ve had some great conversations with total strangers at county matches – but if you go to games, and read about them, you get the picture.

It’s easy to like the county championship. It’s relatively cheap – £15-£20 to watch decent quality stuff and the ability not to be held hostage by the catering arrangements at international and T20 games is really pretty OK. I like the peaceful atmosphere at The Oval and Lord’s on a working day, amidst the hubbub of the massive metropolis. It’s soothing and makes you feel light years away from your office, when it is really only a short bus ride away. Then there’s going to Guilldford, or T-Wells, or Chelmsford, or Arundel as we have over the past few years (not forgetting Whitgift and Southgate) and being a little more up close and personal – seeing KP at Whitgift, Ricky Ponting at Arundel  and Shane Warne at Southgate is just something else – which is a great day out. I’m looking to get down to Hove for the first time in 39 years this summer, for example. But this is about my personal enjoyment, not really an emotional investment in a competition or two.

That’s not sustainable as a business model. It never will be, so why try? It might just be time to accept that the County Championship is like it is, because that is what it is. An anachronism, never likely to be self-funding, always likely to be a compromise, and more likely to become skewed to the haves rather than the have nots. I just request that those who love it, cherish it and breathe it don’t act as if they are some higher power, someone sent from the Gods of Cricket to save the international fans from themselves, while also hoping and praying that those newly-retired or ensconced in press boxes don’t bite the hand that fed them and disparage it at every turn.

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Whitgift

But what do you think? I notice when I write about the domestic game in the UK there’s a rather lukewarm response. I know this blog has an international audience, but the majority of hits and comments are from the UK. Have a say. Speak up. Say what you think.

Predictions? Can’t see past Yorkshire, Warwickshire might run them close, not sure Middlesex can repeat what they did last year, can’t see my mob pulling up any trees. I start off with good intentions to go to watch it, but only go on very few occasions.

We have a trial type of post coming up related to this. Stay tuned.

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Are You Not Entertained?

Bad news for all you “The Leg Glance” fans out there, as the reins for the 4th Test preview have been handed to me. Yes, one of my alter egos that gets the people to moan, is back. The Twitter Idiot Dmitri Old. If you’ve not seen my poem on trains tonight, well, go and look. The Bogfather liked it. That’s enough for me. TLG is unavailable until much later in the week, so I’m writing the preview. Loads of words, a bit of scorecard nonsense, a plea for realism and I think just the one mention of Kevin Pietersen. That’s progress.

We’ve seen the media in full cry this week. I do believe we were world ranked #6 going into this series so inevitably knocking off the world #1 in their own backyard is sound enough evidence that this is the World’s Best on the brink of something special. Now, as you know, I’m not overly swayed by world rankings, and tend to think of who might come out best on neutral grounds in test matches. So, if England were to play Australia in India for example, who would win? India played Australia in the UAE who would win (or maybe the West Indies)? I think it is fair to say that South Africa got to number 1 because they were the most adaptable side in all conditions. They got stuck into pretty much anyone and didn’t lose. Then that tour of India saw them disintegrate and provided England with an opportunity to hit a side very low on confidence.

That they did, and kept the hammer down speaks volumes for this team, and we can all see the promise. But think of the dominant teams and you think of excellent bowling attacks – and England could provide rivals to the vaunted 2005 attack if only they could all bowl together. It’s as if Stuart needs Jimmy to be absent or off his game to be the king. Stokes has a lot more wickets at this stage of his test career than Freddie for instance. It has immense promise. The batting line-up is deep, allowing numbers 6,7 and 8 to flog tired attacks if the top order does its job. But the achilles heel is the batting. Think of world number 1 teams at their ascendancy. Greenidge, Haynes, Richards, Lloyd; Hayden, Langer, Ponting, Martyn, S. Waugh/Hussey/M.Waugh, Gilchrist; Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Dhoni; Smith, Kallis, Amla, DeVilliers. We have Cook and Root. England’s team that got to world #1 had a fading Strauss, but Cook going well, Bell, Trott, KP. When you look at this team, it’s short there.

This needs to be remembered as we see press people get carried away. I’ve not read BTL, or much of the papers (that site needs updating when I have a few hours) as real life has interjected. But some of the hints on Twitter, the over-burdening of praise, over hyping individuals has been noted on social media. This is an exciting team, I really don’t want people to get the idea that I’m arguing the contrary, but act like we’ve not got ADHD? They’ve won three of their last 8 test series, drawn 1 and lost 4. Perspective is not losing sight of the bigger picture. There are many looking at the upcoming home schedule and thinking that it’s there for us. It could be, but let’s win those matches.

I was also amused at the piece today citing that Stuart Broad is in the top five English bowlers ever. All I’d say about that piece is that no-one would have written it before this test. And that’s not to besmirch Stuart Broad, who can point to the wickets and say, “it’s true.” I hate everything about this rush to hyperbole, and contextualising modern day cricket only. It’s the way the Premier League denies anything before 1992, why any young kid who scores for Man Utd is lauded out of scale etc. I’ll bark at the moon all I want on this one. I do get excited, just not carried away. That’s not the modern way.

So on to the 4th Test in Centurion. We have not lost there, if my memory serves me well. The first tour was the first test ever played on the ground, and Hick made a ton before the rains. The infamous leather jacket test was next, so less said the better. 2005 saw us clinch the series having given us mild palpitations after tea on Day 5, and the last time we visited, we drew with nine down. So the positives are that we go to a venue with a decent record. The flip side is that we don’t seem to finish test series well. Losses in Sharjah, at The Oval, Headingley and Bridgetown this past 10 months are fresh in the memory. Only one of those can be put down to being a “dead rubber” like this.

The hosts appear to be a team in disarray. A captain who seems to be giving out all the signs of jacking it in before he even started, flux at the top, Amla seeming to be not as sure as himself as he used to be, bowling raw or not good enough (or a bit of both) and the fielding surprisingly off. But there’s a palpable sense, from here, of a team lacking belief. Belief in itself, in the future, and with the sport itself. I’m used to South Africans being up for it, playing up their strengths, not approaching a game in fear. They looked a beaten side in Joburg long before the coup de grace was executed by Broad.

This is a big test match for Hales, Compton and Taylor. None have stamped their authority on their place, while all have given great hints as to why they are there. I’m not going to have the obligatory dig at Cook because there’s no point. His stats only matter when he scores runs. Bairstow nailing down the batsman/keeper spot is a bonus, Stokes’s game changing abilities are a rare commodity and we should be keen to accentuate the positive – I’m not sure we’ve really come to terms with the 258. I suppose Woakes will be in for the injured Finn to cement his status as “next taxi on the rank”.

OK, I’ve meandered enough. Comments for Day 1 will be in a separate thread, but until then, have a great rest of the week.

All the best.

Dmitri / Lord Canis Lupus

@DmitriOld @LordCanisLupus.

2015 Ashes – 5th Test Day 2

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Hello.  That was certainly an interesting set of comments we received on day 1. The village idiots turned up, had their say and naffed off. But they seemed to have made an impression on one useful idiot.

I saw little of day 1. I’m so sorry if trying to earn enough to feed my family got in the way. However, from this remote perspective it appeared to be Aussie’s day. No doubt if Smith makes a big one it will be discounted by the cognoscenti.  I find that laughable, especially if Chef makes a big one. We’re watching this double standard nonsense.

Ooooh. Etheridge has slagged me off. I should be ashamed. Of what I don’t know. Here’s the tweet I received close to midnight. Thursdays are always trouble!

People. I’m not ashamed of you. Not at all. Here’s a little thing, though. I do hope this individual is not personally holding himself responsible for the sins of his newspaper and anyone who uses their comment pages. Because that would be funny.

As for me being self-pitying? Whatever. Why you having a pop at little old me? I would encourage you to read the thread between both TLG and I with Etheridge. It is astounding. If you are not used to Twitter, pick out @DmitriOld or @BlueEarthManagement. It’s gob-smacking.

To the cricket. Comments on day 2 below.

Edit- took out the point about drinking. John said he hadn’t. I had been at a leaving do. Happy to point that out.

Day of Protest

With the fifth Test due to get under way, the ECB have been slapping themselves on the back at a job well done and as usual the media have been all too complicit in ignoring the wider issues.

There is nothing quite so important, nor quite so scandalous, as the power grab by the Big Three of world cricket, to take over the ICC, and to award themselves the bulk of the revenues, while emasculating every other cricketing nation whether Test playing or Associate. It is the subject of the recently released film, Death of a Gentleman, for which you can read our review both of the film and the issues it raises here:

https://collythorpe.wordpress.com/2015/08/10/death-of-a-gentleman-2/

Those who have seen the film are angry. Those who know what it’s about are angry. Those who read our post on it are angry too. Yet the constant frustration has been that the authorities neither listen, nor care what the fans think. As Gideon Haigh pointed out, supporters are there purely to be exploited.

Jarrod Kimber and Sam Collins, who made the film always intended it to be the catalyst for those who love the game and who have supported it both financially and with their time to raise their voices in protest at what our own boards, created to protect the game, are doing in their own selfish interest and with no regard for anything or anyone else.

The film was the first step, the creation of the http://www.changecricket.com website and @changecricket Twitter account another.

The cry of the disenfranchised is always “what can I do?” so to that end, this Thursday on the first day of the fifth Test at the Oval, there will be a silent protest mourning the death of cricket as we know it.

All who wish to register their objections to the theft of our game by those who care only for power and money are invited to attend. At 10am, a three minute silence (one minute for each of the England, Australia and India boards) will be held at the Hobbs Gate outside the ground.

The protest is being supported by Jamie Fuller and Damian Collins MP, both of whom have been part of the campaign against corruption at FIFA in recent times. Paul Burnham of the Barmy Army will also be there.

Even if not attending the match, the organisers ask that anyone in the area who can make it for an hour come along and show support for this most important of causes. Sam and Jarrod have suggested fans wear their country’s colours, but the most important thing is to get a good attendance, and then maybe even the cricket press who have in large part (the exceptions know who they are) remained silent.

This is our game, and while we might argue until we’re blue in the face about issues like Kevin Pietersen, the point is that we want to be able to argue about it in the future, and there’s no guarantee we will be able to.

The greedy, self-interested bastards at the BCCI, ECB and CA are stealing our sport. It’s time to stop them.

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@BlueEarthMngmnt
@DmitriOld
@OutsideCricket

England v New Zealand – ODI #3 – The Ageas Bowl

After the day-night nonsense on Friday, there’s a very short turnaround for game 3 of this compelling series. The teams will do battle at the Ageas Bowl and England won’t want to remember the last time we met at that venue….

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england-v-new-zealand-2013/engine/match/566924.html

This game was just before the Champions Trophy, and the score of 359 was an asbolute blockbuster for this country. Now it seems around par. What the hell is going on? I seem to recall Jonathan Trott getting a bit of stick for his century at just over a run a ball, but then again, we sort of blamed him for most things in ODIs when he was a decent performer. But with the euphoria of the last two matches, Jonathan Trott appears to be the Betamax to this team’s VHS. It’s odd how things have turned in two years.

There also was the clue for Guptill’s double ton in the World Cup writ large in that fixture. He went off in the last 10 overs. It was a great batting wicket, he got in, he cashed in. Also, it can’t be helped, but Jade Dernbach posted some mighty fine numbers in that game.

So to the game at the Ageas. England will be forced to make a minimum of two changes. Chris Jordan being ruled out was no surprise as he was shunted down the order, clearly inhibited by his injury, but Liam Plunkett’s absence falls into the “oh damn” category. While his bowling has been no worse than the others, his punchy hitting in the last two games has shown a real liveliness, and he gave England hope when there was little on Friday. Damn. Craig Overton has already been called up, and there’s speculation on the wires over the other, with many wanting Footit to have his day.

As it is, tomorrow might see two of the squad members play, with Mark Wood and David Willey surely in line to play (otherwise, why are they in the squad?) There then remains the question over whether Sam Billings keeps his place. It would appear slightly strange to drop him as his replacement would need to be James Taylor and he’s not a number 7. Or he shouldn’t be. We don’t want Buttler coming in at 7, nor Stokes, so there is a logjam there. I’ll let them call that one.

After a hammering in Game 1, the New Zealanders showed their batting class, and had the real difference maker on the day, Trent Boult, in their line-up. McCullum might be due a big one if he can just cut out the 100% give it a lash approach, but that’s the joy with this team; they can hurt you in so many ways.

Here’s hoping for another belter. Comments below.

It was good to see the people coming out of the ether to discuss thelegglance’s piece with us today. It was an excellent discussion and gave us some food for thought. There’s a key point not to treat the print media as a homogenous unit, but the old guard are certainly in the firing line. One read of Pringle’s article in this month’s Cricketer which speaks again of KP’s propaganda machine and of Strauss calling him a c–t being quite endearing, is just embarrassing. I’ve been advised by more than one source to stop letting this sort of thing wind me up. Well, if I didn’t, you lot wouldn’t be here………

Set your alarm clocks. Bunkers at 8:30 am.

All the best.

@DmitriOld @collythorpe @outsidecricket

England v New Zealand – 1st Test, Day 3 – Open Thread

New Zealand 303-2 (Williamson 92*, Guptill 70, Latham 59, Taylor 47*) trail England 389 (Root 98, Stokes 92, Buttler 67, Moeen Ali 58 – Boult 4/79, Henry 4/93) by 86 runs with 8 first innings wickets remaining.

Dmitri doing the match update stuff today, so maybe this won’t be to everyone’s tastes!

The events of the past 15 months have seen my attitude to cricket change considerably. I had been a truly passionate supporter of England, and while I always appreciated the great players around the world, I would get to dislike some of them based on the fact that they weren’t from my team. You can’t help who you are. Now, with the nonsense of the past 15 months, with no sign of any meaningful contrition, I watch the matches with a more neutral perspective. This time a couple of years ago the performances this evening of Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson would have driven me mad. Instead I watched as a man struggling with his body, and to some extent his game, in Ross Taylor battle gainfully, fighting hard, grafting. I love that in a player. Then there was the almost too perfect Kane Williamson, looking every part the true class batsman he is. It was almost inevitable he made runs, looking totally in tune with his game, and rarely, if ever, looking threatened. I’m preparing the next instalment of Century Watch for the inevitable… (that’ll curse him). It’s early days, I know, and this will be just two tests, but do you remember how, in the mid 2000s, every time Mohammed Yousuf came to the crease, you knew he’d score runs? I felt like that with Kane today.

A lot of comment both here and on Twitter was focused on the Cook captaincy. It’s a default setting we have, that if things go wrong, it’s our beloved captain who is to blame. We knew what we were getting when we appointed him. Solid opening bat (at the time) with a penchant for run gluts, but also technically based, and vulnerable to flaws. The appointed vice-captain who had the label “not a natural captain” when he deputised for Strauss in Bangladesh. This is not a surprise, and I save my ire for Headingley Day 4 disasters rather than today. Those of us at The Oval in 2012 saw just how a pedstrian, out of sorts, bowling attack can struggle whoever is captain. Even his attempts at tactical changes, such as the leg trap and bowling round the wicket are almost by-the-numbers. I’m at the stage that having a pop at his captaincy isn’t worth it. He’ll have his days (Grenada Day 5 wasn’t just Jimmy Anderson) but he’ll have a lot of bad ones. This wasn’t in the same league as those that actually lose tests.

The match is set up well. England’s score was brilliant considering we were 30-4, and I thought it was more competitive than it looks right now. I was watching the Brisbane test on the flight home on Tuesday and saw how smug we were to have bowled out the Aussies for 280 odd, because it was a flat deck and the tail had put the runs together. We know what happened next. This score looked better because we scored quickly and there was a view that the pitch has something in it. New Zealand batted well, some chances were missed (rare is the game where every chance is taken), and they are pouring it on. Yes, if Wood’s over-stepping hadn’t been caught, the day might have been different, but that’s the game. The perceived weakness in the Black Caps, the supposed flaky opening partnership, put on a really decent platform (admittedly, I was catching up with sleep for most of it – still suffering) and now everyone is worried about McCullum. I’d be more worried about the bloke who is 92 not out and has a big double to his name in the very recent past.

For added reading today, have a laugh at Martin Samuel’s Daily Mail column – this is a football writer (and I despise him for that) trying to justify his varied sport portfolio and he spent yesterday bemoaning people going on and on about you know who, and wrote a whole column, it seemed, on you know who. I’m no fan of Newman, but when you have him and Lawrence Booth on your books, what’s the point of Samuel just showing up and writing this stuff? I’ve not read Selvey, so will go and look at it. I got a whiff of Simon and Smiffy at lunchtime on TMS, and FICJAM was in marvellous condescending form. I also had plenty of fuel to my anti-Lord’s fire with the constant looks at the spectators there today – I’m sorry, if you dress like that for a sporting event, there’s something up – and if you chucked, or allowed, a champagne cork on a football ground in this country you’d be banned for life (first for smuggling it in).

Lastly, from Vian and I, many thanks for the visits and comments. It’s the 22nd of May and this blog has had more hits in a calendar month than any here on BOC, or HDWLIA. This is, of course, down to the new writer, who is now outshining me at every turn 🙂 . I’m going to get The Analyst to write a piece like this on him any day now. Seriously, it’s been brilliant how his style has been received here and I know he’s going down really well. It’ll be his turn tomorrow night/Sunday morning…..

Cheers all, and looking forward to tomorrow’s play.

Comments below.

@DmitriOld

@blueearthmanagement

@OutsideCricket

326 Not Out – Part 1

Not Wanted

For some context, and a piece that sums up my views on KP, try this.

Where on earth do you start on a day like this? Let’s set the scene a little. As some of you know, I’m on holiday (vacation out here) in a place called Cape May, New Jersey. It isn’t the Jersey of Springsteen, with the New York overspill or the refineries and factories. It isn’t the Jersey Shore of TV infamy, nor is it Atlantic City, where I’ve been today, but a quiet, sleepy seaside town, with one side on the Atlantic Ocean and the other on the Delaware Bay. I’m 200 yards from the sea. It’s lovely.

So you’ll understand that I wasn’t up with the lark this morning, and rather enjoying a lie-in. I awoke, at around 2pm I think, UK time to be greeted with a number of comments on the blog remarking that KP had made a century. “What a lovely start to the day” I thought, and then chuckled to myself that those haters would be tripping over themselves to diminish it. Also, taking the game situation into context, Surrey really needed those runs, and needed more. What did I do though? I tweeted

Lawrence Booth got back to me (he didn’t know how the day would end up)

I responded…

I calmed down a little, and had a little walk, and came back to see the Pietersen machine rolling along, allied to a tail that didn’t give it away. 150 was up…. and I was busy working out what he needed to make to get the average over 100 if he got out (188). When he passed that, the next target was 200, and so that was passed. By now the joy was let forth. I never believed he would get back to smashing any attack around for these sort of scores. A century or two would be ignored, because, well, anyone gets them. But a double is not easily ignored – as Sky Sports pundits and hosts kept saying “if KP churns out a double hundred or two, then what…” As I left the house with a spring in my step and a little joy in my heart, I got on my international sim phone and followed the score up the Garden State Parkway. 220, 240, 255 (past his best score), 270, 290 and then….300.

Now, I don’t care what standard you play, but 300 is nothing to be trifled with. It is not to be ignored. If this were a player who had shown no aptitude for test cricket, had tried and failed, or was a promising youngster, maybe there’s an excuse. That isn’t what we are talking about here. We are talking about a test cricketer of proven ability, who not that long ago was making very decent centuries (anyone forget his Old Trafford hundred less than two years ago?) and had answered his critics by coming back to first class county cricket, a format that he doesn’t particularly cherish, and he’s smashed it everywhere. 326 not out. Ignore that.

I was so happy, I should have popped into the Golden Nugget and put money on 24.

So, I’m wandering around the shops and left the international phone in the car. Treated myself to a couple of things, and then went back to the car. As we’re crossing Little Egg Harbour, I saw the TMS Tweet.

And I went ballistic. Absolutely fucking ballistic.

You may have seen my twitter outpourings, but if not, just go on there and look for @DmitriOld . The ECB had chosen this moment to announce that they were not picking KP for England again. Ever. This would not happen. Not in a blue moon. No chance. Cut off without a prayer. Brought hope forward by intimating he had a chance, and when he stuffed it back at them, they said “no, sorry”.

Make no mistake, for all the weasel words we’ve heard since, where there has been some suppsoed back-tracking, we’ll get a restatement of Andrew Strauss’s position tomorrow (the one we read about weeks ago, and why we so opposed his appointment now) which will be all about building teams for 2019 blah blah blah and that KP will be 39 by then. If you fall for that old pony, you’ll fall for anything. They are blocking his way, no matter what. There will always be a reason not to pick him. If he followed this 300+ up with another monster score in his next outing, it won’t matter to these idiots, for idiots are what they are that they would rule out a monster talent returning to monster form. It IS one innings, and it IS just part of the road back. But this lot want to block it for what? Personal reasons? If he’s the best batsman, in form, in the country, you play him. It really isn’t that complicated. Let me effing well repeat that. IT REALLY ISN’T THAT COMPLICATED.

This is the ECB in a nutshell. Cricket is meant to be exciting, it is meant to be fun to watch, it is meant to thrill as well as enthrall, to appreciate graft and genius in all its forms. It’s not a bloody game won by management consultants, self-help books on army drills and team-building nonsense. It’s won by talent, it’s won by attitude, it’s won by seizing the moment, not ticking some Belbin Analysis or a team leader assignment on a marines assault course. This team we have now can be as together as it likes, but it collapsed like wet cardboard at Headingley last summer after an abject display by its captain. It hooked its way to a loss after another abject bowling display at Lord’s v India, and despite a turnaround which has been praised as if we’d turned into the Invincibles, we went to the West Indies and collapsed in a heap in Barbados. They are so together, they collapse in a heap in synch. I’m not saying KP makes you immune to that, but it also doesn’t mean that these batsmen are set in stone, no matter how much they say they are. If I could have a pound for all the times someone says to me “who would you drop?” then it would have paid for my shopping today. That’s not the way to look at it. It is “who are the best batsmen in the country?” If the answer is KP, then Ian Bell, Gary Ballance or Joe Root will just have to get over it.

Which is all I want. Pick our best team. Pick our best players.

Watching some of the jealous muppets on Twitter is sickening. Honestly, they act like the Katie Hopkins of the sporting world. Muppet Pringle, a man who got the sack for not reading the runes it appears, had this absolute gem, which in its brevity sums up why English team sports are absolutely Donald Ducked.

Principles over PR? What is he on about? Principles…. oh yes, they’ve worked so far. We backed a captain who took two years to make a ton, and has little or no tactical acumen over and above chuck it to Anderson and Broad and hope it works. We’ve had principles that Cook is sacrosanct in the test arena, and for a while in the ODI arena, and will work to the detriment of English cricket and hamper preparation for major events by backing him until it’s too late. Yeah, principles. Teams with principles are usually rigid, inflexible, and bound to them. Principles means authority rules, so shut the hell up.

Meanwhile, making 326 not out in a county game, I suppose, is PR. Jesus wept. Oh, and there’s a dig about tweeters too. Genius.

But it seems that our ECB would rather follow this “play the game chaps” approach, rather than countenance that they might have made an error. In part 2, which I’ll write later, I’ll go on to all that. And the unprecedented reaction I saw on Twitter after that TMS tweet. This is a fire that just will not go out. The ECB, instead of dampening it down, seem to want to put petrol on it.