India vs England: Fourth Test, day four

One of the tricks of politics – spin as we call it – is to predict complete catastrophe and then talk up the subsequent normal disaster as being a positive result, better than expected, and evidence that the cause is making progress. A succession of party spin doctors are wheeled out to say the leader is having the desired effect, because they never expected to win anyway, and thus they are very satisfied.

Of course, this is invariably in complete contradiction of everything visible, and the interviewer usually points that out, but it’s a game, a routine to be followed, and at least normally they’ve been clever enough to have set out the predicted calamity in advance. The one group of people thoroughly ignored are all those watching, who roll their eyes at such a transparent fabrication but then they aren’t important anyway, it’s merely a routine to be followed and wilful defiance of the bleeding obvious and living in a fantasy world is considered an entirely normal response in that bizarre world.

Naturally, any statements to the contrary previously are ignored in the hope that anyone watching is so stupid they won’t even realise. This tends not to work.

Now, all of this plays out with the media being the ones making it clear on behalf of the public that this is pure nonsense, but just imagine for a moment that instead, they were to raise the very point of expected flop to the lying bastard…sorry politician offering them a free get out and a nice excuse for failure. And then doing it again. And again. Each time it happens.

England were not expected to win this series, in fact not even the most ardent cheerleaders who usually come up with preposterous predictions of certain victory suggested that. But there’s the realism about what England could have been expected to achieve, and then there’s Agnew claiming England have done well not to lose this winter 7-0. This includes the tour of Bangladesh remember, the team who have never before beaten anyone other than Zimbabwe and the West Indies fourth team.

Now that first series was great, and credit to Bangladesh for how they played. But to attempt to paint the 1-1 draw as being an England triumph is spin doctoring of a level that the West Wing writers would have rejected as unrealistic. Likewise, as this series unfolded England apparently only lost the second Test because they lost the toss, and with a little luck they would bat first in the third and all would be well. And then they did. And got hammered.  Oh and the fourth. And they’re getting hammered.

But then after three matches India really weren’t all that good and England were quite capable of winning and getting back in the series. Which with a fair wind was just about possible, and a reasonable supposition. Except that now it was never possible in the first place and who could ever have suggested such a thing?

Let’s get something clear here, India is a very difficult place to tour, and they’ve not lost at home since England beat them four years ago. So losing this tour is not in itself the problem, for most observers would have thought that was the most likely outcome all along.

But would the England side of four years ago have done better? Almost certainly. They had better spinners, and they had better batsmen. That’s not a lament to a lost side, for time moves on, but it is a recognition that those who said India are good but not unbeatable were right. But to win England would have to play exceptionally well, be led exceptionally well and had their key players perform superbly.

That hasn’t happened.

C’est la vie, for this too is the nature of sport. There’s little point getting too down on an England side who have been outplayed at the key moments in all the matches bar the first one. But it has been remarkable to see an entirely new replacement for the Kubler-Ross model involving some of the fifth estate blaming absolutely everyone possible for wrong reasons at the wrong time. Except one.

Again, to simply point the finger at the captain would be equally wrong, for this is a complex set of circumstances and he has been having a progressively more difficult time of it on the field. But, and this is the constant frustration with his coverage, the endless attempts to excuse the golden boy while lashing out at others is shameful. The cricket press have been supine and by turns spiteful over the last four years. It’s by no means all of them, and of those that do, they seem to be as on the long goodbye as much as Cook now is.  But it remains a grotesque sight, and one that must cause frustration for the more rational objective journalists. They end up guilty by association.

The nub of it is that cricket tragics are well aware that this is a tough tour, they are equally aware that India have better spin bowlers, for the only time they didn’t in recent years was four years ago. Anyone with a passing knowledge of the game also knows that Virat Kohli is a damn fine player, and that he’s anything but alone in that team.

Furthermore, in all team sports the wheels can come off, and on a long tour small margins can become gaping chasms. England really haven’t been completely adrift in this series, they have competed and they have had moments where the opportunity to do something was there. But ultimately the margins of defeat have been large, and they are getting larger. The prospects for the fifth Test are, well let’s just say unpropitious.

But the blame game has another angle to it, the notable whispers about Cook departing as captain. There is an irony that he is now victim of a whispering campaign in the press, for those who objected in the past to the ECB methodology also object now; he may have been a beneficiary in the past, what goes around may come around, but it’s still leaking, and it’s still underhand, and it’s still wrong. Which means that while Cook doesn’t directly get blamed for anything – for that would be to undermine the previous line that he is an outstanding leader who cuddles little lambs – there is an almost pitying theme running through the narrative that he now doesn’t know where to turn when things go wrong.

As if this has only just been noticed.

This morning was an omnishambles, seam bowlers utterly innocuous – and the silence about the way India’s seamers have utterly outbowled England’s is another notable refusal to face the truth – a captain bereft of ideas, catches dropped and a sense of resignation right across the field. Naturally, this is turned into a complaint that the spinners (who suffered from dropped catches, idiotic reviews that subsequently cost wickets and the usual unhelpful field settings) aren’t doing their jobs. As if them not being as good as their counterparts is a major shock.

Adil Rashid in particular continues to be criticised, despite being far and away England’s most successful bowler on the tour. One of a limited number of positive points. It’s not that he can’t do better, it’s that the desire to bully a player in print exceeds the obligation to be objective. It is not the first time it’s happened, and it isn’t going to be the last. The only shock is that it hasn’t happened to Ben Stokes yet.

With such a huge deficit, this match was only going to go one way, and as it turned out England batted reasonably well second time around. When one side is being ground into the dust, it invariably appears the sides are playing on different pitches. And there’s no doubt at all this is now a difficult surface on which to bat, no matter how easy India made it look against a beaten England team. Taken in isolation the approach was a good one, to take some risks, to score some runs and to be positive with footwork and in defence. Root batted well but yet again failed to go on to a really big score, while Bairstow once more did his impression of Horatio on the bridge.

None of it matters. England are gone in this series, and while raging against the dying of the light is meritorious in itself, it doesn’t change anything except to indicate that there are players in this team with the degree of relish for the fight that will serve them well in future years.

A realistic assessment of where they are doesn’t mean focusing on fripperies like Bruce Oxenford making a couple of errors, nor suggesting a game is lost because the current whipping boy dropped a catch and thus the match. It’s an excuse and a pathetic one at that, an attempt to avoid considering the bigger picture, lest the sight of tusks and a trunk be spotted by all and sundry.

Barring the kind of miracle that would genuinely be rather special, India will win the series tomorrow. And they deserve it, for they are a good team, and a very good one at home. There’s no shame in losing to them, there’s not even shame in not playing well. But there is in doing everything possible to avoid facing the facts. The irony is that it may not be the England team on this tour who should be feeling it.

Day Five Comments below

The Outside Cricket(er) List

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

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

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

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

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

We Worship At Their Altar
No Surprise Omissions

Stephen Brenkley

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

Ian Botham

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

Dermot Reeve

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

Nick Knight

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

Paul Newman

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

John Etheridge

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

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

Kevin Pietersen

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

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

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

Ravi Shastri

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

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

Colin Graves

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

Channel 9 commentary

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

Andy Flower

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

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

Jonathan Agnew

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

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

Michael Henderson

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

David Lloyd

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

Chris Stocks

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

Guardian County Cricket Blog

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

Simon Hughes

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

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

….does him no favours.

Jimmy Anderson

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

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

Lord’s

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

James Whitaker

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

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

Alastair Cook

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

Andrew Strauss

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

Dave Richardson

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

Peter Miller

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

Charles Colville

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

Peter Moores

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

Any Excuse....
Any Excuse….

Giles Clarke

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

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

Pringle - Erase KP

Derek Pringle

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

Paul Downton

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

David Gower

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

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

Ed Smith Is Really Clever
Copied from an original piece

 

Ed Smith

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

Danny Morrison

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

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

*They will be ignored – just so you know.

Stuart Broad

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

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

Dominic Cork

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

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

The County Chairmen

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

Chris Gayle

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

Michael Vaughan

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

Dennis Freedman

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

Mark Nicholas

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

Nasser Hussain

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

The IPL

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

Ali Martin

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

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

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

Elizabeth Ammon

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

Mike Selvey

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

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

Tom Harrison

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

David Saker 

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

Shane Warne

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

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

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

Atherton could barely disguise his incredulity.

Graeme Swann

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

p1070558-02.jpeg

Jade Dernbach

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

The English Medical Staff

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

———————————————————————-

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

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

Sean, TLG, Dmitri

 

The Headlines

,

Pipe Down Week

Good day to you all….

Not sure if TLG has a day’s play review coming up, but we’ll get something later. (UPDATE – He is. Don’t worry TLG, post as soon as it is ready…)

There’s been a bit of a break from me (again) this week or so. I have a rule with this blog that if I am off sick from work I do not write posts on here. It’s not right, and I am not about to take the mickey out of an employer, no matter how much the provocation. The odd comment here and there, but no posts. But I am back fit and well, so there are opportunities for me to get back into it. I do know I still owe the patrons the rest of the review of 2015, including the May entry which, as many of you might know, was the record month for hits. All in the future, when I get around to it.

I thought I’d pick up on some of TLG’s observations in his excellent piece on Day 1 of the test. The thought is that we (I) might have over-reacted to the witterings of an idiot or two on Twitter, but TLG was right to say, yet again (and if you can sense the frustration in my “writing voice” as I put this down for the umpteenth time) that neither he nor I have any desire whatsoever to be journalists. Before some smart arse thinks they can do it for me, I need to get something off my chest.

Not be a journalist? What does that mean? If it means getting paid then TLG’s assertion is about 95% true in my case, as I’ve long held a dream of being the English bloke who brought American sports to the UK in terms of writing as one day I might live out there, and perhaps be recompensed for it. I dipped my toe in the water just over a year ago. For a few weeks in 2014 I wrote a couple of pieces for a website, they never got published, and I never claimed for the work – basically, after tax on the earnings from it, it was not a great use of my time. I never bothered with it afterwards. So it’s not strictly true that I didn’t want to get paid for what I do, it’s just I never wanted to get paid for doing this blog. We don’t have donate buttons, we’ll never take on paid advertising, and speaking for myself, I’ll keep this going for as long as I can.

I have made absolutely no pretence throughout the life of this blog that it reflects my views in my posts. You can choose to agree or disagree. I don’t speak for anyone other than myself, or if the blog is challenged, the people who come on here and contribute in the way that they should. I do get annoyed at people who wilfully misrepresent what we say, act as some sort of gatekeepers for the media, or worse still, act like they give a shit on here, and then run off elsewhere and slag us off. I don’t expect everyone to like us, good grief no. I’m not that naive.

But if they want to accuse us of being journalists, then let’s have the evidence. Because it’s not new. My first ever blog was derided as being tragic. I thought it was nonsense then. We write on cricket here, but don’t want it as a profession, and don’t get paid, nor have access to players, administrators or, in many cases, those who do get paid to report. I don’t consider this journalism.

But what is journalism? The online definition when “journalism” is input to Google is…

the activity or profession of writing for newspapers or magazines or of broadcasting news on radio or television.

We write, but not for newspapers or magazines and we don’t have broadcasting capabilities (although one day we might try to do a podcast – already have a name if we do it “The KCC”). The difference between blogging and journalism can be defined by the medium of transmission, but I don’t think that’s what the likes of Agnew and Etheridge, to name two, are on about. They are on about the years of “hard yards”, the slog to get where they are, the contacts, the ability to access information, the way they go about their writing, the time it has taken to develop these skills. I’m not denying that at all. But I don’t pretend to be that, and I don’t want to be that.

However, I also think they subscribe to the journalist Saleem Khan’s description (Saleem being a full-time journalist at the time this was published)

The blogger vs. journalist debate is (in my view) primarily an old-guard one promoted by traditionalists who regard bloggers as unreliable, non-authoritative sources of information vs. journalists who are viewed as reliable and authoritative under this model. (I believe it’s an argument that stems from journalists’ self-preservation instinct, meant to warn people away from bloggers and convince them to go to journalists to stay informed as traditional news outlets’ fortunes wane.)

The reality is not so black and white. Bloggers have diligently investigated and reported news stories that had been ignored and eventually made it to mainstream news outlets, and professional journalists have reported unverified, unreliable and ultimately false stories as fact.

Bloggers may be subject-area experts with deep professional training, experience and knowledge of a topic that is often greater than a journalist (or they may not be).

Journalists may also be domain experts with extensive training and experience, but are more likely to come by their specialized knowledge of a topic over time through sources they interview.

We write, by and large, opinion pieces. We delve into “facts” when it comes to some of the stats, and we try to piece together what is going on from the shreds of evidence we come across, but after all that, most of our pieces are our opinion of what we have gleaned. We don’t think we are right all the time, but judging by some of the reactions we get, we don’t think we are miles off the mark on much of our stuff either. If this poses a “threat” then I suggest those that feel that way get used to it.

Those from the journalistic side who now snort at us were more than willing, when times were very tough and a lot of shot and shell was fired around them, to come and talk on here, or DM me, or engage on Twitter. How odd it is, post-Ashes, that any of our interactions now tend to be short, have diminished in number, or are now totally ignored. No, I’m not begging them to come back, and no, I don’t get the hump if someone else talks to them. I just get amused by their transparency of motive then and opacity of approach now. As I said, The Ashes win saved more than just the England team, it kept the media corps in clover too. There’s the offers to explain what they do, as if it’s a huge secret, sure. But where there was regular contact and dialogue, there’s not a lot.

A blogger has to be more personal. Has to develop relationships with their respondents, take on board their views, have an inkling what people might want to read if they are to come back to read more. But it is also about being your own boss, your own editor (yeah, I’m bad at that) and having your own style. If it works, it works. Hey, this works.

Personally, I’m just a fan of the sport writing about it, and writing about how it is reported. I choose to have just one title, if I was forced. Blogger. That is all.

I Think We Understand

Peter Hayter has an interesting piece up on ESPN Cricinfo.

His finale sums up the issues. Those out there think we don’t understand. We do. But only you are in a position to do anything about it….

The finale…..

The standard of reporting remains excellent, but the desire of the cricket authorities in general, and the ECB in particular, to manage the news, manipulate the media and, on occasions, be downright obstructive, is unhealthy and unhelpful. So is the complicity of those journalists who have allowed the daily news briefing to form the basis of their coverage. Aiding individual requests for access is almost impossible. But if anyone has bothered to buy all the newspapers after non-match days in recent summers, they would quickly have realised they were reading the same story, featuring the same quotes, in the same order. The reader will also be told at the end of such a piece, and sometimes halfway through it, that so-and-so was speaking as a “brand ambassador” for whichever sponsor’s turn it was to have the use of an England player – information that will mean nothing to readers. Those who work in public relations call it churnalism. Journalism, it is not. We have all dined at the same trough. But it did come as a shock to be told by an ECB media officer, soon after I had secured an interview for the first issue of The Cricket Paper with England captain Andrew Strauss (by ringing him up and asking him nicely), that in future I would not be allowed access to any England cricketer unless the piece was arranged in conjunction with a sponsor. I admit I have not always stuck rigidly to the rules.

Players are now well versed in the art and science of media training, to which they are subjected as soon as they show the slightest sign of being good enough to represent England one day. This is conducted by professionals from newspapers, radio and other media, and is intended to teach the poor wee lambs how to talk to journalists – by opening and shutting their mouths without actually saying anything.

In my experience of talking to younger cricketers, media training is the last thing they need. Some may think their time could be better spent being trained to bat, bowl and field. It is interesting to note how much more fun than the English the Australians are to interview, and how much better they come across in public, even while they were losing the 2013 Ashes 3-0. Could this be because, in the main, they said what they actually thought, and not what they thought their media relations department told them to say? If you are looking for answers, don’t bother: I haven’t really posed any questions. But, as well as feeling a profound gratitude for having had such a ball while doing this for a living, I am a little saddened that the next generation of journalists will spend more time glued to the internet than having a beer or two with friends who happen to be cricketers.

And one thing I do know. A bored player talking to a bored reporter in controlled laboratory conditions, sometimes with a sponsor or ECB blazer on their shoulder ready to intervene, usually equals a boring interview for all concerned. The real victims are those who have to read it.

This is why blogs can thrive. We do our best to fill the gap. We don’t need quotes from players, but we look at what happens and do our best to fill in the blanks. It makes us wonder why journalists churn out the line fed to them with little analysis, and in some cases, blind support. They can change it by refusing to comply. The sponsored interview is an abomination, an absolute indication of the utter contempt the powers that be hold us in. You are enablers. You can make it stop. Don’t turn up.

This leads me on to the next Dmitri……..The one journalist to make it in this year for reasons of contempt. You know who it is. I’ve already done 1000 words and feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface.

UPDATE: I was watching Sky last night and they had this teeth-itchingly awful piece with Hussain (RIP his integrity) picking some commentary XI with awful inserts including Eoin Morgan, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow. It was everything wrong with the modern media relationship in a nutshell. It was neither too close (but interesting how Sky managed to get England players to indulge in a puff piece for their station) nor distant enough. It may seem like a little harmless fun, but to me it just spoke volumes. It’s a business relationship. Pure and simple. There’s no soul, no passion, no vivacity. It’s strictly effing business.

We Know Nothing – Part 1

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

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

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

I’ll keep that one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Next T20, The Pink Ball, And Tregaskis

Comments on today’s T20 should be included below. An impressive win against what looked like an over-matched Pakistan team gives us that little bit of hope when it comes to the next World T20. I’ve been on the Billings Bus for a bit, and like what I see so far, but he doesn’t seem to fit in to a first XI which has Buttler in it. Indications are that other players are going to be rested (suggesting Morgan might be) so we’ll see the depth of the line-up.

I have to say that I didn’t see much of the day-night test. I have time off work and wanted to sleep…. I love sleep more than cricket. I did see some parts though, and the round-up at the end from Cricket Australia TV was drinks all round, wasn’t it wonderful, everything was amazing, and mulitple bruising from patting each other on the back. The important stat was 44,000 in the crowd, and the game not being a farce. One would suggest a normal test match where one team is out for 202 and the other was 50 odd for 2 would not get much of a glance – a game in the balance, an average amount of runs, and the game being more than a cakewalk for batsmen – but this isn’t a normal game. If you’re looking for hyperbole, then Shiny Toy is your man.

Vaughan has form for going over the top, but what was needed was something like today. Adelaide is a batting wicket at most test matches, and it’s clear the ball has had some effect, or there is something else going on with the pitch. I haven’t studied it, seen what they’ve done, but Selfey was intimating that the pitch had a bit more grass on it to protect the ball. The fear with the ball would be an abrasive surface tearing it apart. But there’s nothing wrong with that pitch preparation, and indeed a normal day’s play was just what was required. It has been a success, but the problem is when the Cricket Australia TV gush so much. If I’m agreeing with them, then there’s something wrong.

Let’s see how the match plays out. One observation from me is I hate watching the pink ball on the TV. It is going to take some getting used to.

Then there’s Tregaskis’s piece. From where I’m sitting, the press lost my trust 18 months ago. They were conduits for leaks, gleefully on many occasions, printed a number of stories that were pro-ECB no matter how often they complained about how this monolith had put up a bubble to keep them out, and their judgement on certain characters was found wanting. T’s piece makes many very good points, and in some regards I think he over-reaches a little (but hey, don’t we all), but he’s got certain journos talking to a blogger and in the main, that can’t be a bad thing. T has a cache that I don’t have. He’s a respected writer, winner of a tremendous award, and also got to write a terrifice article in The Cricketer. He’s also a charming fellow to talk to on the phone, on the one instance I got that chance. He approaches his subject with diligence and with a clear idea of the right way to go about it. He affords many of the journalistic community a respect I cannot do, and for that, he’s a much better man than I.

John – the answer is still no.

I come at this issue as a cricket fan, and yes a fan of one player I felt was treated very badly. I hold the media very responsible for letting us down. For turning the other way. For taking one side of the story and putting it that way. I have a piece on the stocks that I’ve just not had the heart to put up summing up the interactions over the last 18 months. While some have sought to build up some trust since, it isn’t working across the piece.

As for Nagpur, well….. if you want to kill off the sport, keep doing that. Harsha Bhogle, not known as a critic of the BCCI, isn’t exactly enamoured with it. http://indianexpress.com/article/sports/cricket/india-vs-south-africa-pitches-are-diluting-the-joy-of-success/

 

Hong Kong Phooey

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the statement. David Hopps remains somewhat sceptical.

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

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

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

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

And, of course, it didn’t take long.

I’ll let the statement stand.

Violence Through Silence

I think it shows how weary I’ve become that when I saw the article (quite early in the evening) on KP and the commentary stint I thought I’d leave it be. Nothing surprises me with these clowns any more. That is should go through the conduit of the Daily Mail or Mail on Sunday is little surprise. That Patrick Collins thinks it’s great is little surprise. I’ve no doubt the likes of Pam, who was probably jumping the moon after her little Andy came in and we’ve had this massive turnaround (drawn series at home to New Zealand), and is calling us all KP fanboys, is happy too.

There’s a super piece by Maxie over at TFT if you want to comment. I have and so have other familiar traitors posters (I jest). But I’ve just re-read the Mail article and two bits in particular make my blood boil.

The ECB were outmanoeuvred by Pietersen and his advisors, led by Piers Morgan, during a sustained public relations campaign on his behalf after he was sacked following England’s 5-0 Ashes drubbing in Australia last year.

and

Pietersen has previously impressed as a television pundit, but pressure from the ECB to keep him at arm’s length this summer indicates that they remain extremely wary of his capacity to polarise public opinion and potentially alienate England supporters with his outspoken views. (my emphasis).

Listen here, journos. I don’t think we had everything to do with it, but it wasn’t you keeping “outside cricket” going, and it wasn’t KP either. There was no sustained PR campaign throughout last year when KP kept largely silent on the matters of his dismissal, as he was bound to do. They had a strategy. Stand back and let the morons at the ECB, aided and abetted by the compliant media to do the rest. Just wait, and thou shall deliver.

The ECB did itself in by appointing Paul Downton, and all the campaign had to do was keep quiet, let some of your lot throw themselves in front of the mighty Paul, and call him Lord Aplomb, and then allow him to open his mouth. I miss Downton because he was useless. He had all the suitability to the job as I have of being a court jester. There’s nothing sustained about the PR Campaign. He wrote a book and you lot took out the bits that mattered to you, and ignored some pretty salient points. And you can’t go f–king anywhere without Piers Morgan’s name coming up. Grow up you morons and admit it. Some of his fans, and many who hated the way he was scapegoated, didn’t buy what you fools were selling. Now some of you have buyer’s remorse on Downton in particular, and Moores as well, you want us to say sorry? Do one.

Which leads to the second point. His commentary may alienate some of the cricketing public. I’ve seen it all now. What do you think his sacking did? Do you think I’ve been writing this blog because I love it and accept it? Do you think I care enough to spend all the hours that I have on this and HDWLIA because I’ve not been alientated by this. And you care about those who have done nothing but insult us all the way because of it? Because we were right over Downton, over Moores, over Cook’s position in the ODI, and yes, over his leadership of the test team. You worry about alienating the people who have stuck their heads in the sand?

It would be hilarious if these chumps weren’t serious. Well done Sam. Paul would be very proud.

Publish and be damned

As has been said before, there’s only one thing worse than being talked about – and that’s not being talked about.  It is of course hardly surprising that Dmitri’s posts didn’t meet with approval, yet the particular nature of said disapproval cannot be ignored.  The content was dismissed without qualification, and without reference to what it said.

John Etheridge then supported his friend:

And further saying:

There are a whole number of issues surrounding this.  The first thing to say is that I have nothing but respect for someone defending their friend.  Irrespective of perceived rights and wrongs, it’s the EM Forster principle, and I wholeheartedly approve.

If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.

But there are wider issues here.  Firstly Derek Pringle’s dismissal of the whole piece on the grounds that Dmitri writes under a nom de plume is precisely the kind of playing the man and not the ball that he receives so much criticism for.  Derek Pringle is not unpopular as a person, because as John says, he might be a decent bloke – Mr Etheridge himself is popular amongst his colleagues.  But his writing is, and the criticism that is directed towards it is based on that.  Whether it was his endless, tiresome and extremely personal anti-Pietersen ranting which was exceptionally personal, not based on cricketing merit, or his prediction of England winning 11 out of 17 Tests, his record as a cricket journalist invites the criticism it has received.

And let’s directly address the point about using a pseudonym.  My real name is accessible on here because I work for myself, and thus everything I write I am happy to have attributed to me.  It’s nice and easy because ultimately I’m only responsible to myself, and can do that.  Dmitri cannot because of his work, he is not a journalist and does this for fun, and for free.  He is not anonymous in his employment in just the same way as a journalist is not anonymous in his or hers.  To try and make the comparison when journalists are paid to be known in public for their work is ludicrous.   Their identity is their currency – being anonymous would make their job interviews somewhat problematic.  It’s after all why they are on things like Twitter in the first place, to promote their own work.  And that’s fine.

Nor was it a complaint about journalists having their expenses paid to travel, and seizing on that is a straw man. The issue at hand is the dismissal of the blog as being anonymous and therefore something to ignore – which is not what Mr Etheridge himself said, it must be pointed out.  John Etheridge whether one agrees with him or not has never tried to make that argument and didn’t here either. It’s an argument that is constantly made, whether it is below the line comments or Twitter comments, and avoids the question constantly.  People who take the trouble to write comments in the newspapers or in places like this tend to be cricket tragics, who care enough about the game to want their voice heard.  Those people aren’t paid to do so, they pay to do so, indeed while the question of how comments reflect a wider view is up for debate, newspapers allow it because it directly benefits their bottom line.  These commenters are working for the newspaper, unpaid.  They also buy Sky subscriptions, they buy tickets, and many of them travel abroad following the England team, spending thousands of pounds in the process.  The very idea that such people can be dismissed and ignored as a lesser voice is insulting on the one hand, and downright stupid on the other.  Journalists are not inherently a superior voice to be listened to ahead of those who support, and it’s nothing but arrogance for any of them to believe so.

That doesn’t mean that such criticism is always deserved.  In my own case, I was exceptionally critical of Nick Hoult a few years back, believing his articles to be nothing but rehashes of Derek Pringle’s.  For whatever reason, a flowering of his output, the additional responsibility of becoming the main cricket correspondent, or the development of his own sources, his writing in recent times has been excellent.  When the facts change, my opinion changes with it.  Quite simply, I was wrong about him and for what it’s worth he gets my apology.  The only purpose in so mentioning that is to counter a suggestion that this place is nothing but an attack on cricket journalists, because it isn’t at all.  Good ones get lots of praise.  At the Guardian Ali Martin has been a revelation, and demonstrated the wisdom of that paper giving him the break which he is now repaying in spades.

In my own line of business, I do indeed have travel expenses.  The difference is that I am not contemptuous towards those others on the aircraft on holiday, because they have paid for it themselves, and they, ultimately, pay my wages.  Without them I don’t have a living.  What Derek Pringle did by dismissing the post as being written by a “nom de blog” was to consider someone who ultimately paid his wages as irrelevant, not for what he said, but because of who he is or isn’t.  And make no mistake, cricket supporters do in  the end pay the salaries of cricket journalists, because if they don’t go and don’t watch, then the press won’t publish articles on it, and they won’t have a job.  How many tiddlywinks correspondents are there?

Now that doesn’t mean that any journalist has to agree with what is said by any one of us, but the piece in question detailed Dmitri following England around on tour, with the thousands of pounds spent accordingly.  Pringle might not like what was being written, but an unwarranted attitude of superiority displays a complete lack of awareness and rather inflated sense of self. The same applies to the criticism about the Barmy Army.  They may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but those who actually paid for their tickets and dislike it have the right to object.  Those who are paid to be there do not, when those in the pleb seats have spent thousands of pounds of their own money to be there. The criticism that has been directed at him has been on the basis of what he has written, not who he is – a standard he has singularly failed to apply in his own articles on far too many occasions.  There is more than enough there to be criticised after all, and that has been repeatedly detailed on here and elsewhere.  He can defend himself based on that if he wishes, but the point is he doesn’t.  He doesn’t have to of course, it’s up to him.  But he can’t then complain when people respond on the basis of his writing.

What a good journalist will do is to hold those in power to account, without fear or favour.  It’s precisely this that Derek Pringle gets criticised for, given his output has been nothing but attacks on one player, without ever asking the questions that needed to be asked.   It is possible to be critical of more than one side of the issue; a complete failure to do that is what marks out the propagandist.  The conduct of the ECB has been shambolic for the last two years, yet rather than offer up even the slightest criticism of that, instead it’s been nothing but praise on each occasion.  The style of cricket the ODI team have played in the last two matches should be an indictment of the manner the team was run for many years – yet few have joined the dots and recognised that their own support of the incumbents throughout that time might not have been correct.  The simple reality is that the nasty Dmitri has been a lot more correct in what he has said than most of the mainstream cricket journalists.  I’m sure that does grate, but it remains true.  Has he been right on everything?  Of course not.  But consistently questioning, observing and refusing to be blinded by bullshit is all a person can ask.  It is to the shame of a number that Dmitri’s posts on here have been of a higher critical standard than  many in the cricket press.

The press journalists have a job to do, the problem is that many of them simply haven’t done it.  The ongoing FIFA debacle was partly prompted by a journalist doing his job exceptionally well.  Andrew Jennings spoke about the behaviour of the press corps, and much of what he said was as damning an indictment of the cricket press as it was the football one.  No one is suggesting the ECB are remotely in the same category, but it doesn’t mean they are above reproach or above being questioned.  The failure to do so has been the biggest failing over the last twenty-seven months.  One of the worst parts is the use of Kevin Pietersen as a straw man in this; you don’t have to like him, you don’t even have to disagree with his exclusion.  But what you must do, if you are a journalist, is question everything.  Now, when it comes to this, the response is so often that they have tried and not received answers.  I rather suspect their political correspondent colleagues would find that amusing as a justification – can you imagine any of them faithfully reporting the government line just because the No. 10 spokesman didn’t answer?

“When I looked into the IOC, I discovered the president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, who was universally sucked up to by the sports press, was a Franco fascist. He thought the wrong side won World War II.”

Giles Clarke might not be a Franco fascist, but anyone in such a position who says that “Alastair Cook and his family are very much the sort of people we want the England captain and his family to be” should not remotely receive the deferential treatment he often does.  If that were an isolated example, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.  It isn’t though.  Repeated statements of lofty arrogance fail to be challenged, to the point where the new “Director, Cricket” can say to a cricket correspondent “I don’t need to spell [the issues] out for you Aggers” and not be asked to spell them out for those listening, presumably because they aren’t considered sufficiently important.

“Reporters are moving away from me as if I’ve just let out the biggest smell since bad food. Well, that’s what I wanted. Thank you, idiot reporters. The radar dish on top of my head is spinning around to all these blazers against the wall, saying, ‘Here I am. I’m your boy. I’m not impressed by these tossers. I know what they are. I’ve done it to the IOC, and I’ll do it to them.’”

The very name of this blog is “Being Outside Cricket” and of the journalists only one to my knowledge has even referenced that simple insult which came from the ECB in any of his writings – Jonathan Liew.  The usual response is that it was a dig at Piers Morgan, not anyone else, but it needs repeating that Morgan plays club cricket and goes to watch England.  If he is “outside cricket” then so are all the hundreds of thousands up and down the land who play and watch.  This simple point seems to be beyond the media, who have fundamentally failed to even acknowledge this wasn’t the brightest thing to say, and which still hasn’t even been “clarified”, let alone apologised for.   It’s a minor offence in the conduct of the ECB, but is entirely symptomatic of the embedded nature of the cricket press.  You are meant to be writing for the public, it might be an idea to consider the interests of that public rather than your mate at the ECB.  That doesn’t mean writing hagiographical articles about a new MD handling things “with aplomb” when it’s blatantly obvious it’s been a car crash, and then pretending that it didn’t happen a year later when it all goes horribly wrong.  Perhaps even an acknowledgement that those horrible below the line people might actually have been right in the first place could be a start.  If that sounds as dismissive of the cricket press as they are about the bloggers, it shouldn’t do.  The point is that cricket journalists are needed, but they aren’t doing their jobs.  Why do they imagine that places like these attract attention in the first place?

Of course, if you are paid to cover cricket, you don’t ever get to see the world in which that public live.  Journalists don’t end up missing anything up to a session queueing for a pint, journalists don’t have to shell out for dreadful food at an extortionate price.  Journalists don’t have a terrible seat crammed in which costs anything up to £100 for the privilege of a day’s backache.  Even football journalists write about the lot of the supporter more often than cricket ones.  When was the last article any of them wrote about it?  When you have a former Test cricketer expressing astonishment on air that Test tickets are a lot more than £20, and it being viewed as amusing not scandalous the disconnect is entirely clear.

It goes further.  Only Scyld Berry in the English press made a point of repeatedly attacking the ICC stitch up recently.  It might not be the most glamorous of subjects, and a defence that the newspaper wasn’t interested would be a reasonable one.  But Mike Selvey instead went on air saying he didn’t understand it and wasn’t worried about it.  That’s no excuse, it’s your damned job to understand it and worry about it.  Even if you then write a piece about why it’s a wonderful idea and not to fret about it.

So obviously all I have written is correct and can’t be argued with, right?  No.  And this is the point about engagement.  You can disagree with every single word I’ve written and tell me why I’m wrong if you’ve got as far as reading it all.  My opinion is just that, it’s not an objective truth.   What I won’t do is try and tell you that I know more than you, but I can’t tell you why.

Everyone knows that a journalist will have sources they can’t disclose.  That’s hardly the point.  No journalist worth his or her salt would try and defend criticism on that basis, it’s simply arrogance.  The thing is also, that the assumption that they know more than those criticising isn’t always true.  That thought appears not to have crossed their minds when talking down to the masses.  I’m not a journalist and have no desire to be one either.  But I know enough about honour to be absolutely certain no blog post of mine will contain a reference to something I know but can’t tell you.  It’s treating anyone who reads like an idiot who can only be spoonfed the information I choose to convey.

It’s an interesting statement.  I wonder if Hughes and Newman have the same view about the masses who bought their books?  I’m one of them in the past, so gentlemen, since I helped provide you with an income, does that still apply?  Ever heard of Gerald Ratner?  When you have such contempt for the masses, don’t be surprised when the masses have the same contempt for you.  Did it even occur that anyone reading that would think twice about buying another book?  How did your publisher feel about rubbishing prospective customers?

One of the defences of such points of view is that as former professionals, they have an insight into the game that the plebs do not.  And yet it’s interesting that this particular line only seems to apply to the preferably passive readership.  I wonder how John Etheridge or Nick Hoult would feel about this particular point if it was applied to them.  Being a cricketer and being a journalist are two separate things.  And then let’s take it further, if it were true on any level, then a Mike Selvey has no right whatever to talk about batting and no right to talk about batsmen on the grounds of lack of knowledge – certainly the drivel that’s routinely written about wicketkeeping by those who palpably know nothing about it is a case in point.  A good club level batsmen would be much much better than he was, and therefore his perspective is far superior, right?  Which is precisely why Selvey calling one of England’s best batsmen of the last forty years “a pest, a fruitfly” is deserving of such contempt.  Whether you like him or not has no relevance, because if you invoke the right to say it on the grounds of having been there and done it, then you deserve having the comparison of playing merits made.

And by the way, that’s why you won’t hear a word of criticism from me about Derek Pringle the player.  He was good enough to play international cricket, which means he was a bloody good player and a lot better than me.  That he wasn’t quite good enough to be a truly successful international player is beside the point.  He was a terrific cricketer by any measure except the very highest.  As was Mike Selvey.  What it doesn’t do is entitle them to pontificate as though their word is law and the “masses” have no value.  Not unless they want to then admit that the view of a Kevin Pietersen (or an Alastair Cook, or an Andy Flower) is inherently superior.  Somehow I doubt that would go down well with them, and nor should it.  Their view has as much merit as anyone else’s, and no more.

John Etheridge made the entirely correct point in his defence of Derek Pringle that were we to meet, we might get on and like each other.  That is of course entirely true, and the corollary of it (which he swiftly acknowledged) is that the obverse is also true, they might even quite like us – although I was mildly amused at the certainty that we’ve never met these people.  It’s not the point. The criticism of them is not of their person, it is of their professional output.  Just because a person might be likable doesn’t for a second provide any kind of justification for what they say.  The criticism over the various blogs and the various comments below the line have been often entirely valid.  I understand why they don’t like it, few people do like being criticised, but it doesn’t make it any less astute or accurate.  There are of course some who will simply throw abuse, and that’s no more acceptable or justifiable when it’s in the article or in the comments.    Using those as a crutch to dismiss all rational questioning is the problem, especially on the grounds of saying that criticism from those they “respect” is ok.  That cuts both ways.

The cricket media as a whole have had a dreadful couple of years, abrogating their responsibility to question, criticise and remain objective.  The ECB is English cricket’s government, and the press have on the whole singularly failed to hold them to account, preferring instead to focus on petty personal dislikes and remaining inside the tent, and thus being the ECB’s useful idiots.  It doesn’t apply to all and the ones who have done well do not need to be listed because they know who they are; deep down all cricket hacks will have a fair idea of whether or not it is true of them.  Defensiveness is often indicative of personal dissatisfaction in all walks of life.

The most infuriating part of it all, is that as a body, we need them.  But we need them to be journalists.  British journalism runs the range between the worst and most scurrilous there is, right up to the very best, most incisive anywhere.  There’s been far too much of the former, and nowhere near enough of the latter.  Everyone wants to be noted in their chosen career and I doubt being held in contempt by many of those they supposedly write for was the aim when they started out, they had visions of being Andrew Jennings.

There’s little worse than a feeling you’ve let yourself down.

@BlueEarthMngmnt