Nightmare In Dubai – Guest Post by SimonH

We would all have seen the sudden news from the ICC today about the sudden resignation for “personal reasons” of Shashank Manohar. As if he was reading my mind, our regular scrutineer of all things ICC has put pen to paper, or keyboard to screen, to give his quick take on what has happened today. So, take it away Simon H….

Clarke Book

“The Presidential limousine is turning into Elm Street…. President Manohar is waving…. There seems to be some sort of disturbance in the motorcade…. “

A bright new leader, not without his flaws certainly but committed to taking on entrenched interests and elites with vast power and money, is removed from office before completing his term? His proposed reforms look certain to die along with him? His shady deputy leader is positioned to take over? It may not quite be Dealey Plaza, and nobody yet has been identified firing the fatal shot from the grassy knoll, but it looks very much like March 15th 2017 has seen an undeclared coup (bloodless, fortunately) in global cricket governance.

The first thing to say is that this seems to have come out of nowhere. There had been no hints, no nods-and-winks, that this was imminent. The global cricket press corps, those Woodward and Bernsteins of investigative “proper” journalism, seem to have been completely blindsided. But then it isn’t so difficult to be blindsided if you’re looking in the opposite direction…..

Shashank Manohar, eight months into his two year term as ICC chairman, has emailed CEO Dave Richardson that he is standing down for undisclosed “personal reasons”. Indian media sources are reporting that it was a pre-emptive move in anticipation of losing the crucial vote on ICC reforms next month. Those proposals involved a new revenue-sharing deal that would cut India’s 22% of ICC revenue, the creation of a Test championship that would slash the number of games teams played, the creation of two divisions of 9 and 3 teams with no promotion/relegation, qualification for all teams for ICC tournaments and various other measures. The BCCI needed four FMs to block the moves and have reportedly secured the support of SL, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. Those boards are apparently against more money for themselves. Some indication of the economics are here:

It appears that Zimbabwe have voted themselves out of $5m and the figures for SL and Bangladesh would be several times more that. This, obviously, is not

something you see every day. They are, more understandably, against permanent demotion to D2 (in Zimbabwe’s case) and playing a lot less Test cricket (in SL’s case).

The ICC will appoint an interim chairman until new elections can be held for a permanent replacement. Candidates need to be past or present ICC directors and to be nominated by at least two FM directors. The process seems most likely to carry on into the summer although it could technically be resolved next month. Unsurprisingly, the speculation from UK media sources is that Giles Clarke, known to be ambitious for the job but unable even to secure two nominations last time, is positioning himself for the job. The normally media-shy Clarke gave a rare interview recently:

Clarke’s ambitions had been thwarted previously by non-Big Three FMs still furious over the 2014 Power Grab. Clarke has recently become a great supporter of returning international cricket to Pakistan:

Relentless churls might point out that Pakistan is not safe so Clarke set up his very own Warren Commission to come up with the result that had already been determined:

Therefore, we find ourselves today with what was yesterday’s distant possibility having become today’s imminent probability. The LBJ of cricket governance – with all the original’s probity, charm and intestinal fortitude for taking on those with money and power – is closing in on that crown he so coverts. If there’s one thing we should learn about the running of cricket, it’s never to say “it can’t get much worse”.


Citius, Altius, Fortius

The reports, carried by Tim Wigmore on ESPN, that Colin Graves is about to propose that cricket be in the Olympics, is interesting on many levels. This is about long-term development and broadening the game in the future. But it’s also about the ECB now. Very much now. Who knows, this could be the funniest power struggle yet?

2024 is almost a decade away and the landscape may have changed by then, because the land has changed a great deal in the last 10 years. There’s no certainty cricket will be selected as an Olympic sport even if it chooses to seek inclusion (although India’s might could help if they were interested as their Olympic record is not good), and not many of our current team will be around for it. But the prospects it opens for associate nations and broadening the game can’t be underestimated. Spare me the wailing sirens of us losing a test series – the NHL in each Winter Olympics shuts for a couple of weeks and then re-opens again. There is too much international cricket in the summer as it is.

Don’t worry all you Ashes lovers. A series isn’t scheduled in England that summer. Yet. We’ll probably play two test against South Africa instead.

What interests me is this is Colin Graves challenging his predecessor. Now, you know my position and I’ve still not changed it. Giles runs English cricket and Graves has not stood up to him. Now Graves seems to have found his balls. This could get interesting, quickly. Under the Yorkie watch he has overseen a change of personnel in charge of the national team, a revitalisation of the ODI team into an attractive, attacking unit, and, of course, an unlikely Ashes win. He has the press salivating over the new Director, Comma as well as the beatification of our captain. There’s a rump of us who have the hump, but we’re not important. Frankly, if he can’t impose his own authority over matters now, when can he?

Now Giles is coming off the back of some negative publicity. His performance in Death of a Gentleman was awe inspiring, playing to his typecast role of unreconstructed snob, the sort of villain straight out of Hollywood’s central casting for “quintessential evil English toff”. His high-handedness was inspiring. One wonders how a man is so self-confident while lacking so much in self-awareness. I think someone removed his “I give a shit” gene. Giles is a master of politicking, and I don’t mean that as a compliment. He will likely be put into bat for cricket in the Olympics by the people he lorded over, and have to put the case. I for one reckon we’ll be hearing back precisely what Srini thinks as a reason for inclusion or exclusion, and Graves can say all he likes. Giles is not a man for turning, and his protestations that he’s protecting his board in DoaG didn’t look like those of a man considering all sides of the argument. Will he take his orders, given he made sure Brearley was put in his place when it was suggested he would have to. Oh yes, Giles Clarke is going to be a great watch throughout this. Wally has already deserted, but then again, it’s not his country’s summer this jamboree is going to take place in!

For someone who finds the ECB shenanigans fascinating, this is like Christmas. The former deputy, coming in with the reports of a blunt intstrument ready to hit all and sundry, put in his place over his attempts to bring back someone the establishment want rid of, and for correctly assessing West Indies ability to play test cricket, is now feeling he can say something. This something challenges his former king. It could be seen as betrayal. It could be seen as a challenge. How Clarke responds will be riveting, at least for me.

Read Tim’s piece by clicking here.

Also, this is a stat I was supposed to write a whole piece on. It does shine an exceptionally good light on our captain’s performances in Asian conditions. A good player of spin, not as many concerns on his areas of weakness (caught behind, chopping on), and a method and indefatigability that is almost inhuman. There’s no taking away this statistic from him. I’m not sure anyone is denying that these conditions suit his game (and not many others) and he cashes in.

Selvey, of course, wants you to know how much he loved Cook’s performance. This from a cricket correspondent who, since the release around three months ago of an important film on cricket hasn’t bothered to watch it, but still seems “remarkably informed” at what the ICC is thinking given his tweets on the IOC approach.

As I’m writing India are collapsing to defeat against South Africa.

A Little Bit Of This, A Little Bit Of That

Good day to you all.

I am not a rugby fan. Actually, I sort of prefer league to union, but that’s by the by. But I took more than a passing interest in this year’s England team at the Rugby World Cup because, as we all recall, when England were chasing a certain person out of the squad and were seeking to start a new path, the name Stuart Lancaster was being thrown about as if he were some sort of all-seeing, all-knowing guru. The candle to lead England’s sporting managers away from the dark days of unharnessed, unhinged talents, and instead embrace culture, good environments, hard work and playing with pride in the shirt.

So, when we went back to the greatest coach of his generation after the Ashes whitewash, Peter Moores was seen as a man very much in the Stuart Lancaster guise. Oh we had it all…..

The England rugby team has evolved particularly well and it would be wrong not to look at the way they’ve done that. That kind of stuff, the Englishness, the legacy you want to leave behind of the culture we want to create. – Alastair Cook

“Lancaster has done a fantastic job. In a very short space of time, he has sorted out English rugby. He’s talked the language of teams that Paul Downton and I like very much.” – Giles Clarke

Paul Downton, while not having a quote to hand (and there not appearing to be an easy one to latch onto online, was certainly part of the gang that thought Stuart Lancaster was imitating the culture of the All Blacks, which Paul and his crowd proclaimed as the greatest sports team ever (based on longevity of dominance – I suppose Brazilian football is probably a bit too fancy dan for out Paul).

Lancaster, from this perspective, seemed no more inspirational than someone like Brendan Rodgers, who got his cards yesterday. There was lots of seeing off old faces, trying the wacky non-conformist and getting shot of them, and then churning out dull, boring teams in the main, that frustrated the life out of you. You can see talent there, but you couldn’t see leaders. You could see ability, but you didn’t see belief.

Rugby people seem to be rallying around Stuart – hey, we could be inside and outside rugby before you know it.How people like Lewis Moody (I’ve just watched his Kicca monologue) can sit there and say that we should maintain a coach because, and I paraphrase, other World Cup winning coaches hit rock bottom and then built a team up (honestly, I was laughing at this point) I don’t know. It’s this mentality that kills us. Somehow, someway, honest toilers will become world beaters because of culture and good environment. It isn’t about that. It never really has been.

We English rush to say someone is amazing before actually settling in for the long haul. I know it was a good couple of years ago, because I was still driving home from work in those days, when there were 5 Live Specials on the new and wonderful regime Lancaster had engendered. Other coaches were keen to tap his brain, follow his lead, share his knowledge. Yet, it has to be said, I was asking “what has he done?” At that time, a win in an Autumn International against New Zealand seemed to be it. Absolutely nothing to sniff at, in much the same way as smashing Germany 5-1 in Munich wasn’t for Sven. The test, like for Peter Moores and every England football coach, is the World Cup (or Euros / Ashes). Wait until they’ve been where it really matters and take it from there.

With the debate over Lancaster’s future, there doesn’t seem to be much past “he’s a nice guy, and he’s got to be given the chance to turn this around in 2019, which we’ve been long-term planning for with lots of young players in the wings.” Cricket fans have heard this for 18 months now. We spunked a World T20 and a World Cup behind nice guys in charge, who created a good environment, but seemed to be lacking that bit of something else. I’ve come to the conclusion, sadly, that to coach an England team, the one trait you must not have is being English.

Feel free to continue the rugby debate. I think it’s a no-brainer that Lancaster has to go, but then I’ll be accused of all sorts, so what-o.

In the cricket world, England are out in the UAE and recovered from a dodgy position with runs for Cook (cue the salivating from his One Direction like followers in the media), Root (we’re going to be up shit creek when he fails), Bairstow (good on him, a nice surprise) and Adil Rashid (this could be fun). The bowling tomorrow is going to be interesting, as Rashid can stake his claim with a decent performance.

There were all sorts at Cuttack where India made a right old balls up of their innings and South Africa won their second T20 game. Wonder if the locals are blaming the IPL in the same way we blame the County Championship? Then there was a bit of naughties with the crowd, which had the hand-wringers out on Twitter (as a Millwall fan, God I’m used to that old shite), and we’ll see a hastily lifted up carpet with the afters of all that swept neatly under it.

There’s a One Day Series in Zimbabwe going on, but I’m not exactly on board with it. Been pretty busy and not that engaged in cricket, which I know a number of you are also feeling at the moment. The latest edition of the Cricketer didn’t even raise the rage. Selfey rambled on about the late Brian Close, while Henderson wrote a rather odd article about Zafar Ansari in which he both seemed to criticise him for mentioning that with the likes of himself and Rashid in the team, along with Moeen, there was a more representative feel to the squad, and then going on about Zafar’s Double First and British Asian club sides not socialising. Or something like that.  Lovejoy’s little bro wrote a wonderful intro to a piece on Ben Stokes that was like FICJAM’s little bro. Simon Hughes banged on about pace bowling, berating coaches and experts who sought to change mechanics to allow bowlers to last, but hardly mentioning the crippling effing schedules these bowlers have! The whole magazine is going down the pan, and even Tim Wigmore’s effort on Zimbabwean cricket is not enough to save it!

Humourous point that may resonate only with me. Playing International Cricket Captain on the tablet and Surrey were struggling against Glamorgan. Only KP stood firm with a doughty 106. As he reached his hundred, Aggers commentary goes “and that’s his hundred. Solid rather than exciting.” See! SEE! Even the games are programmed to slag off my KP!

I’m going for a lie down.

Be back soon.