Don’t Worry Be Happy – Unhappy Outside Cricket Day

“From the heart
It’s a start, a work of art
To revolutionize make a change nothing’s strange
People, people we are the same
No we’re not the same
‘Cause we don’t know the game
What we need is awareness, we can’t get careless
You say what is this?
My beloved let’s get down to business
Mental self defensive fitness
(Yo) bum rush the show
You gotta go for what you know
To make everybody see, in order to fight the powers that be”

Fight The Power – Public Enemy

By happy chance the 9th February, what we call Outside Cricket Day, coincides with the start of a test match. This in a test series that has tested the patience of many in the blogging, journalistic and punditry community. One that has social media scratching its heads – were we really this arrogant, did we think this could not happen – but one that is defying explanation. But as much as I love cricket, and love test cricket in particular, there’s something that rattled my cage more than any England collapse, and indicated to me that nothing has truly moved on since 2014.

For me the series was “marred” with a lunchtime interview held between Sky’s Ian Ward and the ECB’s Tom Harrison – that conversation was referred to in Sean’s piece yesterday and please read it if you haven’t had the chance.. If you want to know why (a) I called this blog Being Outside Cricket and (b) why the name is as relevant today as it was then, then sit back and relax and watch Ian Ward lob marshmallows at an ECB honcho who calls his interviewer “Wardy”, thinks everything is “fantastic” and then goes on to basically tell everyone that he has evidence to suggest the Hundred will work, and you cricket fans know nothing. Oh, and we won’t show you this evidence. Presumably because we are too stupid to interpret it. It was the dancing act of a charlatan – a leader so unsure of the ground he stood on that he convinced us, or at least tried, to say he was on the summit, and we were the plebs at the bottom of the mountain. It should have fooled none of you. Just as the infamous press release five years ago today should not have fooled you. But to some it did. Or ignored it wilfully because the arrogance suited their prejudice.

I have little idea how many are relatively new to this blog, or don’t recall How Did We Lose in Adelaide – my largely (until 2014) ignored forerunner. But the Outside Cricket quote comes from the magical 2014 press release excoriating those who had the temerity to question the dropping of Kevin Pietersen and the motives behind it (because the ECB had imposed gagging orders – the idiotic muppets – and KP’s side agreed to it), and labelled them as some voices “outside cricket” (I’ve referred to a number of posts, and linked them below). Outside cricket became a meme. A rallying cry. A thing to enrage and insult. It didn’t take long to find out the brains behind it.

A scan of the Cricketer’s Who’s Who from the mid-eighties revealed a quote from one Paul Rupert Downton about a life outside cricket, so we put two and two together as to the mastermind behind this release. As a tool to get their point across – that Piers Morgan should shut his trap – it was spectacularly dumb. He brought all the other cricket fans at their wits end under an umbrella of “Outside Cricket” as if we were the tiresome riff-raff with no stake in the game, and rather a noisy hindrance from the real priority of making money, and consolidating power. The inference being that if you weren’t a player, a coach, a manager, support staff or a bloody administrator, you weren’t “Inside Cricket”. You were an unperson. After all.

“But you must know it was about Piers Morgan” said the useful idiots, including some of the media. Loathe him or despise him, Piers Morgan plays club cricket, loves the game (one of us knows that for absolute certain), and has an opinion. The only difference is that he is given a megaphone to voice it, and often, as part of his whole raison d’etre, he does it to self-publicise and to get a reaction. Other than that, he’s me, he’s you. He’s Maxie. He’s Danny. He’s James. He’s Sean. He’s Chris (who has played club cricket against him). He’s every one of you who voices his opinion on the game on Twitter. We may not like him, but he vocalised a lot of our anger. You may loathe what he stands for, but you are, and have been, lumped in with him. Outside. Not really a cricket person. Buy your tickets, pay your subs, and shut the hell up. A more careful crafter of the message may not have given the game away. But the phrase wasn’t a one off. As we’ve showed. To the then director, or whatever he was, viewed cricket as insiders and outsiders.

We followed up a lot on these issues – I spent most of the year doing it and like to think I got outside cricket into the mainstream. In 2014, Maxie also led the charge. I admired the bloke’s sheer gusto and he kept me going – a beer I had with him a few months in was as valuable a session I had had. I work a lot on confidence. James wrote some bloody good stuff then too, which I loved because it was what we were doing. Chris and Arron were doing their thing on below the lines on the Telegraph and Guardian. I was getting insults, but there was a feeling of being in a group that really cared. But Maxie inspired the troops. He’s still missed.

I passed on the Outside Cricket day last year, because I actually felt more outside than ever after the Ashes and the quite mad reaction to a dead rubber double ton – and the fans of the game who disagreed with me. I’m human. Alastair Cook was partly a poster child for the Outside Cricket debate, and that played a part. The whole farewell stuff was interesting in that context. For some, it was the establishment telling us to reward one of their own. For some it was a bridge too far. He was certainly feted. He divided people almost as much as the true victim of 2014. But we always, well I always said, that it was never just about KP. It was about an attitude. A state of mind.

But as we enter 2019, the messages that the powers are conveying may not be as obvious, but they are still there, and alive and well. Their focus isn’t emanating from the strangely silent Colin Graves, who appears to have undergone a removal of his voice box, but from Tom Harrison. I dubbed the guy an “Empty Suit” from the first time I heard him. He came from a sports management firm, he had TV rights backgrounds, he had played county cricket. At least he hadn’t waltzed in from a career in stockbroking. But from Day One, and certainly after the Day of Trust when KP was finally excommunicated, he was on thin ice. His attitude to the new competition, and to the county fans who don’t need the weatherman to tell him its pissing down, has been cut from the same cloth as the Giles / Downton days. “I know best. I don’t need to explain it to you. I have evidence, you can’t see it. I am responsible, you are not. I want to innovate whether you like it or not. I appear to believe I am the font of all knowledge.” Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

So while we burn as Tom Harrison fiddles, and while county cricket gets the blame for not producing test cricketers, so as a reward gets even further downgraded, let us remember that what mattered back on the original Outside Cricket press release was inner sanctums, leaking (by players, certainly not by management, who were like a drainpipe with holes), team culture, ethics, trust, and the best of all…. questioning the rationale of the decision making at the ECB. How very dare you.

Chris has written a number of times on how the recreational game is not even on the ECB’s radar – not counting the involvement of children via the schemes trialled – and there are many passionate defenders of the county game out there doing their thing, appalled at its marginalisation, disgusted at it being sabotaged, repelled by it being blamed when the England team goes wrong.

We are aghast at the muddled thinking in the test team at the moment (I genuinely don’t buy that you have to prioritise one thing over another) so an awful lot of eggs are being placed in the World Cup basket (anyone who thinks the third test selection is clarity should call their doctor on Monday morning). Any decent organisation knows that concentrating risk onto one unpredictable entity is a recipe for disaster, but that’s what the World Cup appears to be. Maybe they believe home advantage will win the Ashes. It would be very foolish not to question the ECB’s rationale, wouldn’t it, with their track record of ignoring setbacks and jumping at any success.

Years of invisibility, caused by short-sighted greed, behind a paywall has meant the cache of a World Cup win is needed to kick-start their precious Hundred. There’s no other strategy in play. We’ve won the last two Ashes and it didn’t push the needle, no matter how hard they seemed to try. The farewell of Cook was responded by the BBC TV SPOTY jamboree virtually ignoring it, no matter how hard Agnew tried, no matter how appalled he was at the snub. Instead of us being Outside Cricket, maybe cricket itself is on the outside, and the way back is not a clear path. Acknowledgement of the errors of the past would be nice – it would show some humanity – but it might be a bit too late to do anything about it, other than desperation. And desperation is not the hallmark of competence. Or of the ability of that entity to insult anyone.

So commemorate the day, remember the rubbish we’ve put up with, and recall how our questioning of the rationale employed, such as it is, by the ECB has been carried out by a clown show including Giles Clarke, Paul Downton, James Whitaker, Colin Graves and Tom Harrison. If you are content with this, I admire your fortitude. To me it looks like a load of overpaid, over-egoed, over sure of themselves, know-it-alls who think the only evidence you need is their word. I’m not saying we have all the answers. But acknowledging the questions from us, and all those on social media who so deeply care, would be a start. We really have never been anything other than outside to them.

Proudly Outside Cricket.

The piece ends here, but I did add some extra information below from the time. Three blog posts. One from me, one from Wrong ‘un at Long On, and one from Maxie. Call it the notes to the piece if you want. I call it vital context.

—————————————————————————————————————

And don’t come back….

 

Below are a few excerpts and pieces from the day (and just after) itself. They are well worth re-reading, even if I say so myself. I miss both the other two writing.

Appendix to piece – “Know Your Place” – 9th February 2014 (from How Did We Lose In Adelaide)

KNOW YOUR PLACE by Dmitri Old

I stumbled across a Tweet from the Cricket Magazine, suggesting that a Press Release from the ECB was imminent on L’Affaire KP. Muppet Pringle seemed a little put out that his Sunday afternoon was being disrupted, as was the terminally annoying Jeremiah Agnew. As 3 pm passed, there was no Statement; Pringle then questioned who said it was 3pm? Leveraging his sources at the ECB, who have been leveraged quite a bit in the last few weeks it seems, Pringle announced a couple of deadlines later in the day. When the statement finally arrived on the Twitter feed, all the cricket bloggers, eager for news, were matched by the press, who seemed somewhat tired of the whole process.

Anyone not paying attention to this saga can’t get the real time feelings this wait exposed. We’d seen the Sky Sports programme, where Steve Harmison gave a player’s perspective, as a man who shared a dressing room with KP, against a journo and Bob Willis, who has decided KP is just the sort of charismatic maverick, tired of authority and false prophets, that he obviously never held against Ian Botham. The same old arguments rehashed. The establishment side saying KP can’t be trusted, the counter view being he should be managed better.

Then there was the poll on Sky – 87% or so saying it was wrong he should be dropped. This is not something on which only one side is passionate, and thus skewed. The comments against KP are every bit as vicious as those supporting our batsman and attacking those who made the decision. Less than 1% of those commenting know anything about KP other than what they’ve seen in media controlled settings or how he carries himself on the field. He hasn’t said a word, other than a couple of tweets/facebook posts since his sacking, yet is accused of waging a media assault on the decision. Whichever way you look at it, those who are the paying public who have spoken out are miles more in favour of him being kept than ditched. In the absence of a sackable offence, which is being played down by all and sundry, then we are left asking “can’t we at least try to keep our best batsman” (and no, no, no – Ian Bell is not better than KP. Please stop that now.)

So, with baited breath we read the KP statement from the ECB. And to a man, the blogosphere were gobsmacked. It wasn’t that this was never going to say anything that would dump on KP. Strauss had played a not too subtle card earlier in the day with his “lack of trust” speech, which was absolutely no way encouraged by the ECB, former colleagues and or anyone linked with Team England. Despite the floods, I’m sure he’s very happy talking to the Flowers. It was several of the more hissy-fit statements, and a couple of belting statements that had gasps of derision from the cricket blogging fraternity.

First – the future:

However, the England team needs to rebuild after the whitewash in Australia. To do that we must invest in our captain Alastair Cook and we must support him in creating a culture in which we can be confident he will have the full support of all players, with everyone pulling in the same direction and able to trust each other. It is for those reasons that we have decided to move on without Kevin Pietersen.

We MUST invest in our captain Alastair Cook. England only sack captains these days if they rock the boat. Literally in the form of Andrew Flintoff, who copped it after Fredalo, and figuratively in KP’s case. Being a laugh, or having a forceful opinion is grounds for sacking. Being widely condemned as clueless, unadventurous, and out of his depth in Australia is not reason to sack the captain. A captain needs full support with everyone pulling in the same direction – yes, everyone loves Michael Clarke in the Australian dressing room, just ask Shane Watson – and because KP might think that the winter’s farce was down to an overbearing coach passed his sell-by date, and a dutiful captain out of his depth, that’s it. As Ian Chappell said yesterday, if players weren’t making comments about Cook’s captaincy, they were doing the team a disservice.

Following the announcement of that decision, allegations have been made, some from people outside cricket, which as well as attacking the rationale of the ECB’s decision-making, have questioned, without justification, the integrity of the England Team Director and some of England’s players.

This is the bit that really riles me and my ilk. Outside cricket here is a catch-all for the ECB to rather peevishly have a go at Piers Morgan. Number one, the ECB should just ignore a man who feeds off the oxygen of reactions. Secondly,by casting a tent over the ECB, the players and those in the press privy to these going ons, you are not inside, you are outside. As someone, rightly, said, four days before this announcement Paul Downton was “outside cricket”. There in lies the true inner feelings that the ECB have stated loud and clear. Pay your ticket money, your sky subscriptions and shut the fuck up.

Secondly, with this bit, is the laughable line about attacking the rationale for the ECB’s decision-making. James Whitaker’s laughable first interview as Chairman of Selectors didn’t exactly put the doubters to bed about his integrity, ability and decision-making skills. A controlled interview he failed to control, a phone going off which the ECB have got mad about with Sky because they broadcast the interview as live, and weren’t totally in compliance with their demands, and evasion and obfuscation hiding behind legalities was not an auspicious start. Downton has said nothing in front of a camera. Cook has gone to ground. Flower has been quiet sorting out his new role. Giles wants the England job, so isn’t going to be talking. In the absence of anyone talking, we’ve basically been asked to trust an organisation that is keeping on in some capacity the coach that lost 5-0, is backing the captain that lost 5-0, and sacking a player who scored the most runs for us in Australia (albeit, at a poor average). I watched the collapse at the MCG on the 3rd day that handed the game to Australia. I saw player after player play stupid shot after stupid shot. If I’d have been KP, I’d have been pissed off, given the light shining on him at Perth. The rationale? How can we question it, when all it seems to us is that KP’s a bit awkward, and we don’t want our lame duck captain to be any more lame than he already is.

But then, I’m outside cricket.

Clearly what happens in the dressing room or team meetings should remain in that environment and not be distributed to people not connected with the team. This is a core principle of any sports team, and any such action would constitute a breach of trust and team ethics.

I’ll reproduce my Tweet when I get the chance. This is hilarious. The ECB is a source of so much stuff it is untrue. Players leak all over the place. Freddie Flintoff, not a man I have a ton of time for, tweeted that if this was such a source of angst, maybe they should have fired Duncan Fletcher and some of his team-mates for their comments about him in 2006. The fact is that we all see the stories out there which go something like “The Telegraph understands that….” or “The Mail can exclusively reveal that…” These are players and officials briefing out of school. For the ECB to get pissy because KP told Moron before the announcement that he’d been fired is hilarious. It seems that instead of players and officials leaking about a fiery team meeting, they are somewhat interestingly, putting the blame elsewhere. KP hasn’t said he slagged off Flower. Moron is accusing Prior and/or Cook of doing it. Or are Muppet Pringle, Mike Selvey and Paul Newman integral parts of Team England? Has anyone extricated Nick Hoult from the ECB canteen yet?

Whilst respecting that principle, it is important to stress that Andy Flower, Alastair Cook and Matt Prior, who have all been singled out for uninformed and unwarranted criticism, retain the total confidence and respect of all the other members of the Ashes party.

You need to back Cook, and yet feel KP won’t. Who thinks he won’t. None of the players seem overly fussed. Graeme Swann, and reportedly Stuart Broad, hardly two founder members of the KP Fan Club, have said KP has been fine. Cook said he should go on for quite a while on Boxing Day, and then Ashley Giles called him a Million Dollar Player. Only when Cook was questioned about KP’s future later on in the tour was the temperature changed. To say that our criticism is uninformed, is because you’ve not informed anyone about what he’s done that’s so heinous that you need to ditch your most attacking player. Whether this criticism is unwarranted, frankly, is not for the ECB to judge. Again, one can’t get away from the smell of the educated officer class telling the plebs to shut the fuck up.

If KP has done something so terrible, then have the courage of your convictions and fire him. You’d have no shortage of media lickspittles to do your bidding. Because you can’t produce a smoking gun, you let us decide what the motivation is when you say nothing. To me it seems that you back a yes man like Cook, who is insecure because a popular (with the people) maverick like KP, not frightened to open his mouth when things go bad, and instead of saying get on with it, you’ve thrown the best batsman out with the bathwater, and instead of strengthening Cook’s position, you’ve made him look weak. The conclusion is that KP was a customer to hot for Cook to handle. Instead of this being an indictment on Cook (and Flower’s) leadership, you treated it as time to part. Yet again, we are the only cricketing nation who doesn’t give its top players a chance to bow out on their own terms unless they are good little boys. As was rightly said, somewhere on line, if Shane Warne were English, he’d have been booted out before 200 wickets. We can’t produce another Ian Botham, because one “gin-swilling dodderers” remark would have him out on his ear.

This statement was all about Know Your Place.

The citadel needs to be stormed. Not for KP, but for the next talented player with an opinion and ambition.

============================================================

Appendix 2 – Wrong’Un At Long On (of this parish) has more of the press release – and his comments:

It has been a matter of great frustration that until now the England and Wales Cricket Board has been unable to respond to the unwarranted and unpleasant criticism of England players and the ECB itself, which has provided an unwelcome backdrop to the recent negotiations to release Kevin Pietersen from his central contract.

“Unwarranted”? ….”unwelcome backdrop”!?

Those negotiations have been successfully concluded and whilst both parties remain bound by confidentiality provisions the ECB would like to make the following comments.

“successfully”!!!!?!!!

The ECB recognises the significant contribution Kevin has made to England teams over the last decade. He has played some of the finest innings ever produced by an England batsman.

FACT.

However, the England team needs to rebuild after the whitewash in Australia. To do that we must invest in our captain Alastair Cook and we must support him in creating a culture in which we can be confident he will have the full support of all players, with everyone pulling in the same direction and able to trust each other. It is for those reasons that we have decided to move on without Kevin Pietersen.

There are a lot of hints to be gleaned when reading between the lines here. Nothing concrete, of course, let alone an example.

Following the announcement of that decision, allegations have been made, some from people outside cricket, which as well as attacking the rationale of the ECB’s decision-making, have questioned, without justification, the integrity of the England Team Director and some of England’s players.

“People outside cricket”, like Paul Downton was 3 weeks ago?

“Attacking the rationale of”…getting rid of your best batsman?

“Questioned without justification”…try seeing our best and most exciting player be sacked without justification.

Clearly what happens in the dressing room or team meetings should remain in that environment and not be distributed to people not connected with the team. This is a core principle of any sports team, and any such action would constitute a breach of trust and team ethics.

Clearly.

Whilst respecting that principle, it is important to stress that Andy Flower, Alastair Cook and Matt Prior, who have all been singled out for uninformed and unwarranted criticism, retain the total confidence and respect of all the other members of the Ashes party.

“Uninformed and unwarranted”!?!! 0-5.

These are men who care deeply about the fortunes of the England team and its image, and it is ironic that they were the people who led the reintegration of Kevin Pietersen into the England squad in 2012.

Oh, the cruel irony.

—————————————————————————-

A statement which can ONLY have been designed to add fuel to the fire. Nothing new therefore pointless and frustratingly uninformative, not to mention being really rather rude to anyone with an opinion which goes against the actions of the ECB.

I don’t necessarily want Pietersen back if he is going to be a disruptive nightmare which makes the 10 other players in a cricket team play shit. I do however want some form of good reason behind ditching our best batsman other than shoddy management. From the outside looking in, the combined trio of Flower, Cook and Prior had a lot more to do with the shambolic 5-0 loss than Kevin Pietersen, yet they are being backed to the hilt whilst Kevin Pietersen is the fall guy.

The ECB should treat it’s customers with more respect and either give us something or just shut up – Kevin Pietersen’s silence has played the situation x10 times better than they have. This is playing wildly at a ball they really should have left; it is a terrible start to Paul Downton’s tenure, another failure from Andy Flower, and hardly a strong chapter in Alastair Cook’s book.

===============================================================

Appendix 3 – Maxie in the Full Toss: (Full link to a modern classic) – https://www.thefulltoss.com/england-cricket-blog/shut-up-and-keep-buying-the-tickets-that-ecb-press-release-in-full/ )

“Allegations have been made, some from people outside cricket, which as well as attacking the rationale of the ECB’s decision-making, have questioned, without justification, the integrity of the England Team Director and some of England’s players”.

Herein lies the kicker, the real giveaway. “People outside cricket”.

Three little words which acutely betray the ECB’s insularity, elitism, snobbery, and self-interest.

“People outside cricket”.

Those may well be the three most revolting words ever uttered by a sporting body. Because what they mean is this: unless you are an insider – attached to the ECB, or an ally, or a sympathetic journalist – you’re not allowed to hold a view.

What is “people outside cricket” even supposed to mean? Who is entitled to define that? Does it mean anyone professionally engaged in cricket, or just players? Do retired players count? Commentators? What about Michael Vaughan and Steve Harmison – both critical of the ECB and no longer connected to it.

I’ll tell you who it certainly doesn’t mean: us. You might think that by following a county and the England team, and paying for the privilege, and expending our time and passion, that that makes us “inside cricket”. Oh no. We are the ignorant proletariat, incapable and unworthy of a valid opinion about cricket.

Those three words lay bare the ECB’s feudal despotism and egomania. They translate as: know your place. Keep quiet. Respect your betters. Just keep buying the tickets.

Many have deduced that this paragraph was aimed solely at Piers Morgan, but I suspect not. It is the ECB’s attempt to quell a rebellion – their canister of tear gas fired into a rioting crowd, their rolling of tanks into Tiananmen Square.

But if it indeed it was only about Piers, then how petty and self-indulgent of the ECB to use their statement purely to get their own back against a single critic, rather than actually provide supporters with  the answers we deserve.

And seeing how Piers is a regular England spectator and has played club cricket in Sussex all his life – is he really “outside cricket”?

In truth, the ECB are incandescent with rage at our insolence and disobedience, and in their fury, have resorted to blaming everyone but themselves. They never anticipated the deluge of anger and vitriol they received via social media. In response, the ECB’s PR operation – outraged at the scale of the insurrection and their loss of control – have performed the equivalent of running their keys down the side of Piers Morgan’s Jag.

==========================================================

A Simply Charming Man
Advertisements

Outside Cricket Day

Outside Cricket Day 9 Feb

I love an anniversary. I’m into that sort of nonsense.

You have to admire the timing of the latest nonsense. Eoin Morgan exclusively reveals to the Daily Mail that the door is shut on Kevin Pietersen. We knew it was, of course we did. For to say it isn’t would mean answering many, many questions more than reinstating him would. To reinstate him wouldn’t placate us, and would only enrage those who so “loyally” follow the team, and we can’t have them upset too. And, most importantly, it would require the authorities to say they were wrong. They might even have to profer a little apology. We’ve waited two years for that. We’ve waited two years for someone to tell us – you know us, the cricket fans who actually liked watching him play, who thought England teams on merit. Two years? Yes, two years today….. when those in charge told us truly what they felt.

It was a Sunday evening two years ago when the ECB and the PCA (and my God we must never forget that the PCA were co-authors of this press release. Never forget that) issued that infamous press release that gave the game away…

It is still there. On line. No remorse, no regret….

It has been a matter of great frustration that until now the England and Wales Cricket Board has been unable to respond to the unwarranted and unpleasant criticism of England players and the ECB itself, which has provided an unwelcome backdrop to the recent negotiations to release Kevin Pietersen from his central contract.

Those negotiations have been successfully concluded and whilst both parties remain bound by confidentiality provisions the ECB would like to make the following comments.

The ECB recognises the significant contribution Kevin has made to England teams over the last decade. He has played some of the finest innings ever produced by an England batsman.

However, the England team needs to rebuild after the whitewash in Australia. To do that we must invest in our captain Alastair Cook and we must support him in creating a culture in which we can be confident he will have the full support of all players, with everyone pulling in the same direction and able to trust each other. It is for those reasons that we have decided to move on without Kevin Pietersen.

Following the announcement of that decision, allegations have been made, some from people outside cricket, which as well as attacking the rationale of the ECB’s decision-making, have questioned, without justification, the integrity of the England Team Director and some of England’s players.

Clearly what happens in the dressing room or team meetings should remain in that environment and not be distributed to people not connected with the team. This is a core principle of any sports team, and any such action would constitute a breach of trust and team ethics.

Whilst respecting that principle, it is important to stress that Andy Flower, Alastair Cook and Matt Prior, who have all been singled out for uninformed and unwarranted criticism, retain the total confidence and respect of all the other members of the Ashes party.

These are men who care deeply about the fortunes of the England team and its image, and it is ironic that they were the people who led the reintegration of Kevin Pietersen into the England squad in 2012.

It is just a work of art. The Canaletto of condescension. Read it again and again, and the eyes still focus, laser like, not on their pathetic efforts to nudge-nudge, wink-wink their accusations against Pietersen, but on that phrase “some from people outside cricket”.

As usual, we will be accused by our critics of saying “well, you know they meant Piers Morgan so why do you get upset?” but that spectacularly misses the point. They cast the phrase “outside cricket” to mean anyone outside the playing, running and reporting of the game. Pure and simple. Morgan plays the game, watches the game and is a fan of the game. They knew that. Oh no. Don’t sell me that twaddle because I’m not buying. You can’t just pass off high-handedness that easily. We’ll have the usual eye rollers, the usual discounting of the views, pissed off less at the comments being made, more that we’re still making them.

I love that press release. It’s the petrol in my engine. Whenever I feel doubts as to why I write, I read this. The author, because, as we’ve seen from some little background research that the outside cricket phrase had been used by this key player, was spectacularly bad at his job and was removed (we’ll wait and see if the compo package appears in this year’s annual accounts, as David Collier’s appeared to be stated in the last one). We remember how those “inside cricket” said he had aplomb, was impressive, was helpful behind the scenes, while those outside were a little more careful in jumping to such lengths of adoration.

But what I’ve found in the last two years as that we’re no more inside cricket now than we were two years ago. The ECB felt a successful England team would be the antidote to the rage and fury, but it really hasn’t. Indeed, it is the ECB that leaves people less than keen on the team’s progress. The ECB of the Big Three stitch-up, something no-one should be interested in according to their man on the ICC top table. The ECB who thinks “trust” is a viable selection criterion. I’ll give them one thing – they’ve cured most of the leaking, which is nice, but I’m wondering if that is coincidence as it seemed to dry up a lot more once Clarke was shunted off to the ICC.

But there is hope. The ICC might be coming to their senses, and India may be a more receptive figure to change, which rather casts the remaining head honcho of the Big Three still there in a different, more challenging light. Death of a Gentleman played a small part in saying what many “outside cricket” fear – test cricket is dying, the game is run as a closed shop, and fans are there “to be monetised” (and never have a say). The journalists now feel a bit more reinforced now the test team has stabilised and won a couple of impressive series, but they still preach to us as mere neophytes, rather than lengthy watchers of the game, just like them.

So much made over two words. Oh yes. Because they spoke volumes. After all, you lot are still here after two years. It meant something. It still does. We are outside. We are not welcome. We are the irrelevant ones.

Two years on, it applies every bit as much as it did then. My thanks to Paul Downton. A legacy for a lifetime. Oh. And don’t forget the PCA. They agreed it. That’s important.

Wooden Outside Cricket Sign
And don’t come back….

Wolfy Blast

Before I start, let me point you in the direction of two excellent pieces I read today.

Andrew Miller’s piece on Alastair Cook (and thanks to SimonH for the heads up) is the sort of writing that the Cricketer misses. It doesn’t tally with all I believe in this saga, but it’s well put together, it comes across as considered, even-handed and evidential, and despite one use of “conspiracy theorist”, I’ll let Andrew off as his description of the “outside cricket” statement nails it. More on that below.

Also, David Oram’s piece on the ostracising of Reds Perreira and Tony Cozier, as well as Kenny Benjamin and Michael Holding, from West Indian commentary puts some of the below piece into perspective. It couldn’t happen here? Well, we had “something must be done” and the reported KP request. Who knows. Ruling bodies seem to think the sport is about them.

So to the meat of the argument.

As per usual I’m going to kick a piece off and not really knowing where it is going to end up. But the very minor events of last night, as a reaction to a post that had a brief shelf-life called “Hardly” was almost amazing, even by the standards of some of the stuff that had been seen in the HDWLIA days. A blog that was going slightly moribund as I tried so hard to get up for the Ashes had a rant laid down before it and I can tell you, by the hit rate, which gets the readers’ juices flowing and what doesn’t. I mentioned on a frank twitter exchange with someone we might know that I wrote what I did last night as a partial experiment. I wanted to see if I could still get the rage going, still see if it’s what the readership react to. It wasn’t contrived AT ALL, but it’s a piece I’ve avoided writing for quite a while now.

The fact is that the whole of the last 18 months has got me in a combative mood towards those that challenge me, and more, the opinions I hold. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a rebel of any kind. I am not some political animal who rages against everything. What does annoy me is being told what to think, told what I am thinking, told something without evidence and treated like an idiot. And yes, I don’t like being misrepresented, and in the case of last night’s post, I believe I misrepresented Lawrence Booth’s position. I certainly did not misrepresent Paul Newman’s.

The problem with the 140 character format is you can leap to your own conclusions and they may be wrong. The problem with the longer reading format is you can leap to your own conclusions on the basis of a couple of sentences. I am particularly touchy when it comes to the inside/outside cricket thing. After all, the blog is named after that phrase. To belittle its significance is, in a small way, belittling the premise of this blog. On that February day, and frankly you can stick all the excuses you want, a professional organisation has no excuses for it, the authorities, having sacked a prominent player, and told the paying public to just accept it, threw in a phrase “outside cricket”. We aren’t a bunch of muppets, we knew full well what they were talking about, and it was one man. But instead of calling him out, they thought they’d be clever. They could have said “certain individuals”, “associates of people involved”, or anything like that. No, they put in the phrase “outside cricket”. It may have meant one man, but it opened the window into their DNA. We’re inside, and if you’re not inside, you’re outside, which means shut the hell up, and butt out.

So many journos are rapid to emphasise the first part – the Piers Morgan part – as if we’re elementary school pupils who need education by constant repetition. No. Increasingly a number, not all, journalists need to have that method applied to the true insight on outside cricket. There is an attitude around that say we are too touchy about it, that it was clumsy, that it wasn’t meant as implied, that it was really all about one person. Well, they knew the storm it caused, and apology there has been none. If there was, I certainly missed it. The ECB acted like all arrogant, out of touch organisations do. It wasn’t going to admit it had made a mistake. Instead, they’d hope us shallow proles would be ameliorated by performances on the field and new fresh brands etc. (note – Andrew Miller says exactly the same in his excellent piece on Alastair Cook) In short, they hoped the team would dig them out and make us forget.

When that didn’t work, we were marginalised. Attempts were made to make us look like idiots. False dawns were (and still are) exaggerated beyond belief. How many pieces do we see about bilious inadequate, the phenomenon of social media and the silent majority codswallop? It’s again, as if we are too stupid to understand. I see our hit rates for a month, and the number of visitors we get. I know this blog is seen by a very small section of the cricket community. Fine by me. While the message can be intemperate, maybe a bit OTT, from my behalf, I didn’t exactly get noticed by being all sweetness and light. Because to do that you become neutered. When an unreasonable party faces someone being aggressive, they tend to blame that party for being unreasonable. To divert attention away from their own failings. I’m really not like that. Nor are many of the readers here.

This is rare from me, but I do apologise to Lawrence, having considered my position overnight, for perhaps reacting in the wrong way to his tweets. If the first paragraph of “Hardly” had been more clear, maybe he could see why, but that’s not enough from me to justify my jumping the gun. I have to recognise when I’ve over-stepped the mark and over-reacted. Lawrence has been someone prepared to break bread with me, and I think using his tweet to post that item was not the brightest thing I’ve ever done. I can still see why I reacted to it the way I did, but I needed to stop and think. We should all learn along the way. I am not one who will let that Piers Morgan / Outside Cricket thing pass, but also Lawrence’s Wisden notes, his comments, and what he says to me along the way, I should have taken into account. My mistake.

There comes a point when you blog, and 18 months full on is pretty hard work, where you evaluate where you are. In terms of quality of writing, this blog is better than ever. TLG is a brilliant addition (thanks jofo), I love the panel stuff, I’ve enjoyed the memories work and others seem to enjoy it too, and at times it has been fun. But the mood that made this blog what it was is changing, and I’m wrestling with myself over whether we can have the success and feedback (struggling for the right word) in an environment like this. There is a “fear” (if that’s the right word) that this blog is a “bad times” blog and when success comes to this England team, as it will, can it function and survive?

This is not a blog that is negative for the sake of it. Seriously, believe it or not, it isn’t. It’s just that negativity brings the best out of me, and many of you. By negativity, of course, I mean critiquing bad results, bad administration, bad reporting not just being doom and gloom merchants. We enjoyed the ODI series that just went by (how could you not watching England bat like that) but instead of many of the print and TV journos who only jumped on the “we are out of date” bandwagon once the World Cup got underway, we’d been banging on about it for ages. Yet we are pilloried by insinuation if we are “not reconnecting with the team” or “falling in love with it”. I’m not. Nowhere near it. I’m pleased we played well. I’m effing livid we blew a World Cup and no-one did anything to change it beforehand. That’s in the past now. Doesn’t matter etc. Because if you think it did, you’d be aiming your laser missile at the ECB, who made Downton carry the can, and then his greatest coach of a generation.

From where I sit, I see much journalism determined by access. It was one of Brian Carpenter’s criticism of HDWLIA in Wisden (don’t get me wrong, I thought it was an incredibly fair article) that I maybe didn’t have an understanding of their pressures. Fine. I probably don’t know the realpolitk of modern sports reporting. That’s because I’m not a journalist. But what I see from the outside is not the stenographer that some of the commenters on here are seeing (and they may be right), but more reporting by access. Benny, I think, on here says that much of the press coverage now in newspapers is out of date by the time you read it, because bloggers get there first, or the internet has it all up. Yes, to a degree, but I was always one who wanted to read what others thought. Half the fun of a Newman column is reading his opinions, and then getting angry about them. The same with Selvey. But remembering that those people have vastly larger
audiences than us and are writing to be read by the fanatics and the casual fan. They have vastly more influence on shaping views than we ever will.

I’ve banged on about the Tyers Twitter Tendency – the inside knowledge what I can’t tell you plebs approach – for ages, but it grates. I wrestle with the fact I talk to a couple of journalists behind the scenes and do not report it here. Am I being a hypocrite? Probably, but this is because I’ve actually not been expressly asked to keep this stuff quiet, and I treat it as a relatively private conversation (I’ve shared a couple of things with my co-writer to be fair). These guys are dealing with the decision makers, and in some cases, are consulted by those decision makers (Downton freely admitted it). That’s where there’s a lack of trust, so that when we see the Outside Cricket line is about Piers Morgan, I get tetchy. That’s the ECB line. You are reporting the ECB line, because they don’t want to admit that’s how they think about cricket, and their public. My touchiness on this is my problem. You wouldn’t have read the stuff on this blog for
the time you have if you didn’t at least respect where it came from.

I will release the Hardly post without the bit referring to the Outside Cricket exchange which will make the comments look slightly odd. Apologies for the long-winded nature of this post, and it’s only touched the surface of what I would wish to say, but it needed clarifying.

Hardly

I was in good cheer when I read another tweet yesterday, and which I’ve seen in today’s amazing episode of The Cricketer Magazine.

I mean, seriously. I am getting to be seriously crotchety in my old age, but I hate this shit. I realise we live in a corporate world, where sport has to flog itself to maximise the revenues for its players and so forth. But Hardy’s doesn’t own the Ashes, and they aren’t some commodity that can be flogged to death to some corporate with ties to the sport as deep as a puddle. But no, let’s have it hawked out and retweeted by the players so they can earn a few more bucks. Let’s have all the interviews by England players sponsored so they can earn a few more quid. I even saw an advert on Twitter by Specsavers using the Ashes.

While I don’t doubt the sporting commitment of any of these players, there seems far too much of players hawking themselves to flog a bit of the sponsors wares and not enough actual proper engagement with the hoi polloi who follow them around. The team looks appallingly distant still. I get no more of a warm glow from Alastair Cook as I do from my neighbours on the other side of the estate I live on. I hate how sport has become a corporate vehicle, so it’s corporate first, second, third, fourth and so on, and the punter comes a distant last. The corporate pays and gets the finest seats, the best service, and fuck me blind, decent beer. We sit in the cheap seats, have to somehow manage to carry four beers in a paper/cardboard contraption that happens to break if it gets to wet to a crowded seat, with eff all leg room, to be bombarded by nonsense, have official rehydration breaks, have the most prestigious test series in the game paired with an investment bank every time it is mentioned over here (it was never the Cornhill Insurance Ashes, was it) and drink absolute piss masquerading as one of Paul Sheldon’s selection of “fine beers”.

Their priority is to make money – the players and the administrators. To soak the asset. If they see off some of the low earners or recalcitrant fans, well that’s just collateral damage. They probably wouldn’t drink Hardy’s wine, probably think Waitrose is a bit too pricy, wouldn’t have a scooby who Royal London are, think tap water is fine to drink, don’t use an investment bank and so on and so forth. Stuff ’em. After all, they are outside cricket.

Commercialisation is a growing annoyance, and don’t tell me the journos don’t think so. Agnew, for one, was livid he had to go through this “interview is brought to you by…” crap. The players seriously don’t help themselves when any interview they have is done under serious media management and only on the premise that they can hawk something for a few bob more. This tweet summed it up…

Which brings neatly on to Betway’s new “employee” in his Editor’s notes in The Cricketer…

“Alastair Cook has been called a weasel and a coward and other derogatory things. He does not deserve any of it.”

Ah. But calling someone who scored 8181 test runs a c–t is ok. Rah Rah. The article has decency all over it. Alastair is a thoroughly decent man. If you get a chance, read it. It’s like a bloody love letter. There seems no recognition that there is another interpretation of all this. That Cook has never truly explained the decision that he must have been party to to (a) exclude Pietersen and (b) as Dean Wilson reported, I believe, at the time, that he maintains a veto over his return. I call not explaining this as, yes, a form of cowardice. A form of weasel behaviour. He may have very good reasons, but I’ll bet he’s storing them up for a lovely autobiography somewhere down the line. Hughes, of course, conflates the cowardice line with actual facing up to quick bolwing in a marvellously ridiculous finale…

“He (Cook) is the antithesis of the men who say, “It’s the way I play.” He is constantly evolving as a player and as a leader and is about to confront the fastest attack and feistiest foe to visit these shores for many a year. So whatever you think of him, don’t call him a weasel or a coward.”

Bloody hell. Instead, we’ll just laugh at this piece of analysis (as previewed in comments below) in a tweet from Tickers.

Indeed.

I’m sorry, but Lovejoy, complete with stupid mug shot is at it again in The Cricketer…

“Obviously the above are moot points if England themselves have a divided camp and are still being forced to answer questions about the captain, opening batsman and other extraneous stories that refuse to die down. Alastair Cook must shrug off any worries about the hierarchy and apparent criticism from the media and get back to enjoying the role of prolific run scorer and team captain.”

Count the many ways this is laughable.

Supremacy

Oliver Holt has spoken. The Lord High Priest of Sports Journalism has given his view, and you, you vile proles, are not worthy. You have made him leave the glory of European football, the wonder of Masters Golf, the joy of worthwhile world sporting events, to make him comment on cricket before an Ashes series. And he’s told you to pipe down.

Here endeth the blog. Holt has put me in my place.

So, yes, it is easy to pick holes in Strauss’s decision on Pietersen. It is easy to say blithely that we should always pick our best players irrespective of whatever they may have done or the way they are regarded by team-mates.

It is easy to ridicule Strauss, but the hard fact is that mocking him is a simplistic way out of a complex, regrettable situation. The knee-jerk reaction may be to say he got it horribly wrong. Cold analysis suggests he probably got it right.

English cricket is in a mess at the moment. Everyone can see that. But it is entirely possible that if Strauss had brought Pietersen back, it would be in an even bigger mess.

Stories circulated last week that Alastair Cook would have quit as England captain if Pietersen had been recalled. Strauss hinted in a briefing with Sunday newspapers at Lord’s that others would have considered their futures, too. If KP came back, the England cricket team would have split in two.

Quite why anybody is surprised by that is a mystery. It is not long ago that KP accused Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson of presiding over a bullying culture in the England team. Bullying is an emotive subject. It’s not something you level at someone lightly. ‘It’s an awful word to use,’ Broad told me in Melbourne when we discussed the subject during the World Cup. Anderson and Broad have not simply forgotten it.

I was blind, but now I see. Once Holt pronounces, that is it. The end of the matter. The Supreme Court of sport opinion has now spoken.

Anyone fancy a revolt?

More later….

365 Days Of Shame, And The Return Of A Legend

For all that we remember that press release for the phrase “outside cricket”, the real cherry on the trifle, the diamond encrusted monument in your own private courtyard, the beauty among the beast (get on with it – D.O.) is this little corker:

Clearly what happens in the dressing room or team meetings should remain in that environment and not be distributed to people not connected with the team. This is a core principle of any sports team, and any such action would constitute a breach of trust and team ethics.

Stop laughing at the back.

Our late lamented blogger, DO, went into it in some depth last year, and I’m not going to do the same now. But it does always help to remember the chutzpah behind it. This was written a month after Paul Newman was singing like a bird in an example of “good journalism” rarely surpassed.

For any of you new to this blog, and not aware of its ongoing themes, let me place before you Exhibit A, in the Hall of Infamy.

We Worship At Their Altar
We Worship At Their Altar

It appeared that the mysterious disappearance of Bottom Left had meant that a replacement may have needed to be found. As these four, by far and away, won the awards on DO’s site (yeah, let’s keep that split personality going) for wretched prose, the new entries seemed difficult to imagine. John Etheridge was one possible candidate, but his misdemeanours are not as offensive to most of us. Jonathan Agnew maybe, but I’m not as down on him as others, and this is my site.

It seems fear not, for beyond the horizon there speaks a man on Wisden India.

http://www.wisdenindia.com/interview/england-tend-trip-plan-b-pringle/146929

Hurrah! I am in a state of high excitement. Lady Canis Lupus (not that judge who got turfed off the enquiry) beware…

It is difficult to tell how much of a difference the switch has made. England were wallowing under Cook the captain, whose bad form with the bat was influencing his mood and decision making as team leader. Against good bowling sides in Australian conditions, they may yet come to miss Cook’s batting qualities, providing he had rediscovered his mojo. The cry by some for England, and other teams, to pack the side with hitters could backfire if the ball keeps swinging around as it has done in the tri-series.

Ah, how sweet. The Essex Mafia, the Chelmsford Cosa Nostra, the Ilford Illuminati, however you like to call them, stick together. We only had to wait for Cook to regain his “mojo” and for the captaincy to really flow from the tactical brain we all loved. I call it “magic beans”.

Like England’s fans, India’s supporters quickly become despondent. Tournament play is all about gaining confidence and your best players delivering at the big moments. If Virat Kohli, Rohit and one of the bowlers can find some persuasive form, the semifinals are not out of reach.

Only we don’t get despondent at those on the pitch, more the entourage off it, and towards those in the echelons of power and the press box. See your wibble on Cook above.

We take a break to comment on the preamble:

Pringle played in two World Cups – 1987 and 1992 – and, on both occasions, England made the final, with Pringle turning in impressive performances with the ball, especially in 1992.

OK. 1992 was pretty good. Let’s look at the potential for impressive performances in 1987:

Need to look up the victim.
Need to look up the victim.

Shared responsibility..

In 1987, we had the final in the bag until Mike Gatting played an unnecessary reverse sweep and we collapsed.

It’s a wonderful piece of Q&A, and may we see more of it.

My record only looks moderate in terms of wickets and, therefore, average. In those days, bowling dot balls was the key for bowlers like me, and you built pressure that way.

6.16 an over in 1987. You have to chuckle.

This Week’s Agenda

The World Cup starts on Friday night, with New Zealand v Sri Lanka, followed by Australia and England kicking off at 3:30 in the morning. Given it’s Valentine’s Day I don’t think we’ll be getting much in the way of posting on Saturday, but I’ll do what I’ve done in the past and get Game Threads ready for each match that I can.

I would strongly hope that as many of you as possible enter the competition. I might, or might not, offer a prize, but it won’t be life changing. I’ll tag the thread…

https://collythorpe.wordpress.com/2015/02/07/day-2-world-cup-competition/

I’m not one for previews, so you can look elsewhere for that, maybe at The Full Toss, although I have no idea of their intentions.

Tomorrow is National Outside Cricket Day. Perhaps you can tell me what the phrase means to you.

Piers and KP Outside

Each new blog post will be announced on Twitter under the new @LordCanisLupus feed.

Posting will not be as frequent as it was before, but I’ll try my best.

My thanks to all who have made it over here. Zero Bullshit lived up to their name by just going on to TFT and saying what he did. Like name, like nature. I want also to reach out to the old crew, such as Pontiac, David Oram, d’arthez et al to get them on here, as well as SimonH, SimonK, Rooto, Burly and all the rest. Spread the word.

As always, happy to have any other views on here. No-one really takes me up on it, but if you want to fill in some of my blanks, then so be it.