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.

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The Ashes 2015: A review

So there we have it, the Ashes are done, the teams are exhausted and now it’s time to look back on the series.

The series got off to a bad start when the Australian team were held at border control at the Severn Bridge on the M4.  Protesting that “but we’re in England, right mate?” only seemed to make things worse, as Darren Lehmann asked the High Commissioner to issue a formal protest over the visa charge of £6.50 per head.  David Warner was seen looking baffled as explanations about the difference between England and the United Kingdom were made, and matters weren’t helped when Alex Salmond somehow got hold of Darren Lehmann’s mobile number.  Steve Smith was briefly detained due to an unfortunate mix up where they found his name on a watchlist, being released only when it became apparent he really did know nothing about rugby.

So it was a petulant team who finally arrived at the Holiday Inn, Cardiff. An annoyed Mitchell Johnson went off to check the pitch only to return after 10 minutes complaining that while very big, the ground was the wrong shape for cricket.  Given such a start to the series, the ECB felt it appropriate to mend some fences, and sent their best diplomat, Giles Clarke, around to smooth things over.  Rumours that Tony Abbott subsequently approached the USA about buying Trident can now be safely dismissed as untrue and entirely unrelated.

The morning of the first Test dawned bright and sunny, catching out Stuart Broad, who assumed the first day would be rained off and turned up late.  A capacity crowd of at least 750 were in the ground eagerly anticipating the toss.  It’s probably after this point that England fans noticed things starting to go wrong.

Certainly being 65-6 at lunch wasn’t in the plan, though journalists were quick to highlight how brilliantly Cooky batted for his 14 runs.  Indeed, Stephen Brenkley received a British Press Award for his 3,000 word treatise on how he played and missed “with aplomb”.  Straussy wrecked any chance of a Pullitzer by calling the committee “c****s” (except in the Guardian, where they printed it in full – Selvey saying it was the “moment of the series”) for their outrageous decision to exclude it from consideration on the grounds of not being American.

Joe Root was exceptionally careless to be timed out, and his protest that he was waiting for that tall South African bloke to go in at four cut little ice with the critics.  England did at least improve a little after lunch, with Jos Buttler skilfully marshalling the tail before being left high and dry on 2 not out.

As would be seen throughout the summer, England were far from out of it.  With hindsight, making Anderson bowl from both ends all day probably didn’t help his longevity in the series, but it wasn’t until Edgbaston that the umpires had to step in claiming that crawling to the crease on hands and knees was slowing the over rate down too much.

Yet with Australia teetering on 372-5, Stuart Broad spoke to the team at length during tea, berating his colleagues for failing to follow the plan.  Thereafter things went much better, as Brad Haddin was in all sorts of trouble to the short ball, finally being put out his misery for a mere 137 with 19 sixes.

With an uphill battle to save the game, Cooky strode to the middle.  A dazzling array of plays and misses and edges through the slips led to criticism that Michael Clarke had failed to learn the lessons of 2013.  Mike Gatting on Radio Five took one look at the wagon wheel of the innings and concluded it was ten past one and went for lunch, wondering why he had such a craving for marshmallow covered in chocolate.

England fought valiantly, and nearly got away with the draw.  Anderson and Wood were left with a mere 193 overs to survive and got 4 balls into that before Wood was wrongly given out lbw off his fetlock – Stuart Broad having blown the reviews claiming that his leg stump wasn’t on the ground at all.

It was a chastened team at the presentation, Trevor Bayliss being seen muttering to himself while reaching for a pack of Benson and Hedges.  Cooky spoke well about not executing their skills, learning from the game and taking the positives – particularly Stephen Brenkley, who he felt was the right kind of journalist with the right kind of newspaper.

In the Sky Sports studio, Atherton confused Shane Warne by saying that England were losing to win, although Warne’s response was sadly edited out by the ECB Media Compliance Committee producer before anyone could see it.

Media reaction was swift and merciless.  Mike Selvey wrote that the main problem was that Adil Rashid was causing discontent in the camp by scoring an unbeaten century and taking 23 wickets for Yorkshire on the same day, while Paul Newman wrote that Kevin Pietersen’s “morning, lovely day” tweet had divided the dressing room, with born and bred Lancastrian Jos Buttler taking particular exception – his reply of “It is, isn’t it” being scanned for underlying hatred.

And so the second Test approached.  With four days between matches, Andy Flower intervened, sending Jimmy Anderson on a walk from John O’Groats to Lands End as a warm up.  It certainly had an effect, and England were an entirely different side. After an unfortunate injury in the warm up, where Ian Bell was shot with a champagne cork from a local miner on his day off, England had to make a late replacement.  A mystery player known only as Kay PeesorryQueueoopsmadeamistake was firstly drafted in, before Director Comma Cricket Andrew “Straussy” Strauss leapt up from his sedan chair, saying the accent was a bit iffy.

Winning the toss, Australia were soon in trouble.  David Warner was arrested for starting a fight with some of the schoolchildren present, his defence that he thought it was Joe Root sledging him not being accepted by the local magistrate.  Anderson ripped through the top order, using the conditions to good effect as the ball rolled down the slope.  Numerous swipes in vain saw the batsmen bowled time and again, while Shane Watson was lbw.

After such a troubled and controversial start, relations between the teams improved thankfully, Ryan Harris crouching low, putting an arm around James Anderson, adjusting his oxygen tank for him and offering him full use of his knees. Alastair Cook then picked up a suspended ban for not completing the 90 overs in the day as an hour’s delay ensued with the crowd helping the two bowlers back to their feet.

With England feeling in the ascendant, they went on the attack with the bat.  Ben Stokes destroyed the Australian bowling, pinging them to all parts for 260 not out – though quite rightly the press focused on Cook’s admittedly fine 84.  Their partnership of 260 was a sight to behold. England’s dominant position was enforced as the tail wagged, and Jos Buttler reached the heights of getting to 4* before the innings closed.

Darren Lehmann, clearly unimpressed with Australia’s efforts, called for a traditional Aussie approach, and certainly Warner’s day release from custody attached to a ball and chain indicated his words had gone home.  Despite the enormous first innings deficit, they attacked.  There was a slight hiatus when Warner hit the ball attached to him into the pavilion by mistake, but since it landed in Giles Clarke’s champagne George Dobell was seen to laugh so hard he had to be taken to hospital.  In his absence, Jarrod Kimber simply added 350 to the Australian score on Cricinfo.  Peter Moores rang up the ECB Sky pointing out that the data didn’t add up, but unfortunately no-one there could remember who he was, and so Australia got away with it.  Malcolm Conn was the first to react tweeting “That’s for Bodyline, you filthy pommie bastards” before writing an article titled “No offence”.

With England set 200 to win, Cooky decided to get out his inner funk.  Graham Gooch had pointed out that he was far more vulnerable to getting out if he batted, and so taking that on board, reversed the batting order.  Channel 5’s highlights included a 24 minute section of Simon Hughes in the tactics truck moaning with pleasure at the genius of the idea.   England scraped home, mostly thanks to Anderson’s 99.  It got tense towards the end as Australia fought back, but fortunately Jos Buttler stood firm, finishing 6 not out as wickets tumbled around him.  The captain scored the winning run, and was promptly knighted by a grateful public.

With the series so finely poised, it was a great shame that the next two Tests were washed out.  No refunds were given to spectators, as it was considered that highlights of the 2005 series on the big screen were now to be assumed as being part of play.  Some complaints were made that the series as shown was incomplete, but the ECB’s PR department pointed out that the last day of the Oval Test had been sadly cancelled in 2005 and they’d not missed anything.

For the denouement there were a few debates to be had in selection.  Mitchell Johnson had made himself unavailable after Brian May had called him up for the forthcoming Queen comeback tour, but Lehmann had rubbished criticism of the timing by stating that Australia had endless stocks of interchangeable Mitches and the side wouldn’t be affected. With England wondering about their batting line up, the selectors were seen in discussions long into the night.  A conclusion was reached when Straussy Strauss was seen carrying a trowel and smiling as plaintive Afrikaans cries were heard behind a bricked up wall.   England had one other question mark over their side, as Wood unfortunately fell at the fourth fence at Haydock two days before the game, but having been given a clean bill of health by England assistant physio Jimmy Herriot he took his place in the stalls for the start.

Alastair Cook scored a fine hundred, causing Aggers to squeak for an hour on air, so overcome was he.  Pope Francis resigned, David Cameron announced to a hushed Parliament that he was giving way to a much better man, with a much better family, and the US Congress passed what became known at the Cooky-wooky Act allowing foreign born Gods people to stand for the Presidency.  Perhaps the greatest tribute of all came from Geoffrey Boycott who stated to a shocked nation that he was nearly as good as his granny.

England were certainly confident having scored over 400 (Jos Buttler 8*) but Australia weren’t out of it by any means.  Chris Rodgers had escaped from the McCarthy and Stone sheltered accommodation where he was staying, and set about clearing the deficit.  There was one flare up when he accidentally trod on the umpires toes going for a second run, and Stuart Broad squared up to him asking if he was having a go at him.  Rodgers quietly pointed out that it wasn’t the square leg umpire and calm descended, but it was an awkward moment.

A mid innings collapse (Shane Watson, lbw 0) left Australia with a small deficit, and England were back in to bat.  A hush descended on the ground, punctuated only by the occasional South African accented “let me out” heard in the direction of the OCS Stand.  Cooky-wooky-woo-wah headed out to the middle and as one, they all rose and sang the oratorio from Handel’s Messiah – fortunately the ECB had been prepared and issued all spectators with lyric sheets as part of the Conditions of Ground Admittance.

Ben Stokes was the star of the innings, having sneaked out to bat when no one was looking.  Paul Downton – special guest of the ECB – was overheard to say that this bloke looked rather good, and why hadn’t he been around when he was MD?  Giles Clarke was equally confused, having seen no reference of Cockermouth in the Independent Schools List.  Joe Root gave valuable support, making Boycott declare unilateral independence for Yorkshire during the tea break, while Jos Buttler’s quickfire 9 not out added to the swelling total.

With Australia set 300 to win, the game and the series was in the balance.  All was going well for the visitors, with England’s bowlers unable to take a single wicket.  Fortunately for them, Shane Watson ran out 6 batting partners and burst into tears in the middle.  With the tension building, Australia 9 down and with victory only a hit away, there came that moment.  And we all know what happened then.

@BlueEarthMngmnt

Revelation

Thanks for thelegglance for filling in the match report duties last night. I got home quite late (this work stuff is getting a pain) and by the time I did, the match was all over. Quite good to have a couple of other cricket lovers around me in the office following the scores surreptitiously on cricinfo and passing updates. Think it might be a bit blatant to lop out the old Tablet and watch SkyGo in the office!

I saw the highlights and caught some of the reaction. It was a brilliant performance. Absolutely no doubt about it, but it should be noted that the new breed went 3 for 4 in terms of “failure”. Roy, who I have a real sneaking suspicion is not going to cut it at the top level (I think when you saw him face Steven Finn in the T20 last year gave you a clue), obviously copped a first baller. Hales also hasn’t delivered in the top spot, and must do so soon, while Sam Billings, who I think should play so that we have a ready-made replacement if Buttler gets injured if he proves himself, also didn’t do well. The most experienced of the new breed, Adil Rashid, of course had an absolute blinder. I’m sure all those who slagged him off for a performance in the nets in the WIndies are saying sorry now…… [sound of crickets]

The established players, Root, Buttler and Morgan were magnificent, and yes, as Vian says, it’s that attitude and approach we want to see. I don’t buy the “no fear” codswallop, actually. It’s rather easy when you’ve been given a clean slate to create a new “brand” (and hell do I hate that phrase) to play without fear. I don’t doubt Buttler plays pretty much without it, but let’s see Joe Root make a ton chasing a big total, rather than setting one. Let’s see how we react chasing 300. Let’s see how we react chasing 250 and losing three wickets for 50. I’m interested to see how we do in those scenarios. But yes, yesterday was a remarkable day. To go from 200 for 6 to 408 for 9 was amazing. Absolutely amazing.

I now know how far I am behind on century watch. Ben Stokes (Lord’s), Adam Lyth (Headingley), BJ Watling (Headingley), Adam Voges (Dominica) and today Shikar Dhawan (Fatullah) need to be documented. No promises when. but I’ll catch up (another early start tomorrow means I’m off to bed soon).

I’m sort of reading two books at the same time – one an old paperback picked up in Hay-on-Wye and the other on the Kindle. I’ll do a book review of both when I’ve finished them, but there’s something remarkable about both. Put To The Test, by Geoffrey Boycott, is a frank view of the Ashes tour of 1978-9 – the Packer-decimated Australian team – when Boycs himself had a pretty poor tour. The frankness is in his comments on his teammates. He praises, and he criticises when he sees fit. It’s the sort of book we would never ever see now.

The other is The Plan, by Steve James. What is remarkable is the thing that seems to be lacking throughout this book is, well, a plan. It’s a series of anecdotes and events bundled together to tell the reader what, I don’t know. There are interesting bits, of course, but I’m befuddled by it, to be honest. I’ve actually no idea what it is trying to achieve. It’s all over the place.

I know I’ve promised, and the Bogfather reminds me, a press hall of shame piece. The fact is, I’ve really cooled on the idea for now. I wrote numbers 1 and 2 on holiday and then just lost the will, to be honest. I’m thinking of putting it to bed now until the annual readers awards at the end of the season, when you lot get to contribute to the voting. I don’t know why I can’t be arsed, but it just happens. For the record, though, my top five were:

1. Mike Selfey

2. Paul Newman

3. Derek Pringle (yes, old habits die hard)

4. Simon Hughes

5. Stephen Brenkley

Jim Holden had an Andy Ganteaume effort to pierce the top 5 on the back of one putrid article but would have been number 6. Henderson was in the running, thanks to detritus in the WCM. Ed Smith was also a live one, as FICJAM angered in his own patronising way. You know it is a tough field when John Etheridge is falling down the rankings, and the tenth was a pick from Chris Stocks, who I think may not really qualify for this, Malcolm Conn (for future crimes) and Aggers himself. Have I left anyone out.

Here is the citation, as written for number 1, back in May.

1. Mike Selvey – This has been a close fought battle, with at times Pringle and Newman edging ahead. But Selfey’s twitter contributions just about nail it, and he sealed the deal with the tweet that anything he said on there wasn’t an invitation for a conversation etc. In other words, unless I “respect” you, sod off. He’s not exactly got social media to a tee.

It’s the arrogance I can’t stand. The “I’ve been there, I know what’s going on and you don’t” approach. You are a journalist for crying out loud. You should be duty bound to tell us. I’m not a journalist, don’t want to be one, and therefore if someone tells me something in confidence then it remains that way because I have no responsibility to anyone other than myself. You have a responsibility to the people you report to.

Every column Selfey writes is met with increasing howls of indignation. It’s not so much now that we are banging on about KP, but it’s the closeness he appears to have to the hierarchy in charge. Selfey was on Moores before anyone else when it came to the selection of the new coach – many might interpret that as a scoop, most of us interpreted it as a Flower/Downton plant. If Selfey has criticised Cook at any length, I’ve missed it. If Selfey has criticised any of his favourites, then, again, I’ve missed it. His writing on international cricket is driving much of his audience mad. It’s made worse when we see the start that Ali Martin, fresh from The Sun, has made, and we can see the potential.

However, what clinches it is the way the negative views of Selfey below the line are moderated. There’s clearly difficulty in accepting that the people you write for are turning on you, and I am sure that’s tough to accept. Instead of listening to some of the more well-meaning stuff, Selfey has seen this as an excuse/reason to become more indignant, more churlish and even more set in his ways. I think he’s past the point of giving a hoot about who he writes for.

It’s funny, because Selfey’s writing has little impact on me any more. He doesn’t raise the levels of anger that Newman or Pringle, or to a lesser extent Brenkley do. But it’s the sneering contempt he appears to have to people who love the game and are incredibly frustrated by his reporting that clinches it. The suspicion is that Newman is doing much of what he does because of who he works for. Selfey doesn’t have that excuse. That’s why he’s numero uno.

Oh go on, I wrote Newman’s one as well….

Paul Newman – It would be tempting to rank Newman number 1, but I won’t. He still has a way to go to match the champion’s sneering contempt for those he is informing. What Newman does worse (or better depending on how you see it) is to provide copy that is so skewed, and at times so batshit insane, that you sit there and think “someone’s telling him to write this, they must be”.

Newman’s 2015 hasn’t been that bad, to be honest. But he wins his place this high because of the occasional lunacy that he concocts and the historically awful stuff he wrote about Pietersen and the book, which even some of his travelling colleagues thought a little bit odd. There is a constant dig on here that we see everything through a KP lens, as if all that I write is predicated on the “KP should be returned to the England fold” line to take. I’d suggest that Newman is much, much worse in this regard. Just look at what he wrote at the end of the Barbados test re Moores. That Moores should get the Ashes gig because he was stopped before by another KP-induced controversy. What the hell has KP got to do with the loss in Barbados and the World Cup except the morons in charge explicitly excluded him?

Newman can’t let Pietersen go. There are constant assertions of “fact”… that KP’s sacking was wholly justified, without ever detailing why. When challenged on Twitter, he resorts to attacking the questioner with “if you don’t know why, you’ll never know” type comments. It’s another example of contempt for the readership. It does create a question in my mind, and I’ve discussed this with Maxie, as to whether this is an editorial line and Newman is working it to the hilt. It would make sense, although I have no doubt there is massive personal antipathy there towards Pietersen, and he appears the journalist that most gets under KP’s skin.

Of course, working for the Mail renders him at a disadvantage from the get go. Blocking me on Twitter when I’ve never tweeted him abuse, or much of a comment, is just childish. Supporting Jim Holden’s article was an act of such expected density that it didn’t shock. Having a little dig at your’s truly for being “nothing important” in a Twitter exchange with Simon Hughes was lovely, actually.

However, it is the bending of the message to suit the prevailing anti-KP rage that is hilarious. Before and after the World Cup, Newman was all for burying Moores. According to Newman, dropping Cook on the eve of the World Cup would result in a make-or-break competition for the unprove new regime. In the same article he then says they have 12 months to prove themselves, but also that a failure in the World Cup followed by stuttering form in the Caribbean and beyond would claim more victims due to the rancour that envelops them. Yesterday despite a World Cup that didn’t even reach “mediocre” on the Newman scale, he’s backing him to continue.

Because, the suspicion is that despite his clear disregard for Moores over the last few months, and the laughs at us for being obsessed with KP, Newman is close to Cook and much is written through that lens. That’s not on. It really isn’t.

I picked up some old Wisden Cricket Monthlys a while back, when Newman had the County beat for the SE of England. He was good. People tell me he’s a really good bloke. But this current stuff is wretched, easily fiskable, and lacking in critical thought, and driven by ant-KP dogma, inserted at every opportunity, relevant or not. But he’s not number 1…..

Until the next time. Hope everyone is well, and let’s see the ODI team keep the show on the road.

Assembly

The aftermath of the tour continues and eyes turn towards the futures of the top table. Those eyes are cast more in the direction of the coach, Peter Moores, and when you read some of the stuff coming out, it’s no surprise.

Moores has to carry a number of burdens, partly of his own making, and partly a little unfair. I have not been inside a dressing room at professional level, but even at club level, you know when people don’t think you are credible, don’t listen to what you do, don’t care about your future. It’s not fair that Moores never played international cricket, and that will always count against him when it comes to motivating and coaching great international players. However, he has been on the county treadmill and knows it inside out, and will be a great county coach again when this ends. He commands respect of the county pros, but maybe lacks a little at the top level with the senior pros. Maybe. It’s guess work, but I’ve seen enough football managers lose that respect, and I can recognise some of the problems. At this stage, with a young core of players, Moores can bring them along, as long as he retains the support of the key senior pros. These being Cook, Bell, Broad and Anderson, and to a lesser degree, the next in line, Joe Root. All have played every game under Moores, and there is no hint of this changing any time soon.

The second cross he has to bear is that he lacks credibility among much of the watching public. James Morgan on TFT makes the analogy perfectly – would the England national team go back to Steve McClaren, or would the rugby team go back to Andy Robinson. Both were assistants under more successful coaches who never bridged the credibility gap with the public, probably unfairly. Moores, like it or not, comes across as a nice guy out of his depth at this level. I’m not, like some, going to assign some malevolent motive to his tenure on his behalf. He’s been thrown a hell of a challenge after the Ashes 2013-14, made even harder by the idiotic jettisoning of Kevin Pietersen (not for his absence from the team, but because of the messages it sent) and he has developed some of the younger players (although not greatly, not really). The sense remains though, as the World Cup campaign showed, that Moores is not up to key elements of the job. He will present a case, but the evidence is not backing it up. Combine an abject disaster in the World Cup with a home loss to Sri Lanka in all formats, and coughing up a 1-0 lead in the Caribbean, and there is not a lot to say “keep me on” other than some sort of hope for a change of fortune. My football team did that this season, and by the time we sacked our manager it was too late to save them, despite the best efforts of a new manager who did really well.

Which brings us to the third problem, and this one was partly of his own making, but more of that champion of champions Paul Downton. Peter Moores applied for a job and got it and accepted terms no manager/coach should ever do. That is, be told who he could not have in his team under any circumstances. You anti-KP fans keep making it about him if you want, but the message this sends to any player is profound. Be independently minded, have a strong opinion about your game, and how you want your career to pan out, and that could happen to you. It wasn’t a good start. Then, to have your appointment accompanied by the “greatest coach of his generation” comment by Downton was just amazing. Moores would have been completely at liberty to tell the MD to shut his hole, because that was going to stick. If he could not put before the public a set of results to live up to that billing, he was going to be ridiculed. So it has proved.

The final problem for Moores is his inability to speak, or appear to speak, in anything other than management tones. He sounds like a first year MBA student more than a cricket coach. Sport is about maximising the analytical tools to hand (I’m reading a fascinating book on baseball analysis at the moment) but it is also about unquantifiable exploits. You don’t find Jimmy Anderson’s fifth day morning session in any text book. You have that seize the day approach, the raising of the game to higher planes which can’t be factored in. If they were, sport would be bloody dull and we’d all not bother to watch it. But it’s too much process this, learning lessons that.

I’ll tell you another thing that doesn’t help, and it’s a warm welcome to a Paul Newman quote on here after at least a couple of weeks absence, is nonsense like this:

To watch England here has been to see a highly promising group who respect their coach and want to succeed for him and I believe Moores should be given that crack at the Ashes denied him in 2009 by another Kevin Pietersen-inspired controversy.

Just read that and weep. No player is going to come out in the open and say Moores shouldn’t be coach. KP did that and got fired as captain. KP said that about Flower and was booted out for it. There’s not a lot of longevity in showing you aren’t playing for the coach. I’d say we need to win more games to show how well we are playing for Moores, instead of going overboard over one win in Grenada. But Newman doesn’t let it go with his bete noire, who he is now getting all tin foil hat over. KP has the square root of eff all to do with Moores staying on as coach. Pietersen has not scored the runs required of him by Graves et al for starters. Second, KP is not responsible for Moores performance in the job thus far, so is a total utter irrelevance about whether Moores should stay in the job. Third, we’ve been down this long service award drivel before (he deserves a crack at the Ashes – if he deserved it in 2009, he’d have made an unanswerable case instead of losing home series in 2007 and 2008) and that worked in the World Cup. Also, Newman’s changed his tune. He was really down on Moores after the World Cup. Maybe Cook’s told him to lay off or something.

I feel a bit for Moores, to be honest. I actually think he’s a really decent man giving it his all, but he doesn’t really stand a chance. It may be, like before, he’s laying down the foundations for someone else, but also there’s the suspicion that this is as far as he can go. While it is hard to ignore the fact he took the job on compromised terms, he has not been the hate figure some portray him to be. He’s more a figure of sympathy, and in international sport, that is often much, much worse. If this best case you can make to keep him on is he deserves his go at the Ashes because he got sacked before, then you are not making a convincing case.

I thought I’d concentrate more on Moores in this piece, but do a brief bit on Cook and Strauss before longer thought pieces.

Cook has been the subject of a vicious attack by Boycott in the Telegraph. I wonder how Cook will approach Jonathan Agnew about that. Cook doesn’t take kindly to being spoken about like that and the consequences could be interesting. Boycott is a loudmouth, paid to express loud opinions, and you take them as they come. But I’ve never seen him this aggravated by a captain / player ever. This was going for the throat. I would say that it’s not as easy to dismiss Boycott’s views that align with a lot of us outside cricket, than it is for them to slate me, but they try (he’s a wife beater, he quit on England, blah blah – he also faced top quicks at 90 mph without a helmet on). A lot of us believe Cook isn’t the nice guy that his image is portrayed as, but I want to get away from that part. I want to look at the evidence – it’s all I try to do, and try to interpret. He’s protected, for now, and could jettison Moores to keep his career in check. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

As for Strauss…. appointing him the new Director of Cricket would be Downtonian in its brilliance. He talks the language of all charlatans – promising to build for a non-specific future, while using this to move on from something else that he doesn’t like (in this case a player who might return to form and demand selection). He also has the cult of Cook in his playbook, and would be an establishment, company candidate when root and branch change to a more exciting, attractive style of play is going to be needed. This current England team still has dedicated fans and lovers of the game actively wanting them, or key members of them, to fail to get the changes needed in structure, attitude and approach. Bringing back Mr Bowling Dry, with his foster son as captain and his foster dad wheeling away behind the scenes, is spitting in the face of those who actively want to love this side again. Strauss is typical ECB. Unexciting, not credible and the wrong man. More of this later.

The Colo(u)r Of Money

Many of you have already picked up on the wonderful exchange between Hughes and Newman, after the Bogfather had kindly showed them the way to the Dirty Dozen.

If you haven’t, here it is….

I hope that shows Hughes’s comment above (just checked and it does).

Many of you have taken this as a complete dismissal of the words of the people on this blog, which we shouldn’t be surprised about. It’s not as if the great unwashed have been given a say so far, so why change now. But it is something that we still see coming through their writing and other appearances, and is what is now going to be known as the TTT. This stands for Tyers Twitter Tendency.

Readers for a while know exactly what I am on about, as it derives from a tweet by Alan Tyers in February 2014:

This can be summed up best by the fantastic tweets from Simon Hughes, aka the analyst, in his responses to The Bogfather:

We’ve done this tweet already, on the post “Quietly”. He just jumped on a list containing JAMES BRAYSHAW and thought I was only going on about culprits. Want strange? Read one of his “editorials” in The Cricketer.

Classic TTT. “Ooooooh, I know who the real cuplrits are, and you don’t…. because I’m an insider and you aren’t……”

So when challenged to put up…

“Can’t tell you”. Why not, big man? You subject to a confidentiality clause as well? Worried anything that disturbs Downton will mean less of your puff piece interviews in The Cricketer? No. I call bullshit. If there were culprits, as he puts it, then shame them, with evidence, not hearsay and innuendo like he does with Pietersen. Don’t hide behind this change from within stuff.

How interesting though that Newman reacted to the list. Now, as you know, Paul Newman doesn’t like my stuff. He’s never said so in print, but he has said so by blocking me on Twitter. Wonder how I can still link your stuff, sir? It’s not hard. I can understand being cheesed off being told you are a shill for the ECB decision makers (until one came along) and the most anti-KP presence on the new circuit, but blocking me for questioning why this is so? Do leave off.

He got one thing right on those tweets. I’m not important as one person. But as a blog with quite a decent hit rate, along with the Full Toss, we have a small voice that is growing, and has caught some attention. One press guy described the blog to me as the best one holding the press and decision makers to account. That was nice. But I’m not here for the ego, I’m here because I enjoy it (most of the time). And what I enjoy most is fisking articles like this.

Frustration was clear in the voices of Peter Moores and Alastair Cook as they fended off repeated enquiries about Kevin Pietersen’s future more than a year after he had seemingly been banished from international cricket for good.

Getting worried, Paul? Getting worried that a person with a test hundred since your beloved captain made one might get back into the team? And hang about, weren’t you banging on about how rubbish Moores had been at the World Cup? Do you want to stay consistent on that? Oh, you’ll claim this a factual representation of what happened, but Moore especially, needs to feel the heat. Cook, well, I’ve given up with you lot ever challenging his lamentable record over the past two years in all formats. Seems he’s a protected species.

Well, there is only one person to blame — and that is Colin Graves. The incoming ECB chairman has been responsible for the mixed messages that leave the England team in as big a state of turmoil and internal rebellion as ever.

Well, I’d humbly suggest that Colin Graves wasn’t the architect of England’s brilliant World Cup campaign, and if we’d done well in that, the clamour, for what it is worth, would have been a great deal less. After all, your constant line is that the only way to shut people up is for England to keep winning. So there isn’t only one person to blame for doing, as Tickers says:

Graves has forged an excellent reputation in English cricket as chairman of Yorkshire for the way he bankrolled and transformed the club, but his initial forays into the international game have been little short of an embarrassment.

I’m not embarrased? Anyone else think he is embarrassing? Are you embarrassed not because of this, but because he may be attacking your casus belli, Mr Newman (the persecution and exclusion of Pietersen)? Really? OK, some of his and Tom whatisnames ideas are a bit off beam, but as you will say later on, you agree with one of the most controversial. All of his forays into the international game are an embarrassment, but one that could potentially bankrupt the counties isn’t? Way to pick and choose, sir.

He has become the loose cannon of English cricket — and he has yet to take up office.

He’s yet to take up office. Of course, he’s the deputy to Clarke at the moment, so he is in office, which is why us refuseniks are greeting all this with scepticism and a great deal of care. You’re worried because if KP makes a comeback, your fox (and all those that made the decision) has been shot. So while you call this man the loose cannon of English cricket, you save your powder on Paul “outside cricket” Downton and Giles “right kind of family” Clarke. We know you can’t include James “Gary Ballance” Whitaker because he’s tight as a drum when it comes to talking. He’s about as much a loose cannon as a speak your weight machine.

It all started on March 1 when he gave an interview to Garry Richardson of the BBC, who is known for his persistence and admirable success in coaxing ear-catching sound bites from interviewees.

Dacre won’t like you praising someone at the BBC. Also, note. Garry Richardson got someone to say something interesting. A lesson for you lot, maybe? See also, BBC employee Pat Murphy.

So when Graves said that Pietersen — exiled for valid reasons after the last Ashes debacle before producing a nasty autobiography that only supported the ECB’s decision — had to be playing county cricket to earn an England recall, it was put down to Yorkshire straight-talking.

A nasty autobiography. Your paper has the rights to the definition of nasty. I don’t think the book did Pietersen any favours, but on the first part, we are all still waiting on these “valid reasons” that you cling to like a piece of driftwood. It’s a clash of personalities with Andy Flower mainly, and we can’t be having someone who might make test hundreds playing because he cheesed off one of the officer class. What a load of cack. Keep rolling on with this nonsense.

Yet subsequently, most importantly in a phone conversation with Pietersen, Graves has done little to play down the 34-year-old’s chances — even if privately the chairman is said to be perplexed at the media’s ‘spin’ on his apparent opening of the England door.

The “picking the team on merit” ethos, which we want, which any country seems to want, goes out the window if it means picking someone who won’t keep his gob shut and might make 8181 runs at an average in the high 40s, who may have a couple of years left and may, just may, be BETTER than those currently playing, including a captain who can’t buy a century at the moment. But hey, you keep on keeping on. Graves may, or may not, be playing a game. We don’t know, and evidently, nor do you.

If Graves, who has apparently assured senior figures that he does not want Pietersen back, really had no intention of encouraging the maverick, then he has made a right old mess of it.

These the same senior figures who told you Surrey hated his guts and never wanted him to darken their door again. Called that one right, sunshine. Remind me, who is piling on the guesswork here, John? Me or you lot?

For he has created a soap opera that will run and run now Pietersen has rejoined Surrey and put huge pressure on a fledgling England middle order who made significant Test progress last summer.

How dare Pietersen still want to play at the highest level. How dare he be cheesed off he’s escluded. How dare the poor little darlings in the test team now have an excuse to fail. How dare there be pressure on them to perform.

Not to mention completely undermining managing director Paul Downton and national selector James Whitaker, who have repeatedly clarified England’s stance on the batsman over the last 14 months.

If I’m nailing my credibility to these two, I’m bang in trouble. Downton is a joke. Everyone on here, most on Twitter and all those who see him in action, including the vast majority, I reckon, of your press corps colleagues think he’s totally and utterly out of his depth. Also Whitaker doesn’t do press conferences, and has spoken around three times that I can recall in public (that is three occasions he has spoken to multiple outlets). You let out one of your off the record sources there, sir?

And if Graves disagreed with the original decision to axe Pietersen, then he had a duty as deputy chairman of the ECB to say so then, not wait until he had taken over from Giles Clarke.

He might have. I don’t know. But note, earlier he doesn’t take office so he shouldn’t be saying anything. But now because he has an office, he should. This is belting stuff.

That is not all. Since his Pietersen outburst, Graves has said that there will be an inquiry if England do not beat a ‘mediocre’ West Indies in the upcoming three-Test series.

Well. most of us were calling for this after the Ashes last year. And also, although I love West Indies cricket, even their own people think this is a mediocre team. Come on. So do you. So stop pretending like he’s offended the lorded classes with this comment. If they lose this series, heads should roll.

This prompted the respected Barbadian commentator Tony Cozier to liken the comments to Tony Greig’s infamous intention in 1976 to make the West Indies ‘grovel’.

Because “mediocre” has all the racial connotations of a white South African telling a black team that he intended to make them grovel. I mean, seriously. This is nonsense from Cozier and it is nonsense from Newman to repeat it. Put it more alongside the “worst Australian team ever to tour here” comments of 1989, or “can’t bat, can’t bowl, can’t field” from one of our own at Ashes 1986-7.

Then Graves came out with the ridiculous notion of reducing Test matches to four days. This would be achieved by introducing the unrealistic target of playing 105 overs a day — a move that would destroy the primacy of the ultimate game.

I don’t agree with it, but it’s not ridiculous, and it’s not speaking the unspeakable. The guff that came with it about corporates and families was nonsense, and the thought that we might get 105 overs in a day is unrealistic in a world where TV demands a five minute break every hour, and there’s no real disincentive not to slow the game down. But there’s something to work around.

If Graves wants to make himself useful, then he should concentrate on his supposed main aim of introducing a 10-team English Premier League franchise Twenty20 competition. Everybody bar a few myopic counties wants that.

This isn’t ridiculous because Paul agrees with it. Tremendous. Nice to see “a few myopic counties” there as well to reinforce his view that he’s in step and everyone who disagrees is myopic or ridiculous.

He could also do something about a crippling fixture list that will see England play 17 Tests in the next 10 months — a key factor in why they have fallen so far behind in the 50-over game and just endured the worst World Cup in their history.

Some of us mentioned this around two years ago. Nice to see you join us here. However, hard to see how a future fixture list meant we cocked up the World Cup. We had a very light winter of cricket, playing just 12 days of cricket between October and January. And we were crap. Care to explain how fixture congestion caused this? Should we not play in our summer? Also, not sure it is in Graves’ gift to cancel our tours, given he’s not in office yet, Paul.

There is much for the ECB’s new regime — which includes new chief executive Tom Harrison and communications director Chris Haynes — to do, but all the new chairman has done so far is make things worse.

We share your scepticism on this front. I don’t trust Graves as he has been part of the furniture, and if England falter and KP is scoring runs, the cry will be for him to come in, and if we are told there is no place for him, the alienation will be complete. Betrayal of the worst kind is raising hopes to dash them. You seem to want to finish KP’s career and take glee in it. If Cook can’t lump it, then he’s the one with the issue and needs to get over himself, but you are never going to write that. Unless there’s blatant insubordination which we’ve not been told about. But also, I have a healthy mistrust of all authority and I don’t like people telling me someone is great before they’ve proved it. Indeed if they have to rely on that testimony, then they probably aren’t.

I am worried Tom Harrison hasn’t shown his face. He’s becoming a bit Downton-esque on this front as again, we are being told how great he was before he spoke and disproved that notion. The new press officer can hardly do worse than Colin Gibson and his entourage.

Colin Graves should think very carefully in future before he speaks.

Or Paul will block you on Twitter.

All You Can Cook – Selfey Service

Selvey Downton

Once again, let me set the scene by referring back to Alan Tyers most famous tweet around these here parts…

As we all know, the man we think this refers to most appropriately, even if Mr Tyers might not, is Mike “Selfey” Selvey. His attitude to the great unwashed over the past year has been reprehensible, and if he doesn’t feel loved back, well that’s his fault. He has written articles praising Flower and Gooch despite the disastrous Ashes series, and most memorably for me, telling us all how great Paul Downton would be as MD of the ECB. We all know how that has gone. I’ve not seen one word of contrition on his part for that load of old hogwash.

So if there’s benefit of the doubt going around on a comment or two, the inclination in this parish is not to give to Selfey, because he gives none to any critic. Or at least it appears this way. So when he writes something like this, we’ll grab probably the most obvious end of the stick:

There is a familiarity to it all. Since the back end of November, England have played 15 ODIs and the first seven of those were against Sri Lanka in that country. The result of that series – Sri Lanka winning it by five matches to two – is largely irrelevant when it comes to this match given the entirely different conditions it will be played in.

It is true to say that had Alastair Cook opted to take a break by missing it rather than using it as a team bonding session, he would almost certainly still be leading the squad here now. Such is fate.

Let me do a bullet point breakdown of all this. It needs a decent examination:

  • The tone – throughout this is laced with “I know the inside track and you don’t”. That is, we can’t possibly get to the full story because we are mug punters and they are journalists. The art of journalism is to act as our representatives in that room, not as some sort of privileged conveyor of the establishment’s screed. So results don’t matter, the English wanted a bonding session and Cook was/is possibly a case for special treatment. How else could we think? Because we don’t know….
Invaluable. To be protected at all times.
Invaluable. To be protected at all times.
  • History – Re-writing it is cool. If Cook, as Selvey supposes, chose to miss the Sri Lanka ODI tour, does anyone here seriously think he/the toxic brand would have got away with it? Do you actually think it was an option on the table? Even the toxic brand couldn’t pull that one on us. So, frankly, even raising this is bunkum. But it implies he knows something we don’t. I’m sure he does, but raising it in late February when selection for the ODI tour to Sri Lanka was in September, was it not?
  • Results are irrelevant – Clearly they weren’t. If Cook had struggled, but we’d won that series, then he’d still be in place. The fury would still be there, but losing the series 5-2 combined with the lack of form Cook showed meant he was dead. Results weren’t irrelevant.
  • The Sri Lanka tour as team bonding session – International cricket as a practice match, as something not to get up for, as something that it doesn’t matter how you play. To use the over-rated, and overused, quote by Steve Archibald, team spirit is “an illusion glimpsed in the aftermath of victory” and bonding in defeat rarely ends well. I don’t know, you don’t have to look too far back to see how that defeat thing helps team mates get on. The fact is that while some games are defintitely more important than others, and we are not ignorant of that fact, if these games were “largely irrelevant” then more shame on the England team for taking that approach. They were equally irrelevant to Sri Lanka, after all, because surely England don’t have the monopoly on not giving a shit, and they still roused themselves to stuff us. Fans cannot tolerate being told international sport doesn’t matter. Do you think an Aussie takes the field thinking that? They are the standard we are aiming for. New Zealand certainly didn’t think their preparation cricket was largely irrelevant. Maybe, by bonding session, the press thought they might get another Ian Bell as crap leader leak….
  • Oh, I’m sorry. I’ve ranted about a largely irrelevant when it comes to this game. Well, yes, it is. But you can’t tell me that the Sri Lanka series is treated as an irrelevance by the media. They tell you that by their team bonding nonsense. So no, I’m not giving them that out. After all, prior to that series, anyone remember the journalists weather forecasting abilities when citing how stupid this tour was?
  • The cult of Cook – opinion is divided as to whether Selfey, who has claimed for a while that Cook should pack in ODI cricket, meant with his line that if Cook had missed the tour it would be good or bad that he’d be here. Undertones of the good servant reek through this piece, and I’m inclined to believe that Selfey believes Cook perished through his own good intentions rather than any masterplan. Well, there was no masterplan. Cook was dropped because his presence was not tenable. He wasn’t making runs. He wasn’t scoring fluently. He looked miles off the pace. He was losing ODIs as captain. He was the story. If he’d missed this series and gone straight to the Tri-Series and cocked up there, the fury would have dwarfed the level it reached in Sri Lanka – and that was hot enough. The story of the whole tour would have been Cook, even if he hadn’t been there.

The comments section on the below thread have remarked on Fred’s comment. In case it gets modded, I have copied it here.

That’s it, I’m done. I’ve officially passed the point where I think the shallow and xenophobic cricket press in Australia is worse than English cricket writing. English journalists use longer sentences and more adjectives, but stripped of that it comes to the same thing. Bollocks. 
The above sentence is just breathtaking in its delusion. If only Cook hadn’t played, he’d still be selected now for the team? What a fool he was to walk on to the cricket field! There was no problem at all with Cook, just that he chose to play the wrong series, but of course did it for noble reasons. 
“Such is fate”: he could have been leading England to glory now if he hadn’t come unstuck in Sri Lanka?
He used it as a “team bonding session”? A seven match ODI series against Sri Lanka, the country that just beat them at home? A fucking bonding session? 
By way of comparison, every Australian who speaks about playing cricket for Australia has awe in his voice when he talks about playing for his country. Doesn’t matter who, where, when or what, it’s playing cricket at the highest level, for their country, and they all jump at the chance, and they want to win. They’re not there to bond. 
This sentence, and the editorial tone of Guardian cricket, indicates the malaise of English cricket.

Here’s another one not giving Selfey the benefit of any doubt. I don’t blame him. Not in the slightest.

On another paper our old favourite, the nomination for Cricket Journo of the year pocketed, has been having his say on Eoin Morgan not singing the national anthem:

The anthem issue is a contentious one because it throws up the whole dynamic of national identity, which is more complicated in cricket than most sports. Morgan is not the first nor the last international sportsman who has chosen not to sing (Darren Sammy was the only player to sing Rally Round the West Indies before the match against South Africa) but it has been noted in Morgan’s case because is a Dubliner now at the helm of the England side.

‘It’s pretty simple,’ said Morgan. ‘I have never sung the National Anthem whether I’ve been playing for Ireland or England. It doesn’t make me any less proud to be an English cricketer.

‘I am extremely proud to be in the position I’m in and privileged to be captain of a World Cup side. It’s a long story but it’s a personal thing.’

Morgan chose not to tell that long story which is a shame because it leaves him open to conjecture as to why he will not exercise his vocal cords.

It’s because he’s Irish, Paul. We’re not stupid. If we’re going to have a pop at people for not singing the anthem, then watch our football team. They don’t have a dual nationality issue to offer as a reason. Maybe we should focus on those born and raised on these shores for their “failure to show enough national pride”.

But the bottom line is that it is his choice and it is better surely to be true to yourself rather than, as some dual nationals in England’s recent history have, belted out the anthem for effect.

Or you could just have a go at Kevin Pietersen.

Finally, I couldn’t let go of the little nugget in George Dobell’s article on the proposed changes to English cricket.

Other suggested changes includes a rebranding of the ECB – the current brand is seen as toxic – as Cricket England & Wales.

Because this will change all of our views.

Mr Toxic Brand
Mr Toxic Brand

Unless Paul Downton and Giles Clarke are excommunicated then you could call it Late For Dinner and you aren’t going to fool any of us. It is an insult to all of us who pay such close attention to what is going on that you could actually imagine this being something that would calm us. How about doing your jobs properly, apologising for your stupidity and adopt a real new approach and we will be accommodating. Having a coronation for a Chief Exec, shunting the bete noire upstairs where he can dip his snout in the trough, and keeping the disaster that is Downton isn’t the way.