England cricket news
First up, tail-enders. They’re ace, but they’re a dying breed. Blame professionalism.
Now we love lower-order shenanigans as much as the next person, but the key word there is ‘shenanigans’. A textbook forward defensive stroke is not a shenanigan. These are shenanigans.
A tail-end innings should bring all the fun of the fair (actually more fun than that because fairs aren’t really considered unusually fun in this day and age). Sadly, what we typically get from nine, ten and jack nowadays is basically just mediocre Test batting.
If we’re watching cricket, we want it to be either really good or really bad – and preferably the latter. That middle ground holds little appeal. The modern tail-ender is neither good enough nor bad enough to be worth watching yet occupies a greater proportion of Test matches than ever before.
It’s a scandal. We wrote about happier times for All Out Cricket.
We’ve moaned about Michael Vaughan’s inexplicable obsession with the hashtag #justsaying before, but it seems we haven’t quite got it out of our system yet.
We’ve previously described the term as a beacon, warning you that the person who uses it really enjoys having arguments, is ready for one and will probably refer to it as ‘banter’. But it’s worse than that. There’s a smugness about it; an intimation that the person deploying it is a plain-speaking, calls-a-spade-a-spade type surrounded by fearful cowards.
We’re hoping that analysis of precisely why it infuriates us so much will somehow dissipate its impact, but the truth is our efforts are something akin to getting angry at a traffic jam. The rage builds so that you’re in a heightened emotional state where everything becomes annoying – which is of course a fine state to find yourself in when trying to pan for gold in the torrent of excrement that is cricketers on Twitter.
This week’s round-up features quite a lot of Michael Vaughan #justsaying things and a jaw-dropping effort from Chris Gayle which you’d hope would be tongue in cheek, but probably isn’t. Gayle’s Twitter bio has him down as ‘World Boss’. We honestly don’t know whether he’s joking with this stuff.
Strengthen those quads
You probably saw the news about Syd Lawrence last week. We missed it somehow. The man sadly most famous for his gruesome on-field knee explosion has apparently become a highly successful bodybuilder.
Oh, and Pakistan v New Zealand
New Zealand have impressed us, bouncing back impressively from the pannery that was the first Test. But Pakistan have impressed us too. They’ve not been disheartened when things haven’t gone their way.
We’ll not mention the score because it’ll probably be something completely different by the time you read this.14 Appeals
Our latest Kings of Cricket piece is up on the All Out Cricket website. The subject is Paul Collingwood. Bear with us. We think we’ve made our case.
It’s mostly about his magical magnetic hand, but there’s more to it than that. Consider it a paean to three-dimensionality; an ode to all the qualities that don’t show up in the stats.
Bangladesh have got a leggie
Fast bowlers and mystery spinners – that’s how you win Test matches. But several years ago Bangladesh spotted a gap in the market for a seven-man attack comprising nothing but conventional finger spinners. They’ve been ploughing this furrow for quite some time despite the complete lack of crops.
But maybe things are changing. They’ve got a leggie. Jubair Hossain took 5-96 in the first innings of the third Test against Zimbabwe. It probably doesn’t pay to get too excited being as this is only his fifth first-class match, but at least he gives their attack something different.15 Appeals
Fans of inexplicable additional consonants in first names rejoiced today when it was announced that one of England’s former bowling coaches will be returning to the setup, albeit on a short-term basis.
No, it’s not Allan Donald – it’s Ottis Gibson.
Gibson may or may not have said:
“I was sitting at home, watching The Last Airbender, when someone with an English accent phoned and asked me if I wanted to spend three weeks in Potchefstroom telling 20-year-olds to put in the right areas. At first, I was completely irritated because I hadn’t pressed pause, but then I realised I could rewind.”
There are echoes here of the first time Gibson was asked to work with England. Back then, a telephone call caused him to miss vital scenes in Thunderpants and he subsequently struggled to follow the plot.
Regarding whether even more coaches are likely to come in, Peter Moores or someone may or may not have commented:
“If Kraigg Brathwaite needs a new job, all he has to do is get in touch.”
At least we think that’s what’s happened. As far as we can tell, Trott and a handful of others have signed for Yorkshire in time for the county’s tour to South Africa. Weirdly, there doesn’t seem to be any explanation why only seven of last year’s Championship-winning squad will be travelling. Maybe they’ve had a clear-out.
In what may be related news, Trott has also been passed mentally fit for England selection by the same ECB staff who let him train himself into a pit. If we’re reading today’s news correctly and he really has signed for Yorkshire, does that sound like the act of a man who is mentally fit? What kind of a person would willingly move to Yorkshire, even if only for a few years?
It could be that Trott is aiming to learn some superior vowel sounds. That is the only explanation we will accept. Kevin Pietersen once promised us that he would develop a ‘northern’ accent – whatever the hell that is – but he clearly didn’t, the lying shit.
We may have erroneously inferred the promise part of that promise, but if there’s one thing we’ve all learnt in the last month, it’s that you can take anything KP says and use it to reinforce whatever position you already hold. Our position was that he was looking to learn a better accent and we must therefore conclude that he reneged on that promise.16 Appeals
Our latest Twitter round-up’s just appeared on Cricinfo. It was an unusually tough assignment. We’d sign into Twitter, get distracted by the latest developments arising from Kevin Pietersen’s autobiography and then find that we’d lost an hour or more. We’d then force ourself to close down Twitter so that we could get some work done before remembering that Twitter was our work. Repeat.
Twitter isn’t fundamentally bad
Despite what many believe. It’s just people, after all. People are good and bad. If your experience of Twitter is always negative, you’re following the wrong people. Follow good people and it’s an always-accessible sounding board for thoughts and ideas; a friendly online pub full of witty, erudite people who like to discuss things and trade one-liners.
However, of late logging in has been to waltz onto a medieval battlefield sans armour. A 24-hour argument is being maintained and even if you don’t get involved, it can be a bruising experience. If you ever feel emotions for other people, you won’t go long without sympathy or anger welling up in you. Absorbed in the debate, you don’t notice it happening either – at least until you go to bed and realise that it will take literally hours before the tension subsides.
Pick a side
The annoying thing for us is that the Pietersen story raises lots of interesting questions about the way the sport is run in England. We’d like to discuss these things, but we can’t. We always consider this website to be quite a friendly place, but even here it’s impossible to criticise the ECB without people assuming you must therefore be on KP’s side. Conversely, criticise KP and you are ascribed all sorts of other opinions as a consequence.
It’s like English cricket has devised two new stereotypes and is getting busy with its label maker, tagging everyone. On Twitter, this polarisation is even more pronounced.
Fight your corner
The word ‘tweet’ sounds so fey and inconsequential, but reading them at the moment is exhausting. Even when we broadly agree with someone, we’re often put off by the vehemence with which they put their point across. People we otherwise enjoy speaking to – often contemporaries; the pseudo-colleagues of the freelancer – seem incredibly militant all of a sudden.
Perhaps the chaos is addictive. Perhaps people enjoy the feeling of being at the centre of something major that is unfolding, surrounded by well-known names, not knowing where things are going.
A lot of KP/ECB-related Twitter output is a kind of directionless rage broadcast to the ether – almost an invitation to combat. At other times, a target is identified – and if there is no target, it doesn’t take much to create one. Disagree forcefully enough with something someone says and they will respond in kind. A quick to and fro and two people who thought they occupied middle ground suddenly find themselves entrenched at opposite extremes. Suddenly you find you have a stance – and then everyone else piles in.
And oh how they pile in
Maybe it’s the number of people who can get involved in a Twitter debate that causes all of this. Crowd behaviour is greatly influenced by a reduction in each individual’s sense of personal responsibility. That’s how mobs form. But a reduced sense of personal responsibility is something that can surely only be exacerbated by the pseudonyms and physical distance that come with Twitter.
You can say what you like and you can get carried along with the crowd. That’s dangerous enough, but compounding this is the fact that the more people who are discussing something, the more quickly the debate moves. This is exciting, your adrenaline fires. Yet if you’re involved, you may feel you have to become more and more extreme in what you say so as to be heard above the noise.
In short, things escalate.
What’s your point?
No point. Modern world, self-control, polarised debate.
And even for conscientious objectors, it’s hard to ignore a medieval battle. It takes willpower to look straight ahead when you pass an accident on the motorway. When this sort of melée is just a click away, what chance have you got – particularly when you can sit on the sidelines, invisible to all the combatants?35 Appeals
We support the England cricket team. We will always support the England cricket team. It’s just that it would be so, so, so much easier to support the England cricket team if it weren’t being run by the England and Wales Cricket Board.
The Pakistan Cricket Board is mental, the West Indies Cricket Board is incompetent, but the England and Wales Cricket Board is some kind of Machiavellian old boys’ club. No-one within it really has much of a clue about international sport. They don’t know what makes it good, they don’t know what it takes to be successful and worst of all they think the sport of cricket and the England team that plays it are theirs to do with as they please.
It appears to be an organisation almost tailor-made to antagonise us. It hates individuals, tries to exercise almost complete control over its workers, loathes anyone who disagrees with its methods and has some weird, very specific notion of the kind of person it wants in key positions. We sometimes feel like English cricket is being annexed by this weird group of buffoons and we don’t know where they came from, who gave them power or how they’re still around.
Watching them trip over each other, set fire to things and fling pies in each other’s faces while trying to deal with this Pietersen book, all we can think is that someone should put them out of their misery. We don’t mean stringing them up by their ECB ties. We just mean drawing a line under the floundering and manipulation. Why don’t we just change the code to get into the office and then hire some grown-ups to replace them?33 Appeals
We didn’t get a review copy of KP: The Autobiography. Apparently it was already getting enough attention without a review appearing here in about six months’ time.
We wonder whether we need to read it. The two-page email from Rahul Dravid about how to play spin that features within it sounds interesting, but as far as we can make out, the book’s mostly all about the run-up to his sacking (KP’s, not Dravid’s – who’d sack Dravid from anything?). We felt like we’d pretty much got all of that information after an hour on Twitter yesterday.
Andy Flower’s a mood hoover. Alastair Cook’s a company man. Matt Prior refers to himself in the third person as ‘the Big Cheese’, saying things like “the Big Cheese has earned some beer tonight” (pretty sure that last one’s either a lie or Prior was saying it with great irony, but it is quite funny all the same).
The interesting stuff that might cause us to read the book falls into two categories.
Stuff about cricket
Like the Dravid email or the observation: “We are on the road for 250 days a year, we wear our England kit on most of these days … It never, ever ended.”
We’d like to know more about this sort of stuff, but is there really any room for it in a book that seems to spend most of its time focused on fall-outs of the recent past.
I, Partridge: We Need To Talk About Alan – there’s a book that’s worth a read. But we also love the accidental Partridges pro sportsmen are prone to. Apparently at one point Pietersen says that most England players don’t have many friends internationally “whereas I have friends in literally every single international team,” which is a brilliantly petty piece of one-upmanship.
Sadly, we’d be surprised if his ghost writer, David Walsh, allowed much of this to get through. Having someone filter his thoughts probably means that even if Pietersen doesn’t have the brain mechanism that stops him saying such things, his words generally won’t make it as far as the printed page.
So, in summary: No, we’re probably not going to read Kevin Pietersen’s book. Now that all the best lines have been published on the nation’s sports pages, we’re just not sure there’d be enough in it that’s new to us22 Appeals
Kevin Pietersen sort of didn’t really get on that well with a few people he had to spend a lot of time with
Kevin Pietersen EXCLUSIVES and REVELATIONS are about to rain down on us in the run-up to the launch of his autobiography (apparently most of it’s about him – the egotist). The latest salvo in English cricket’s biggest shitfight of recent times comes in the form of his interview with The Telegraph.
Feel free to have your say in the comments, but we found it all surprisingly low key. We’re promised THE TRUTH now that the confidentiality clause in his severance agreement has expired but it increasingly seems like a situation where fairly small stuff grew to seem like big stuff for a bunch of coaches and cricketers who had to spend morning, noon and night together.
It’s just one guy’s story and while some of it is certainly self-serving, other aspects ring true. We’d actually forgotten about the England team’s fielder abuse of a few years ago, but it definitely happened and it’s interesting to see that it was a big thing for some players. Shouting at those who misfielded or dropped catches always seemed childish and counterproductive but Pietersen portrays it as being one aspect of something broader and deeper-rooted – although he doesn’t really give other examples. Similarly, you don’t need to have seen more than one Andy Flower interview to know that the allegation that he built ‘a regime, not a team’ is probably quite a fair assessment.
But none of this is really shocking. It doesn’t seem like petty squabbling, so much as mundane squabbling. The mystery is how it all came to seem like such a big deal that the ECB and Pietersen ended up pitted against each other. Maybe if the England cricket team weren’t such a 365-day-a-year thing, everyone involved might have retained a bit more perspective.33 Appeals
Anyone know how to stop Cricinfo videos from automatically playing?
In our line of work, we read an awful lot of cricket stories. This sometimes involves opening tens of tabs at a time and we then have to play ‘hunt the video’ when we hear that one or more has started playing automatically. More often than not, a Cricinfo page is the guilty party.
We hate this burgeoning love of video. To be clear, we enjoy the same YouTube rubbish as everyone else and we like video being used correctly where something is added. What we hate – and we mean truly, truly loathe – is the video-instead-of-an-article video where it’s just someone talking to camera.
Videos take too long. You can’t scan them and see what lies ahead. You just have to sit there like a bleeding numbnuts patiently enduring something that may or may not prove to be of interest with no knowledge of what might turn up 12 minutes in. Yeah, you can fast forward, but then you still have to sit and watch for a few seconds to work out what’s going on. We don’t have a few seconds to spare when there’s a whole internet of information accessible to us.
On each of Cricinfo’s videos there is an option to switch autoplay off and then if you click the little sprocket to the right, a ‘save’ option appears. For us at least, this appears to do nothing. As soon as we reload the page – or any other featuring a video – it starts to play.
Any suggestions gratefully accepted.
Also at Cricinfo
And just to underline the fact that we’ve just slagged off one of our employers, our latest piece has just gone up on Page 2. It’s about county cricket monopolising the back pages and smothering other sports.
KP Confidentiel – les secrets de Kevin Pietersen
Kevin Pietersen’s book is out next week. If you know anything about cycling, you’ll be struck that the book has been written by David Walsh, the journalist who hounded Lance Armstrong for so many years.
Walsh is a pretty driven individual himself and some of his interviewees have said they felt that he exploited them to pursue his own agenda. That approach shouldn’t really be relevant in this instance, but it’s worth noting that this is the man KP has in his corner.24 Appeals
“Oh, you’re still here. I, er, thought everyone had gone home. Are you going to, er…? No, you’re not. You’re going to stick around for a bit longer, you say. You’re going to stick around and have another brandy, even though everyone else has gone home and I was clearly just about to go to bed.”
As we understand it, at least one of the selectors wanted shot of Alastair Cook as one-day captain, but Peter Moores didn’t so they just sort of went with that.
Unlike everyone else who writes about cricket, we’re not actually against this. We’re not in favour either, but we don’t really buy the argument that if England were bold and radical, they’d have a far better chance of winning the World Cup. As such, we think it’s fine to stick with Cook because if England do somehow do okay, at least it’ll be funny watching everyone backtrack.
We know you’re supposed to be positive about and say ‘at least if we gamble, we’ll have a chance’. It’s just that we don’t really believe it. We’ve seen enough England World Cup campaigns to know that bright ideas six months out tend to result in a bunch of new players who bottle it in big games, having never actually played in one before.
At least Cook’s used to everyone calling him an ineffectual bumcock and won’t be taken aback by the hostility directed his way when his side collapses against New Zealand.60 Appeals