Cricket news from ESPN

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

England to send Stanford to ICC meet

Following the news N Srinivasan would be attending the upcoming ICC get together despite being forced to stand down as BCCI president, the ECB today announced former business partner Allen Stanford  would  be its  representative  at  the next meeting  of cricket's  elites.  Stanford, who was sentenced to 110 years in prison in 2012 for holding several cricketers' wives hostage in his moustache and also heading a huge Ponzi scheme, may seem to many an odd choice to advocate on behalf of the English game. However, having placed so much stock in ethics in justifiying the sacking of Kevin Pietersen, the ECB believe they have no choice but to match dollar for dollar the moral values of their closest allies the BCCI.

Knees must: Sir Allen readies his position on fine leg restrictions 

Speaking from a beige leather seat in London, chairman Giles Clarke explained: “Look, we all know how important team ethos is, and as we've sold our arses to a man described by the Supreme Court of his country as 'nauseating' and 'filth', it's only fair we stand full-square behind him. I'm a bit of a bumbling dufus, but, let's be honest, I'm not really in the same ethical league as Mr Srinivasan. If he's going to this meeting he deserves to engage with someone of similar moral standing. Not for the first time, I'm happy to put my every faith in Allen. Call me naive, but Srini has assured me I'm acting in English cricket's best interests." 

The ECB confirmed they would be applying for bail of Mr Stanford on 'compassionate grounds', a move insiders said they were hopeful of succeeding in given how upset most supporters currently are with them. 


Tuesday, 1 April 2014

England's Triple Bypass

To enjoy the high times, you have to experience the low ebbs. So goes a school of thought about being a sports fan. Even if it be true, Giles Clarke's recent proclamation that it's ridiculous to suggest England are at their nadir even denies us the prospective pleasure of that particular aphorism. So what's left to cling on to as an England fan at the moment?

The only ray of hope is that the abject capitulation against the Netherlands serves as a sort of CPR to the obstinate heart of English cricket and is followed by a triple bypass of enlightenment. Firstly, to reiterate previous postings, a revision of attitudes towards T20 and overseas T20 tournaments. The sole English success story here was Alex Hales of the Melbourne Renegades. He won't be Alex Hales of CSK, or King's XI or any other IPL franchise because English cricket decided to set a base price on him. No takers. Also no takers for Morgan, because he was tacitly forced to withdraw from the IPL auction to further his Test ambitions in county cricket. This is wrongheaded in my view, but it's a moot and subjective point I've put before, and, as a fan, if he has a productive Test summer against Sri Lanka and India after recovering his confidence playing for Middlesex in the County Championship, I'll be delighted to look silly. Overall, however, it is ostrich head mimicry in the extreme not to see that the cricketing sands across all formats are shifting and England are presently only sinking into antiquity and defeat. But New Zealand and Australia's players play in the IPL and look what happened to them? Fair point. Come back to me after the ODI World Cup.

Secondly, a back room rethink. England are more beloved of laptops than the average Starbucks customer, but in this tournament, and indeed throughout the whole winter, they have shown they need a bit of defragging. Broad was accused of cowardice for not bowling himself in the power plays, but there's no way in the world that was his decision. It would have been plotted scrupulously based on empirical data, though heaven knows which given Dernbach and Bresnan's economy rates. Similarly, in the South Africa game Nasser Hussain was tearing out what little hair is left on his Putinesque head exclaiming on commentary how comparatively unproductive the Proteas had been against balls short of a length as England continued to pitch it up. Granted, AB de Villiers would have dispatched an Akram/Lindwall hybred towards the end of the innings, but England's rigid insistence on sticking to what was doubtless a meticulously devised strategy as Nasser despaired surely speaks of a side so drilled on preconception that ad hoc logic is anathema. And this stultifying clottage infuses everything. Hales aside, the batting was also lowly and inhibited and, no one aside, the fielding abysmal, but after so much hurt already I can't yet contemplate suggesting that the two of my cricketing idols responsible for those facets of England's game be dismissed. Thorpe and Collingwood should be allowed to carry on for the time being.

Thirdly, and inevitably, the ECB has to grow up and accept they made a mistake over Pietersen. It can be done via fudge and obfuscation on both sides but it will require Downton and Clarke to have the courage to appoint someone from beyond the present set up as England coach. Axing Ashley Giles - though another former player almost as beloved to me as Thorpe and Collingwood - would be both the kindest thing and also allow an outsider to come in whose insistence he be given a free hand over who's picked enable yet another earnest apology from Pietersen alongside some suitably obsequious yet face-saving words from Downton about how England have now “reassessed their staff symbiosis moving forwards” or some such corporate mucus. Downton and Clarke are not, despite it all, dishonourable men in my book, but they will go down in history as obstinate and foolish ones if they cannot - hopefully under pressure from a less pliant press corps - accept their folly and reverse their position. Clarke, in particular, with his cosying up to both Stanford and Srinivasan, leaves himself open to charges of being a nincompoop, but they're charges he consistently refutes on the grounds he believes he was acting in English cricket's best interests. I genuinely think he believes he was, but with Stanford in jail, Srinivasan in BCCI purgatory and England in disarray, it's surely three strikes and you're out. If he wants to restore what's left of his reputation and save his job, he needs to start showing the canny knack for survival he did when allegedly gambling his way through university by dragging England's rough diamond back into the fold from left field. It's admittedly a forlorn hope.

Ultimately it depends who you have the most respect for. Nick Knight, through his fence-sitting rhetorical gibberish and continued support for Pietersen's sacking offers one standpoint on England. Nasser, through his patent contempt for his co-commentator, offers a better one but, if you want the most telling comment on where cricket is off to and where English cricket isn't, just watch Mike Atherton, leitmotif of sporting nous and intelligence, bound around like a giddy schoolgirl in the Sky studio with utter wonder as he analyses the T20 cricket on offer in this so far splendid tournament. Mike Atherton is inside modern cricket. If England and their ethos don't change, they can just continue to watch the Netherlands and everyone else from the periphery whilst offering platitudes about harmonious changing rooms and staring dumbfounded into their laptops. The situation is critical. Someone has to have the courage within English cricket to start wielding the knife. 

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Indian Supreme Court: How the Srinivasan ruling might pan out.

Indian Supreme Court, New Delhi, Thursday 27th March

Justice AK Patnaik (presiding judge): Court is in session. All be seated. Oh I see you already are, Mr Srinivasan.
Srinivasan: I'm not planning on going anywhere.
Patnaik: Indeed not, which rather brings me on to the reason for today's hearing. As previously stated, it's the decision of this court that you really should do the decent thing and resign your position as BCCI president so we can conduct and full and fair investigation into match-fixing in the IPL. Why will you not comply with that request?
Srinivasan: I have done nothing wrong.
Patnaik: Could you please elaborate on that?
Srinivasan: Sure. I have done absolutely nothing wrong.
Patnaik: I see. Can someone get me a lungo, please? But the thing is, Mr Srinivasan, you're the owner of a franchise deeply implicated in match-fixing as well as being president of the body charged with investigating it. Do you not see a slight conflict of interest there?
Srinivasan: Not really. I can't stand conflict so I don't acknowledge it. Ask Haroon.
Patnaik: Mr Lorgat is unavailable on gardening leave at your request if you recall, Mr Srinivasan. Is there anyone else you'd like to call as a character witness?
Srinivasan: There is actually.
Patnaik: And who might that be?
Srinivasan: Giles Clarke.
Patnaik: I see. You've thought this through?
Srinivasan: Absolutely.
Patnaik: Ok, should be interesting. Clerk, bring in the witness for Mr Srinivasan.
Mr Clarke enters.
Patnaik: Mr Clarke, you do realise this is a formal hearing? You seem to have come dressed like an alcoholic accountant whose wife has just thrown him out of the house.
Clarke: This is my best suit.
Patnaik: Is it? Is it, indeed. Ok, well let's press on. Mr Clarke, why is it that Mr Srinivasan should stay in office?
Clarke: Because he told me to say he should.
Patnaik: Ok, any other reason of any more substance?
Clarke: Absolutely. He's got a huge ethos.
Cheers from the public gallery.
Patnaik: Mr Srinivasan, can you please try and control your family?
Srinivasan: They're not my family. They're just enthusiastic about me.
Patnaik: Give me strength. Ok, thank you, Mr Clarke. Please step down.
Clarke: Me, too? I get enough of that at home.
Patnaik: No, I mean you may step down from the witness box.
Clarke: Ah, I see. Right, you are.
Mr Clarke leaves.
Patnaik: Ok, so it seems to me, Mr Srinivasan, that you haven't managed to present a single reason why we shouldn't issue a court order compelling you to resign your post. I'll give you one last chance. Why are you the best man to stay in place and clean up Indian cricket?
Srinivasan: Because I am N Srinivasan.
Patnaik: Indeed, you are. The order is passed. All rise. Er, you can leave now, Mr Srinivasan.
Srinivasan: I know.
Patnaik: You're just embarrassing yourself now, Mr Srinivasan.
Srinivasan: I know. 
Patnaik: Ok, take a moment. It can't be easy for you after all this time at the helm. 
Srinivasan: It isn't.
Patnaik: Ok, take your time.
Srinivasan: Thanks. I appreciate that.
Patnaik: And then sod off.


Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Dear Giles.............The ECB Chairman replies to readers' problems

Life can be tough. Work, family and relationships can get us all down occasionally and sometimes everybody needs a shoulder to cry on. In part one of a one-part series, Pavilion Opinions is delighted to welcome a new resident agony aunt, the ECB chairman, Giles Clarke, who here offers a few words of wisdom to readers struggling to cope with life's traumas:

From Amit in Kolkata:

Dear Giles,

I recently found out that my girlfriend of nine years has been sleeping with my brother. She's begged me not to leave her and has sworn that it's over between them, but I don't know if I can ever trust her again. I still love her, but I feel like a laughing stock in front of my friends, who all know what's been going on. My brother is my brother, but this is the worst betrayal any man could suffer and, to be honest, I want to kill him. What should I do?

Giles replies:

You've come to the right man, Amit. I don't see colour, which I'm told is lucky in light of our new kit, but in my own personal cricketing experience the best way to deal with an Indian chap who treats you badly is to give him everything he wants and pretend that it's in your own best interests. Stay with your girlfriend, but allow her to see your brother whenever he fancies a bit, however much it might make you look like a laughable patsy. When in a few years you find that she's left you for him and they've got married, just say to yourself, "At the time I was convinced I was doing the right thing." And then move on.


From Susan in Auckland:

Dear Giles,

I'm the head of a once successful cabbage packaging company which has recently fallen on hard times. In an effort to shake up the business and improve results I sacked our best salesman and replaced him with a new set of marker pens. He was a bit full of himself - you know the type - but team morale doesn't seem to have improved one iota and profits continue to plummet. I'm starting to think I made the wrong decision. Should I swallow my pride and ask him to come back?

Giles replies:

Absolutely not, and I can't stress that enough. You've done exactly the right thing, whatever so-called quarterly results or what not tell you. What you need to do now, however, is start thinking how you can more effectively integrate those marker pens into your team ethos and, if results still don't improve, find a new way of measuring those results. For example, one of my key men recently came up with the idea of deciding whether you've won a game of cricket on the basis of if you've scored more fours than the opposition rather than looking at the somewhat, if I may say, fuddy duddy notion of each team's total runs. Although the rest of the game is yet to catch up with us in this innovative new regard, from our point of view it's improved results by, well, er, anyway it's improved results. In your case, rather than looking at things like profit and loss, instead count up how many plants in the office have been properly watered. If this is more than your nearest rival firm, pat yourself on the back. You've endured a tricky time, but successfully moved on.


From Nigel in Oxford:

Dear Giles,

A couple of months back I lost my job, my house was repossessed and my wife of twenty years divorced me for Max Clifford, claiming he was more sexually satisfying. I'm at my lowest ebb and can't even get out of bed in the mornings. What should I do?

Giles replies:

What rot! It's utter nonsense to say you're at your lowest ebb when you haven't even lost a couple of limbs in a jet-ski accident and subsequently contracted E.Coli recuperating in hospital. I hear a lot of this sort of wallowing negativity from England fans at the moment, who, like yourself, don't realise that the darkest hour is right before the dawn. If you take this truth to its logical conclusion, which is what I'm doing alongside Giles and Alastair with the England team, the quickest way to see the dawn is to do your absolute level best to make things as dark and bleak as possible in the meantime. Soon enough, there'll be light at the end of the tunnel and you can move on. If there isn't light at the end of the tunnel, just move on anyway. I don't know what your problem is, frankly. 

Editor's note: Giles Clarke won't be back next week.


In other news, this week Radio Cricket spoke exclusively to Australian international, Glenn Maxwell. He talks about his lifelong love of the game, perceptions of him as a player, what it's like being sledged by Kohli...and how his eyes light up when he sees Ashwin's carrom ball: 

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Trickle-down cricket...and the English Ostrich.

Today brought the news that the IPL is to move, at least for its initial stage, to the UAE. To many, relocating to somewhere which in part is built on razzmatazz and financial facades will seem as if the world's premier T20 tournament has found its spiritual home, but that is a rather English view, and one which belies a rather deeper attitudinal problem towards the nature of modern cricket which continues to impede the nation which invented the game from joining in the fun everyone else is presently enjoying.

It's not wrong to loathe attending a stag party. They can be ghastly affairs characterized by competitive machismo, but sometimes you just have to muck in and down your seventh shot of tequila whilst leering at a stripper or people think you're a bit of an archaic old stick in the mud and no one cares when you skulk off back to your hotel to play Words with Friends on your own. As the boozy weekend in Riga that is both the World T20 and the IPL approach, England will be playing Scrabble alone on their iPhones whilst feeling smug at being sober the next morning for the buffet breakfast. There's doubtless a quaint triumph in that, but when the lads roll in with the stories of sexual conquest and stolen shopping trolleys, even the sturdiest of conservative characters may feel that they've missed out on something, even as they think it's not for them and they'd rather not be involved.

The IPL is not a panacea for England's problems. Ask India. The Big Bash is not a panacea for England's problems. Ask Luke Wright, one of its better overseas performers. Yet the ECB's implicit curfew on players being tucked up in bed at county cricket grounds instead of heading off to Dubai in a few weeks is undoubtedly harming the national side. As is the sage, head-nodding Luddism which accompanies this standpoint in parts of the media, and was most recently apparent when Eoin Morgan withdrew from the tournament when his, ostensibly his, decision brought pats on the head for his commitment to Test cricket by choosing to play for Middlesex in preparation for Sri Lanka's visit in June. We'll see how that pans out. 

Trickle-down economics were beloved of Bushite neo-conservatives and vociferously disputed by their opponents. Watching the recent Test series between South Africa and Australia, however, there can be little doubt that trickle-down cricket is upon us, with skills and bravado hewn, at least in part, in the moneyed T20 format sprinkling themselves all over the Test arena via the fluid performances of players such as Warner, Smith and Johnson. People can rightly argue as to how much their rise - or return in the latter's case - is down to their dousing in the shortest form's waters, but compare this to the sterile, loveless aridity of England's recent performances in all forms and the sense of futility their fans have approaching the World T20 and it is difficult not to feel as if this is a side introspectively playing parlour games while the rest of the world rambunctiously goes off paintballing. 

SB Tang recently wrote an exceptional piece on Australian fans' continued cultural inability to fully embrace Michael Clarke - the supposed silver-spooned, supermodel obsessed meterosexual - as their captain. It contained a passage in which he detailed being in a spit and sawdust bar in Melbourne watching that South Africa series and being forced to listen aghast to the fact-deprived barbs about Clarke from the more, as termed, traditionally Australian clientele. In England, you can head to a golf club or Home Counties saloon bar and hear similar, with the difference being that the flashy, arrogant villain of the piece would not be the Baggy Green's captain but T20, or "that T20 nonsense" as it's more often monikered. It's a cultural logjam. Wrong, archaic and infuriating. 

England have won a World T20. Australia haven't. Neither have South Africa, but as we all head to Bangladesh on Sunday, the chances of that success being replicated seem minimal. Across all manifestations of the game, England have latterly buried their heads in the sand and stuck their fingers in their ears for good measure. You don't even need to bring Pietersen into it. It's just a legacy of Flower and the methods that were necessary to bringing about his wonderful achievements. But that's all over and gone. In all sports, if you allow yourself to step back, you can see the curve of progression, and English cricket's entire approach is blinkered by their Ostrich panorama as much as is also evident in its footballing counterpart. It's skill-less, joyless and a recipe for endless defeat. It needs to pull its repressed head out of the sand and accept that modern international cricket is increasingly just as much about frolics, Dubai and tequila as the patience, dedication and old-fashioned attrition necessary to winning games of Scrabble. England desperately have to reengage with cricket's stag party or accept that eating croissants and Edam alone at breakfast is the best it's ever going to get for a long, long time. 

Listen to the latest Radio Cricket: No other podcast gives you Pietersen, Pakistan, Afridi and sedition.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Learning to love again: England in the West Indies

At risk of using one of the most somnolent openings possible to any article, last night I had a dream. Specifically one in which I was unnecessarily teaching English (my day job) to Kevin Pietersen (not my day job) in a plush hotel suite. He was dressed in a sort of linen tunic with a plunging neckline - not now, Sigmund - and, far from paying attention to my lesson, just sat opposite me with his head in his hands saying, "Give me a cuddle." Later I wrestled with whether to steal a mousse from the hotel's dessert buffet. I didn't and I regretted it.

On Friday, England begin their new era of unity in the West Indies. They are now free of the distracting presence of Pietersen in all likelihood in much the same way a diabetes sufferer could be free of the distracting presence of insulin injections. Yet in this epoch of ethos we must try to find reasons to get behind the side. It's not easy. If you doted on Pietersen, this tour is similar to cheering on your ex-wife's relatives during their appearance on Family Fortunes. You quite want them to do well, but you're not sure which ones were secretly advising her to kick you out of the house.
Debutant, lordly bat and soon to be recipient of David Warner-based quips Moeen Ali is clearly blameless, however. As is Simon Pegg's more doughty younger brother trapped in a cricketer's body, James Tredwell, and you couldn't wish for two more likable players to rekindle one's ardour in Team Clarity. If you need further reason, though, also remember that Paul Collingwood is now on board as coach, and launched into his first interview in the role by effectively scrawling a large crayon cock and balls on the ECB's media training manual: “When I first started playing for England we were shit.” Words almost as unfussily majestic as his Adelaide double. No wonder we adore him.

A few stats:

- All three ODIs will be played at the Sir Viv Richards Stadium in North Sound, Antigua. You'll find no KPravdaesque propaganda here, but the highest score there by an Englishman is, undeniably, Pietersen's 104 versus Australia during the 2007 World Cup.

- The highest ODI score there by any batsman is surprisingly pleasant and erudite analyst Matthew Hayden's 158 against the Windies in the same tournament.

- England have played 33 ODIs in the West Indies, winning ten and losing 20 with three no results.

- The highest individual score by an English batsman in those matches is Trescothick's 130 at Gros Islet in 2004.

- Brian Lara took 11 catches against England in ODIs. Truth.

Pietersen bygones have barely put on their coat let alone departed, but, finally, and in the spirit of magnanimity it's only fair to flag up a performance by one of his leading detractors, which also happens to be one of the Three Lions' greatest ever ODI knocks. Ahead of Friday's match Curtly Ambrose is set to be made a Sir and the only other time I can recall him being on his knees in the presence of Englishmen was when, alongside the rest of the Windies attack, he was brutalised in Bridgetown in 1998 by of all people Nick Knight. If any England batsman replicates that feat on this tour and you happen to be near Pietersen, please do the decent thing. Put unity first, put down your stolen mousse, and give the distraught and discarded hero of our faltering dreams a nice cuddle.


Listen to Radio Cricket. It's like rubbing a Kohli off drive into your ears. 

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Situation Vacant Part II: World Cricket interviews the BCCI

ICC headquarters, Dubai.

World Cricket: Right, thanks for coming in. As you know, I've also spoken to the ECB, but between you and me, I've already decided to give you the job on the basis I'd quite like you to take your hand off my balls. We'd better go through the niceties, however. I know you're a stickler for protocol.
BCCI: Very much so.
World Cricket: Ok then. Quick long hop to start. Why are you the best man to run me?
BCCI: Because that's what we've decided.
World Cricket: Fair enough. Who am I to argue? Next up, I really need someone who'll make sure I'm not tainted by financial scandal. What's your record on that front?
BCCI: Perfect. Our internal enquiries never find any problems whatsoever.
World Cricket: And what about external ones? I'm sure I saw some report about the IPL recently?
BCCI: You did, but Justice Mudgal has an agenda.
World Cricket: I see. And what might that be?
BCCI: He's a complete prick.
World Cricket: Ok, let's move on. Now, my purse strings can be a bit tight. Would you say Indians are good with money?
BCCI: Undoubtedly.
World Cricket: I see Robin Uthappa was bought for $800k at the IPL auction.
BCCI: Whatever.
World Cricket: On to other matters then. I'm very much a global family man. Is family important to you?
BCCI: Oh yes. My brother's the head of the Indian Olympic Association.
World Cricket: I see. Must be the sporty type, I expect. Of course, I also love my kids. Any yourself?
BCCI: Nope.
World Cricket: I thought you had a son?
BCCI: Nope.
World Cricket: Isn't he g..
BCCI: ....etting sexuality change drugged at my instigation because I'm a bigot? No, don't be silly. Of course, not.
World Cricket: Phew! The last thing I'd want is a prehistorically-minded homophobic lunatic controlling me. Might send out the wrong signal.
BCCI: Rest assured I'm a modern man. Our showpiece domestic tournament welcomes everyone regardless of creed, colour or sexuality.
World Cricket: Except Pakistanis?
BCCI: You have to draw the line somewhere.
World Cricket: Right. Coming to a close now, but obviously I have to ensure I can build partnerships across the board. I see myself as like a marriage, but we all know how problematic those blasted in-laws can be. What's your stance there?
BCCI: In principle, I'm enthusiastic.
World Cricket: And that bother with your daughter's husband?
BCCI: I can't pass on information about that.
World Cricket: Ok, you bet. So let's wrap this up. In three words, how would you describe yourself?
BCCI: Most powerful member.
World Cricket: Oooh. Well, you've won me over big boy. Shall we go upstairs?
BCCI: Our stance on DRS is quite clear.
World Cricket: No. I, er, meant I'm ready to be royally screwed by you.
BCCI: Ah, I see. Fine, then. Assume the position and we'll get started.
World Cricket: Super. I'll squeeze every last drop out of you.
BCCI: Other way round, probably, but let's see how it goes.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Are you "Inside Cricket'? Take this simple test to find out:

Are you the ECB?

Are you Alastair Cook?

Do you dislike Kevin Pietersen? 

If you answered 'yes' to any of the above, congratulations cricket insider!! You're free to say whatever you want.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Situation vacant: World Cricket interviews the ECB

ICC Headquarters, Dubai. 

World Cricket: So ECB, do come in. Interesting suit. Did Mr Clarke lend it to you?

ECB: Yes. Yes, he did. 
World Cricket: I see. Well, never mind. Do sit down.
ECB: Ok, thanks.
World Cricket: So you're here because you want a greater say in running me?
ECB: Yes, that's right. Very much so.
World Cricket: I see. And what makes you think you're qualified to do that?
ECB: Well, we're bloody good at running English cricket.  
World Cricket: I see. And by 'bloody good', what do you mean? 

ECB: We make a fucking fortune.
World Cricket: I'll just jot that down. And where does that money come from?
ECB: Well, you know Sky subscriptions and tickets. Replica shirts. That sort of thing.
World Cricket: And why do you think fans pay prices for those things which some observers have termed extortionate? 
ECB: They love Tim Bresnan.
World Cricket: Ok. Let's park that there for a minute. Obviously your side has just been humiliated in Australia across all formats. What do you think went wrong?
ECB: Our performance analysts identified a 17% drop in fist-bumping. 
World Cricket: And that was the biggest factor? 

ECB: Undoubtedly. 
World Cricket: Ok, well tell me about some of your successes?
ECB: Well, we won a World T20 in 2010. 
World Cricket: Oh super. I remember, actually. Who was man of the tournament there?
ECB: Ooh. Not sure. That's not in our records. 
World Cricket: Ok. Any others triumphs?
ECB: Yep. Three Ashes on the trot and a win in India.
World Cricket: Ah yes. What a knock that was in Mumbai!
ECB: We didn't play in Mumbai.
World Cricket: Are you quite sure, I'm sure I recall a...
ECB: Yes. Quite sure. 
World Cricket: Ok. Well, lets move on. Now, I'll be honest with you. I'm a bit of a tricky customer but I bring pleasure to millions. Have you got any experience managing players like that?
ECB: Yes, of course. Well, one I suppose.
World Cricket: And what was your strategy there?
ECB: We sacked him and bought some more laptops. 
World Cricket: Right, right. And why did you sack him?
ECB: Because he loves money and falls out with everyone. 
World Cricket: Ok. Good. And - sorry, interview cliche time - what's your biggest weakness?
ECB: We love money and fall out with everyone.
World Cricket: Er, it is normal for candidates to try and flip that question into a positive so I'll ask you once again. What's your biggest weakness?
ECB: Texans.
World Cricket: Hmm, well some interesting answers there. We're also seeing Mr Srinivasan later, but we'll be in touch.

Friday, 31 January 2014

Andy Flower and the Politics of Resignation

Megalomania, the poll tax, the sheer animus towards her from large sections of her own party and the public. No one can pinpoint exactly what did for Margaret Thatcher when she was finally deposed as both Conservative leader and British premier in 1990, but it's long been held that the resignation speech of her deputy prime minister, Geoffrey Howe, was one of the more damning blows. Speaking in the commons, her once loyal lieutenant stood and offered a cricketing analogy for what it was like for government ministers to negotiate with European partners given Thatcher's general intransigence on all matters Brussels and, in particular, her recently expressed and unyielding stance on monetary union: 
"It is rather like sending your opening batsmen to the crease," said the former chancellor, "Only for them to find, as the first balls are being bowled, that their bats have been broken before the game by the team captain". Former Labour chancellor Denis Healey may well once have acerbically denounced Howe's own debating style as "like being savaged by a dead sheep", but on this occasion his barb wounded deeply, being described by Thatcher herself in her memoirs as "cool, forensic...and poisonous."
To attribute those terms to Andy Flower's resignation statement would be to do a disservice to a man who can lay claim to being England's most successful coach. To call Kevin Pietersen cricket's Thatcher seems equally unfair, and is certainly a comparison his detractors at the Daily Mail and Telegraph wouldn't wish to countenance. There was, however, undeniably a certain political parallel to the former England coach's words which - if he is to retain his present role as selector as well as some as of yet undefined senior position within the ECB - do not make pretty reading for Pietersen supporters. 
Flower states "it is clear to me that this is now time for England cricket, led by Alastair Cook, to rebuild with a new set of values and goals. The opportunity to start with a clean slate and begin to instill methods to ensure England cricket is moving in the right direction will be an incredibly exciting challenge for someone..." It's not overtly clear whose values he feels have muddied the present slate but the recent leak of a "KP goes or I go" ultimatum to The Guardian's Mike Selvey - a journalist and former player hitherto unknown for his commitment to manufactured inauthenticity - suggests that Flower is not talking about Tim Bresnan. 
The unequivocal endorsement of Cook - another said to have clashed irreparably with Pietersen - also means it is sadly unlikely we're going to see an end any time soon to Piers Morgan's faintly queasy Twitter campaign in favour of his chum. Flower concludes by saying "the priority must now be to establish the direction and personnel needed to ensure England cricket moves forward." Reading between fairly transparent lines, the message is that change is afoot and, to be realistic, there is no player with a footing less sure at present than, though inexplicably to swaths of England fans, their fourth highest ever Test run scorer. 
Flower is surely not a petty man. It would be plain silly to ascribe such a characteristic to someone whose world view has been shaped by putting his life and that of his family on the line by once protesting so bravely against the regime of Robert Mugabe in his home nation Zimbabwe. We should therefore accept that he truly believes Pietersen's ousting from the side is in England's best interests. While this is wholly wrong in my view, only time and his successor will tell us whether he, like Howe, has managed to simultaneously fall on his sword whilst stabbing it into the heart of a former ally. 


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