There is a remarkable quote from Paul “due diligence” Downton in the ECB press release announcing the tour dates for England’s 2015/16 tour of South Africa.
“We can be assured of fantastic support in South Africa from the thousands of loyal supporters who always follow us around the country – particularly at the Boxing Day Test in Durban and the New Year Test at Newlands in Cape Town.”
My, my. If they awarded a Nobel Prize for arrogance, Downton would be nailed on for the trip to Stockholm.
Just where does he get off, coming out with stuff like this? Is he deliberately taking the rise? Or does he derive some weird kick from taunting us?
Just pan your eyes across the landscape of English cricket. Public morale has never been lower. A great many of us – not all, admittedly – are still seething with anger at the Pietersen affair. Such is the sense of betrayal that a significant number spent 2014 wanting England to lose. That people who’d spent most of their lives following England not only withdrew their support but hoped the opposition would win is extraordinary and unprecedented.
But even if you don’t care about Pietersen, or the way it was handled, or were even glad go see him go, how good do you feel about English cricket right now? Does your heart swell with patriotic fervour at the sight of bosses’ placeman Alastair Cook leading the eleven Waitrose-branded ECB representatives on to the field of play?
You don’t need to observe the game closely to realise the ECB treat us like muck. This has been true for years, but never so brazenly or grotesquely as 2014, the year of Outside Cricket. As Dmitri Old put it, this was English cricket’s Ratner Moment.
In a year when we surrendered the Ashes in catastrophic fashion, were defeated by Holland, and lost three out of the four home series (including for the very first time, the Spring tests), how did the ECB respond? By trying to sell us Buxton Water.
Never apologising and never explaining, the Lord’s bosses have only emerged from hiding when they want to insult us or sell something.
They answer no questions. They refuse to investigate what went wrong in Australia. They kept the culprits in place and expected us to get excited by the reappointment of a coach who was sacked for being useless the first time he had a go. Their answer to disquiet over Pietersen is to ring up Paul Newman and plant a story about looking out of the window.
Meanwhile, their wartime propaganda machine attempts to portray an insipid captain as the joint reincarnation of Winston Churchill and Mother Theresa. Keep Cook And Carry On.
As far as their relationship with the public goes, the ECB resemble a different combination – Kim il-sung and Del Boy. When they’re not stamping out sedition, they’re hawking Alastair Cook’s cookery videos out the back of a Robin Reliant. And that’s before we even talk about £85 tickets and Sky subscriptions.
John Etheridge once argued on our comments board that the majority of English cricket fans care less about the political minutiae than we do, as bloggers and BTlers. This is probably true. But the swathes of empty seats at test grounds this summer speak for themselves. If we’ve exaggerated the acrimony, few could deny the apathy.
And after all of this, Downton believes that “we can be assured of fantastic support…from the thousands of loyal supporters”.
What on earth makes him so confident? Why is he taking this loyalty for granted? Why does Downton say “assured” of support rather than “hoping” for support?
Perhaps he’s deploying a psychological trick. The phrase is an instruction dressed up as an expectation. By stating a hope as a fact, he’s trying to brainwash you by subliminal means. YOU WILL SUPPORT US. YOU WILL BE LOYAL. DO AS WE SAY AND NO ONE WILL GET HURT.
Or is Downton’s phrase actually aimed at Waitrose? “Sorry about all the cock-ups, dreadful publicity and empty seats. But don’t worry. The faithful will still flock to South Africa and see your logo on the shirts”.
Let’s spin this around. What if the ECB are genuinely worried about public dissatisfaction? Could they feel uneasy and regretful about their conduct towards England followers? Are they now aware that support has ebbed away and loyalty must be earned? By going out of his way to big-up the spectators – 41 words out of a 147-word press release – is Downton offering a peculiar kind of olive branch?
Just fancy that
“I can’t actually answer that question [sacking of Pietersen] totally at this precise moment in time, which is incredibly frustrating for me. Everyone will say I’m sitting on the fence but there are a number of reasons which will become clearer soon.
“You have to respect the decision, the position I’m in at this precise moment. Everyone is going to keep asking that question until we give the answers but at the moment we just can’t.
“It is frustrating. If anyone thinks the decision was taken lightly and without a lot of consideration and a lot of thought…a lot of things went into the decision. It was a tough decision and the decisions will be made clearer in due course, and you just have to respect that at the moment. It is frustrating but that is the position I’m in at the moment and that is what it is”.
“We have had a couple of weeks together and we haven’t felt the need to talk about it [Pietersen] at all. I think we’ve moved on. All the fallout has happened.
“I felt in the summer we were moving on as a team but we had this publication date hanging over us and everyone was talking about what was going to happen. Now it’s all out from his side, no more can come out”.
I don’t think it was my proudest moment
Thanks to SimonH for flagging up the interview with Andrew Strauss in the Daily Mail. The Pietersen book? Regrettable, tarnishes memories – the same ploys as before. The evidence presented about the misconduct of the ECB? A “crazy circus”. Going to Sri Lanka as preparation for a World Cup in Australia? “Perfect”. Cook’s greatest asset? A “huge iron rod”.
Alas, I don’t have the opportunity at the moment to give the piece a proper fisking myself, but all your thoughts are very welcome indeed.