Here’s a slightly random post about three articles which caught my eye recently.
The first is by George Monbiot, in the Guardian. Monbiot is best known for campaigning environmental journalism, and his piece is ostensibly nothing to do with cricket. It’s about the supineness of the media in general, and how “our ‘impartial’ broadcasters have become mouthpieces of the elite”.
If you think the news is balanced, think again. Journalists who should challenge power are doing its dirty work.
His themes – aimed at mainstream political, business and economic journalism – have some uncanny parallels with the laments against the press we find so often on blogs such as these. Although I doubt Monbiot had cricket remotely in mind, much of what he says rings very true of the game as often reported in this country.
When people say they have no politics, it means that their politics aligns with the status quo. None of us are unbiased, none removed from the question of power. We are social creatures who absorb the outlook and opinions of those with whom we associate, and unconciously echo them.
The illusion of neutrality is one of the reasons for the rotten state of journalism, as those who might have been expected to hold power to account drift thoughtlessly into its arms.
Those who are supposed to scrutinise the financial and political elite are embedded within it. Many belong to a service-sector aristocracy, wedded metaphorically (sometimes literally) to finance. Often unwittingly, they amplify the voices of the elite, while muffling those raised against it.
The debate has been dominated by political and economic elites, while alternative voices – arguing that the crisis has been exaggerated, or that instead of cuts, the government should respond with Keynesian spending programmes or taxes on financial transactions, wealth or land – have scarcely been heard.
What does this remind you of? Almost exclusively during the last year of turmoil in English cricket, the people called upon to analyse events are those so close to the main players in the story that an independent perspective often eludes them.
I’m not suggesting that I should have been asked on to Newsnight to discuss Kevin Pietersen, but wouldn’t it have been refreshing if the media had occasionally sought the opinions of supporters, or any ‘outsiders’, rather than return, time and again, to journalists who possess such uncomfortably close connections to the people in the spotlight.
The other two pieces, remarkable for their contrasting tone, come from the Independent, and thanks to Tom Sturrock for flagging them up. Apologies if you may have already discussed these over at Dmitri’s blog (I was on holiday last week and am still catching up!).
Both are about…guess who?
On Sunday, Ian Herbert had this:
A World Cup that the ECB tells us will be different for England but from which the team will almost certainly leave early. But who has just revealed that he plays Australian surfaces better than any other, by topping the Big Bash averages? Kevin Pietersen, the man at the heart of the English game’s own civil war.
from this correspondent there is only a regret that Pietersen will be flying out of Australia soon, rather than giving England a fighting chance of thrilling us before they process home. With such an average bowling attack as the one at Morgan’s disposal, England will need to score 350 runs every time against the competitive nations. That’s just not going to happen.
Morgan’s retort to Pietersen’s comments last week – “I think this is the best group of players we have to drive England forward” – was deeply disingenuous. Of course England don’t have the best team at their disposal. Of course the new captain was toeing a company line. And if that was not bad enough, David Warner’s contribution out on the Sydney Cricket Ground track on Thursday merely demonstrated the benefits of resolving conflict the Australian way.
When Michael Clarke’s players last toured these shores, Warner was the wild child, clouting Joe Root in a Birmingham bar, having refused to hand in a “homework” assignment on time and ranted at journalists on Twitter. We wondered where his future lay because his behaviour raised questions about Clarke’s grip on the team. But Warner was disciplined, words were said and he moved on, with his 127 in 115 balls against Morgan’s attack more evidence of why the perseverance was worth it.
There’s something more grown up about the way the Australians bring the recalcitrant ones back in line. They have the fight, say what’s to be said and have done with it; none of the prissy grudge-bearing we have seen with England.
Pietersen’s score-settling autobiography is hardly a source of objective historical record but his depiction of Alastair Cook as Ned Flanders, the man from The Simpsons who wants to please everybody, and Peter Moores as the Woodpecker, yammering away, made you wonder how things might have turned out if there had been someone to front up with Pietersen man-to-man.
Success in sport demands one-man egos: the individuals who will not flinch at the prospect of trying to achieve the seemingly unachievable. Success in sports management demands an acceptance that recalcitrance and rebellion come with that quality and that harnessing the power is a complex skill. It’s why Eric Cantona dressed howsoever he wanted in the company of Alex Ferguson, while everyone else had to stick to the dress code.
Andrew Strauss’s autobiography was not a paean to Pietersen’s personality but it made a significant point about the value of having rule-breakers in the ranks. “Unbridled by team directives or predetermined methods, Pietersen could play in a way of which others were simply incapable,” Strauss wrote. He went on to say that the dispute left players feeling uneasy and expressed frustration at Pietersen getting all the publicity. But players don’t care about the differences when a team is winning. And one player getting the headlines can take pressure off the rest.
When [England] begin their World Cup campaign against Australia at the MCG, in 26 days’ time…they will be missing their highest runscorer in all forms of cricket: the man who has just scored 262 in six Twenty20 innings on Australian soil. Take away the rows, recriminations and rancour and that omission just seems shocking. Pietersen should be going to the World Cup, whatever it takes.
In contrast to this impeccable cricketing logic, Stephen Brenkley, last Friday, was working himself up into a lather about Pietersen’s new tattoo.
While it was once the done thing to have “I love Mum” inscribed somewhere on the upper arm, Pietersen has effectively had inked across his back and chest “I love me.”
It looked to be the wrong way round but Pietersen explained this by saying it “was just the reflection,” allowing the possibility that he intends to stand in front of the mirror gazing adoringly at the map the right way round.
In his rip-roaring memoir, KP, in which he traduces so many of the splendid men who helped, along with himself, to make England the best team in the world, he indulges in interminable stretches of self-justification. But he does concede that one of his mistakes involved an earlier visit to the tattoo parlour when he had the three lions of England emblazoned on his left arm.
Plenty of other cricketers have tattoos but it is difficult to think of any who have so deliberately drawn attention to personal achievement, inviting the observation that his skin is even thinner than it appears.
Pietersen might have kept the venture private, between himself and his mirror, but before the ink was dry he had posted photographs on his Instagram account. By his own high standards he may be pushed to top this, but doubtless he will think of some way to continue to play a central role, to get under the skin, as it were, of the English cricket establishment.[The personnel changes at the ECB are] an opportunity for a clean sheet on which a fresh vision can be drawn. So much more wholesome than self-promoting images of world maps.
If sneering became an Olympic sport, Brenkley would be an automatic shoo-in for a podium finish. You can almost hear the bile oozing from his self-congratulatory fingers. Brenkley may derive heady enjoyment from monstering Pietersen, but does he have to flaunt his personal pleasure quite so flagrantly and self-indulgently?
This kind of stuff gives the game away. The press loathing of Pietersen owes nothing to the man’s cricket. It derives entirely from their attitudes towards taste, class, and decorum, heavily soured with envy.
“Splendid men”. I presume he means the same splendid Andy Flower who spied on his players, relayed private conversations to journalists (inaccurately), built a personality cult, and threw tantrums when he failed to receive due deference and respect. How very splendid…