Not a lot really. At least it doesn’t seem like a lot. Cricket seems a bit irrelevant with all the political shenanigans going on. However, we do have a few things to talk about before the test matches in Sri Lanka begin – not least the ODIs and who might succeed Andrew Strauss as director of English cricket.
Let’s start with English cricket’s top job. I wonder who actually wants the role? After all, I imagine an important part of the job description is supporting Harrison’s Harebrained Hundred. That basically rules out 99% of the English speaking world. That leaves Bumble and, erm, that mad bloke in the corner of your local pub who votes Monster Raving Looney.
Although Surrey have been quite vocal in their criticism of the ECB’s plans – and quite rightly so – I’ve heard Alec Stewart’s name mentioned a few times. That would certainly be fine in my book. Alec is a very motivated person with a pretty astute cricket brain and a good feel for the county game. I’m not sure if he’s interested in the role but we could certainly do a lot worse.
Many people, of course, assume that Andy Flower is a shoo-in for the role. They may well be right. He has already replaced Strauss in a temporary capacity and he’s well known in the corridors of power. There’s just one problem: Flower has actually been quite critical about the marginalisation of the county championship. And I doubt this endears him to the men making all the decisions. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Although things obviously went south quickly at the end of Flower’s tenure as head coach – his regime went stale and I was never really a fan of his conservative bowl try and wait for the batsman to commit hari kari approach – one must concede that he has vast experience. Yes he adopted the persona of an intransigent and somewhat joyless dictator by the end – “Flower, Flower, infectiously dour” – but at least he’s no fool. And I do believe he’d stand his ground if his employers introduced more measures that would damage first class cricket. I don’t think he’d stand for any consultant-led nonsense.
What’s more, one has to look at the potential alternatives. I believe Mike Selvey is still looking for employment! Plus there’s always the chance that the ECB will turn to someone less qualified merely because they’re certain to toe the corporate line.
Consequently, although Flower certainly wouldn’t be my choice for the role, and I think his influence over our younger players hasn’t been particularly fruitful of late, at least I think he would be up to the job of creating ‘pathways’ (aka ways) for our domestic system to produce test cricketers. I certainly don’t think white ball cricket would be his priority – put it that way.
Meanwhile, on the pitch, England are currently leading the ODI series in Sri Lanka. The weather really hasn’t helped though. The first game was washed out and we only secured victory in the second match thanks to Duckworth Lewis. England were in a decent position when the rains descended but victory wasn’t certain.
My thoughts about the series thus far are (a) why on earth would you schedule cricket matches in the monsoon season? (b) it’s good to see Root and Morgan score some runs, and (c) what a difference Olly Stone makes. Yes we shouldn’t go over the top, and yes he’ll probably get injured at some point, but having someone with pace just makes the team so much more watchable in the field.
Our lack of pace and wicket-taking potential has been this particular side’s achilles heel in recent times. Stone might change all that just in time for the World Cup. A bowling attack containing a fully fit Mark Wood and Stone suddenly looks a lot more dynamic that our previous plethora of medium pacers.
Elsewhere, I guess I should mention the disappointing news about Sanath Jayasuriya. I don’t know the precise details of the allegations, and I certainly don’t want to assume he’s guilty before the ICC have investigated fully, but cricket needed yet another corruption scandal like Florida needed another hurricane. What’s more, it’s disturbing that someone so senior (or previously senior) on an international board is facing such serious charges. I guess the saddest thing is that nobody seems particularly surprised by this development. Many people simply assume that cricket is thoroughly corrupt.
Without getting this blog into trouble by making libellous comments (ahem!) I’d be interested to know how deep you all think corruption in cricket goes? Those who followed the Lou Vincent saga will certainly have a view on this.
Personally I’d like to think that the majority of cricket (and cricketers) are clean. Otherwise what’s the point? I don’t think any of us would be interested in following a sport that’s as rigged as WWF. However, sometimes I think I’m being naive simply because I don’t want to contemplate any other scenario.
Consequently I’m a bit torn. Hoping (or pretending) that things aren’t that bad is akin to putting one’s fingers in one’s ears. After all, if corruption in cricket goes deep (and I mean really deep) we’ll never sort it out if we don’t believe it’s real.