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So What’s Going On?

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.

James Morgan

2018-10-15T17:35:49+00:00 October 15th, 2018|Talking Points|31 Comments

31 Comments

  1. jennyah46 October 15, 2018 at 5:18 pm - Reply

    Brilliant James.

    Corruption is certainly deeply rooted in a certain T:20 tournaments but it’s difficult to know how far it might permeate into the Test and domestic schedule. It must do, to a point. Like you I’d rather ignore it and pretend it was’nt happening but it must be seriously addressed. The game would become utterly pointless if it became commonplace.

    I loved your pen portraits of Strauss’ possible successor. Alec Stewart would be my favourite but I can’t see him leaving Surrey. Perhaps if he believes he can engineer beneficial reforms he might do it. Let’s hope so.

    • James Morgan October 15, 2018 at 5:40 pm - Reply

      Thanks Jenny. I definitely think that Alec would be well received by the public. He’s well respected throughout the land and I don’t think he’d take any crap. The problem, I guess, is whether he’d be suited to a role that might inevitably involve political manoeuvring?

  2. Len Stokes October 15, 2018 at 5:53 pm - Reply

    There is a lot of common sense here. I am pretty detatched from the game in England and yes Stone is quick. This may sound bizarre but that little cameo with the bat alongside Adil Rashid was actually very entertaining for the 3-4 overs it lasted. Can this bloke bat as well?

  3. Paul October 15, 2018 at 6:30 pm - Reply

    Corruption is endemic in cricket, this article portrays a grim picture:

    http://www.espncricinfo.com/story/_/id/24964373/radar-top

    Apparently more than 23.5 million British pounds were wagered on the match between Kabul and Nangarhar in Afghanistan T20 league, outstripping the T20I between SA and Zimbabwe (GBP 13 million) and Betfair’s whole pool for the first three days of the Dubai Test combined (GBP 22.5 million). The APL match between Balkh Legends and Nangarhar Leopards on October 11 had GBP 29.3 million wagered, while the match between Paktia Panthers and Balkh Legends on October 10 had more than GBP 33 million in betting action on the Betfair exchange. Lots of scope for corruption there.

    Not sure if you follow cricket in Asia James, but Jayasuriya is someone who’s not exactly high in the honesty index, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was guilty.

  4. AndyB October 15, 2018 at 6:46 pm - Reply

    I am not entirely convinced by the reference to the Monster Raving Loonies. Here in deepest Surrey they are regarded as the voice of sanity compared to our local MP, Anne Milton (or Nurse Ratchet as she is affectionately known). However, on the bigger issue of the anointing of the blessed leader, why are we restricting ourselves to those from a cricketing background? The role is more administrative and managerial than cricketing, and a strong personality – preferably willing to call out the idiocy of Harrison – would be preferable to a flunkey beholden to the existing powers. If I were to suggest one character it would be Dan Ashworth, a very successful FA executive. Unfortunately he has just taken the top job at Brighton so is not available. But there must be better than those in the cricket swamp elsewhere in the sports world.

    • Marc Evans October 16, 2018 at 11:06 am - Reply

      I still think, even in administrative roles a high profile cricketing background has more public credibility than a faceless suit, who has no discernible commitment to the game and can just move on to another position when the offer arises. The problem for the FA for almost every club supporter is that nobody knows who the hell these people are. The same applies to club directors. Rather than taking the easy route into coaching and management, where most ex players have limited success, maybe more should try the business route.
      A notable exception now is Gareth Southgate, so let’s spare a moment to give him and the boys the thumbs up for sticking it to an arrogant Spanish side, who underestimated us. The cricketing equivalent of this result would be beating the Steve Waugh Aussies down under, so it deserves a mention.

      • AndyB October 16, 2018 at 2:29 pm - Reply

        I agree that it was a great result in Spain. And for me it was another demonstration of how short form sport (in this case a single 90 minute game) can throw up unexpected results not really representative of the play (let’s be honest – Spain were the better team). And that is a lesson for cricket and shows why T20 should never be taken seriously as anything more than entertainment.

        • Marc Evans October 16, 2018 at 6:29 pm - Reply

          I don’t think anybody sees white ball cricket as more than light entertainment anyway. It’s just that light entertainment attracts more attention than serious programming and always has done.
          As for the footie, a rookie side like ours, beating probably the best side in the world at the moment and our keeper only having to make one, if rather lucky save over 90 minutes is some achievement. Let’s be honest that is not luck and we deserved the win. Spain played ok but were out-thought, how many other sides would have come away with a result on the night?

  5. James October 15, 2018 at 7:25 pm - Reply

    I think some of the possibly former BCCI bigwigs must be looking at Jayasuriya and thinking there but for the grace of God.

    Whoever takes over from Strauss (and I’m sure we all wish the Strauss family well) needs to realise that the English cricket public values test cricket.

    Turning to the cricket there’s a Pakistan v Australia test coming up. First of the series was a cracker though sadly Pakistan couldn’t quite finish the job. The best aspect of the ODIS in Sri Lanka so far has been Olly Stone winding up the batsmen with the short stuff. I don’t want to put pressure on him too early but you feel he might make a difference to the England attack in Australia.

  6. Cricketcricketcricket October 15, 2018 at 9:03 pm - Reply

    Of course the 2020 leagues are rigged to a degree.. it’s obvious

    • AndyB October 16, 2018 at 9:34 am - Reply

      A rather broad assertion. Are you suggesting that the likes of the English T20 or the Big Bash are rigged? I realise there may be activity at the fringe but even I am not inclined to describe them as rigged, despite my cynicism and belief in the venality of cricket authorities. For me the issue with the IPL (and, perhaps, some other leagues) is the corruption associated with the owners and governing bodies, which makes the players much more exposed. The recent history of Indian cricket, with the ICB being subject to court control and IPL owners being banned for corruption illustrates the particular problem around that competition. Even as recently as July there was a sex scandal involving the IPL chairman and selection for state teams.

  7. Marc Evans October 16, 2018 at 2:06 am - Reply

    The problem cricket has with betting issues and anyone who’s been around groups of lads at matches will verify this, is that there’s so much time between activities on the field that there’s always room for a bet on all sorts. Not just who will take the next wicket or catch or who will score the next boundary, but things like who will touch the ball next and at 20-20 which stand will field the next 6. The list is pretty much endless. I’ve seen groups of lads keep betting on things every over during an entire game. With the proliferation of on-line betting sites, targeting young men particularly, many even sponsoring some sporting activities and using celebrities to front them, it is fast becoming the most faddish craze out there. As cricket displays more variations for this than any other game, lasting longer with more permutations, it is an easy target for the profiteer consortiums.
    In Asia particularly, where cricket is the major sport, it is inevitable that high profile names will be targeted to massage the odds, with threats to family commonly used as a compliance tactic. We shouldn’t be too harsh on the players, as there’s no evidence to suggest they’ve approached these consortiums, it always seems to be the other way round. Once exposed, the consortiums, who of course can afford the best lawyers, often seem to get off lightly, having used their influence with the authorities, based on entrapment of the officials. There needs to be a more effective international task force to make it more difficult for these consortiums to operate, but at the moment, especially in the 3rd world, this seems a nonstarter, as there are so many openly corrupt officials who are effectively on consortium payrolls.
    As to the successor to Strauss I am sure we would all like an experienced test player in the role. The likes of Hussain or Atherton come to mind as well as Stewart. It seems a waste to have them as TV pundits and journalists. It needs someone with a vision for the game to challenge the prevailing marketeers.

    • James October 16, 2018 at 7:00 am - Reply

      Putting Hussain or Atherton in charge does make sense. Their media experience would allow them to challenge the marketing people when needed and their cricketing knowledge is vast. Could they be tempted away from their current jobs though?

      • Marc Evans October 16, 2018 at 11:18 am - Reply

        If they truly give a shit about the game they claim to be so concerned about and are prepare to put their commitment on the line I don’t see why not. Right now it has to be as big a challenge for them as captaining their country, so they should be excited by that prospect. I am sure if it didn’t work out for them they wouldn’t be left in the dole queue. I’m also sure Sky would love to have ex employees on the inside so to speak, giving them juicy titbits to get their teeth into.

  8. Simon H October 16, 2018 at 9:29 am - Reply

    Anyone interested in corruption in sport should have a look at the work of Brian Tuohy (like THE FIX IS IN). I’d also recommend having another look at the details of the Bob Woolmer case. I don’t know the details of the Jayasuriya case – but I do know SL cricket in general has a lot of questions to answer (wasn’t it a government minister who called the SLCB the second most corrupt organisation in the country?).

    It probably doesn’t need saying but I disagree about Flower. He may have uttered some warm words about the CC but his actions have done nothing but contribute to its marginalisation. Actions always speak louder than words.

    There’s been an engrossing day’s play so far in Abu Dhabi (Pakistan collapsing to Lyon then a Sarfraz counterattack). The battle for the Brighto Paints Cup is truly on! The Brighto Paints Cup? No wonder “holding all the trophies” isn’t much of a thing in cricket (until the English media sense an opportunity to blow more smoke up the ECB’s arse like they did briefly in 2016, since which they’ve promptly forgotten all about it again).

    • Doug M October 16, 2018 at 9:46 am - Reply

      I agree, wouldn’t let Flower anywhere near the job. He’ll continue the trend to sell cricket down the river. Stewart probably wouldn’t take it, likes Surrey to much. I’d go for Atherton.
      IP L is a bit of a betting shop isn’t it, no doubt fiddling creeps in to a large extent on the sub continent.

      • AndyB October 16, 2018 at 10:52 am - Reply

        My problem with Stewart dates back to the 1980s when he acquiesced in Daddy Stewart manouevring out Jack Richards, clearly the best keeper at Surrey and a test keeper and century maker, so that Alec could have the gloves. That sort of thing goes to the heart of whether a person can be trusted.

    • James Morgan October 16, 2018 at 9:51 am - Reply

      Please don’t take my article as an endorsement of Flower. It’s more an attempt to look on the bright side if indeed he does get the job. Personally I’d like someone new to come in – the old breath of fresh air – but I’m just not sure who else is going to be up for the role. I’ve heard people mention the likes of Atherton, who would obviously be great, but I just can’t see guys like this giving up their media roles. To be honest I’m struggling to think of candidates who are (a) realistic, and (b) palatable. Any ideas?

  9. NW October 16, 2018 at 1:40 pm - Reply

    Flower has ruled himself out. ECB want Ed Smith to step up.

  10. Jackie Litherland October 16, 2018 at 1:43 pm - Reply

    I would despair if Flower got the job. He displayed a tendency to empire build last time when coach by making himself Director of Cricket. Now he’s taken on the temporary mantle while still In charge of the Academy and Lions!!
    He’s too much of a dictator by temperament and really only operates well in a strong partnership. He needs to be challenged. He’s a bit of a control freak.

    I’m sure Alec Stewart is a smokescreen although I would trust him and wish he was really up for it. I thought Flower should not be trusted after the KP episode. It became a personal vendetta. I don’t trust him behind the scenes either. He has favourites he likes to promote and watch out if you get the wrong side of him. He often seems keen to promote players with South African connections. He’s actually from SA. It’s understandable to form cliques of the same background but not if you are aspiring to be Director of Cricket.

    As for corruption every ad on cricket
    on TV is about betting. So much for the ‘First’ World! It’s just appalling especially when the betting gangs target players and all the ads celebrate winnings as if that’s the norm. I agree about groups of lads betting amongst themselves throughout the game. One innocent bet on the overall score among friends becomes a constant narrative mimicking on line betting often with derogatory remarks about the players. Who do you support I asked one set. No one came the reply. The decline of real interest and the rise of betting is about kicks replacing appreciation. The price paid of course for over stimulation is boredom. At the end of the 19th century there was a lot of literature warning about the decadence of the decade. Now we have the introduction of the Hundred. Not for ‘Mums and Kids’ but a cert for those with minute attention spans. This is surely corruption of the spirit?

    • Marc Evans October 18, 2018 at 3:17 am - Reply

      It is interesting that when cricket matches first became properly organised events they were used as a vehicle to promote a betting culture amongst the toffs. There was much manipulation of player eligibility to rig matches. Even WG was involved, using his famous ‘the people have come to see me bat, not you bowl’ to keep an innings going when legitimate appeals were ignored.
      The ‘corruption’ now is more insidiously legitimate, with apps on mobiles making it so easy and even a betting casino sponsoring Sky Sports News. Everyone knows betting odds always favour the bookie but it does nothing to stop the cycle of the ‘you’ve got to be in it to win it’ culture. It’s not just young lads, you only have to be in a supermarket queue waiting to be served whilst an endless stream of working class folk, from young mums to pensioners, spend a fortune on lottery tickets and scratch cards every day.
      I know a few normally rational people who can’t resist this temptation.

  11. Comte October 16, 2018 at 2:46 pm - Reply

    The Strauss job.Should be advertised so everyone can see the full job description. The ideal candidate needs to be a tough cookie to cope with the near evangelical B/S of the likes of Harrison and Hollins who are surrounded by marketing acolytes. I would like to see someone who knows their stuff about cricket but who is not necessarily employed within the game, Flower – no.no. Smith – ditto. Very easy to think of people I wouldn’t want but harder to think of suitable candidates.

    Stone – I worry. He may be potentially the answer but one bad over and the media will set about crucifying him.

    Corruption – give that it’s rife in business, politics (national and local) and most other places, I’m sure that it’s rampant in cricket,
    given that my knowledge of the cricketing world is that it’s the near perfect sport for it. Should we be worried? I don’t know but let’s get these bloody awful bettings adverts outlawed right away.

  12. Nick October 16, 2018 at 2:53 pm - Reply

    Think it will be Andy Flower, when I have heard him speak about his roles post England Coaching he usually talks a lot of sense but the end product hasn’t been there. English Cricket hasn’t produced a Test standard specialist batsmen since Joe Root and the Lions program must take its share of the blame for that. I always thought Strauss got credit and blame for things that I was never sure were part of his remit. At least no one is mentioning Vaughan for the job

    It will be interesting to see what the priorities are for the new Director of Cricket, The home world cup has been a huge driver but you would expect 50 over Cricket to move into the background although I can’t see it going anywhere, its a very profitable format and something has to keep the cash coming in while the 100 is losing massive amounts

  13. Simon H October 17, 2018 at 8:05 am - Reply

    Prediction: there will be come articles appearing that use Aaron Finch’s success in his first two Tests to argue that Jason Roy should be in the England Test team.

    • Cricketcricketcricket October 17, 2018 at 5:08 pm - Reply

      Wouldn’t surprise me.. shows how dire the quality is though.. not that people seem to care about the complete lack of quality around now

  14. Simon H October 18, 2018 at 11:17 am - Reply

    That Cricinfo story about the BCCI’s continuing refusal to comply with WADA rules should be massive news – but cricket just trundles along as if nothing happened and the UK media don’t even notice it.

    Apart from anything else, cricket in the Olympics remains a pipedream while the BCCI adopt this stance.

    (FWIW and just to be clear, I don’t think the BCCI are the only problem in global cricket governance. The ECB and CA are no better. It’s on this particular issue that the BCCI seem the big obstacle and they should be called out for it)

  15. Simon H October 19, 2018 at 8:05 am - Reply

    An imminent thumping and Khawaja out for up to two months with a knee injury? Time for CA to redraw that line again.

    Clare Connor as Comma? As an evangelist for T16.66 and Andy Flower’s partner she’s clearly ticking some pretty major boxes there.

  16. Simon H October 19, 2018 at 11:10 am - Reply

    My favourite Shaun Marsh stat:

    https://twitter.com/danbrettig/status/1052906697696665600

    Picking him for the next Test and citing “experience” is going to give the Keaton Jennings’ selection a run for its money.

    • Cricketcricketcricket October 20, 2018 at 11:23 am - Reply

      How bad is the state of red ball cricket.. this Australia team is really really bad. 80mph trundler skittling them. The fact England and co aren’t much better is a bad sign

      How many more bad signs do most people need before they either concede defeat and are purely sloggy white ball fans (both in amateur playing and watching) or stand up and openly state how poor players are rather than declare them messiahs and world class on the back of a run of form or a few performances

  17. Simon H October 21, 2018 at 9:20 am - Reply

    The day after England win the series and all of 50 comments on the Guardian thread. The game, the format, the Guardian – they’re all in trouble.

    This scheduling during the monsoon is not some one-off or accident. It’s the permanent new reality of the international cricket order. Peak times are blocked off for the T20 franchises. The international game (especially series where the Big Three aren’t playing each other) gets what’s left – and if it’s a time of year when nobody in their right mind played cricket before, too bad. SL to tour England in February because March-October are blocked off for The Hundred and T20? That’s the sort of blue sky thinking the new Comma must bring to the table. The game can then be declared unpopular and shut down (as a mass participation popular sport – some sort of pro-am rich man’s hobby will probably carry on). This is the future and it’s coming soon.

    • Cricketcricketcricket October 21, 2018 at 6:17 pm - Reply

      As stated before. Most people can afford 1-3 days at the Cricket a year. Do you go to a test which could be one sided, you only see one side bat or bowl or it finishes early.. or.. do you go to white ball games .. people go to white ball games .. it’s not rocket science why they do that., it’s not because it’s more fun or a prefered format but simply economics of money and time

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