The broad acres, and England’s future


On a relatively quiet day, thought it was worth a look through the papers, most of whom are reflecting on Yorkshire’s triumph in the county championship.

In the Observer, Andy Wilson looks at how England, and the ECB, can exploit the White Rose county’s success. One of the most intriguing aspects of Yorkshire’s current strength is the political dimension: their chairman, Colin Graves (the Costcutter magnate), is also the ECB’s deputy chair, and now heads the board’s commercial committee.

Says Wilson:

“That has led to speculation that Graves could be the man to end Clarke’s long spell as ECB chairman, which began in September 2007. But the pair would now seem to be allies rather than rivals. Graves has always seemed the type to call a spade a shovel, so the tact and restraint he showed when asked about the ECB’s refusal to allow Yorkshire’s captain, Andrew Gale, to accept the Championship trophy from him on Friday must be seen as further evidence that he is now inside Clarke’s tent”.

Clarke has an uncanny knack of getting awkward people – genuinely or potentially – inside his tent when it suits him. Suspicion still lingers that he intervened to stifle Shane Warne’s criticism of Alastair Cook. It would certainly be interesting to discover who engineered the famous phone call between commentator and captain.

But to return to Yorkshire, and Wilson:

“It is the future of Jason Gillespie that is fascinating. He has made a comparable impact at Headingley to that of Darren Lehmann, a fellow South Australian, in international cricket, and promotes strikingly similar values, urging his Yorkshire team to play positive, attacking cricket, and to make sure they enjoy themselves in the process. Gillespie would therefore seem an obvious fit for Lehmann’s Australia set-up, but that underestimates how happily his family are settled in Yorkshire”.

But rather than join Australia, what about Gillespie for England? I’d be interested in your views on this. Personally, as an England supporter, I would love to see Gillespie replace Moores as our coach. The former is everything the latter is not, not only for the reasons Wilson mentions but his fine international playing career and vast experience of success.

Could we accept an Australian in charge? We didn’t have a problem with either Zimbabwean who did the job. Most of us would have been pleased had Gary Kirsten replaced Flower. Is an Aussie really so much different? As Gillespie seems so happy at Headingley, though, would he really want to work for people like Giles Clarke and Paul Downton?

In the Sunday Telegraph, Scyld Berry also looks at the Yorkshire-England trade-offs, in particular how the county’s batting can solve the perennial problem of Alastair Cook’s opening partner.

“Whether England’s next opening batsman is Adam Lyth or Alex Lees, however, is not a question they can answer until after England’s A tour of South Africa in the new year, when it could boil down to a short-term solution in Lyth, 26, or a long-term solution in Lees, 21.

“Together Lyth and Lees have been the foundation of Yorkshire’s success, an opening pair comparable to Herbert Sutcliffe and Len Hutton in the late 1930s. In the 15 championship matches to date they have put on six opening stands of 50-plus, one of 100, one of 176 against Nottinghamshire last week, one of 270, and one of 375. It is the template for Test success.

“Lyth has translated into first‑class runs the obsessive desire which drove him through his youth to commute from his native Whitby to Headingley.

“Lees radiates the calm authority of such a born leader that he was captaining the Yorkshire Academy soon after he joined at 16, but he has more to learn than Lyth, being five years younger, especially against spin”.

I wonder, though, if Berry is asking the wrong question. Given Alastair Cook’s test form since the beginning of the 2013 Ashes, why should only one of Lees and Lyth play? Why not both?

In the Independent, Michael Calvin lambasts the ECB for their insipid response to Moeen Ali and Boo-gate.

“The ECB’s sustained refusal to respond to the prejudice to which British sport’s most powerful role model was subjected by Indian supporters in the final T20 international of the summer is an act of corporate cowardice which casts doubts on their fitness to govern.

“The reticence of the ECB to engage with the sensitive issue of an England player, being openly booed as a result of his religion and family heritage, has inevitably been linked to their subservient relationship with Indian power brokers, whose financial and political influence shapes world cricket”.

Even as an unrelenting critic of the ECB, I personally find this theory a little hard to swallow. Not that you’d put Giles Clarke past anything when it comes to keeping the BCCI sweet, but would India’s top brass really take umbrage at an English condemnation of Ali’s abusers? Interesting, though, that he was quick to order England supporters not to boo Ricky Ponting in 2009.

Keep an eye out, too, for Calvin’s nifty but gratuitous dig at Kevin Pietersen.

Finally, on Cricinfo, Tony Cozier reflects on West Indies reaching the landmark of their five-hundredth test match.

“That so many exceptional cricketers, among them the finest allrounder the game has known, should have emerged from these minuscule territories remains one of the unlikeliest stories in international sport. It is all the more fascinating that, in spite of their political, geographical, cultural and racial differences, they should have come together, from the first tentative venture to England in 1900 to the current series against Bangladesh, as one West Indies team”.

As you’d expect, it’s a wise and elegant piece which looks at the causes of Caribbean decline and the impact of recent structural reforms. I doubt I’m the only England supporter who feels cricket is so much poorer without a strong and vibrant West Indies team as a force in the game. So when Cozier writes that “the planned reorganisation of their domestic structure should help the region recapture some of the glory it enjoyed in the past”, I really hope he’s on the right track.



  • There’s also a Simon Wilde piece on Adil Rashid in the Times putting the case for him as England’s best spinner.
    The only fear I have for him is that he gets picked while Cook is still captain (and Moores still coach) and suffers a similar setback to that earlier in his career.

  • Scyld Berry regards a 26 year old as “a short term solution”?

    This season, Lyth has scored over 500 more runs than Lees (1558 to 912) and averages over thirty runs per innings more (74 to 43). But let’s not pick Lyth because in ten years he’ll be too old? Leaving aside the fact that England seem to burn most players out after about seven years?

    Oh, and Strauss and Trott were both 27 when they made their debuts. If Lyth is as good “short term solution” as either of those I suspect most England fans would be pretty happy!

    • Interesting that. Because last week he claimed Cook could stay as captain of them ODI team for the next World Cup in 4 years time.

      Cook at 29 is seen as a long term option, but a 26 year is just short term. There seem to be rules for one player, and then special Cook rules.

    • If one were being generous to him, one might interpret that as meaning Lyth is ready now, Lees a year or two down the road, maybe.

      OTOH, it is Scyld Berry….

    • Age is one of the biggest barriers to the success in English sport. Too many people in English sport are obsessed by age and always looking to the future. For example, Carberry (33) was deemed too old after the Ashes and Robson is the future. Now Robson has been dropped. Carberry, could easily have played for 3 years ( if good enough) and that is around 35-40 tests. Just look at Chris Rogers. Pick your best team. Simple.

  • I have been following Adam Lyth for a long time. I think he needs to be brought to the fore, He and Alex Lees make a great partnership as do Hales and Lumb. Both pairs compliment each other very well. There are a lot of interesting choices out there.

      • I remember those, but thanks for the links and reminders. As a combination, they are a masterpiece of irony.

        Of Cook, Calvin says:

        “Criticism of Alastair Cook has long gone beyond the pale….he has been blamed for everything from England’s slow over-rates to the prevalence of hay fever…Such is the virulence of the criticism he is obliged to face…His sycophants in the Pietersen Liberation Army, who tend to put the twit into Twitter, purred. More sensible souls, tired by the increasing absurdity of the personal attacks, passed the sick bag”.

        Of course, to Calvin it is neither absurd not beyond the pale to accuse Pietersen of selfishly hogging the show by allowing someone to call him a c*** on live television.

        Those who are not of your or my disposition, Arron, wonder why we suggest some in the media and ECB come up with ever more desperate ways of aggrandising Cook. Peter Moores credited Cook with Moeen Ali’s century, by being “magnificent” in the dressing room. And according to Calvin, the skipper is brilliant at moving bit of kit from one bit of grass to another:

        “Captains with a more inflated notion of their importance would not contemplate the domestic drudgery of moving the bowler’s marker or ferrying the close fielder’s helmet to the other end of the pitch, as he did at the conclusion of every over”.

        • According to Wikipedia Mr Calvin has lived in Bedfordshire for 20 years.

          There is that old Bedfordshire link again. I have no idea if he has any conection with Bedford school. Like a certain A Cult or a pompous journalist from the Guardian. I very much doubt it. But Bedforshire seems to send these people insane. Must be something in the water.

          Before anyone thinks I am serious this is a joke.

          • Giving a little away about myself, but my first main encounter with Michael Calvin’s work was when he wrote a book on the football team I have the misfortune to support.

            He picked on the block who sat behind our manager to paste the usual template for the club’s supporters. Racist. Thick. Angry. Violent. The Block I sat in was far from that. But that was enough for him.

            I did a review of the book, called Family, and I wasn’t as wildly impressed as others. Since then, I’m thinking my judgement was correct. I was an active supporter at the time (stopping watching them in 2012).

            “It isn’t just this utter contempt for those that give their time to watch our rather silly little outfit, but the reinforcement of sad old cliches. I would say you have to go a long way around the New Leslie Grantham to find a better “behaved” (so un-[my tea,] like) section than the block we sit in. In the entire 18 years I’ve been there, I think one person has been asked to leave. The two blokes behind me have never sworn once. The two blokes in front of me the same. We have old dears, the same old faces, a few young guys, and a couple of vocal ones who sit above the tunnel. To read this bloke’s book, you’d get the impression we were all the same as the stereotypical [My Team] fan. We have our own culture, values, racist outlook on life. Black is black, white is white, and the no-one particularly cares for us attitude is imbued in us all. It is arrant nonsense, and the author should know it. We don’t all worship the hooligans,…. But to act as though that is what surrounds our manager and our team…. well….. He should know – he picks on our block more than any other as he presumably sat there for a while. He should have sat in the stand to his right – it might have blown his mind.”

            All the best people….

          • Arron that is just weird!

            It’s like the Moonies. (The Cookies) a new cult is taking over Bedfordshire. They all drive tractors and shop at Waitrose.

          • As Private Eye might say – fancy that!

            Even by the standards of Cookography we’ve become accustomed to, that article takes the bloody biscuit.

            Critics of Cook, and sympathisers with Pietersen, are usually accused of having an agenda. We are also called ‘know-nothings’. The flip side, though, is we are ‘know-no ones’.

            We don’t know either Cook or Pietersen and have never met them. We in no way stand to gain or lose anything from the views about them we express. Are we not therefore, genuinely disinterested observers – in the literal not Downtonian sense – who’ve come to an honest conclusion based on the available evidence?

            Just putting it out there.

            Returning to the cult of Cook – I’m sure that, as everyone is desperate to tell us, he is a nice bloke in most respects. But how relevant is that to his tenure as captain? Some people seem to imply that his nice-ness means we owe him patience and forebearance, even if the cricket he oversees is a complete mess. Why?

            Perhaps his supposed nice-ness is more of a weakness than a strength to his captaincy. Is he too nice to be ruthless? Maybe a less ‘nice’ captain would have taken a more stringent and less trusting approach to Matt Prior’s fitness.

            If it’s true that Alice Cook was reduced to tears by Twitter remarks about Cook, well I can’t imagine any of us here take any pleasure in that. But I think the same degree of sympathy should be extended to Jessica Pietersen, who’s had to put up with far, far worse.

            • Absolutely Maxie. Calvin’s piece is a steaming pile of horse manure. Remember this piece was written on the eve of the Indian tour. So Cooks position was under no threat at all. Yet this drivel is being turned out like Barbara Cartland novels. There is a bitter attack on KP, yet this is after he has been invited back into the team. This piece rather confirms Agnew’s recent claim that it was Flower who had KP back not Cook. Calvin ends by comparing Cook the captain to Waugh and Porting.. Calvin seems to revel in playing Jeeves to Cooks Bertie.

              Here are some highlights……..

              “He will hate the pretence implied by the title, but he is what management consultants call a fifth-level leader. That’s the term created by business guru Jim Collins, ”

              Collins found a common denominator: his quiet overachievers rejected the modern cult of personality, the penchant for self- aggrandisement and theatrical aggression. In his words they built “enduring greatness through a paradoxical combination of personal humility plus professional will”.

              ” The reaction of his players in India has been revealing. Without exception they have been gushing to the point of being awestruck by his ability to compartmentalise his game and lead from the front.”

              “The forthcoming Ashes series will present the Australians with a delicious dilemma. Cook is a mirror image of a succession of revered captains such as Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting.”

            • “If it’s true that Alice Cook was reduced to tears by Twitter remarks about Cook, well I can’t imagine any of us here take any pleasure in that. But I think the same degree of sympathy should be extended to Jessica Pietersen, who’s had to put up with far, far worse.”

              I made a few points about Jessica on Dmitri’s site last week. In summary: instead of getting upset in private, she “takes to Twitter” to defend her husband; she is always a “former pop star” instead of a “sensible, practical farmer’s daughter”; and when Pietersen consults her about the captaincy he is described as “uxorious”, while Cook has received nothing but praise for his good sense in consulting his own wife.

              The links are on Dmitri’s blog, as part of this comment:


              I agree with the point about our being disinterested observers. What’s remarkable is the extent to which we’re lumped in with the likes of Piers Morgan and Shane Warne, who clearly aren’t disinterested. Yet it seems that several people in prominent positions have a personal stake in defending the likes of Cook and Downton. These people repeatedly tell us the other side (and only the other side) has an “agenda”. You read stuff like this and their argument just doesn’t stand up.

              Or, in 140 characters or less:


  • Its very tempting to think of Lyth and Lees opening for England. Are you considering this option for the limited overs format or for the test team also?

    Jason Gillespie has been brilliant for Yorkshire. I have had no difficulty with coaches from the former colonies but given the Ashes, Australia is a little bit different. Logically there should be no problem, but I think it all depends on where the heart lies. If the opportunity arose and Gillespie felt he could give his all to England, his nationality should not stand in the way, providing that England and their supporters are comfortable with that.

    The ECB handling of the Indian booing episode was disgraceful. Even given that Ali wished to downplay the incident, the ‘take it as a compliment’ statement was patronising in the extreme. As if we would be stupid enough to be fobbed off with that. Who knows what other deep and dark reasons might lie behind their reluctance to take a stand. Probably straight forward cowardice alone.

    Saw a TV programme about cricket in the WI today. Apparently the young ones want an easier game to play. A shame with such a natural talent for the game.

    • I thought it was the PCA that said ‘take it as a compliment’. Might be wrong though. I agree re: Gillespie. Great coach but I would never advocate an Aussie as our cricket coach. It just wouldn’t feel right. I’m sure Gillespie feels exactly the same. In fact, I’m sure he said on Sky’s verdict last year that he wouldn’t take the job as he’s an Aussie fan through and through during the Ashes.

      • How did you feel about Rod Marsh as Marsh Director of the (England and Wales Cricket Board ) national academy or as an England selector?

        • Don’t mind having an Aussie coach (we’ve got Saker atm) but being head coach or some kind of supremo just doesn’t sit well with me. Graeme Hick is currently helping out Australia’s batsmen I recall, but I severely doubt he’d be considered as Lehmann’s successor in the future.

          • I find that quite funny that Hick is advising Aussie batsmen. They gave him dogs own abuse when he was playing. They thought he was weak mentally, and was susceptible to the short ball. Merv Hughes used to give him a terrible working over.

            When Hick came out to bat they would take off Warne and put on Merv. Then, when Hick was out, and Robin Smith came in they would take off Merv and put Warne back on.

  • Great article.

    On Gillespie as coach, personally wouldn’t have a problem with Gillespie as coach of England but for all the reasons listed above suspect it won’t happen and fair play to him for that.

    Surely, what we should be doing is seeing what bits we can take from how Yorkshire have turned things around and what bits could apply to the England set up, certainly when it comes to the age group teams.

    But oh, Gruppeoberfuhrer Flower probably wouldn’t approve, would he? I could of course be wrong.

    On the continued Cult of Cook stuff, it really is beyond parody now and I convinced it’s a symptom of a form of collective temporary madness. It’s the only plausible explanation.

    • Thanks, Mike.

      Would Gillespie *really* reject the job, were it offered him? Publicly, if pressed, he would have to sound honoured but keep a distanced. But in reality, it must be very very hard to turn down a job of that stature and profile. He might never get a better opportunity.

      In practice, though, it’s probably irrelevant. Moores is safe for at least three or four years, whatever the results.

      By the time the job becomes vacant, Gillespie will be coaching Australia.

    • I think Alec Stewart was either 26 or even 28 when he made his debut. He played 100+ tests I think. Also, Mike Hussey made his test debut at 30 I recall.

      • Stewart was about six weeks short of his 27th birthday on debut. He went on to become, to date, England’s most capped player with 133 tests.

        Hussey was 30 years and six months on debut and went on to play 73 tests.

    • Smart on Ramps’ part. He has realized that the key to promotion in the ECB setup is pouring incense on Sheep’s shrine.

      • there’s even an interview with Anderson who, yet again, is ‘bigging up’ Cook – really sick of this tired, boring and totally deceitful topic, sick of the media who appear to delight in it, sick of England and I now want to move to the newly formed independent nirvana that will be Scotland

    • Up untill the last view years I have always thought the English Cricket press was much more independent from the English cricket authorities than the Aussie press was to Cricket Australia.

      I agree with you Kev that Conn has been an ” a purveyor of one-eyed, anti-English tosh for years, ” It’s not that he is anti England or anti anyone who plays Austrailia. It is his slavish defence of Austrailia that is wearing.

      You always get the feeling that the Aussi press see themselves as a part of the National team. Whose job it is to undermine the opposition. Almost as if they are acting in Comcert. Ironically, since the end of the great Aussiie team that dominated for 2 decades some of the coverage has been more enlightened. It is the English press that has become more like the Aussie press. (One eyed)

      Perhaps it has to do with success. The better the national team becomes the more ludicrous the media?


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