Yessssss welcome back to the fried world of breakfast. I’m Max Walker. Give me my job back. Graeeeeeme Labrooy. No wonder they call me tangles.
Apologies to those of you who haven’t heard the brilliant 12th Man tapes. The above was a tribute to former Aussie seamer and cult commentator Max Walker – or rather Billy Birmingham’s hilarious impression of him – who died at the relatively tender age of 67 this week.
Not being Australian I didn’t know too much about the real Max, but his prominence in the 12th Man CDs means he’s always been a big part of my life. With the loss of Tony Greig and, of course, Richie Benaud, the old C9 commentary team has suffered a few sickening blows in recent times. Condolences to Max’s family. By all accounts he was a top, top bloke.
Overall it hasn’t been the best week for cricket. The other thing that depressed me were curious comments from Rod Bransgrove, the somewhat controversial Hampshire chairman. First of all Bransgrove weighed in on Durham’s situation – offering his sympathies for their plight while opportunistically suggesting that a points reduction and relegation were the most fitting punishments. Of course, if this happened then Bransgrove’s Hampshire might benefit.
Even more disappointing, however, was Bransgrove’s curious statement offering support for the ECB’s city-based T20 competition. As we all know, the new franchise system polarises opinion. Some love the idea; some hate it. But what got me was the tone of Bransgrove’s statement, the timing of it (which smacked of seeking favour with the ECB while they decide what to do with Durham), plus the fact he portrayed those opposing the new competition as stick-in-the-mud traditionalists.
If you haven’t already seen Bransgrove’s statement, you can read it here. It begins by drawing comparisons with the ‘traditionalists’ who opposed the introduction of two divisions in the county championship back in 2000. Such comparisons are, of course, absurd. The opposition to two divisions was nowhere near as vociferous and the issues are quite different.
Most disturbing of all, however, were Bransgrove’s comments about the future of first-class cricket, which he claims ‘does not accord with modern life’ – the implication being that T20 is cricket’s only future. I find this defeatist and false assumption ridiculous. Robust attendances at test matches in Australia and England, where life is exceedingly modern and technology highly prevalent, shows that long forms of the game can still prosper. It just needs a compelling structure and better marketing. How well would T20 do if it was played on weekdays at 11am, received very little marketing, and was talked down by its own administrators?
Personally I found these comments unbelievably inappropriate. If I was a Hampshire member I’d want him out of my club fast. Is a man prepared to throw in the towel, and put all his eggs in the T20 basket, really an appropriate person to be making decisions that affect the future of the county championship (and by extension test cricket too)?
Moving on to playing matters, news broke yesterday that Jimmy Anderson and Mark Wood will miss the Bangladesh tour with injury. Eoin Morgan and Alex Hales will be watching with interest. Perhaps they could’ve thrown themselves down the stairs to avoid their trials by social media?
I’m not actually too fussed about Jimmy missing the tour to be honest. We need to wrap him in cotton wool for India. I’m a lot more concerned about Wood’s injury because it’s the same problem with his left ankle. This injury has dogged him for a long time and he’s already had at least two operations on it. Will the problem ever go away? Wood is the fastest bowler available to England in test cricket, so it’s a bitter pill to swallow. I expected him to play an important role this winter.
In other news, England allocated their central contracts yesterday. Interestingly – and I hope this isn’t another sign of things to come – they’ve given out eleven one-day contracts and just ten test ones. The official reason is that the ECB want to help England better prepare for the Champions Trophy (and the World Cup thereafter).
One of the men missing from the list was the new PCA Players’ Player of the Year, plus PCA Young Player of the Year, Ben Duckett. It’s hard not to feel as pleased as punch for Duckett. It’s the first time that one player has won both awards at the same time. He’s a real talent and it’s good to see that his fellow pros rate him so highly. The only slight concern is that Duckett admitted at the awards ceremony that he still hasn’t talked to either Alastair Cook or any of the England coaches. Does that strike you as rather odd?
In case you’re interested, the PCA team of the years was Keaton Jennings, Adam Lyth, Ben Duckett, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Liam Dawson, Tim Bresnan, Chris Woakes, Keith Barker, Toby-Roland Jones, and Jeethan Patel. It’s also rather odd that none of these players (except the established test stars) made the trip to Bangladesh. Perhaps the players don’t necessarily agree with the selectors?
The PCA also gave out a few other awards I should mention. Chris Woakes was named test player of the year and Marcus Trescothick was given the PCA Special Merit Award. Congrats to both. I also noticed that Mike Selvey, the (former) Guardian journalist, was given the ‘ECB Special Award’. Since when should a supposedly independent journalist get an award named after a body he’s supposed to hold to account? Selvey’s critics will be having a field day.
Oh, there’s one more thing I should mention before I sign off. Virat Kohli has suggested that the Indian team might finally be prepared to at least consider using DRS, maybe. Well hallelujah. Better bloody late than never. The technology might not be 100% but it’s still a lot more reliable than the human eye. Just ask the numerous batsmen who have been sawn off by Daryl Harper over the years.