The Friday Fried Egg

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.

James Morgan


  • Hi James,

    I’ll start with Max Walker. He was a bit before my time but what I do recall was reading a book about fast bowling by Fred Truman and Trevor Bailey. They recalled his awkwardness in terms of bowling off the wrong foot but pointed out that he was an artist who bowled high class leg-cutters.

    I’m afraid I am deeply unimpressed with Bransgrove. He struck me as relatively progressive when he started out, but has gone full circle and tried to be establishment. He should actually receive a reprimand for that IMO but almost certainly won’t. As for his other comments he’s really almost killing his golden goose. Where will his members go if there is no championship cricket? Yes I realise that many members are those who are retired, but even so what about the rest of those who have brought membership because they want to take off work days to watch the championship/ watch their team at the weekend? Utterly fruit-cake stupid. As someone who is already a long term cricket fan I care so little about the city based t20 and that is someone who is from London and has easy access to both Lord’s and the Oval.

    Unlike you, I am concerned with Anderson missing Bangladesh. How is he going to prove match fit? Remember that he didn’t look great coming back into the South Africa series and that the selectors made sure he was fit before throwing him back into the 2nd Pakistan test. I was with them there. Anderson has a fabulous record in Asia and it is ill forgotten that England go straight from the 2nd test to start the first test in India. I don’t think this time the Banglas will be that easy although they haven’t played a test since July last year and are missing Mustafizur.

    I agree that Wood is a big loss and was hoping that he would have replaced Anderson but then soon after he’s out too. I have no great belief that the spinners picked will do much of a job in Asia this winter.

    Re the PCA side, possibly Jennings and Roland-Jones are a shade unfortunate not to be touring of those on the outside, but not too many of the rest in my opinion. Tim Bresnan last looked like a true international bowler in early 2012. I have bad memories of watching him at the Oval test v South Africa later that year and in India too.

    • You make a great point about Anderson potentially being under cooked for India. I’d forgotten there’s so little preparation time once we get to India.

  • I have deep concerns about Wood. I fear his international career might be short lived. I hope I’m wrong but his ankle weakness seems to be on going.

    Jimmy is also a worry. His workload has been huge and while his general fitness has been fairly unique over such a long period the writing is on the wall. The medical staff and the selectors were correct to delay his recall to the series against Pakistan. He still did too much.

    That man at Hampshire is a disgrace. He should resign or be sacked.

  • I disagree with the Hampshire exec (pretty much all th execs though will be like him), but it’s just where the game is going. Most (99%) of the players being produced are white ball cricketers anyway and there is too much cricket. Just look at the hype around players like duckett/ali/stokes/Bairstow and co who are white ball players. I personally hate white ball cricket but I’ve resigned myself to the fact that for some bizarre reason there is a theory that draws are ‘boring’ and 4/6’s are ‘fun’.

    It’s interesting to listen to amateurs who start to learn that draw cricket might actually be better but will never get the chance to play it and due to the fact everyone bar the rich or old will rarely get to see it due to being st work and the astronomical cost to attend a game.

    Sadly, I can’t see cricket recovering and 2020 may provide adrenaline but 2020 won’t keep people interested long term and it will out off as many as it interests. Sad times ahead for amateur and pro cricket. Pros and admin staff will continue to rake in money for 10-15 more years though so won’t care and will say whatever makes them the most cash

  • So, James Anderson was really injured then?
    Hope all the journalists who parroted the Cook/Anderson “disappointment” line when he wasn’t selected earlier in the summer are now feeling that sense of shame which we know proper journalists feel when they are shown to be completely in the wrong.
    They’re not? Oh, I’m shocked.

  • But if Anderson was injured and is still injured now you have to ask questions about his recovery programme. Not for the first time the England management have failed their players in this area I would add mentally and physically if you look at the Trott situation that appears in his book. (On TV he says he broke down a few time before he finally had to leave the Australia tour)


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