So what’s been going on this week? England’s women have marched into the semi finals of the World Cup – good work, girls – and the men start the second test against South Africa at Trent Bridge tomorrow.
However, the story’s that’s gripped me most over the last few days concerns Trent Bridge stalwart Luke Fletcher. Did you see the horrific injury he suffered against the Bears? Thanks heavens he seems to be ok.
Fletcher has always been one of the great characters of county cricket. He’s an old fashioned medium fast seamer who looks like he belongs in the 1980s: he’s burly (code for a bit heavy!), wholehearted, a bit grumpy, and very much this generation’s Ian Austin. He also one of the best death bowlers around. What a shame that he’ll miss the rest of the season – doctors orders, of course.
If you didn’t see what happened there are plenty of clips on YouTube. I’m surprised this kind of thing hasn’t happened before. T20 is so brutal now, and the batsmen hit the ball so hard, that someone was bound to get hurt sooner or later. I expected the first victim to be an umpire, but a fast bowler in his follow-through is just as vulnerable (if not more so).
Fortunately for promotion seeking Notts, they’ve managed to find a replacement for Fletcher straight away. And this one has come somewhat out of the blue. Despite taking 34 championship wickets at 27 this season, Mark Footitt has decided to pack his bags and leave Surrey half-way through the season. Apparently he’s struggled to adapt to London life and misses his family (who have remained in the Midlands).
Although I thought this decision was a little surprising initially – it brought back memories of Steve Harmison’s homesickness – on reflection I’m surprised we don’t hear more about this kind of thing. Sportsmen often move cities as they seek trophies and international honours, and most fans assume it’s a given that professional athletes will settle into their new lives seamlessly.
The reality, of course, is very different. It’s hard enough to move jobs and cities when you’re just a regular Joe. Sportsmen have the added pressure of being in the public eye. I’m not sure exactly what Footitt’s problems were – the words ‘support network’ were mentioned but not much else – but it certainly raises the mental health issue once again.
Having read Graham Thorpe’s somewhat sobering autobiography, and read various articles about Marcus Trescothick, Jonathan Trott and Mike Yardy, I’m sure that homesickness, depression and anxiety must be quite prevalent in cricket. It’s good to see that the PCA now offers more support and takes mental health issues very seriously. It’s one of the reasons that Andrew Flintoff, who also struggled with depression during his career, did a stint as PCA chairman recently.
In other news, Alastair Cook has been talking about life in the England dressing room now he’s no longer captain. I guess it was inevitable that he’d get asked about this topic ad nauseam. In a shocking revelation, Cook has revealed that life back in the ranks is a bit weird but quite nice, and that Joe Root is doing a good job! As if he was going to say anything else.
Personally I feel pleased for Cook that he’s somewhat out of the firing line now. His stint as captain was a bit of a rollercoaster and I’m glad he can now focus on his batting … because boy are we going to need him this winter (that’s if Australia can scrape a team together).
Although he’ll always be a bit awkward in front of the cameras, it’s also nice to see Cook more relaxed. Rather than being uptight, he seems happy to acknowledge (or at least imply) that repetitive questions about being ‘one of the lads again’ are rather inane.
I’ll be interested to see whether Cook’s critics go a little easier on him now that he’s not captain. For some he’ll always be the establishment’s champion, or the man that got Kevin Pietersen fired, and for that reason they’ll always dislike him.
Personally however, I’ve come to see this characterisation as a bit unfair. After all, Cook has (on occasion) criticised the powers that be. He also has no control over what others write about him, and certainly never put himself on any pedestal.
I haven’t bought a cricket autobiography for quite a while now – mainly because I get offered so many free ones that I can’t keep up! However, I’ll certainly give Cook’s memoirs a read whenever they’re published. I think they’ll reveal an intelligent, modest, sensitive yet stubborn man, who possibly felt used (or at least a victim of events somewhat out of his control) at various times.
I also think he’ll give a relatively honest account – I say ‘relative’ because I’m something of a relativist who doesn’t believe true objectivity is possible – and play down his considerable achievements.
What’s more, I think there’s a good chance that Cook will slip quietly away from the limelight when he retires. I certainly can’t see him seeking a powerful off-field role like Andrew Strauss. After all, I don’t think Alastair has ever been comfortable enough with power and authority to actively crave it.