2007 Cowdrey Lecture

Have you read this year’s Cowdrey Lecture, delivered by Christopher Martin-Jenkins’? Hmm, thought as much. Well you really ought to, not least because this year marks the first time in its brief seven years that it hasn’t been delivered by a professional cricketer. And it is fascinating.

I confess not to have read it all, yet, but am working my way through it and finding myself nodding all too frequently. Pleasingly for me and my employers, he mentions Cricinfo (and, revealingly, by name and not “the cricket website Cricinfo” as we are so often called. Clearly the brand hasn’t extended that far yet…) while raising a very good point about the access to, and interest in, county cricket.

Cricinfo recorded 29 million page views from 7.5 million visits to county cricket alone in 2006 – and has already had 19 million this season so, despite the rain, they expect the figure to be exceeded. Obviously because a great many people want to find out the latest scores. Sadly, if they are on the move in their cars they can listen for them in vain; and when they are given it often seems to be as a breathless afterthought following the big story that Scunthorpe’s millionaire chairman has denied rumours that their controversial manager Bruno Boscovic is going to be sacked. Or, more to the point, some utterly mundane comment by Jose Murinho such as he thinks that Chelsea have the players to win the Premiership. What a surprise. The media has been conned to a dangerous extent – if you value the variety of life – into becoming a sort of spin machine for the all-pervading, all-powerful Premiership. Also into the belief that it can’t be of interest if it’s not on television.

Regular or past readers will know of my near-hatred of football, and it is primarily for this reason: that it consumes so much media attention, undeservingly so. But hey ho (Flint), that’s the way of the world.

The lack of fast bowlers also come under Christopher’s scrutinous gaze – and he reveals that changes are afoot to decrease the boundaries. My boss and I went to The Oval earlier in the season and I was absolutely shocked at the shortness of the boundaries. Cynics argue that they are brought “in” from their original position in order to maximise the chances of sixes, increase the number of runs scored in a day and generally get the game finished as quick as possible. The evidence is damning too.

But there is a tremendous amount to be thankful for in the contemporary game – in many respects the standards are higher than ever. There are some magnificent batsmen in world cricket and some magical spinners too. The fielding is sensationally good. It is the fast bowlers who are in short supply in the current phase of a game that has always evolved. In the eternal struggle to find that essential balance between bat and ball what we need is a determined effort to lengthen boundaries – happily both the MCC World Cricket Committee and the new ICC Cricket committee are agreed on that but there is no evidence yet of boundaries being stretched to the furthest practical limits on all grounds as they should be.

Do give it a read, and offer your thoughts of the points he raises.

Sport’s glorious futility

No, there is little to be gained by cancelling. Indeed, surely the whole point of sport is to act as a necessary counterpoint to the grim realities of life. We know that death is a part of life because we see it, in one form or another, every day. Like drugs and alcohol, sport provides an escape from the routine absurdity of everyday existence – and thankfully without any of the side effects.

It gives us the chance to experience the best that life has to offer, usually without serious consequences. We win, we lose, and then we go home and get on with life.

We submit to sport’s arcane rules and regulations and rituals. We recognise that we will need to show courage and skill, and we train hard for the event knowing that we are undertaking an ultimately futile task. It is this futility that explains sport’s universal appeal, that and the desire to satisfy a basic human urge to play.

Sport loses its appeal when it is invested with fake importance. This is why English football engenders scant respect: the managers who snarl and spit at players and officials from the sidelines; the players who confuse competitiveness with sometimes vicious intent; and the supporters who cannot cope with the fact that in sport there must nearly always be a loser.

They have all clearly forgotten that Bill Shankly had his tongue firmly planted in his Scottish cheek when he said that football was more important than life or death.

Sport is not more important. And it won’t help to bring Woolmer back, but it might help us to cope.

One of the most insightful, and certainly the most reasoned and balanced article that I’ve read so far on the Woolmer murder and why cricket must go on. But it also re-enforces the often forgotten notion that cricket is a game. Predictably, it’s by Atherton, and it’s a superb read.

Beckham and his billions

I have nothing much to say about the news that David Beckham, the celebrity’s celebrity, is to earn £500,000 per week in his move from Real Madrid to the American league side, Los Angeles Galaxy. By my reckoning, going on us average UK mugs who work a minimum of 78 hours/week, that amounts to £6410. Per hour. (£1.78 per second) It’s football; he’s Beckham; it happens. More interestingly is wondering what he might spend his millions on. He could buy four of these Aston Martin DB9s (Volante, naturally) each week and still have enough spare to buy a terrace (or probably two) in Bradford.

Beckham in Bradford…the mind boggles. What do you actually do with all that money? I can’t imagine him turning to Posh and asking “So. Fancy a DVD and some telly tonight?”. Instead of paying your bill at a restaurant, you’d pay everybody’s. Or buy the restaurant outright.

Can we expect Beckham Airlines in the future? Posh and Becks Train Travel: guaranteeing you a vacuous journey to faux-stardom.

Cricket v football (again)

Right. This sort of thing riles me no end, people slagging off cricket even in jest. We must teach the non-believers, especially those who think football is better than the great game. An example of such infidels can be seen here:

5 The Aussies are brilliant at cricket but pretty crap at football (despite overperforming at the World Cup). Let’s keep it that way, or us Brits will never, ever hear the end of it.
6 Ian Holloway.
7 You get giant-killing shocks in football, all the time. That doesn’t happen in cricket – the best team usually wins. Yawn, too predictable.
8 Compare the huge gulf in attendances between Premiership matches and county cricket matches. Thousands of people can’t be wrong… (can they?)
9 Cricket just isn’t funny enough. For every great goal, football offers up a comedy howler like this…

Quite simply this is all-out-war and you are my troops. Load your pens, arm your typing fingers and go forth and write. I’m sure we can come up with at least 20 valid reasons why football is the most dull, pointless game ever created and why cricket is one for the gods.


Down with football, up with cricket

I’ve been keeping my eye on this blog over the past few weeks, and it’s really enjoyable. Blue and Brown are hacked off with football and, in an attempt to cheer themselves up, have been looking ahead to the first Test against Pakistan:

Andrew Flintoff took 3-4 in a Twenty20 match. This means that he’s still ace and also that he can run around. This is good news.

Pakistan are in the country. That means that Shahid Afridi and Inzamam-ul-Haq are in the country and we’ll get to watch them play cricket. This is also good news.

Ian Bell’s back in the Test team. Pretty much nobody outside of the Bell household (he looks like he lives with his mum, doesn’t he?) will be happy about this, but we are. Ian Bell’s good and still needs a little bit of time. He’s younger than you think. Give him a chance. This is good news really.

Monty Panesar will be playing and not some ‘capable’ spin bowler who just happens to be a batsman really. This is great news.

Despite all the injuries and losing and everything, England’s squad really isn’t all that bad. This is good news.

Writing this list has actually cheered us up a bit. It’s thinking about cricket that does it. Cricket is just fundamentally happy.

We promise we’ll never leave you again, cricket. We’re sorry. Football wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and the stories didn’t have happy endings. There’s a Test match this week and it doesn’t get any better than that.

Good stuff.

Sport and society

So Germany are through to the World Cup semi-finals with penalties, which has ended with a bit of a brawl. The commentator on ITV (UK channel) said:

“Germany has never been so unified…its people have never been so universally smiling [sic]”

Now then. Regular readers will know of my indifference to football (even I am pursuaded by the World Cup, however), but is such a comment really necessary or valid? What is he really trying to say? I find it careless and irresponsible. I’m sure I’ll fall victim of making social analogies in my career as a sports writer, but I hope I’m at least aware of them and will learn from them.

It’s over-the-top. That the host nation is through to the semi-final has made the people more unified is probably true…but to say they have never been so unified? Come off it. This is sport. It’s a game. They’re playing a game. Keep it in perspective.

Sport has a huge place in society, globally. Am I being cynical in disagreeing with the notion that sport can define a nation?

Sussex v Gloucestershire: victim of Football World Cup?

Gloucestershire all out for 98 in 36 overs. In reply, Sussex were 72 for 8 before falling three runs short of the required 99, inside 18 overs! Oh dear. A victim of the Football World Cup, and England’s knock-out match against Ecuador (which is on now)?

Football, World Cup, Trinidad and cricket?


Originally uploaded by Flickr user perreira.

perreira has a set of photos of some Trinidad supporters, in Germany, there to cheer on their team for the World Cup. And what better way to show your solidarity and “it’s for the good of the nation!” isms than to play a game of cricket.

Damn right, I say. Well done that man.

Cheat? Who you calling a cheat?

Keeper pays for ‘cheat’ jibe – Cricket – Fox Sports

The sanction followed an incident during an English county championship match on Wednesday, after Sussex spinner Mushtaq trapped Read leg-before fifth ball for a duck.

After being given out, Read briefly returned to the pavilion before coming out to confront Mushtaq on the third-man boundary.

An angry exchange ensued in which Read, who had been irritated by Mushtaq’s appeals on earlier balls, used the word “cheat,” according to astonished spectators at the normally sleepy ground in Hove.

The penalty points remain on Read’s record for a period of two years. The accumulation of nine or more penalty points in any two-year period triggers an automatic suspension.

Read subsequently apologised for his outburst and Mushtaq was philosophical about the incident.

“These sort of things can happen,” he said.

“People get angry when they are disappointed and I have every sympathy for Chris, who is a fine cricketer. We’ve shaken hands and as far as I’m concerned that is the end of it.”

I’m glad that the players have resolved this issue amicably, and moved on. That is how it should be. This ‘points’ system smacks too much of football to be honest.