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Why We Should Not Feel for Lou Vincent

19 May
The revelations in the past week of the ongoing investigation into corruption in cricket represent the biggest single development in a fixing case in the past decade – and the eventual fallout will prove more wider reaching than any previous scandal.
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Perspective

16 Feb
Mitchell Johnson has more than his moustache to thank for his rejuvenated career

Mitchell Johnson has more than his moustache to thank for his rejuvenated career

In 2012, Mitchell Johnson was at a crossroads in his career. After starting with such a bang he had faded to so much that he had become an international laugh stock. He was humiliated on and off the pitch and for anyone that is a tough spot to be in, but for Johnson – not the toughest mentally who put lots of pressure on himself – it was nigh on unbearable.

Enter Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith. An Australian soldier who won both the Medal for Gallantry and the Victoria Cross for Australia, ‘RS’ saw plenty of action in Iraq and Afghanistan and became a celebrity both in Perth, his home-town, and Australia as a whole. Johnson and Roberts-Smith met two years ago when Johnson was looking to anyone he could for help – and he found what he was looking for. Essentially, Roberts-Smith brought out the mongrel in Johnson that was lurking beneath the surface, and turned the boy who is, by all accounts, a perfectly pleasant person, into the man who has no remorse for the damage he can inflict with the ball. The talent was always there, but it just needed to be coaxed out of him.

Most important of all was the lesson of perspective. By teaching Johnson that there was more to life than cricket, and that there are people who have things considerably worse, the pressure was lifted from his heavily tattooed shoulders, and the burden was gone. This eye-opening realisation can come in various forms.

Stress-related illnesses can take down people in all professions and cricket is no different – so when Jonathan Trott returned home from the recent Ashes tour there was plenty said about the health of someone being infinitely more important than the result of a cricket match. And although the tour was disastrous, the felling of a giant of English cricket in such a way asked new questions of the training regime and intense playing schedule that England undertake. As a result, the coach who implemented the regime left his post, and English cricket is due a major environment upheaval.

Key to that upheaval will be captain Alastair Cook, who was half the cricketer he can be on that tour. Leaving Australia in early 2014, he returned to his farm in Bedfordshire with his pregnant wife. It has been widely reported that he enjoys taking his mind off cricket by lambing and with a lamb of his own on the way he will undoubtedly see that there is more to cricket, even after a tough day on the pitch.

Yet there are times when an incident which should lend perspective fails. New Zealand batsman Jesse Ryder was assaulted following a night out and left in a coma in 2013, a serious attack which threatened his life more than his career. He recovered sufficiently to make his return for the Blackcaps but, on the verge of a Test recall against India and being named in the World Twenty20 Cup squad, he was reprimanded following a late night out in Auckland. Dropped back to domestic cricket and not named in the World Cup squad, Ryder has set his own career back immeasurably after this indiscretion – the latest in a litany of alcohol related issues.

Obviously it is wrong to make assumptions on why Ryder breaks rules and damages his career, but following the attack on him last year he gained a huge amount of support from around the world. It would be disappointing if he can’t back up his talent with the maturity required to make it on the international stage.

Perhaps what Ryder needs is a mentor from outside the world of cricket. Johnson’s meeting with Roberts-Smith, however it came about, was the spark he needed to reinvigorate his career and rediscover his love of cricket. If Ryder and Cook can do the same they’ll be better for it.

5 mostly unrelated cricket thoughts

10 Feb

1) New Zealand are getting quite good

Beating India in your own conditions is not difficult, but for a small nation that is widely disregarded it is a huge achievement for New Zealand. More so considering they have just won the limited overs stuff against the same opponents and now have managed to translate ODI form into Test form. There are questions over the Blackcaps – BJ Watling has a distinct technical fault in his keeping whereby his weight shifts to the leg side before he adjusts and moves back to the off; Corey Anderson is neither a Test match bowler nor a Test match batsman; Peter Fulton is floundering at the top of the order and surely just keeping the spot warm for Martin Guptill; they lack a Test match quality spinner. However, beating one of the 3 super-powers in World cricket is a huge coup and warms the cockles of all but 1.6 billion of the cricket loving family.

2) Eoin Morgan wants another crack at Test cricket

He burst onto the scene as a spunky youth with fancy shots and the most battled hardened stare since the callow boys returning from the Western Front. Yet, as so often happens in Test cricket, he was found out and then booted into the long grass by the selectors. But now with KP jettisoned like a space-dump he has stuck two fingers up to the IPL by withdrawing himself from the auction. Setting his sights on scoring heavily for Middlesex in the Championship, he is gunning down KP’s vacated number 4 spot. His First Class record is ropey at best (average of 34.45 with 9 centuries) but he has the resolve and nous to have a second crack. More over, the fact that he’s turned down a contract worth roughly $1 million in order to play Test cricket will be welcome relief for the ECB given their horror week. So what about that week?

3) The ECB are having a stinker

Firstly they (Paul Downton, the new MD, and also James Whitaker, the National Selector) demand that there is only one coach for all 3 teams. Not unreasonable, as that would surely result in a more cohesive unit – until you look at the amount of cricket England play. From the 1st of January 2012 to the 1st of January 2014 they played 86 matches across all formats, spanning 202 days of cricket. For one man that’s a lot of work, before the time spent away from home is factored in. Ludicrous. Secondly, firing KP was probably the wrong call. Yet it’s the nature of the business, so fair enough, as long as good reasons are cited. Have they been cited? Has the ECB given a couple of a reasons that would justify sacking the leading run scorer England has ever produced? Have they heck. Instead, they’ve basically called Piers Morgan a poo-poo head in the world’s worst press release and then implied that if you are ‘outside cricket’ and your opinion is not in line with their own you’re worthless and a nobody. This threw up a whole new bag of issues – a) what does ‘outside cricket’ mean, and who is ‘inside cricket’?, b) are we not allowed to question decisions made by the ECB or are we supposed to blindly follow them?, and c) if we disagree with the ECB does that mean we agree with Piers Morgan? Time to bathe in bleach again guys!

4) South Africa are going to drill Australia

Australia’s top 6 are shaky at best: throughout the Ashes series England ripped the head off, only to watch Brad Haddin bundle them out of trouble with a cavalier 70-odd. Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander are better than England and on the green seamers that have been prepared in Centurion, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town they will tear through the Aussie rotters. Mitchell Johnson will be exposed as the average bowler that he is (seriously, it’s just quick and mostly short. Until he has a series where he perpetually swings the ball like Trent Boult he will be forever an average – if very fast – bowler) and South Africa will still be number 1 at the end of the series. They might want to find a spinner soon though, because Imran Tahir is dreadful. For example – try Simon Harmer. 175 First Class wickets, he can bat, and he’s just turned 25. One for the future, definitely.

5) The Big 3 takeover has happened and it’s bad

The formation of the ExCo is the thrust of the changes – the committee on which there will always be a representative from Australia, England and India who will be able to decide the future of cricket. Those three nations will take more money from the ICC and they will play each other more frequently than any of the ‘smaller’ nations because it will be more financially rewarding when taking these series ‘to market’. Until the FTP up to 2023 is released we won’t know how bad it is, but… it’s going to be bad.

Australia, England and India plan to take over cricket

18 Jan
In a move that will surprise no one, the corrupt BCCI are being corrupt

In a move that will surprise no one, the corrupt BCCI are being corrupt

A draft proposal has been submitted to the ICC which would effectively hand all executive control to three national boards: the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), Cricket Australia (CA) and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB). The proposal will be presented to the ICC Executive Board at its quarterly meeting in Dubai on the 28th and 29th of January.

The proposal was drafted by a ‘working group’ of the ICC’s Finance and Commercial Affairs committee – of which the BCCI, CA and the ECB are key members. In it, there are changes recommended to the ICC’s revenue distribution model, administrative structures and the Future Tours Programme (FTP); it questions the relevance of Test rankings and suggests the reinstatement of the Champions Trophy over the World Test Championship.

A recommendation is also made for the creation of a new four-member Executive Committee, on which the BCCI, CA and the ECB will have permanent memberships and a rotating annual chairmanship, that will override all other committees. In short, almost every aspect of this proposal would give greater control to these three boards. It would see a larger share of control over world cricket to the three – both in the boardroom and on the field – as well as giving them a significantly larger share of revenues in a ratio that is linked to the ICC’s revenue growth.

Also considered is the creation of a two-tier Test cricket system, a structure which would bring relegation and promotion to the cycle. However, three nations will be exempt from the perils of relegation – Australia, England and India – because of money: “(this is) solely in order to protect ICC income due to the importance of those markets and teams to prospective ICC media rights buyers”. This is systematic fixing, institutional rigging, which the ICC is allowing because it will mean they make more money.

These proposals would lead world cricket to an endlessly repeating cycle of three nations playing each other whilst the rest of the Test playing nations play poorly attended and barely covered matches as they wait for another Champions Trophy to come around so they can play someone different. The world’s best Test team won’t play England with any regularity, there will be no more trans-Tasman tussles between Australia and New Zealand and the prospect of another India and Pakistan Test series is off the table.

Whilst the FTP was a flawed system, it was a well-meaning one. Although boards could ignore it, they had to openly admit that they were doing so – with the new system and no FTP, the boards won’t have to own up to it, meaning that the paying public won’t know what they are up to.

The ICC has been wrangling with the issue of dwindling Test cricket crowds (and therefore revenue) in countries such as New Zealand, South Africa and the West Indies for a number of years now, and this is their solution. Instead of working out a way in which these nations can survive, the easy route has been taken – a route which means three boards will make enough money to sustain the sport for the short-term.

Despite all this, there is hope. The fact that this document was leaked means that someone who is working either for the ICC or for one of the major boards has realised that the cricketing world need to see what is going on behind closed doors, and they let the press have it. This means that there is resistance within, which can be used to harness resistance externally. What’s more, the people can use their voice. At the bottom of this article is a list of how to contact the BCCI, CA and the ECB. Do this to tell them what you think.

One of the major responsibilities of MCC – the cricket club which owns Lord’s – is to help cricket’s international appeal. The MCC was the guardian of the game for a long time, until the ICC took over. With these proposals the ICC is willingly allowing the game to become self-serving and interested only in three parties, with just a vague and insincere interest in the promotion of the game across the globe. If this is not the kind of cricketing world in which you want to live, please contact the three boards and let them know.

Contact the BCCI here.

Contract CA here.

Contact the ECB here.

Video

The Tea Break: Episode 1

10 Nov

Milestones

9 Oct

120124010605-cricket-ponting-story-topRight so, it’s been a year since I went onto WordPress and started up an innocently yet hilariously self-indulgent blog called ‘alexbritten.wordpress.com’. In my defence, I made a mistake. I thought that was a username, or something, and I could call it something more related to cricket rather than just my name. Obviously I was wrong, but it has given me plenty of material for self deprecating jokes over the past 12 months, so it’s probably been worth it.

I was seriously naive when I started this blog. My genuine belief was that I’d write on this for 6 – 10 months, then I’d start getting money through it because of adverts (and because I don’t understand the internet), then I’d get a pleasingly grovelling email from the sports editor at the Guardian begging for me to come and write for him because Mike Selvey and Andy Bull really are letting the side down. Modestly I’d accept my post, move to North London and live like a king, occasionally using executive phrases such as ‘filing my copy’ and ‘just popping to Lord’s for a spot of lunch with Gus Fraser’. I’d imbibe gallons of Beaujolais, smoke cigars and take baths in tubs full of dollar bills.

The reality – I moved from a student hovel in Manchester back home to Suffolk, only met Mike Selvey and Andy Bull at Guardian HQ once (on an excellent ‘How To Be A Cricket Journalist’ masterclass – check them out); I have filed no copies (unless writing online and self publishing counts), went to Lord’s just the solitary time (didn’t meet Angus Fraser) and have drunk no expensive wine, smoked any cigars nor attempted to wash myself using dirty money.

Luckily, I was asked to edit thecricketmagazine.com, and so I’ve been filling up internet space blathering on about that incessantly. And, equally luckily, some excellent writers have written things (filed copies?) for that, showing me how one should write about cricket in a witty, informative and engaging way. People like the wrongunatlongon, Ruth Thielke, Jud Ong, Davis Harrigan from Beyond Realisation, Matt Carter and so many more that I’ve forgotten them. Thanks guys.

So has this blog has sort of achieved an aim, in that I am now a bit more of a cricket journalist than I was before the 8th of October 2012? Maybe. I’m not as much of one as I want to be and I most likely act and behave like more of one than I really am. One of the other stated aims on this blog was to discover more of the internet than YouTube and Buzzfeed – so has this succeeded? I guess that has too. I now know about webmail and, sadly, am addicted to Reddit. I think that means the past year has, therefore, been good? Jesus.

Anyway, seeing as blogs are, in their nature, incredibly self centred things, I’m going to write a list of objective that I would like to achieve before the 8th of October 2014:

1) Update this blog more regularly, and not with those really annoying ‘read more on The Cricket Magazine’ links because whenever I see something similar on another website it irritates me to the point of immediate combustion. That isn’t to say I’ll stop doing those things (because what is a loyal audience for if not for conning them for hits?), but I’ll try and do more articles solely for Thoughts of a Cricket Addict. You lucky devils.

2) Get paid. Lololol.

3) Build up Twitter followers, both on TCM Twitter and personal one. I don’t know why it surprises me that, despite my numerous bellicose tweets about the bloody ICC they still don’t follow me, but it does. And they should. Also, the ECB (same reason for them not following me) and just generally more people who don’t govern cricket, but just like it (probably more than the ICC, but that isn’t hard).

4) Be less bitter/jealous about other journalists and writers who are more successful than I am. And to that end, stop whining about nepotism. It happens, it’s always happened, and as long as certain people’s fathers are major cricket correspondents, they’ll always have a foot in the door irrespective of their own questionable ability to write words about cricket. Grumble.

5) Stop grumbling.

6) Stop rambling.

So there we go. Another year older, another year closer to death. It has actually been a lot of fun. I’ve done things that I never thought I’d do, and that is all because of this blog and, far more importantly, because of you. Yes, you, anonymous internet person. Just clicking onto this has made it possible and I will be forever grateful for it. Should I ever meet anyone who says ‘Hey, we both like cricket, why don’t you check out this great blog I read, it’s called Thoughts of…’ I’ll spontaneously erupt with joy and jubilation and probably lick that person right on the face.

Here’s to another year.

Alex

Mercurial Broad will always be an enigma

13 Aug

ImageIn 2006, England had endured a difficult summer. Coming after the buzz of the previous year’s Ashes antics was always going to be tough, but being pasted around the country by Sri Lanka and then Pakistan was particularly galling. The team had been in freefall since the end of the Ashes series with injuries and were looking for a new star to feel positive about. Four balls into his ODI debut, one very fresh faced Stuart Broad had become that figurehead.

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