Mike Holmans November 3, 2008

Much ado about nothing

I find it hard to work up the degree of passion that drives this event’s opponents to apoplexy

They fixed the pitch, they fixed the lights and Sir Allen Stanford kept mainly to his own hospitality box, so most of what had been at fault earlier in the week was cleared out of the way for the big event.

Instead of a cricket match, though, what we got was a conjuring show.

In the first half, each member of the England team was dragged up on to the stage to be made to look ever so slightly foolish as one of the magicians made his leg stump fall over or willed him to bash the ball high in the air to fall neatly into the hands of a fielder placed just there. After the interval, The Great Gayleini spent the second half repeatedly performing his magical ball trick in which perfectly decent bowling disappears in a puff of smoke and the big screen lights up with a huge figure six. It was a consummate performance by the entire troupe.

Sir Allen was clearly delighted that his team won, and will have taken great pleasure in creating a few more Caribbean millionaires. JJDW took me to task after my last post for not expressing outrage that Stanford chose to spend his money on building a pleasant cricket ground rather than a hospital: I take the point, but at least his team’s triumph means that all his money is staying in West Indian economies. A couple of other respondents were keen to point out that he will be ploughing money into West Indies cricket, which may be the intention but depends on the venture becoming profitable. As it will probably make a loss this year, massive financial benefits will not accrue to WI cricket just yet, if at all. But I can’t really get myself worked up either way just because this event centres around amounts of money which are very large by previous cricket standards but small beer when measured against golf, Premiership football or major league baseball.

Even so, some of Stanford’s money went on getting West Indian cricketers to knuckle down to a six-week training camp. This looks to have been well spent. It has been ages since a representative West Indian team has been so fit and sharp in the field or so fired up and determined. When England return to the Caribbean in January, they will not be facing the shambolic underperformers of recent years but a team which has the potential to rip them apart.

After the show, Kevin Pietersen admitted that England had committed the grievous strategic error of allowing themselves to be distracted by side issues to the detriment of their cricket. In the long run, this may be no bad thing. Whether taking a catch wins the Ashes or a million dollars, it still demands coolness and concentration on the job in hand rather than dreams of pink Ferraris or open-top bus parades, and the lesson will not be lost on any of the England squad.

Nor is it a bad thing that the illusion of KP’s invincibility has been exploded. For some of us, England’s being completely outclassed was a reassuring return to form after the disquieting episode of the ODIs against South Africa, when England had shown disturbing signs of being good at one-day cricket. Pietersen needs to realise that tampering with hallowed traditions like England being hopeless in coloured clothing is dangerous iconoclasm and could well be against the spirit of the game.

I find it hard to work up the degree of passion that drives this event’s opponents to apoplexy. Many things will have a greater effect on the sum of human happiness than the Twenty20 For 20, even if we confine ourselves to cricket. Next year’s Ashes will depress one or other set of fans and bring lasting fulfilment to the winning team in far greater measure than a benefit game which does not even count in the official international records. It provided some cricket entertainment at a time far more convenient for the UK viewer than the Indo-Australia Tests, thousands of Antiguans had a great night out and some West Indian cricketers are now much wealthier than they were before. Nobody died, and life goes on. Is that so evil?