Cricket concerns March 22, 2009

An unhealthy obsession with the Ashes

The way large sections of the English cricket establishment have managed to work themselves up over Kent signing Stuart Clark for the first part of the next summer is a needless distraction and reeks of hypocrisy
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On an idle Sunday, some stray thoughts.

I am staggered at the way large sections of the English cricket establishment and even the English media have managed to work themselves up over Kent signing Stuart Clark for the first part of the next summer.

Not only is it a needless distraction, but it also reeks of hypocrisy. Have they forgotten the generosity New Zealand extended to them by allowing Jimmy Anderson to play for Auckland to gain match practice during England's last tour there?

And this quote from Andrew Strauss is a bit rich: "It's very easy for the counties to be short-sighted and worry about their next championship game and season … From an England team's point of view it's important we all need to buy into the fact that an England team performing well helps everyone, including the counties." He was the other beneficiary in New Zealand, playing five games for Northern Districts.

And last year, the BCCI hosted an England High Performance squad during the England-India Test series, and the squad included Sajid Mehmood and Amjad Khan, both of whom were drafted into the England one-day team. It's another matter that the squad returned without playing a single match in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.

The New Zealand cricket board extended the same generosity to the touring Indians and Rahul Dravid made the most of it by scoring a hundred for Canterbury. It was pathetic that the Indian board chose to withdraw Sachin Tendulkar and Dinesh Karthik from a practice match contaminated by the presence of couple of ICL players. It made the world's most powerful cricket body look mean and small.

I am waiting to see if Craig McMillan is part of the commentary team for the second Test. Sky TV are right to tell BCCI, which wants McMillan, another ICL player, withdrawn, to stuff it. I am hoping the New Zealand board stand by Sky. Someone has to tell the BCCI that it might make the most money, but it doesn't own the world.

Coming back the England, I can't help feeling the obsession with the Ashes borders on the unhealthy. It's time to wake up to the reality that there is more to cricket than their traditional rivalry with Australia. The truth is the Ashes has only been in contest once in the last 20 years.

And obsessing with one contest and one opposition can be hugely distracting. It was ridiculous to hear the chatter about the Ashes even before England started their West Indies tour.

Despite all the hype about this being an Ashes year, the first task of the summer for England is to win back the Wisden Trophy.

I feel sorry for John Dyson, who will now become a reference point for gaffes after messing up the D/L calculations. He is not the first man on the earth to make a mistake, and pray, what was the captain doing?

And I felt sorrier for Bryce McGain. It was as if the South Africans were avenging themselves for a lifetime of torment against Shane Warne. McGain isn't the first Australians legspinner to have been taken to cleaners on his debut. But he is 37 and might have played his last Test.

Like Daryll Cullinan said after the second day, you don't want to see any cricketer being humiliated and having to experience the day that McGain experienced.

And news has just come in that the IPL has been shifted out of India. To where it is not certain yet, but what's certain is that Lalit Modi seems to have met his match in P Chidambaram, the Indian home minister. No one has made Modi sweat more in recent times.

Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Healthy Diet Lets Woman Lose Thirty Pounds in Thirty Days on April 30, 2009, 18:20 GMT

    Hi, interesting post. I have been wondering about this issue,so thanks for posting. I will definitely be coming back to your blog.

  • Ravi on April 1, 2009, 2:45 GMT

    I am a permanent resident of USA and a citizen of India. I am really hurt by BCCI and politician Lalit Modi's decision to shift IPL out of India. It is a shame that they disrespected Indian Cricket loving public by shifting the tournament instead of changing the schedule. In fact, BCCI has disrespected democratic India. This would have never happened in any other nation in the World. I wonder if this is for the love of cricket or great business deal!! I wish this edition of IPL in SA is a failure and all Indians should boycott this series, and this is not out of any disrespect to SA, which is a great nation of cricket lovers, but out of sheer disgust on how this has played out by Mr. money making modi!

  • Ravi on April 1, 2009, 2:44 GMT

    I am a permanent resident of USA and a citizen of India. I am really hurt by BCCI and politician Lalit Modi's decision to shift IPL out of India. It is a shame that they disrespected Indian Cricket loving public by shifting the tournament instead of changing the schedule. In fact, BCCI has disrespected democratic India. This would have never happened in any other nation in the World. I wonder if this is for the love of cricket or great business deal!! I wish this edition of IPL in SA is a failure and all Indians should boycott this series, and this is not out of any disrespect to SA, which is a great nation of cricket lovers, but out of sheer disgust on how this has played out by Mr. money making modi!

  • waterbuffalo on March 25, 2009, 1:56 GMT

    Hello Mr Bal, glad to have a chance to talk to an editor. Right firstly, Fleet Street has to sell newspapers; the fact that Eng lost 5-0 the last time they toured Oz has of course escaped the minds of editors, writers and present England players, the only plan they have is to please leave a lot of balls lying about so that another fast bowler can step on one and hand the Ashes back. Alas, Troy Cooley is no more nor is Simon Jones etc. Secondly, they've just lost a series against the Windies because one, they declared too late, and two and three and four, they couldn't get 20 wickets. Please see Troy Cooley and Jones above. Poor old Harmison looks like he want to quit and they just don't have the attack they had in 2005 though why they won't play Sajid Mahmood heaven only knows. I think the series will be close with or without Clark, the English just have to figure how to get Johnson out. I think the Ashes are important because unlike India and Pakistan the stadiums will be full always.

  • Vijay Bedekar on March 24, 2009, 4:46 GMT

    I am not aware if ICL have taken up the matter of not allowing their players to play wherever they can earn their livelihood, to Indian Courts . I am sure Indian Courts will take the correct view on the matter

  • Marius Roodt on March 23, 2009, 11:52 GMT

    And don't forget Steve Harmison who played a couple of games for the Lions in South Africa last season in order to get match fit.

  • Satish on March 23, 2009, 7:43 GMT

    The one time the English cricket team, the media, the fans and the Board treated every series with due respect in 2004-05 they retained the Ashes. England has had an inability to play every series as a contest not treat it as a warm-up for the Ashes. At times it almost looks like all cricket in between the Ashes is an irritant to be done with for England.

    I think England's defeat in the Carribean and Australia's thumping of South Africa would most likely ensure the Australian's retain the Ashes.

  • Satish on March 23, 2009, 7:36 GMT

    The one time the English cricket team, the media, the fans and the Board treated every series with due respect in 2004-05 they retained the Ashes. England has had an inability to play every series as a contest not treat it as a warm-up for the Ashes. At times it almost looks like all cricket in between the Ashes is an irritant to be done with for England.

    I think England's defeat in the Carribean and Australia's thumping of South Africa would most likely ensure the Australian's retain the Ashes.

  • prakash on March 23, 2009, 6:30 GMT

    Guys move on. It might be one of the very old tournaments and it deserved what it had previously. Now the standard of England Cricket has come down and Australians are no more Invincible. So the aura has already died. It is sick to see some of the coverage,where they talk about strategies for Ashes even 1 and 1/2 year before hand... For me today South Africa vs Australia vs India generates the most viewing Pleasure and I am not sorry for Ashes not in the list. RIP>

  • dinker on March 23, 2009, 5:46 GMT

    i am from India and it is only a fact that ASHES remains the most coeveted trophy for Eng.Remeber their celebration after 2005 win..(releasing stamps...)In australia also losing the ashes is criminal (almost like losing to Pak in India and vice verasa a few years back)Aus lost the ashes by a very thin margin and due to a bit of misfortune in 2005 .Even then the reaction in australia was similiar to the reactio from Indian fans after the 2007WC exit..As a neutral observer one would love to know the reason for this battle heat.especially the reason to hate those cant bat ,cant bowl, cant win Pomes...!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Healthy Diet Lets Woman Lose Thirty Pounds in Thirty Days on April 30, 2009, 18:20 GMT

    Hi, interesting post. I have been wondering about this issue,so thanks for posting. I will definitely be coming back to your blog.

  • Ravi on April 1, 2009, 2:45 GMT

    I am a permanent resident of USA and a citizen of India. I am really hurt by BCCI and politician Lalit Modi's decision to shift IPL out of India. It is a shame that they disrespected Indian Cricket loving public by shifting the tournament instead of changing the schedule. In fact, BCCI has disrespected democratic India. This would have never happened in any other nation in the World. I wonder if this is for the love of cricket or great business deal!! I wish this edition of IPL in SA is a failure and all Indians should boycott this series, and this is not out of any disrespect to SA, which is a great nation of cricket lovers, but out of sheer disgust on how this has played out by Mr. money making modi!

  • Ravi on April 1, 2009, 2:44 GMT

    I am a permanent resident of USA and a citizen of India. I am really hurt by BCCI and politician Lalit Modi's decision to shift IPL out of India. It is a shame that they disrespected Indian Cricket loving public by shifting the tournament instead of changing the schedule. In fact, BCCI has disrespected democratic India. This would have never happened in any other nation in the World. I wonder if this is for the love of cricket or great business deal!! I wish this edition of IPL in SA is a failure and all Indians should boycott this series, and this is not out of any disrespect to SA, which is a great nation of cricket lovers, but out of sheer disgust on how this has played out by Mr. money making modi!

  • waterbuffalo on March 25, 2009, 1:56 GMT

    Hello Mr Bal, glad to have a chance to talk to an editor. Right firstly, Fleet Street has to sell newspapers; the fact that Eng lost 5-0 the last time they toured Oz has of course escaped the minds of editors, writers and present England players, the only plan they have is to please leave a lot of balls lying about so that another fast bowler can step on one and hand the Ashes back. Alas, Troy Cooley is no more nor is Simon Jones etc. Secondly, they've just lost a series against the Windies because one, they declared too late, and two and three and four, they couldn't get 20 wickets. Please see Troy Cooley and Jones above. Poor old Harmison looks like he want to quit and they just don't have the attack they had in 2005 though why they won't play Sajid Mahmood heaven only knows. I think the series will be close with or without Clark, the English just have to figure how to get Johnson out. I think the Ashes are important because unlike India and Pakistan the stadiums will be full always.

  • Vijay Bedekar on March 24, 2009, 4:46 GMT

    I am not aware if ICL have taken up the matter of not allowing their players to play wherever they can earn their livelihood, to Indian Courts . I am sure Indian Courts will take the correct view on the matter

  • Marius Roodt on March 23, 2009, 11:52 GMT

    And don't forget Steve Harmison who played a couple of games for the Lions in South Africa last season in order to get match fit.

  • Satish on March 23, 2009, 7:43 GMT

    The one time the English cricket team, the media, the fans and the Board treated every series with due respect in 2004-05 they retained the Ashes. England has had an inability to play every series as a contest not treat it as a warm-up for the Ashes. At times it almost looks like all cricket in between the Ashes is an irritant to be done with for England.

    I think England's defeat in the Carribean and Australia's thumping of South Africa would most likely ensure the Australian's retain the Ashes.

  • Satish on March 23, 2009, 7:36 GMT

    The one time the English cricket team, the media, the fans and the Board treated every series with due respect in 2004-05 they retained the Ashes. England has had an inability to play every series as a contest not treat it as a warm-up for the Ashes. At times it almost looks like all cricket in between the Ashes is an irritant to be done with for England.

    I think England's defeat in the Carribean and Australia's thumping of South Africa would most likely ensure the Australian's retain the Ashes.

  • prakash on March 23, 2009, 6:30 GMT

    Guys move on. It might be one of the very old tournaments and it deserved what it had previously. Now the standard of England Cricket has come down and Australians are no more Invincible. So the aura has already died. It is sick to see some of the coverage,where they talk about strategies for Ashes even 1 and 1/2 year before hand... For me today South Africa vs Australia vs India generates the most viewing Pleasure and I am not sorry for Ashes not in the list. RIP>

  • dinker on March 23, 2009, 5:46 GMT

    i am from India and it is only a fact that ASHES remains the most coeveted trophy for Eng.Remeber their celebration after 2005 win..(releasing stamps...)In australia also losing the ashes is criminal (almost like losing to Pak in India and vice verasa a few years back)Aus lost the ashes by a very thin margin and due to a bit of misfortune in 2005 .Even then the reaction in australia was similiar to the reactio from Indian fans after the 2007WC exit..As a neutral observer one would love to know the reason for this battle heat.especially the reason to hate those cant bat ,cant bowl, cant win Pomes...!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Ashok Sridharan on March 23, 2009, 4:59 GMT

    Excellent article Mr. Bal. I think England's unhealthy obsession with the Ashes is one of the reasons they have never been at the top for any length of time, at least, since the second world war.

    As for the BCCI: The conduct of Lalit Modi and his coterie on the ICL issue is a disgrace not just on Indian supporters, but on the country as well. It's about time they realised that they do not own Indian cricket, much less world cricket. And it's about time we, the supporters of team India, showed that the power which the BCCI so shamelessly flaunts comes from us.

  • Jali on March 23, 2009, 4:09 GMT

    Hi Sambit, Agree with you on most points. But don't you feel that Cricinfo is too non-India centric nowadays? There was abvsolutely no coverage or very minimal coverage on the India Domestic season this year (especially the Duleep Trophy and the 1-day championships).

  • Jali on March 23, 2009, 4:09 GMT

    Hi Sambit, Agree with you on most points. But don't you feel that Cricinfo is too non-India centric nowadays? There was abvsolutely no coverage or very minimal coverage on the India Domestic season this year (especially the Duleep Trophy and the 1-day championships).

  • Mark on March 23, 2009, 1:40 GMT

    This article points out a few hypocrisies with regard to the largesse English players (and others) have received in hosting countries prior to a test series. But wait, English players certainly have played in the Sheffield Shield domestic competition in Australia ... Botham was even drafted in by Queensland to help them try and win their first title! The issue now might be that when an English player indicated an interest in playing for an Australian state, and the state thinks they could benefit from the addition of said player, then let nature take its course. Wouldn't it be ironic if the player turned out to be a beneficiary of the English Cricket Academy, first headed up by an Australian and houses, initially, in, you guessed it, Australia. It seems as though Strauss and others can't remember beyond the length of their noses. Hilarious!

  • Ali on March 23, 2009, 1:16 GMT

    In many ways England won the 2005 Ashes before it even began. They had built a very strong side by concentrating on winning the matches before the Ashes. All you hear from the England is Ashes this and Ashes that, after which they get blown out by Australia. You rarely hear Australia talk about the Ashes because they have bigger fish to fry like India, South Africa, and the prestige that comes from remaining cricket's superpower on the field.

  • Andrew on March 23, 2009, 0:03 GMT

    I understand the Ashes-centric view. I am an aussie and even though sometimes it is not much of a contest, the Ashes is THE cricket event for us. There may be better teams and tougher challenges etc but the rivalry and traditions behind the Ashes make it the last thing we Australians want to lose cricket wise. I woudl dare say we would much rather lose our number one ranking than lose the ashes. And i also felt sorry for Mcgain, he waited so long and if he didn't get injured in India who knows what would have happened but i agree he has probably played his last test.

  • shiva on March 22, 2009, 23:53 GMT

    Nice article Sambit! I especially loved the views on BCCI and how they are muscling around trying to snub ICL into submission. I am an Indian and I have enjoyed so much pleasure watching the indian team succeed in the recent times. Its very sad though that they represent a ego-maniacal organization like BCCI.

  • Jensrsa on March 22, 2009, 22:06 GMT

    The impression I got was that the media, and I suppose the English players too, regarded the WI tour as a warm up for the Ashes.

    Well, surprise, surpise!

    I think the tour so far has taught them that they don't have a decent bowling attack and their batting line up is, at best, uncertain.

    Added to this the Aussies have discovered two great new batsmen in Hughes and North as well as an allrounder in Johnson. Okay they still haven't got the spinner they hoped for.

    Where after the SA tour of Australia the English media were quite confident of the English chances for the Ashes they must surely now realise that they don't really have much of a chance.

  • tattu on March 22, 2009, 18:26 GMT

    Hi Sambit, Excellent and nail on the head.Though i feel cricinfo is also getting a bit england centric these days. There are all sorts of blogs and newspaper articles on what england should do or it should not or its faults etc etc... During the WI Eng test series,it was hard to find an article of WI perspective.Most of the articles were realted to englands dos and donts and their chances. Even in the Holding interviews Mr mcglashan kept on asking about england and creating needless controversies about referrals. I feel this should be curbed and the coverage should be largely decentralised. I hope this will be read and am excpecting some effects on the site. :)

  • Vishy on March 22, 2009, 18:12 GMT

    Interesting article Sambit. Though I don't have a problem with the English press being Ashes centric. When I see the Indian newspapers everyday, they keep track of even the smallest news about the Indian cricket stars, but if one wants to know what is happening in the West Indies or in England or Australia, there is not much coverage. So one can't fault the English press for talking about the Ashes. Also it is nice that Modi is sweating now. But I like the way the BCCI has responded to the Indian government's views, by shifting the IPL out of India this year. I am not a big fan of Modi and the other BCCI top brass (the way they have handled the ICL is unacceptable), but I like the way they have handled this. The government cannot put spokes in the wheel of an international class event. The show must go on. Also this will make the BCCI realize that they cannot be bullies when they need the cooperation of other boards to get things done.

  • R. Thirucumaran on March 22, 2009, 16:41 GMT

    Sambit, rather than thinking about how NZ and India played good hosts to England, think about the Aussies. Do you think that they would even entertain the thought of having a 'Pom' playing? Regardless of whether it's an Ashes year or not, the Aussies would rather commit suicide than letting an Englishman play. Therefore, you, as well as other sections of the media, should consider like for like. On the IPL issue, it's great to see that Lalit Modi has finally realised that he doesn't own the world. Some great humble pie served by P. Chidambaram. Go PC! :)

  • Kool Kat on March 22, 2009, 16:06 GMT

    As regards the IPL shift, it says a lot about the pathetic political administration in India. How can the Commonwealth Games be held in 2010? The Home Minister is an effete administrator. He has achieved nothing by making Modi sweat.

  • DMg on March 22, 2009, 15:12 GMT

    it's always been the same in England. everything else is an irrelevance and not just with the media. to the vast majority of armchair fans there is a strict pecking order with the Ashes at the top followed by the CWC then well frankly who cares and until there is a radical change in the way the game is structured it will never change, & the chances of that happening any time soon are zilch.

  • saibal basu on March 22, 2009, 13:26 GMT

    Your concern about the English obsessing with the ashes is remarkably like Strauss talking about the decision of counties. Cricinfo's coverage has been so England centric - no doubt you think this is the way forward as you seem to be at Lord's at every possible opportunity. Apropos the withdrawal of Sachin and Dinesh it is clear you don't understand the issue at all. Once india did not allow its players to represent counties who had icl players, thereby denying laxman a chance, how can it allow this? It was doomed from the start. It is nice to see you say that craig mcmillan should be allowed to do his job. however, i am guessing you will not criticise Sky or NZC if they bend over backwards. after all, it is they who take the decision in the end. thank you for your illuminatory commentaries. saibal

  • surya on March 22, 2009, 10:09 GMT

    I suppose there exist two theories of cricket this year..One the IPL centric theory and the other Ashes centric.It is quite irritating when all cricket revolves around these two tournaments.The media portrays as if every game that the english or the australian teams play are mere warm-up games for the ultimate playoff Ashes.It takes the spark out of the other games going on around.No player goes into a game thinking of an ashes tour far ahead.It is largely a media obssession.

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  • surya on March 22, 2009, 10:09 GMT

    I suppose there exist two theories of cricket this year..One the IPL centric theory and the other Ashes centric.It is quite irritating when all cricket revolves around these two tournaments.The media portrays as if every game that the english or the australian teams play are mere warm-up games for the ultimate playoff Ashes.It takes the spark out of the other games going on around.No player goes into a game thinking of an ashes tour far ahead.It is largely a media obssession.

  • saibal basu on March 22, 2009, 13:26 GMT

    Your concern about the English obsessing with the ashes is remarkably like Strauss talking about the decision of counties. Cricinfo's coverage has been so England centric - no doubt you think this is the way forward as you seem to be at Lord's at every possible opportunity. Apropos the withdrawal of Sachin and Dinesh it is clear you don't understand the issue at all. Once india did not allow its players to represent counties who had icl players, thereby denying laxman a chance, how can it allow this? It was doomed from the start. It is nice to see you say that craig mcmillan should be allowed to do his job. however, i am guessing you will not criticise Sky or NZC if they bend over backwards. after all, it is they who take the decision in the end. thank you for your illuminatory commentaries. saibal

  • DMg on March 22, 2009, 15:12 GMT

    it's always been the same in England. everything else is an irrelevance and not just with the media. to the vast majority of armchair fans there is a strict pecking order with the Ashes at the top followed by the CWC then well frankly who cares and until there is a radical change in the way the game is structured it will never change, & the chances of that happening any time soon are zilch.

  • Kool Kat on March 22, 2009, 16:06 GMT

    As regards the IPL shift, it says a lot about the pathetic political administration in India. How can the Commonwealth Games be held in 2010? The Home Minister is an effete administrator. He has achieved nothing by making Modi sweat.

  • R. Thirucumaran on March 22, 2009, 16:41 GMT

    Sambit, rather than thinking about how NZ and India played good hosts to England, think about the Aussies. Do you think that they would even entertain the thought of having a 'Pom' playing? Regardless of whether it's an Ashes year or not, the Aussies would rather commit suicide than letting an Englishman play. Therefore, you, as well as other sections of the media, should consider like for like. On the IPL issue, it's great to see that Lalit Modi has finally realised that he doesn't own the world. Some great humble pie served by P. Chidambaram. Go PC! :)

  • Vishy on March 22, 2009, 18:12 GMT

    Interesting article Sambit. Though I don't have a problem with the English press being Ashes centric. When I see the Indian newspapers everyday, they keep track of even the smallest news about the Indian cricket stars, but if one wants to know what is happening in the West Indies or in England or Australia, there is not much coverage. So one can't fault the English press for talking about the Ashes. Also it is nice that Modi is sweating now. But I like the way the BCCI has responded to the Indian government's views, by shifting the IPL out of India this year. I am not a big fan of Modi and the other BCCI top brass (the way they have handled the ICL is unacceptable), but I like the way they have handled this. The government cannot put spokes in the wheel of an international class event. The show must go on. Also this will make the BCCI realize that they cannot be bullies when they need the cooperation of other boards to get things done.

  • tattu on March 22, 2009, 18:26 GMT

    Hi Sambit, Excellent and nail on the head.Though i feel cricinfo is also getting a bit england centric these days. There are all sorts of blogs and newspaper articles on what england should do or it should not or its faults etc etc... During the WI Eng test series,it was hard to find an article of WI perspective.Most of the articles were realted to englands dos and donts and their chances. Even in the Holding interviews Mr mcglashan kept on asking about england and creating needless controversies about referrals. I feel this should be curbed and the coverage should be largely decentralised. I hope this will be read and am excpecting some effects on the site. :)

  • Jensrsa on March 22, 2009, 22:06 GMT

    The impression I got was that the media, and I suppose the English players too, regarded the WI tour as a warm up for the Ashes.

    Well, surprise, surpise!

    I think the tour so far has taught them that they don't have a decent bowling attack and their batting line up is, at best, uncertain.

    Added to this the Aussies have discovered two great new batsmen in Hughes and North as well as an allrounder in Johnson. Okay they still haven't got the spinner they hoped for.

    Where after the SA tour of Australia the English media were quite confident of the English chances for the Ashes they must surely now realise that they don't really have much of a chance.

  • shiva on March 22, 2009, 23:53 GMT

    Nice article Sambit! I especially loved the views on BCCI and how they are muscling around trying to snub ICL into submission. I am an Indian and I have enjoyed so much pleasure watching the indian team succeed in the recent times. Its very sad though that they represent a ego-maniacal organization like BCCI.

  • Andrew on March 23, 2009, 0:03 GMT

    I understand the Ashes-centric view. I am an aussie and even though sometimes it is not much of a contest, the Ashes is THE cricket event for us. There may be better teams and tougher challenges etc but the rivalry and traditions behind the Ashes make it the last thing we Australians want to lose cricket wise. I woudl dare say we would much rather lose our number one ranking than lose the ashes. And i also felt sorry for Mcgain, he waited so long and if he didn't get injured in India who knows what would have happened but i agree he has probably played his last test.