March 22, 2009

Cricket concerns

An unhealthy obsession with the Ashes

Sambit Bal
Andrew Strauss scored 62 in the second innings, PCB XI v England XI, tour match, 3rd day, Dubai, January 13, 2012
Andrew Strauss played for Northern Districts on England's tour to New Zealand last year  © Getty Images
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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 Sky TV are right to tell BCCI, which wants McMillan, another ICL player, withdrawn, to stuff it.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

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Posted by 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.

Posted by 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!

Posted by 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!

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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>

Posted by 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...!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sambit Bal
Editor-in-chief Sambit Bal took to journalism at the age of 19 after realising that he wasn't fit for anything else, and to cricket journalism 14 years later when it dawned on him that it provided the perfect excuse to watch cricket in the office. Among other things he has bowled legspin, occasionally landing the ball in front of the batsman; laid out the comics page of a newspaper; covered crime, urban development and politics; and edited Gentleman, a monthly features magazine. He joined Wisden in 2001 and edited Wisden Asia Cricket and Cricinfo Magazine. He still spends his spare time watching cricket.

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