August 13, 2009

Ashes 2009

Paranoia envelops ECB

Andrew Miller

The extent of the ECB's paranoia in the wake of England's crushing defeat at Headingley has been revealed at a Street Sixes event in the City of London, hosted by the team's principal sponsors, Vodafone.

The main guest at the 24-team event near Liverpool Street was Matt Prior, who has been one of England's success stories of the summer, with sound keeping allied to reliable and fast-scoring form in an otherwise ropey middle order.

"I think Prior's been outstanding," his mentor and manager, Alec Stewart told Cricinfo this week. "Coming into this series there were question marks about him, but he's gradually winning his critics over. His batting you could never question, and I think his glovework has been outstanding.

"In the last 29 chances that have come his way, he's spilt one. Alan Knott used to always say to me that you work on a 90 percent success rate, and he's way above that. He's in there now on merit.

"It's nice that we're not reading about any mistakes he may or may not have made," Stewart added. "People are starting to write positively about him."

Or so they would, given half a chance. But instead of exploiting his current confidence and turning it to their advantage, the ECB chose to ban Prior from doing any media intervals other than brief setpieces with Sky Sports and the BBC. Even the topic of the sixes event was off-limits.

A frustrated Vodafone spokesman put a brave face on the situation. "Ultimately, we are supporters of the England cricket team," she said, "and we don't want to do anything that upsets them."

Not for much longer mind you. Vodafone's 12-year support of English cricket comes to an end next summer, with Brit Insurance set to take over, and so it doesn't really matter if the two parties fall out.

"The best thing is that the journos have not been writing or saying anything about Prior which to me says that he's kept very, very well," said Stewart. In the ECB's current state, it says something else as well.

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Andrew Miller is the former UK editor of ESPNcricinfo and now editor of The Cricketer magazine

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