January 16, 2010

England

Englishmen behaving badly

Andrew Hughes


'This isn't what we ordered. Prior-y let's make an official complaint' © Getty Images
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It is hard to like the England cricket team, and not a man given to hard work, I have decided to take the easier alternative. I do have something of a headstart. Towards Swanny, Belly, Trotty, Cooky and the rest of them, their Twittering, their self-congratulation, their screaming like excited chimpanzees when one of their number catches a ball or ties his shoelace, I was already entirely indifferent. And recent events have provided plenty of fertiliser for the healthy antipathy I am cultivating towards the gentlemen who wear embroidered lions over their left nipple.

Take the upcoming tour of Bangladesh. A good opportunity to get some experience of Asian conditions? A chance to support the newest Test nation and give their supporters something to cheer about? Nope. It wasn’t so long ago, Mr Strauss that you were out in the wilderness of the shires, contemplating the futility of existence as you toiled away in front of two men and a dog. A handful of Test wins later and you’re suddenly too showbiz to go to Bangladesh. You need a rest. From what, exactly?

And there was something else I was going to talk about. Now what was it? It’s on the tip of my tongue ... Ah yes, I remember. Ball-tampering! I’m sorry, was that me? I don’t know what came over me. I sometimes have these explosive outbursts, usually involving highly inappropriate and profane language. Most unfortunate, particularly when it relates to something so seedy, so disreputable and so utterly un-British as the aforementioned interference with spherical objects. Ball- tampering! There I go again. Excuse me.

Still, I’m not the only one who’s said it. Some people were saying it on the television. Some ex-players, who really should know better, wrote it in newspapers. What was Michael Vaughan thinking? Children might have been reading! AB de Villiers said it at a press conference, but then he is South African and can be relied upon to completely misjudge the public mood. In fact, he used the phrase, “a little bit naughty”, which sounds delightfully camp when uttered in an Afrikaans accent (go on, try it).

Thank goodness then, for Wing Commander Strauss and the long hours he has put in with the Indignity Coach and the Chutzpah Co-ordinator. Just hours after his chaps had been caught live on television variously tenderising the ball with a boot or picking at it with a specially attached graphite fingernail, he managed not just to refute or deny it, he gave a sound tongue-lashing to those reprobates who had dared to offer the merest hint of a suggestion that an Englishman might have even contemplated contravening Law 42.3 or any of its sacred sub-paragraphs.

And backing him up in one of the tabloids was David Lloyd, employing a clever analogy to explain to us non-cricket folk why we hadn’t seen what we thought we’d seen. It went something like this:

Imagine Jimmy Anderson is a driver. Stay with it, it’s worth it, I promise. Now, imagine that Law 42.3 is a 30mph zone. Jimmy, in tearing at the ball with his fingernail, was merely doing the equivalent of 35mph in that zone. See what he’s saying? Jimmy was breaking the law, but only a little bit. Conclusive, I think you’ll agree. Although it does beg the question as to what 90mph might represent in this analogy? Presumably, destroying the ball with an acetylene torch and sprinkling the ashes onto Daryl Harper’s shoes?

You might think, then, that having scraped through that little difficulty, the England chaps might be keeping a lower profile. But not a bit of it. On Thursday they threw a team tantrum on the dressing-room balcony when Alastair Cook was dismissed. Then on Friday, another decision went against them and all of the England toys (officially merchandised rattles and dummies are currently available from all good retailers) flew out of the England pram. They made an official complaint. Against whom, for what reason and with what aim, it is not clear. But be in no doubt that it was a complaint and that it was good and official too, no doubt written in his bestest handwriting by the England coach. As you read this, Andy Flower is still sitting outside the match referee’s office, holding his breath in protest.

Fortunately, there are some former cricketers upholding the dignity of old Blighty. On Thursday afternoon, the day’s play had drawn to a soggy halt. In the Sky studio, David Gower, attempting to spark a little time-filling conversation, revealed that at dinner the previous evening he had been discussing with friends the prospects of any of the English players getting into a combined team. With undue optimism, he threw the subject open to his compadre from Lancashire.

“I haven’t given it any thought,” replied Athers, “It’s not the kind of thing I talk about at dinner.”

Ouch! This was the precisely the kind of deadpan comeback with which Atherton made such a fool of Allan Donald at Trent Bridge back in 1998. I remember it as if it were yesterday. Donald sweated and swore and ranted, but he just made himself look silly. I remember thinking at the time: get on with it, Mr Donald, show a stiff upper lip man. Don’t make such a scene. Yes, the ball bounced off the batsman’s glove and was caught. What do you want to do? Make an official complaint?

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Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Posted by VegeMiter on (January 19, 2010, 22:15 GMT)

Didn't hear England whinging (nor Australia for that matter) when Billy Bentfinger wrongly gave Kasprowicz out (caught behind) to end the second Test Match in the 2005 Ashes series with Australia just a couple of runs from victory, to deny them a 2-0 lead. Also not one single whinge from Ricky Ponting during the last Ashes series after getting a howler at a crucial stage at Lords. No wonder England aren't keen on the review system – had it been around (particularly in 2005) the result could well have been different (pretty hard to come back from 0-2 down?). Yet the Australians, and particularly Ricky Ponting rightfully acclaimed England as deserved winners. What a contrast to England's current attitude?

Posted by Arthur Evans on (January 19, 2010, 17:16 GMT)

I agreed with the article, but will say that England contributed to an enthalling test series...Tests are alive and well!!! I am South African and can still admire the stout hearted Englishmen from twice staving off defeat. As for review system....loved it....more than held up its own..And by the way the English benefited too...and Broad my boy..learn to walk!!!

Posted by Mr Sidney,Mo on (January 18, 2010, 19:42 GMT)

Well written article...hilarious and to the point. Why is it when England are on the receiving end they whinge, when everything goes their way they are quiet? You have to take the rough with the smooth...Remember time wasting antics during the ashes?? I din't see England complaining then!!

Posted by simon on (January 18, 2010, 15:45 GMT)

As a POM, I'll take the cliche's about whinging on the chin as usual.

What I fail to understand though is how we're always lucky to salvage a draw when other teams are 'resilient'. You can't ride luck for 5 days.

Posted by Corkie on (January 18, 2010, 12:03 GMT)

UDRs worked very well in the Hobart test - basically because one side wasted theirs early, and further disputes became irrelevant.

"Hotspot" is a brilliant technological addition to the game - Channel Nine used four cameras in Hobart - cost about $100,000. At those prices, however, you need an extra 2,00 customers paying $50 each to cover the expense! Were the paying spectators allowed to see the same vision that the 3rd umpire sees, I think those 2,000 would turn up. It is partly the frustration of sitting there knowing that TV viewers all around the world have a better idea of what is happening that keeps bums off seats. Get real, administrators!

Posted by Gareth Mckinnell on (January 18, 2010, 10:59 GMT)

I have been very disappointed with the English cricket team on this tour. I heard about the ball tampering, but didn't see the footage - but the reverse swing the English were getting was suspect under the conditions. What I did see was the English wasting a lot of time, particularly in the third test - actions which may well have cost SA the match. In the first test they whinged about UDRS but in the second, when decisions went their way, they said they thought it works well. I always had a lot of respect for Strauss, even though he is an SA ex-pat, but I'm not so sure anymore. Big up to Collingwood though, he's the one Englishmen that really impressed me this series.

It should not be for the SA team to file official complaints in such blatant situations - if the evidence is there on camera, the ICC should step in - but then again, the ICC is not known for it's iron fist. The SA team probably just wanted to get on and focus on the series instead of indulging in off-field dramas.

Posted by nieldy on (January 18, 2010, 10:10 GMT)

I agree with the Stuart Broad comment. He's been given out by a conclusive replay and still stands there protesting. I can see umpires the world over looking at that and giving him no benefit of doubt in the future

Posted by spewy on (January 18, 2010, 9:12 GMT)

Love the comments. Some people just dont get the whole Page 2 thing.

Posted by bga1966 on (January 18, 2010, 7:39 GMT)

andrew strauss at the post match presentations was pathetic bringing up the umpire review system was bad work, they were outplayed in 3 of the 4 tests and should be elated drawing the series.

Posted by MO on (January 17, 2010, 19:54 GMT)

Struass is an average tactician,good man manager and good player-all these factors eluded him during the Joburg test. Batting first,excluding Onions and losing composure are a collective leadership problem and Strauss/Flower have to take this one on the chin. No need hiding behind smokescreens. Sort out the tactics, Broads behaviour,Trotts time-wasting,Pietersons slump and Priors overconfidence-a test series win was thus squandered-not through bad luck. Taking your eye off the ball against stronger opposition never works!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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