November 16, 2011

A suggested austerity programme for England

Too much cricket is killing cricket

Friday, 11th November Andy Flower says that cricket boards are piling up fixtures with the same alacrity with which Samit Patel used to fill his plate at Nottinghamshire’s end of season charity buffet (“All you can eat for a fiver, bring your own plate and indigestion pills”) and that this global scheduling gluttony is all about the money.

So why this fixture frenzy? Where does all that money go? Well, some of it is invested in vital tools for hard-pressed cricket administrators: velvet sleeping masks, embroidered executive aromatherapy hand towels, and posterior-pressure-relieving cushions for those long afternoons in the boardroom.

But to take just one cricket board at random, an awful lot of the ECB’s money is shovelled in the direction of Team England: to keep Kevin Pietersen stocked up with silly sunglasses, to fund James Anderson’s twice-yearly cosmetic frown surgery and, without wishing to be indelicate, to retain the services of a certain Mr Andrew Flower.

So perhaps, in order to help the ECB kick their one-day cricket habit, Andrew and Andy could cut down on the expenses. How about asking the players to hand-wash their own whites? Replace the team of nutritionists with a weekly text message reminding their chaps to finish all their vegetables and lay off the chocolate éclairs?

And next year, rather than lounging around in business class, issue them with a map of Asia, a stout pair of walking boots and a tent and let them make their own way to Sri Lanka. As an incentive, the first 11 to arrive in Colombo will be guaranteed a spot in the first Test (unless one of them is Ravi).

Saturday, 12th November Kamran Akmal likes the idea of cricket boards nosing around in players’ bank accounts, presumably on the look out for suspicious deposits under the name “A Bookie”. It’s an excellent idea, though I think the investigations should also extend to mattresses, recently dug herbaceous borders, and the inside pockets of new leather jackets.

Of course, some boards will find it easier than others. Sri Lanka Cricket, for instance, would smell a rat if they found that their chaps had any money at all, as they haven’t been paid since April. By definition, therefore, any income must have been obtained nefariously (although allowances would have to be made for Kumar Sangakkara’s earnings from his new part-time dog-grooming job – “Call Kumar for Kool Kanine Kuts!’ - and Angelo Mathews’ paper round.)

Monday, 14th November According to assistant coach Justin Langer, Ricky Ponting is still a vital wingnut in the rickety suspension system of the rattly old banger that is Australian cricket.

“Ricky is great for morale; he makes Huss feel young, he keeps us entertained with stories of the old days when we used to win sometimes, and he knows how to read the racing form. Plus, he’s our regular poker dealer, ‘cause some of the other blokes aren’t great with the hand-eye co-ordination. I mean, you should see Mitch spray the cards all over the shop. And he’s the only one who can say, “Ah look…” with conviction, because between you and me, when Pup tries to do it, he sounds like Dame Edna Everage’s younger sister.”

When pressed on how long he thought the former Australian captain could continue in international cricket, Langer was supportive: “Ah look, Ricky will be around for a while yet. Monday I reckon. Possibly Tuesday. Depends if we make it to day five.”

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England