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Thursday, 26th January Today Giles “Show me the money” Clarke issued a dire warning. Ever vigilant, like Batman in a pin-striped suit, he’s identified the biggest threat to cricket, the looming danger that could destroy our beautiful game and he wants to tell us all about it.
Is it match-fixing? Nope. Twenty20 overkill? No. What about the ongoing DRS controversy, with its corrosive effect on the authority of umpires? Not that either. The imbalance in wealth between rich and poor cricket boards? The plight of Test cricket? The threat of Premier League football? No, no and no.
It seems the biggest danger to cricket is… people watching cricket on the internet. Now I’ll be honest, until recently (this morning) I didn’t really know what pirate streaming was. It sounds like an extreme form of white-water rafting restricted to members of the piratical fraternity. In a better world, that’s what it would be.
But no. Pirate streaming is the broadcasting of cricket coverage over the internet by people who have no permission to do so. And, make no mistake, it is evil.
“They take money out of the game without commercial benefits to us.”
So says Giles. But is he right? He’s assuming that people who watch illegal footage would otherwise be forking out for a Sky subscription. But surely, if you could afford to buy a Sky subscription, you’d er… do that, rather than choose to watch jerky footage of a blurry Test match that looks like its being filmed through the balcony window of a nearby hotel?
Is it an irritation to the ECB? Yes. Ever so slightly illegal? Certainly. But the biggest danger that cricket faces? Come now, Mr Clarke, you’re being hysterical. It’s like me suggesting that the biggest threat to cricket is the impulse to make as much money as possible in the shortest possible time, regardless of the effect on the sport, its legacy or the wider cricket public (see Stanford, A).
Friday, 27th January When I first saw the headline, I could feel the gas being turned up beneath the simmering broth of dissatisfaction that has been bubbling away on my mental stove throughout this one-sided Australian-based farce:
“Ashwin says players disappointed, not embarrassed”.
It immediately begged the question: if losing a second away series 4-0 does not embarrass them, what would? Pictures of MS Dhoni as a baby? A Justin Bieber tune discovered on Ishant’s ipod? The revelation that Zaheer used to run a lingerie boutique or that Sachin is an avid reader of the works of Mr J Archer?
But when I calmed down a little and gave it some thought, I realised that Ashwin’s statement is in the classical philosophical tradition of Stoicism. As Marcus Aurelius said at his press conference after the battle of Carnuntum in AD170, “No, I am not embarrassed that the Germans have sneaked across the Danube while I wasn’t looking. If the rational mind of a man refuses to accept embarrassment, then he is not embarrassed. And everyone knows we don’t fight as well away from home.”
In any case, it would hardly be fair to pick on Ashwin. Not only is he the team's deputy nightwatchman, he appears to be the regular press conference watchman, having been to more of these excruciating recrimination and cliché fests than any other member of the squad. How many more different ways can he find to explain why they lost in three days, why Sachin hasn’t scored his hundred yet and why his captain puts most of the fielders on the fence as soon as Australia hit fifty?
Still, I’ve a horrible feeling that his sterling work in front of the microphone won’t do him any good come scapegoat time. Virat looks to have scrambled to safety by scoring some runs and since eight-elevenths of the Indian team appears undroppable, Ashwin must already feel like the next sacrificial victim tied to the tree waiting nervously for The Srikkanth, the terrifying career-eating monster with his deadly axe.
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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. Providing his ransom demands continue to be met, he has promised never to write a whimsical book about village cricket. @hughandrews73