June 29, 2013

The rebel cricket conference

It's time to take on the ICC's monopoly on futile boardroom banter

If you hadn't noticed, it's ICC Conference season once again; a special time of year at which the elders of the Church of Cricket who watch over us like benevolent, slightly sleepy, occasionally absent-minded, old uncles gather together in one place in order to agree to disagree, while sampling some really top-class corporate dining facilities.

It's not healthy, however, for the ICC to have a monopoly on futile boardroom banter and ineffectual pontification, so this week, I set up a rival conference. I saw myself as the Kerry Packer of cricket administration, luring some of the game's most high-profile suits away from the stuffy establishment with brightly coloured pyjamas, day-night meetings, and a hand-picked set of commentators to tell the world how splendid we all were.

Sadly, no one responded to the invites, so I had to fill the empty chairs with my daughter's toys. A Yoda action-figure stood in for Richie Benaud; a cuddly Eeeyore represented Mr Srinivasan, and Giles Clarke's seat was taken by a large stuffed rodent wearing a "Stanford '08" baseball cap. Ravi Shastri did turn up, late, but punctuality is very important in our organisation, so we made him sit in the garden, providing commentary through the window.

Since we are all busy people, we agreed to focus on the big stuff. Item one on the agenda was the epidemic of articles praising Alastair Cook. Several offending quotes were read out:

"Alastair Cook is a benign chap with an inner core of steel who leads by tenacious example."

"… Alastair Cook, for whom every innings is like the emergence into stately young adulthood of a beautiful royal bride."

"If you asked Cook to give birth, he would find a way to do it smoothly, brilliantly, and without fuss."

At this point, the conference was adjourned for a short vomit break. On our return we agreed that the spectacle of journalists blowing smoke up Alastair's bottom was not good for the game, nor was it healthy for any of those involved. This artificial means of reputation inflation could only have a messy ending, so we passed a binding resolution in which we resolved to bind the wrists of the hacks concerned to prevent them from using a laptop.

Next up: commentary. Bad commentary threatens to undermine our game, and only concerted action can stamp it out. Television commentators are under continuous pressure to flap their gums, so we plan to launch a campaign called "Just Say Nothing!" fronted by Richie himself, in which microphone botherers are urged to ignore peer pressure by keeping their mouths shut unless they have something worthwhile to add (which is almost never).

Finally, we resolved to tackle the menace of Nick Knight. His wide-eyed evangelical style, and his tendency to list to starboard while talking can be alarming, but delegates were most exercised by his unrequited romance with Eoin Morgan. What was once a charming and engaging love interest in the Sky commentary box has become an awkward obsession. There was unanimous agreement on an application to the High Court for an injunction preventing Nick from ever mentioning Eoin, his gorgeous talent, his sexy array of shots, or his dazzling blue eyes ever again.

Our work done, the proud members of the inaugural Hughes Cricket Conference turned to Richie to make some closing remarks.

"Wisely administered, you have. The force is strong with you."

I bet Dave Richardson won't be able to say that.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here