February 8, 2014

The more things change...

...the more the ECB reminds you of the days when the sun never set on the MCC

Owing to legal implications we can't say anything about this photograph © Getty Images

As the chaps at the ECB flap about like a flock of well-fed puffins whose cosy perch on the cliff face has been disturbed by the arrival of a puffin-eating cliff-climbing Antarctic snow kangaroo, we should remember that English cricket is usually like this.

The ECB masquerades as a thrusting, dynamic executive that has swept away the embarrassing relics of a time when the sun never set on the MCC. All those public-school educated men in red-and-yellow ties have been elbowed off the stage, to be replaced by slightly less well-educated men in designer ties.

Yet as the saying goes, you can take English cricket out of the MCC, but you can't take the MCC out of English cricket. In fact there's something reassuringly 20th century about recent goings-on: bizarre autocratic decisions, thinly disguised personal vendettas, a patrician's refusal to communicate, and a certain unmistakable whiff of panic, as unsettling as a hint of brandy on the breath of the relative who was supposed to be driving you home.

Declaring that everything was perfectly fine and that Andy Flower could carry on until the next Ice Age was the kind of bluff, pull-yourself-together optimism that at one time would have been delivered to the press by a red-faced retired colonel or Ted Dexter.

Having thus guaranteed his future, they promptly sacked him before he had had a chance to clear his throat at the ECB's emergency "So What Do We Do Now?" meeting; a tactic so ruthless it might have had Douglas Jardine muttering, "I say, old boy, that's a bit thick."

And now it seems that Kevin Pietersen can't be selected ever again, for reasons that are not immediately apparent. Telling the new coach that he can't pick the country's best player is like a general asking for people to volunteer for a dangerous mission, congratulating the man who steps forward, then shooting him in the foot with a revolver.

It reminds me of the parable of the toy gun. Many (many) years ago when I was young, I was visiting a friend during the summer holidays. Upon my arrival, his mother welcomed me to the house with the traditional courtesies, but then informed me that although I was at liberty to play with any of the toys therein, I couldn't, under any circumstances, touch the Interstellar KP Blaster Ray.

"Why not?"

"Because you can't."

"Is it broken?"


"Is it made of toxic materials that make it too dangerous to handle?"

"No, that would have legal implications and I'm not saying that."

"So you mean that the gun is so difficult to use, it's not worth playing with?"

"No, apart from a couple of incidents, we've had no problems with the gun."

"Are you worried that we might fall out over it, thus spoiling our harmonious team atmosphere?"

"No, and don't overstretch the analogy."

"So why can't we play with it?"

"Because I said so."

So denied access to the Interstellar KP Blaster Ray, we had to make do by pointing our fingers at each other and making "Kapow!" sounds. This was possibly better for our imaginations, but not for our morale, because whenever we went outside, we were routinely blasted to smithereens by the other, ray-gun equipped children, particularly little Micky Clarke and his friend with the stick-on moustache.

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