March 15, 2014

All hail Ashley Giles

Andrew Hughes
"No, my darling, a doosra cannot be a full toss"  © Getty Images

It's all over. By guiding his team to a series-deficit-reducing triumph in Barbados, Ashley Giles has seen off his coaching rivals, and the betting market for the next England coach shows old Wheelie as the overwhelming favourite, with Oprah Winfrey, Harry Styles, Michael Gove, Field Marshall Haig and Kaiser Wilhem II all trailing at massive odds.

And in the wake of his triumph, the new coach-elect has made a bold pronouncement on behalf of English cricket: it's time to accept the doosra. After some years on its high horse, it seems that English cricket has decided to climb down, although to be frank, everyone else had forgotten it was up there:

"Didn't you use to be taller, English cricket?"

"Yes, it was because I was sitting on that horse."

"Oh yes, the horse. I'd forgotten about that. Why were you up there again?"

"To be honest, I can't really remember."

Of course, sometimes you have to take a stand. But if you take a stand, and then decide later that actually you were a bit silly to take a stand and stop taking a stand, then people tend not to take you seriously when you next take a stand. Unfortunately, English cricket stands its ground more often than a cantankerous donkey with hoof ache.

The traditional English approach is to invent a sport, invite other people to play it, then almost immediately start to complain that the other people are ruining it. These other people generally belong in one of two camps: people who didn't go to Eton and Johnny Foreigner.

Being inherently conservative, English cricket adopts the default conservative position: that everything we hold dear is under imminent and perpetual threat. Our game is always on the brink of barbarism and only the chaps at the ECB can save it.

English cricket doesn't have a problem with ideas; so long as they are not new ideas. Consequently, the list of threats to the integrity of the game that have, down the years, caused the cheeks of Yorkshiremen to flush red with indignation and the jowls of MCC members to wobble in thunderous complaint is a fairly long one:

Professionals in a chap's dressing room
Professional captains
Women in the pavilion
Fast Australian bowling
Fast West Indian bowling
Paying cricketers a decent wage
Coloured clothing
Day-night cricket
Reverse swing
The doosra
Central contracts
Franchise Twenty20 cricket
Kevin Pietersen

Eleven years ago the ICC ruled that a bowler was allowed to bend his arm by 15 degrees. Furthermore, tests showed that all bowlers bend their arm when delivering the ball. But true to type, English cricket has ignored the evidence and stuck to the rule that if something looks a bit like chucking then it is chucking. End of discussion.

Yet things aren't always as they seem. The earth, it transpires, is not flat after all. The moon doesn't disappear every morning. Shane Warne is a lot less orange in real life than he appears to be on TV. Thanks to the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, science and all that, we don't need to rely on folk wisdom, rules of thumb, or superstition. We can analyse our game, discover new truths, invent new tactics, adjust the rules, and move on.

So we should welcome Ashley's attempts to bring English cricket into the 1990s. But having declared the doosra to be okay, his next challenge this summer will be far tougher: persuading the Test Match Special commentators that for professional broadcasters, a consistent inability to pronounce multi-syllable Sri Lankan names should be a source of embarrassment, not amusement.


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

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Posted by Matth on (March 17, 2014, 0:22 GMT)

You had me convfinced until you said "Shane Warne is a lot less orange in real life than he appears to be on TV". You obviously lost all credibility at this point :-)

Posted by vallavarayar on (March 16, 2014, 17:48 GMT)

Nice one about the multi syllabic names!

Posted by southstoke49 on (March 16, 2014, 10:59 GMT)

Very good, although the poor showing at the forthcoming world cup won't be his fault, it was that the venue got changed at the 11th hour to spin friendly Bangladesh conditions when all year we have been preparing for English style green tops.........Oh maybe not!

Posted by Insightful2013 on (March 15, 2014, 17:29 GMT)

Great article! I have great reservations about Giles capabilities, though. He was never innovative. He had this height and never used it. He could have banged it in, a la Shastri or use his large hands to spin prodigiously. He simply trundled. In my experience if a chap doesn't show ingenuity whilst young, it's unusual for inventiveness to osmotically occur. We need people who can think outside of the box. Cricket isn't stodgy anymore and science works.

Posted by SagirParkar on (March 15, 2014, 12:43 GMT)

"These other people generally belong in one of two camps: people who didn't go to Eton and Johnny Foreigner."

so very apt, Mr Hughes.. So. Very. Apt !

Posted by steve48 on (March 15, 2014, 12:40 GMT)

To be fair to Giles, this is the first thing he has said or done worth merit since his 50 batting alongside you know who at the Oval to win the Ashes! Article is so true, love the horse. Trouble is, even assuming Ashley is not sacked for this and we accept the doosra, it will be years before we produce such a bowler at the highest level. Unless that is what we have Steven Finn currently working on!

Posted by Rawal on (March 15, 2014, 8:59 GMT)

Hahahaha! A good article and things nicely put!

Posted by Cricket_Anonymous on (March 15, 2014, 6:51 GMT)

Heh. Nicely put. It's going to be a funny day.

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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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