May 24, 2014

What Gilesy said

When the head of the ECB speaks, you listen. And smirk

The kind of deft wristwork you're looking for in an egg-station chef who represents a country's hopes and aspirations © Getty Images

When the great men of cricket clear their throats with a preparatory harrumph, that is the signal for us mere mortals to stop messing about and pay attention.

So, on Tuesday, when I heard that Lord Clarke of Antigua, alumnus of Egregious College, Cambridge; Patron of the Fat Cats Federation; and Honorary Life President of the Wobbly Jowl Society, was about to speak his thoughts into a BBC microphone, I pulled the emergency- stop lever, pushed my way to the front of the bus and commandeered the driver's radio.

So what did he have to say? Well, quite a lot. Giles produced more words than any human could comfortably stuff into their earholes at one sitting; a bonanza crop of verbiage, but from among the salad of wisdom I have plucked just a couple of the tastiest quotes:

"I think there was a widespread feeling that the team had lost connection with the supporters."

True. For years, the England team has appeared to view its supporters as unpaid cheerleaders, who exist merely to hand over hefty wads of money then applaud without hint of dissent every run, wicket, time-wasting manoeuvre or urinary misadventure.

But then, perhaps they were taking a lead from their chairman. Lest we forget, Giles is the man who sold tickets for an England versus Australia one-day series without mentioning that half of the England team wouldn't be playing in it; who told England supporters to "move on" after the team's star batting attraction was dropped for no reason; and who over the last nine years has ensured that most England supporters can't watch their team on television or the internet.

"He is a very good role model and he and his family are very much the sort of people we want the England captain and his family to be."

This statement was odd, even by Giles' standards, and I'm not sure the England captain will regard it as entirely helpful. The shortest measurable interval of time is not the attosecond or the nanosecond. It is the interval between the moment when a celebrity is labelled a paragon of virtue and the moment when he or she is caught swearing at the Queen's pet parrot.

Self-declared role models only have themselves to blame, but Alastair has never claimed to be a saint. Yet even as you read this, England's elite teams of tabloid hacks will be polishing their muck rakes and recharging their electric mud-flingers. There may not be much dirt to dig in this case, but they are an inventive species, so expect headlines such as "England Captain in Unethically Sourced Breakfast Egg Scandal" soon.

The second problem for Alastair is that our Giles has not always shown himself to be the best judge of people. Indeed, given his previous record, you might be forgiven for thinking that Giles' idea of the right sort of person is the sort of person who owns a helicopter and has several billion dollars of other people's money in their bank account. Being praised as a role model by Giles Clarke is not, perhaps, much of a compliment.

Still, it is good to see that after a brief interlude of experimenting with competence and merit, English cricket has returned to its traditional values. Henceforth there will be no dalliances with foreign-born chancers or state-school oiks.

An England cap once again symbolises what it has throughout the ages: that the wearer of this headgear, though he may not be terribly proficient with bat or ball, is undoubtedly the right sort, the kind of chap who looks good in a blazer, who holidays on a yacht, and who knows that the big spoon is for soup and the medium-sized spoon is for dessert.

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