August 26, 2009

No time for back-slapping

England have displayed fortitude, pride, skill and unity, but they need to confront some hard truths still
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Andrew Strauss's team deserved to win the Ashes. Only a churl could argue otherwise. Five matches lasting five days give every player and both sides an opportunity to prove their worth. Thanks to three stupendous pieces of bowling, Strauss's men edged it. As the captain sagely observed afterwards, "When we were bad, we were very bad. When we were good we were just good enough." In those words lie hope. England are far more likely to retain the Ashes in 2010-11 than was the case four years before. Amidst the celebrations the leadership has remembered that their team stands at fifth in the rankings, and that after a supremacy lasting 15 years Australia is no longer the measure of all things cricketing.

Whether England, or anyhow English cricket (though the difference is paper-thin), deserved to win the Ashes is another matter. It has long been contended in this column that countries, schools, families, teams, sports and everything else man built have a prevailing culture, an outlook that is at once a product and a predictor. It has long been argued that English culture, as opposed to English character (which has never been criticised) has lost its vim and vigour. As parliamentarians loot the coffers and seven-year-old children swear at teachers, as 14-year-olds routinely get blind drunk, and middle-aged parents cover themselves with tattoos, it's an argument easily sustained.

Even in sport the country seems to have lost direction. Of course every nation has its scandals and scams. Still, to see a fine rugby club lower itself to faking blood injuries in an attempt to steal a cup match was to realise that an honourable game had lost its way. Does anyone seriously believe the incident was the first of its kind? Leaders have been thin on the ground. The England soccer team, and most of the top Premier League managers, come from richer European, Celtic or South American traditions. Certainly the Scots and Irish ought not to be dumped alongside their neighbours, a point they have long been trying to make. Although it is probably best not to tell them, Yorkshire and Durham have close ties with Celtic customs. As much can be told from their accents.

At first sight England's Ashes victory might seem to dispose of such arguments and to prove that cricket is merely a cyclical game, as opposed to an expression of deeper forces within the nation. That Australia has fallen back is incontestable, but its problems are superficial. The country itself remains intact and therefore the cricket team will rally. Already steps are being taken to introduce an Under-23 competition with rules designed to encourage spin. Already, too, the issue of ageing state teams has been confronted. Two years ago the Queensland squad had an average age of 28. Now it is 24. Despite all the palaver about captaincy and dubious selections, the fact remains that in a short time Australia has lost Shane Warne, Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Damien Martyn, Adam Gilchrist Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Andrew Symonds. Defeat is not surprising and nor is the slide to fourth place in the rankings.

As it stands, the next Peter May and Harold Larwood will come from Johannesburg and Durham. For decades Yorkshire and Surrey provided hard characters and cricketers, but they seem to have run out of gas

Meanwhile England stands at fifth on the table. Its Ashes team was not entirely a product of English cricket, or indeed the country at large. Four of the top six batsmen were born in South Africa. The coach comes from Zimbabwe, two of the players come from the local Asian communities, and two Irishmen have fought their way into the one-day party.

Two other members of the squad were sons of past players, and several came from Durham, clearly the best-run county, though Nottinghamshire and Sussex have much to commend them. Mark Robinson's comments after his team had won the Twenty20 competition confirmed his high standing in the game. Mind you, the pitch was a stinker. It's high time Edgbaston and its groundsman were called to account. Durham and Trent Bridge ought to have Test matches every year.

This is not to decry the team or its players. To the contrary, they displayed fortitude, pride, skill and unity. Moreover, they managed to remain both aggressive and sporting. Nor is it to belittle diversity. This column has long fought in that corner. Nothing has given more pleasure in cricket than the partnership between AB de Villiers and JP Duminy that took the Proteas to victory in Perth last winter. Nothing has been more pleasing than to find a Muslim captaining India, Christians playing for Pakistan (four altogether). Not the least delight of this summer has been to find Adil Rashid and Ajmal Shahzad adding 200 for Yorkshire, and to see the bright young legspinner take five wickets in successive matches. Australia lags behind in that regard.

Still, we have all come a long way. Thirty years ago there was only one black player in English soccer. But there is still a long way to go before Martin Luther King's dream is realised (nowadays he might talk as much about religion as colour). But it is getting better. Actually the main battle these days is between medievalism and modernity.

However, it can hardly be convincingly argued that the England cricket team is a product of the system or the national will. To the contrary it consists in no small part of settlers and sons. And it's the same in county cricket. At present, counties have roughly 119 foreign-born players on their books, and that does not include Irishmen (14), Welshmen or Scots. Obviously the 23 locally born Asian players have been omitted. Of course they are a separate category. Their rise says a lot about them and English society, all of it favourable. Clearly the rise also says something about the love of cricket that exists in these families. If anything, though, their contributions confirm that Anglo-Saxon England is underperforming.

Other weaknesses can be found in English cricket. Conflict of interest is an issue. Ashley Giles is both a director of cricket at Warwickshire and a national selector. That cannot be right. Other past players work for various newspapers and at the same time work as agents for England cricketers. That cannot be right. Nor did anyone resign after the Stanford debacle. At least the newspapers nowadays occasionally raise the real issues. Previously they have tended towards elegant or colourful vapidity.

Money is poured into academies, coaches are hired left, right and centre; and still the next batsman of rank comes from Cape Town. Between them Surrey, Middlesex and Somerset have 27 foreign players on their books. Kolpak cannot be blamed: European employment laws gave counties an opportunity to cut corners, that is all. They were not forced to take it. They could have concentrated on producing cricketers of their own. In that regard the two-tiered championship has not helped. Apparently the selectors more or less ignore performances in the second division, which makes it harder to survive fallow years and build teams. Maybe the position ought to be reviewed.

Every country has its own sources of cricketing talent. In England the mines and private schools helped provide strong fast bowlers and classical batsmen. As it stands, the next Peter May and Harold Larwood will come from Johannesburg and Durham. For decades Yorkshire and Surrey provided hard characters and cricketers, but they seem to have run out of gas. Surrey appears to consist entirely of Stewarts and Butchers. Vast sums are paid to mentors and coaches and yet they are forced to spend a fortune to sign a wicketkeeper from Worcestershire (Duncan Fletcher will not be pleased about that). Meanwhile two Afghan refugees open the bowling for their Under-16s.

In egalitarian - though not yet republican - Australia the clubs remain the primary means of toughening talent. In South Africa and Zimbabwe the schools remain the place of cricketing ripening. CLR James and other distinguished local thinkers have often talked about the part played in Caribbean cricket by the informal matches in which Basil Butcher, Garry Sobers and the like cut their cricketing teeth. The West Indies, too, have not found a reliable replacement for their original tributaries. A fracturing is near at hand. Rest assured, though, that the entire team will appear in the forcing series Down Under.

Strauss and Flower excelled as leaders of their team. Flower is a hard head and did not join the team on their lap of honour at The Oval. The England team is in good hands and can climb the rankings. However, English cricket ought not to slap itself on the back. Not enough has changed. Not enough hard truths have been confronted. English cricket looks towards Nasser Hussain, Angus Fraser, Ed Smith and Matthew Fleming and others to take it further along the path.

Peter Roebuck is a former captain of Somerset and the author, most recently, of In It to Win It

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jon9 on August 26, 2009, 18:44 GMT

    Bizarre is the only word for this article. It's sub-Daily Mail. "Anglo-Saxon England"? (surely they were immigrants?). Shouldn't the team reflect modern England, Peter? What's surprising about the England team having people in it who arrived in England aged 6 (like Strauss) or are from Yorkshire (like me) or have South Asian parentage, or have Scottish, Welsh or Irish roots or if it contains people who are muslims? We can all still count consider ourselves English or British. This article does come across as being written by a bitter ex-pat who has difficulty with change. (PS you need to do some work on your early history of Yorkshire and Durham!)

  • Tom_Bowler on August 26, 2009, 18:38 GMT

    What an utterly bizarre article. Aside from the ludicrous "Oh tempora, oh mores!" wittering on English society which can probably be dismissed as an expat desperately trying to convince himself he's better off overseas there are abundant errors of fact. Four of England's top six are Saffers? Presumably that includes Andrew Strauss, resident in England since the age of five, and Matt Prior, played for Sussex since U12 level. Raised in SA traditions? Yeah right. Fast bowlers were miners and batsmen public schoolboys? Probably news to those lusty pit men Gubby Allen and Ken Farnes not to mention old Etonian Eddie Paynter. Thirty years ago there was one black player in English "soccer" (just a hint Pete, the game's called football), which one was it then? Viv Anderson? Lawrie Cunningham? Clyde Best? Ade Coker? Brendan Batson? Cyrille Regis? This looks like a bit of a rush job to me.

  • Lateralis on August 26, 2009, 18:36 GMT

    I'm sorry Peter. I'm normally a fan of your writing, but a lot of this article is dribble, bordering on crass.

    Of the batsmen that played numbers 1-6 for England, Pietersen played two tests, Trott played one. Prior and Strauss played in all 5 but Strauss is very much an Englishman. So what if the coach is from Zimbabwe. Fletcher was too. Other nations have foreign coaches. And Ravi Bopara and Monty Panesar played 4 matches between them, mainly because they were rubbish and Adil Rashid never got a game.

    Edgbaston is normally a decent batting venue. This year it was next to impossible to make a decent wicket due to the weather, a situation faced by Steve Rouse the last few years. In truth, Steve deserves a medal for being able to make the playing area playable at all this year!

    I don't deny that there are issues in English cricket, but please, some credit where credit is due is no bad thing. P.S. A bad English trait these days is negativity, as displayed by your piece

  • Gary_111 on August 26, 2009, 18:17 GMT

    Slightly surreal to read following an Ashes victory how England would be better off following the example of Zimbabwean schools to create a strong cricket team. Most readers would be forgiven for thinking this piece a satire after reading the somewhat Partridge-esque rant about 14 year old children and tattooed parents. Especially as he follows this with a comment bemoaning the rise of cricketers of Asian descent in England as being due to the failing of 'Anglo Saxon England' - whatever that is!

    It would be only fair to mention the correspondents past, as it sheds some light as to why he holds these bigoted and racist opinions. Roebuck has long since been discredited in the UK and was given a suspended jail sentence in 1999 following his own peculiar brand of 'private tuition' meted out to South African teenagers that he had invited over to England to live in his house. He has since emigrated to Australia in a bid to find a more gullible audience willing to swallow his bile.

  • Gippslander on August 26, 2009, 18:02 GMT

    Writing in yesterday's Independent, Peter Roebuck suggests that the problem of the ageing of state teams in Australia has yet to be sorted out: - 'Australian cricket's main concern lies with its ageing State teams. Professionalism has bestowed many gifts but it has also delayed retirement. Last season the Queensland squad had an average age of 29. Not the team, the squad. That is not the Australian way. States will be encouraged to ditch the dead wood'.

    In today's article, he contradicts his claims of yesterday by stating that the problem has already been addressed: 'Already, too, the issue of ageing state teams has been confronted. Two years ago the Queensland squad had an average age of 28. Now it is 24.'

    Perhaps it's also time for a new generation of cricket journalists to come through the ranks Peter?

  • Jarr30 on August 26, 2009, 17:57 GMT

    Everybody just face it...Aussie RULE HAS COME TO AN END. Arrogant Ponting has been reduced to an below average captain which I feel he always was. Without Warne,Mcgrath,hayden,Gilly & Drunken Symo this Aussie team has some serious weakness and these weakness was horribly exposed by India when they totally demolished Australia and then SA beat them in their own backyard, Now it's England which has pushed Australia to 4th in ICC rankings. Countries like India and SA will smell blood and will be fighting for the top position. Australia might be back in top 3 in ICC as they are playing a relative weak sides like Pakistan and West Indies at home but won't last there for long as SL and England are trying to catch up. Arrogant Ponting SUCKS as a captain and does not have the brains like Warne or Gilly to lead a weak side. Good Luck Aussie...Now you don't even have umpire Bucknor to help you win matches.

  • govalan on August 26, 2009, 17:19 GMT

    What is Roebuck saying,that South Africa won the ashes

  • ollytonkin on August 26, 2009, 17:11 GMT

    This is a ludicrous article written by an expat who has long made his views on his mother country quite clear. Yes Pietersen and Trott are South African borne and bred, but to call Andrew Strauss and Matt Prior South African is ridiculous, when both have lived here all their lives and been produced by the system here. And what's wrong with Asians playing cricket for England? It should be celebrated as examples of successful integration and meritocracy. It might even mean England born Asians actually end up supporting England rather than India or Pakistan! What does he want, 11 Geoffrey Boycotts? What Peter Roebuck should be more concerned about is the pitifullly poor way in which cricket is promoted in this country, with hardly any state schools offering it any more and 99% of cricket on pay TV, and the chronically weak county system, that doles out Sky cash, without which it would be bust, to pay Kolpaks who aren't qualified to play for England. Rant over

  • dogbear on August 26, 2009, 16:35 GMT

    When Roebuck writes about cricket he can be interesting. But this article represents the whinging of an idiot. A hypocritical one at that. You really have to wonder why he bears such a grudge against the country of his birth, schooling, career etc, although I think I know why....

  • Mahesh_AV on August 26, 2009, 16:33 GMT

    I agree with the post of randomrambling. So, a Muslim captained the Indian team. So what? India has also had Muslim Presidents. India has had, and continues to have, many prominent people in the country who are Muslim, be it in sport or other fields. And not only Muslim, every religion. To us, it is not as strange or uncommon as the statement in the article portrays. Neither should this be strange to the rest of the world. To mention this in the article in a tone of being patronizing is akin to belittling India and Indians. I am shocked that this part of the article went through the editor of Cricinfo and has gone public.

  • Jon9 on August 26, 2009, 18:44 GMT

    Bizarre is the only word for this article. It's sub-Daily Mail. "Anglo-Saxon England"? (surely they were immigrants?). Shouldn't the team reflect modern England, Peter? What's surprising about the England team having people in it who arrived in England aged 6 (like Strauss) or are from Yorkshire (like me) or have South Asian parentage, or have Scottish, Welsh or Irish roots or if it contains people who are muslims? We can all still count consider ourselves English or British. This article does come across as being written by a bitter ex-pat who has difficulty with change. (PS you need to do some work on your early history of Yorkshire and Durham!)

  • Tom_Bowler on August 26, 2009, 18:38 GMT

    What an utterly bizarre article. Aside from the ludicrous "Oh tempora, oh mores!" wittering on English society which can probably be dismissed as an expat desperately trying to convince himself he's better off overseas there are abundant errors of fact. Four of England's top six are Saffers? Presumably that includes Andrew Strauss, resident in England since the age of five, and Matt Prior, played for Sussex since U12 level. Raised in SA traditions? Yeah right. Fast bowlers were miners and batsmen public schoolboys? Probably news to those lusty pit men Gubby Allen and Ken Farnes not to mention old Etonian Eddie Paynter. Thirty years ago there was one black player in English "soccer" (just a hint Pete, the game's called football), which one was it then? Viv Anderson? Lawrie Cunningham? Clyde Best? Ade Coker? Brendan Batson? Cyrille Regis? This looks like a bit of a rush job to me.

  • Lateralis on August 26, 2009, 18:36 GMT

    I'm sorry Peter. I'm normally a fan of your writing, but a lot of this article is dribble, bordering on crass.

    Of the batsmen that played numbers 1-6 for England, Pietersen played two tests, Trott played one. Prior and Strauss played in all 5 but Strauss is very much an Englishman. So what if the coach is from Zimbabwe. Fletcher was too. Other nations have foreign coaches. And Ravi Bopara and Monty Panesar played 4 matches between them, mainly because they were rubbish and Adil Rashid never got a game.

    Edgbaston is normally a decent batting venue. This year it was next to impossible to make a decent wicket due to the weather, a situation faced by Steve Rouse the last few years. In truth, Steve deserves a medal for being able to make the playing area playable at all this year!

    I don't deny that there are issues in English cricket, but please, some credit where credit is due is no bad thing. P.S. A bad English trait these days is negativity, as displayed by your piece

  • Gary_111 on August 26, 2009, 18:17 GMT

    Slightly surreal to read following an Ashes victory how England would be better off following the example of Zimbabwean schools to create a strong cricket team. Most readers would be forgiven for thinking this piece a satire after reading the somewhat Partridge-esque rant about 14 year old children and tattooed parents. Especially as he follows this with a comment bemoaning the rise of cricketers of Asian descent in England as being due to the failing of 'Anglo Saxon England' - whatever that is!

    It would be only fair to mention the correspondents past, as it sheds some light as to why he holds these bigoted and racist opinions. Roebuck has long since been discredited in the UK and was given a suspended jail sentence in 1999 following his own peculiar brand of 'private tuition' meted out to South African teenagers that he had invited over to England to live in his house. He has since emigrated to Australia in a bid to find a more gullible audience willing to swallow his bile.

  • Gippslander on August 26, 2009, 18:02 GMT

    Writing in yesterday's Independent, Peter Roebuck suggests that the problem of the ageing of state teams in Australia has yet to be sorted out: - 'Australian cricket's main concern lies with its ageing State teams. Professionalism has bestowed many gifts but it has also delayed retirement. Last season the Queensland squad had an average age of 29. Not the team, the squad. That is not the Australian way. States will be encouraged to ditch the dead wood'.

    In today's article, he contradicts his claims of yesterday by stating that the problem has already been addressed: 'Already, too, the issue of ageing state teams has been confronted. Two years ago the Queensland squad had an average age of 28. Now it is 24.'

    Perhaps it's also time for a new generation of cricket journalists to come through the ranks Peter?

  • Jarr30 on August 26, 2009, 17:57 GMT

    Everybody just face it...Aussie RULE HAS COME TO AN END. Arrogant Ponting has been reduced to an below average captain which I feel he always was. Without Warne,Mcgrath,hayden,Gilly & Drunken Symo this Aussie team has some serious weakness and these weakness was horribly exposed by India when they totally demolished Australia and then SA beat them in their own backyard, Now it's England which has pushed Australia to 4th in ICC rankings. Countries like India and SA will smell blood and will be fighting for the top position. Australia might be back in top 3 in ICC as they are playing a relative weak sides like Pakistan and West Indies at home but won't last there for long as SL and England are trying to catch up. Arrogant Ponting SUCKS as a captain and does not have the brains like Warne or Gilly to lead a weak side. Good Luck Aussie...Now you don't even have umpire Bucknor to help you win matches.

  • govalan on August 26, 2009, 17:19 GMT

    What is Roebuck saying,that South Africa won the ashes

  • ollytonkin on August 26, 2009, 17:11 GMT

    This is a ludicrous article written by an expat who has long made his views on his mother country quite clear. Yes Pietersen and Trott are South African borne and bred, but to call Andrew Strauss and Matt Prior South African is ridiculous, when both have lived here all their lives and been produced by the system here. And what's wrong with Asians playing cricket for England? It should be celebrated as examples of successful integration and meritocracy. It might even mean England born Asians actually end up supporting England rather than India or Pakistan! What does he want, 11 Geoffrey Boycotts? What Peter Roebuck should be more concerned about is the pitifullly poor way in which cricket is promoted in this country, with hardly any state schools offering it any more and 99% of cricket on pay TV, and the chronically weak county system, that doles out Sky cash, without which it would be bust, to pay Kolpaks who aren't qualified to play for England. Rant over

  • dogbear on August 26, 2009, 16:35 GMT

    When Roebuck writes about cricket he can be interesting. But this article represents the whinging of an idiot. A hypocritical one at that. You really have to wonder why he bears such a grudge against the country of his birth, schooling, career etc, although I think I know why....

  • Mahesh_AV on August 26, 2009, 16:33 GMT

    I agree with the post of randomrambling. So, a Muslim captained the Indian team. So what? India has also had Muslim Presidents. India has had, and continues to have, many prominent people in the country who are Muslim, be it in sport or other fields. And not only Muslim, every religion. To us, it is not as strange or uncommon as the statement in the article portrays. Neither should this be strange to the rest of the world. To mention this in the article in a tone of being patronizing is akin to belittling India and Indians. I am shocked that this part of the article went through the editor of Cricinfo and has gone public.

  • cricketeria on August 26, 2009, 16:24 GMT

    Don't really see the racism here. PR simply laments the increasing lack of good players from indigenous English stock. He shows how SA, Asian, Irish players are doing well but despite the county system's best efforts, the next good bat is from SA. Lauding diversity, he wants to see indigenous English people do well too. I'm a Pakistani, but I cannot fault him for it. He argues that English culture is deteriorating, that the values of hard work and pride-found more in immigrant cultures today- are diminishing in English people, who are resorting to cultural crassness. He mentions cheating rugby players, midlife-crisis ridden parents, ill-behaved children. Could it be that he yearns for an older England's culture while still embracing the new England's diversity? Maybe i don't understand because i didn't get all the daily mail references... Also, Muslims are all over Bollywood and Azhar captained India, but can anyone argue with a straight face that antiMuslim sentiment is dead in India?

  • LawrenceH on August 26, 2009, 16:07 GMT

    Another rambling, incoherent article from the honorary Australian. If Mr Roebuck could string his thoughts together as easily as he strings sentences together, then more of his output would be worth reading. What relevance to whether England 'deserved' to win is it that people choose to have tattoos and children? His bizarre ideas about the historic cultural make-up of the UK show a deficiency in anthropological understanding and he muddles his argument throughout, harking back to the Anglo-Saxons whilst bemoaning medievalism! UK culture has undergone constant renewal from elsewhere as befits a trading nation. Frustratingly, within the article are buried some valid points, such as the movement of South African players purely to further professional goals. But to include players like Strauss in that point weakens it, and the real debate should be how much these players lastingly contribute to, and what if anything they take away from, English cricket and culture as a whole.

  • Themba on August 26, 2009, 15:44 GMT

    England can now be called south africa A.KP is by miles their best player. He could not even make it in South african domestic cricket. Trott on the other hand also would have made a good batsman for our B team. But as long as the pound is stronger than other currencies you will always have these makeshift Englishman. Something is wrong with county and English cricket

  • randomrambling on August 26, 2009, 14:01 GMT

    Mr.Peter,

    Just one clarification about the statement "Muslim Captaining India". It is a ridiculous, short-sighted comment if not outrageous. In India it is an absolutely normal affair to have cricket captains who are Muslims, film (super) stars who are muslims, President of the country who is a muslim. There is no discrimination based on religion in India.

  • Clyde on August 26, 2009, 14:00 GMT

    For me, Roebuck's article is interesting for its questions about where players come from. As an Australian, I cannot imagine why Australia does not have one wrist spinner who is better as that than Hauritz is an an off-spinner. Hauritz, at the time of the Ashes, did not seem to have a straight ball, leg cutter or outswinger (and these are perfectly possible for a very experienced slow bowler). It is horrifying to think of all the rubbish that must be being sent down by school first elevens, district teams and State ones if what turns up in Tests is what we have just seen: bowlers missing their targets by half-a-metre, one metre or several metres. Something in the origin of these cricketers must be causing that - all-roundism, for example. Mr Roebuck, please discover and set down the Outback or backyard origins of such changes.

  • bestbuddy on August 26, 2009, 13:36 GMT

    Everyone, the point Mr Roebuck is raising is not one of racial or cultural prejudice, nor is it of the merits of foreign born players representing England. The point he is making is that in the times of Robin Smith, Alan Lamb, the Hollioake brothers etc. there were always far more English born players on par or better in the team. This does not appear to be the case any more. At present 6 south african born players have been picked for at least the english lions this summer (pietersen, strauss, prior, trott, moore and lumb), and there are more waiting in the wings (think kieswetter). Yes, they had come over to play cricket, and almost certainly in the hope of being picked for England, but why have they succeeded in a country with more professional players than South Africa and Australia combined?

  • Kalasin on August 26, 2009, 13:33 GMT

    Seems like someone left England and now relies on the Daily Mail to keep him updated. Yes England has social problems, as does Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, India........... As for the Anglo Saxon argument, what even is an Anglo Saxon. Please, please, please stop embarassing yourself and stick to writing about cricket.

  • AsadsAshes on August 26, 2009, 13:32 GMT

    I agree with all the (critical) comments in this article. As others have pointed out the article is full of inaccuracies (e.g. re Strauss and Prior), weird unfounded generalisations (e.g. tattooed middle-aged parents?) and confusing points of view (is he arguing the fact that (unlike Australia) England has got members of its "ethnic" groups playing for it is a positive sign of multi-culturalism - as it is - or a bad thing?). For someone who is (as I understand it) English himself, Roebuck's articles are full of loathing for the culture that - unlike his South African targets - "he was raised within". The apparently unfair circumstances of his departure from the UK to Australia may make his bitterness towards his home country understandable, but it does not make it much more palatable for the reader. Finally, what do Nasser Hussain, Angus Fraser, Ed Smith and Matthew Fleming have in common (and what are they to do with this article)? It is lost on me...

  • krumb on August 26, 2009, 13:19 GMT

    The best thing about Roebuck's article is that you only need to quote it to reveal how ridiculous it is: "Actually the main battle these days is between medievalism and modernity" - Roebuck brings us bang up to date on global sociology; "[Asian-British players] contributions confirm that Anglo-Saxon England is underperforming" - Roebuck suggests 'brownies' only succeed when 'true blooded White Englishmen' fail; "middle-aged parents cover themselves with tattoos...At least the newspapers nowadays occasionally raise the real issues" - Roebuck reluctantly conceeds that he's not the last sane man in England; "European employment laws gave counties an opportunity to cut corners, that is all" - Roebuck surprises everyone by managing to slip in a dig at Brussells in an otherwise completely un-Daily Mailish piece.

  • TheMatchReferee.com on August 26, 2009, 13:01 GMT

    In this era of globalisation one might reasonably counter that the Poms have done well to capture talent from other countries that may not exist internally or that they may not be capable of capturing internally. No?

  • bigwindy on August 26, 2009, 12:59 GMT

    I agree with Mr Roebuck.... What would a 100% english born cricket team look like ?... The next big thing here in England will be Chad Kieswater, the wicket keeper batsman from Somerset. He is a 100% South Africa, who played SA Schools, and then being disillusioned with South Africa , he made his way to play cricket here in England. I know personally many young cricketers from South Africa who will be making their way here to the UK , and they will continue to seek there fame and fortune here .

  • Clean_hitter on August 26, 2009, 12:58 GMT

    This isn't the first time that I've read an article on Cricinfo that goes on some long winded sociological or political rant with racist undertones. Seriously, Cricinfo is for CRICKET and CRICKET ONLY, if someone wants to write about something else, then they should use a relevant media outlet for such thoughts. It reflects badly on the site when the columnists write articles like these, and the editors let them through.

    As for this specific article, I agree with "ArmchairPundit" a lot of complaining, but very thin on any kind of suggestions or solutions.

  • krumb on August 26, 2009, 12:55 GMT

    This column is simply appalling. Imagine if I were to suggest that the failure of Ponting to retain the Ashes was directly related to the moral bankruptcy of Australian culture? That the Australian cricket team could not take 20 wickets more than once in the series because they exemplify a base culture which considers the recent 'Intervention' in the NT a 'noble cause' rather than the inevitable outcome of Australia's engrained racism and its insidious treatment of its indigenous population. Perhaps I should claim that Clarke chipped a catch to Trott, because children in Australia are homophobic and their parents prone to wearing string vests. Quite reasonably, I think a few people may reply to me: a) you clearly know nothing at all about Australian culture, its politics, people or history, and your absurd caricature that bares absolutely no relation to a deep and complex society; and b) this has very, very little to do with cricket.

  • Chase_HQ on August 26, 2009, 12:41 GMT

    lots of interesting stuff here. I don't think we have recovered from the hangover of the 90s to be honest, and the lack of cricket on terrestrial tv isn't helping the grassroots of the game.

    England will always be there or thereabouts. We will never have the drive of an 80s WI or 90s Australian team. We just don't care that much. There will always be an interest in the game in the UK, but like everything here, it will be measured and prone to distraction from other sports. Like Freddie, English cricket will regularly disappoint, but will sometimes astonish. We will never be consistently excellent - nor, as far as I can tell, have we ever been.

  • AndrewHughes on August 26, 2009, 12:40 GMT

    Hilarious work, Mr Roebuck. I think some posters have rather missed the point. This is clearly a cleverly written satirical piece, designed to illustrate the dangers inherent in allowing former cricketers with too much time on their hands to have access to a keyboard. Corrupt politicians? People with tattoes? 14 year olds drinking alcohol? No intelligent writer could seriously believe that these are inventions of the 21st Century. And Anglo-Saxon cricket? Come on, people, surely that was a giveaway. What has happened to your sense of humour? Top stuff Mr R. I'm off for an English balti, look forward to reading your next comedy masterpiece.

  • hadrian.ains on August 26, 2009, 12:39 GMT

    "Four of the top six batsmen were born in south africa and raised within its traditions."

    erm, no they didn't

    presumably you are talking about pietersen, trott, prior, and strauss, all of whom were born in south africa, but only two (pietersen and trott) were 'raised within its traditions' - strauss moved to the UK aged 6, and prior aged 11, both therefore are very definitely products of the english cricketing system. prior has played for england at every age group there is, from under-12 upwards, and whilst this does mean that he was already handy when he left south africa, the skill increase between under-12s and full international is, i would say, significant, and is entirely the product of england

    a smidgeon of research, and far fewer instances hyperbole and crass generalisation in future please

  • Nduru on August 26, 2009, 12:13 GMT

    Interesting argument. However, I think its a little narrow and unrealistic to define true 'Englishness' as anglo-saxon and long for a lost anglo-saxon cultural resurgence that produces a 'truly' English team. Not only is this a narrow nationalistic idea of citizenship, with a lot in common with a Mugabe-style outlook that true citizens should be from a particular ethnic/historical identity and the rest can go to hell, but it also forgets that England was the colonial master of all these lands from which many of its players now come. Is it now fair for England to call the children of its empire not properly English (as if there is such a thing) even if they qualify for citizenship? Just as Andy Flower should feel free to play for Zimbabwe without being told he's not 'properly' Zimbabwean, all those who choose England as their home should be accepted at English. Culture is not bounded and static, Mr Roebuck.

  • Optimistix on August 26, 2009, 11:53 GMT

    This is indeed no time for back-slapping for Mr. Roebuck either - a once impressive cricket writer who now comes across as confused, overly opinionated, and shockingly narrow-minded. Such articles must cost him many admirers, and so they should. I for one have certainly had a downwards revision of my opinion of Mr. Roebuck and his writing. Very disappointing.

  • Buckley1 on August 26, 2009, 11:47 GMT

    'English culture, as opposed to English character (which has never been criticised) has lost its vim and vigour. As parliamentarians loot the coffers and seven-year-old children swear at teachers, as 14-year-olds routinely get blind drunk, and middle-aged parents cover themselves with tattoos, it's an argument easily sustained.'

    Mr Roebuck Are you seriously suggesting that these matters are the sole preserve of 'English culture'? This really is nasty, specious nonsense with clear racist implications (vis the honourable exceptions you make for those of 'celtic customs'). That you are no lover of English cricket is well established, but I am really shocked that you have stooped so low on this occasion.

  • Capistrano on August 26, 2009, 11:34 GMT

    Amen, wigs666. What a load of codswallop from Mr Roebuck. Scattergun pontificating, dashed off without reflection, reeking of prejudice. England is a diverse society, and it has been for a very long time. Get over it. English cricket too. Roebuck seems obsessed with immigrants and colour, to the extent that he has to assert he is not prejudiced. ('Nor is it to belittle diversity. This column has long fought in that corner.') The irony is lost on a 'English' man who is now based in, er, South Africa and Australia. And come on, what is Australia as a modern nation if not overwhelmingly one of immigrants, of 'settlers and sons'? (I love Australia, but try telling its indigenous communities just how 'egalitarian' it is.) But that's the problem when you try to fix the whole world. Stick to the cricket. Oh, and now that Mark B has retired, there are no Butchers or Stewarts left at Surrey.

  • DGray on August 26, 2009, 11:26 GMT

    Despite being an avid fan of Mr Roebuck's writing, I have to say that some of his comments regarding English culture are misplaced. If there is such a problem with English culture, why are so many people flocking from all over the world to live there? Is it just the pound? As a South African who has worked in England I found it difficult to leave a country I became very fond of. To be sure there are problems England are dealing with, but these pale in comparison with the issues faced in many other countries, including my own. There is much to be admired and aspired to in English culture, and I think Mr Roebuck would do well to acknowledge this in his writings.

  • Manilli on August 26, 2009, 11:20 GMT

    What is Roebuck trying to say? He seems very confused. While no one will deny that Pieterson and Trott were raised within SA cricketing traditions, Strauss and Prior must have learned a great deal about cricket in SA by the time they were 6 and 11 respecitively. I suppose Nasser Hussain is Indian on that basis? Please could you tell us how two current English cricketers of Asian origin, who were born in England, schooled in England and played county cricket in England, not products of English cricket? Anglo-Saxon England, what is it, sounds like a complete irrelevance to me in cricketing terms. Finally, thanks for telling us about the merits of 'egalitarian' Australia and the role of schools in Zim's cricketing 'success'.

  • Jasonharcourt on August 26, 2009, 10:57 GMT

    This is indeed a rather bizarre article, and I'm really not sure what Roebuck is driving at. Foreign-born players in the England team is hardly a new phenomenon, and if they are better than jolly old Smythe of Tunbridge Wells then so be it. England won the Ashes because over 5 Tests they were better in 3, Aus in 2.

  • nikhil_mandavkar on August 26, 2009, 10:55 GMT

    I can understand that as an EnglishMan,one wants to see true english players coming up in the ranks. But if players from different cultures are playing in english team then it is because it has been allowed. I hope this is not the matter of dispute. Coming back to original issue, Yes it is a problem with english cricket to not to produce quality batsmen considering the amount of domestic cricket they play. This problem needs to be resolved. because, as a geninue cricket lover, we want english cricket at their best.

  • roebuck on August 26, 2009, 10:54 GMT

    I cannot understand how Mr Roebuck thinks it appropriate to believe that his undoubted knowledge of cricket entitles him to make rambling observations on religion, ethnicity, EU employment law, the role of the miner, the scandals in the British parilament, et al. Those of us that have the good, or whatever, fortune to read his sermons in the SMH are accustomed to all this, but he really ought to be denied the wider audience. We know you don't like English crisk, Mr Roebuck, so just say that and we can all move on

  • Nutcutlet on August 26, 2009, 10:04 GMT

    A thoroughly thoughtful article that sets cricket, specifically English cricket, in a wider and sociological context. I am glad that I am not alone in thinking that English Test cricket increasingly relies on imports, especially from South Africa whilst the counties - and they must be held to account for this - rely heavily on hired guns to bolster their chances of domestic success. What message does this send our young and enthusiastic cricketers? Aspiring young English players, if not born, at least raised in England, need all the encouragement they can get: if the roots are not healthy, then the plant dies. It is up to those who run our game to look to the long-term future and address this problem.

  • wigs666 on August 26, 2009, 9:53 GMT

    What a load of patronizing drivel. Does Roebuck have any idea of modern Britain? Rashid and Shahzad adding 200 runs, how clever of the little brown people! Irish people playing cricket?! In England!? Whatever next! Foreigners plying their trade, committing to playing cricket for England, Oh no!! Because that's not been going on for over 100 years or anything. And if you're going to branch out into social commentary, try using something other than the front cover of Daily Mail for your research. ('…middle-aged parents cover themselves with tattoos…' - what?! Whose parents? Where are these people who are blighting the landscape?) I suggest you stick to writing about what you know rather than spouting this kind of pointless verbiage. Although that would probably result in some very short articles.

  • Reg_Dyer on August 26, 2009, 8:44 GMT

    While agreeing to some of the sentiments at the start about national culture, this article descends into a confused morass quite quickly largely because the premiss is not sustained by the evidence proferred. The most obvious evidence of something seriously wrong in English sport is the lack of high quality coaches in cricket, rugby, football etc. This IS a cultural issue and is about the dengiration of community and national life, respect for authority and ultimately the lack of strong minds needed to mould teams. However, it is not to do with the lack of 'Celtic traditions' (Yorkshire and Durham have essentially Norse traditions not Celtic), two of the four SA raised batsman referred to were too young to have imbibed the traditions from SA and, most pertinantly, the standard of players in England now is much higher than 10-15 years ago when there were also more foreign born players,many of them from SA but several from the West Indies which nobody felt able to complain about.

  • gebedepo on August 26, 2009, 8:24 GMT

    I watch a lot of cricket. The Australian team only lost 2-1 in Australia to nSouth Africa, and probably should have won the tests they lost, particularly in perth. They then won 2-1 in South Africa. I think they are head and shoulders above the English team, and should have won easily. I could only make a case for Strauss,Pryor and Broad in a combined ashes team. I expect Australia will bounce back quickly and I strongly disagree with Peter Roebuck. Just check the ICC top ten rankings in bowlers and batsmen John Bartlett

  • gemmy123 on August 26, 2009, 8:19 GMT

    At the heart of this bizarre article is a few moot points - for instance the English domestic circuit's current reliance on Kolpak, which is waning anyway if you look at the type of juniors coming through many of the counties and potential for self-regulation in this regard. As for the rest - its riddled with historical inaccuracy (the Celtic twist is laughable), poor recognition of the 60 year long era of reciprocal and deep rooted multi-culturalism in British society, and worst of all - panders to the tabloid media image of modern British society of "tattooed middled agers" (sic). Innaccurate, contradictory and more than a little offensive. I'd prefer my England team to be stocked with second generation or more Brits, but that would just be in ignorance of what's going on in British society as a whole.

  • Chef_Greg on August 26, 2009, 8:05 GMT

    An insightful critique of the problems with the English domestic structure, but the article doesn't really address what England should be doing to make sure they retain the Ashes in 2010-11. Do they have the right coaches? Have they got a consistent and meaningful tour warm up formula in place? How can they reduce the risk of injury to key players such as KP?

    Whether by chance or by design, they now have a reasonably strong test squad, and everything that squad does between now and that series should be focussed on playing the best test cricket they can when they step out for the first test down under. No deliveries to second slip.

    A historical point - Durham and Yorkshire are more of the Nordic (Viking) culture and language than Celtic. The Celts in the North East got displaced by the Anglo Saxons, and then the Vikings moved in a couple of centuries later.

  • ArmchairPundit on August 26, 2009, 7:38 GMT

    It's sad -- I admired Peter Roebuck's writing when he was a player, but this Daily-Mail-esque ramble lacks focus or purpose. What are Mr Roebuck's recommendations for the future? I'm blowed if I can see them. I would mention two things; firstly, heed Orwell's observation that every generation imagines itself to be smarter than the one before it and wiser than the one after it, and secondly, does anyone else recall Freddie Brown, Ted Dexter, Basil D'Oliveiera, Tony Greig, Alan Lamb, Robin Smith, Alan Mullally, Phil DeFreitas, etc, etc?

  • vpyati on August 26, 2009, 5:20 GMT

    Nothing has been more pleasing than to find a Muslim captaining India....

    The above line shows your ignorance. A cricket journalist should stick to cricket and not venture into the cultural diversity of other nations. There is nothing surprising (or pleasing, as you wrote) in Muslim playing for India or captaining it. It is perfectly normal. India is a secular country and everybody stands an equal chance.

    The reason I am clarifying this is because someone reading your posts might feel that Muslims in India are discriminated against and its hard for them to play for the country.

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  • vpyati on August 26, 2009, 5:20 GMT

    Nothing has been more pleasing than to find a Muslim captaining India....

    The above line shows your ignorance. A cricket journalist should stick to cricket and not venture into the cultural diversity of other nations. There is nothing surprising (or pleasing, as you wrote) in Muslim playing for India or captaining it. It is perfectly normal. India is a secular country and everybody stands an equal chance.

    The reason I am clarifying this is because someone reading your posts might feel that Muslims in India are discriminated against and its hard for them to play for the country.

  • ArmchairPundit on August 26, 2009, 7:38 GMT

    It's sad -- I admired Peter Roebuck's writing when he was a player, but this Daily-Mail-esque ramble lacks focus or purpose. What are Mr Roebuck's recommendations for the future? I'm blowed if I can see them. I would mention two things; firstly, heed Orwell's observation that every generation imagines itself to be smarter than the one before it and wiser than the one after it, and secondly, does anyone else recall Freddie Brown, Ted Dexter, Basil D'Oliveiera, Tony Greig, Alan Lamb, Robin Smith, Alan Mullally, Phil DeFreitas, etc, etc?

  • Chef_Greg on August 26, 2009, 8:05 GMT

    An insightful critique of the problems with the English domestic structure, but the article doesn't really address what England should be doing to make sure they retain the Ashes in 2010-11. Do they have the right coaches? Have they got a consistent and meaningful tour warm up formula in place? How can they reduce the risk of injury to key players such as KP?

    Whether by chance or by design, they now have a reasonably strong test squad, and everything that squad does between now and that series should be focussed on playing the best test cricket they can when they step out for the first test down under. No deliveries to second slip.

    A historical point - Durham and Yorkshire are more of the Nordic (Viking) culture and language than Celtic. The Celts in the North East got displaced by the Anglo Saxons, and then the Vikings moved in a couple of centuries later.

  • gemmy123 on August 26, 2009, 8:19 GMT

    At the heart of this bizarre article is a few moot points - for instance the English domestic circuit's current reliance on Kolpak, which is waning anyway if you look at the type of juniors coming through many of the counties and potential for self-regulation in this regard. As for the rest - its riddled with historical inaccuracy (the Celtic twist is laughable), poor recognition of the 60 year long era of reciprocal and deep rooted multi-culturalism in British society, and worst of all - panders to the tabloid media image of modern British society of "tattooed middled agers" (sic). Innaccurate, contradictory and more than a little offensive. I'd prefer my England team to be stocked with second generation or more Brits, but that would just be in ignorance of what's going on in British society as a whole.

  • gebedepo on August 26, 2009, 8:24 GMT

    I watch a lot of cricket. The Australian team only lost 2-1 in Australia to nSouth Africa, and probably should have won the tests they lost, particularly in perth. They then won 2-1 in South Africa. I think they are head and shoulders above the English team, and should have won easily. I could only make a case for Strauss,Pryor and Broad in a combined ashes team. I expect Australia will bounce back quickly and I strongly disagree with Peter Roebuck. Just check the ICC top ten rankings in bowlers and batsmen John Bartlett

  • Reg_Dyer on August 26, 2009, 8:44 GMT

    While agreeing to some of the sentiments at the start about national culture, this article descends into a confused morass quite quickly largely because the premiss is not sustained by the evidence proferred. The most obvious evidence of something seriously wrong in English sport is the lack of high quality coaches in cricket, rugby, football etc. This IS a cultural issue and is about the dengiration of community and national life, respect for authority and ultimately the lack of strong minds needed to mould teams. However, it is not to do with the lack of 'Celtic traditions' (Yorkshire and Durham have essentially Norse traditions not Celtic), two of the four SA raised batsman referred to were too young to have imbibed the traditions from SA and, most pertinantly, the standard of players in England now is much higher than 10-15 years ago when there were also more foreign born players,many of them from SA but several from the West Indies which nobody felt able to complain about.

  • wigs666 on August 26, 2009, 9:53 GMT

    What a load of patronizing drivel. Does Roebuck have any idea of modern Britain? Rashid and Shahzad adding 200 runs, how clever of the little brown people! Irish people playing cricket?! In England!? Whatever next! Foreigners plying their trade, committing to playing cricket for England, Oh no!! Because that's not been going on for over 100 years or anything. And if you're going to branch out into social commentary, try using something other than the front cover of Daily Mail for your research. ('…middle-aged parents cover themselves with tattoos…' - what?! Whose parents? Where are these people who are blighting the landscape?) I suggest you stick to writing about what you know rather than spouting this kind of pointless verbiage. Although that would probably result in some very short articles.

  • Nutcutlet on August 26, 2009, 10:04 GMT

    A thoroughly thoughtful article that sets cricket, specifically English cricket, in a wider and sociological context. I am glad that I am not alone in thinking that English Test cricket increasingly relies on imports, especially from South Africa whilst the counties - and they must be held to account for this - rely heavily on hired guns to bolster their chances of domestic success. What message does this send our young and enthusiastic cricketers? Aspiring young English players, if not born, at least raised in England, need all the encouragement they can get: if the roots are not healthy, then the plant dies. It is up to those who run our game to look to the long-term future and address this problem.

  • roebuck on August 26, 2009, 10:54 GMT

    I cannot understand how Mr Roebuck thinks it appropriate to believe that his undoubted knowledge of cricket entitles him to make rambling observations on religion, ethnicity, EU employment law, the role of the miner, the scandals in the British parilament, et al. Those of us that have the good, or whatever, fortune to read his sermons in the SMH are accustomed to all this, but he really ought to be denied the wider audience. We know you don't like English crisk, Mr Roebuck, so just say that and we can all move on

  • nikhil_mandavkar on August 26, 2009, 10:55 GMT

    I can understand that as an EnglishMan,one wants to see true english players coming up in the ranks. But if players from different cultures are playing in english team then it is because it has been allowed. I hope this is not the matter of dispute. Coming back to original issue, Yes it is a problem with english cricket to not to produce quality batsmen considering the amount of domestic cricket they play. This problem needs to be resolved. because, as a geninue cricket lover, we want english cricket at their best.