Stanford Super Series 2008-09 October 30, 2008

ECB under fire as players go cold on Stanford

Cricinfo staff

A bored-looking Andrew Flintoff waits to face the media as the row escalates © Getty Images
The ECB is under increasing fire as its five-year deal with Allen Stanford comes under the media spotlight amid calls for the contract to be reviewed and reports that the England players are rapidly going off the whole scheme.

On Wednesday, what started as rumbling criticism over Stanford's conduct on Monday became something altogether more serious as the day wore on. By late afternoon England's players were consulting with their union, the Professional Cricketers' Association, over the whole event. "I've spoken to a number of the players and there are real and significant concerns about this whole thing," PCA chief executive Sean Morris told the Mirror. "We had reservations from the beginning and everything we were worried about appears to be happening."

The England board's position was also shifting. "I'm hearing there are serious concerns from the ECB at the manner in which the tournament has been staged," said BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew said late on Wednesday. "There are lessons to be learned for us all from the events of this week," an ECB spokesman admitted. "That was always going to be the case because it is new territory for all of us, the ECB and Sir Allen. With four years of the agreement still to run there may be things we can do differently."

Senior ECB officials, who almost bent over backwards to welcome Stanford and his millions at Lord's last summer, were also under fire with calls for them to stand down after failing to undertake adequate checks on Stanford. Rod Bransgrove, Hampshire's chairman, told the Daily Telegraph that the position of Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman, was in doubt. "I asked the ECB to do a lot more checking on Stanford and this competition. We made it very clear we that we should not enter into this agreement without proper checks but he [Clarke] had already done the deal. The board should resign collectively".

The ECB and Stanford agreed on an unprecedented US$100 million deal in the summer, spread over five years, but the inaugural competition this week in Antigua has attracted mounting criticism in England.

The flack really started to fly on Monday when Stanford was pictured with Matt Prior's wife on his knee and with his arms around two other girlfriends of members of the England team during a match the night before. It provoked a strong reaction from parts of the media, and in addition, one England player reportedly said: "If that was my wife he'd put on his lap I would have wanted to punch him".

Last night's planned cocktail party with the teams was cancelled at short notice, with officials rather unconvincingly claiming there were "logistical problems over a venue". One journalist was unconvinced. "As if Stanford would ever have trouble in securing a venue for anything in Antigua," he noted. "He owns most of them."

Additionally, the pitch - which was rolled for more than 40 hours prior to the tournament - has lacked pace and carry, restricting bowlers' confidence to pitch it up while hampering batsmen's strokeplay.

A sign denoting access to the England dressing room with Sir Allen Stanford's picture next to Kevin Pietersen © Getty Images
Stanford, who owns the ground where the matches are being held, also has access to the players' dressing rooms, which has helped cultivate an uneasy feeling among the teams. With Saturday's US$20 million match approaching, even Kevin Pietersen is feeling the pinch. "The longer this week goes on and the more people make of it, the more you just want to get it over with really," he said. "You always want to win a fixture for England but what will be, will be. I'm not too fussed."

Pietersen's team-mate, Ian Bell, offered similar sentiments while expressing concern at the timing of the event. "In a way, this week probably has come a little bit at the wrong time before we go and play a really good team in India," he told the BBC. "Momentum is something we have been building over the last two months, and with the Ashes around the corner next year we want to build on that and stay on the path that we have been going on under KP.

"We need to put in some hard yards there when we get to India and hopefully this week is not going to distract anyone from doing that."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Rob on October 31, 2008, 21:15 GMT

    Am I alone in thinking that 20/20 is just an enjoyable but unimportant thrash-about to play when there is no test cricket? Although using the same kit they are really two different sports. 20/20 is great for those with short attention spans but why pander to the thick majority to gather cash? After over a century of being chaste the world cricket authorities are now acting like back-street whores. Offer pissed up lager boys a quick hand-job and the money rolls in. Stanford is a pimp and the England players now rightly feel like they have been whored out by a cutthroat who thinks that their real job is boring.

  • Lloyd on October 31, 2008, 12:43 GMT

    If the England plyaers are so bothered,cricket can move on without them.As for the ECB and the English press thanks for ignoring the story of IOC President continueing to reject cricket as an Olympic sport.By getting cricket on American TV Stanford just did for cricket more than the RCB has done,in not getting cricket into the 2012 Olympics.(see The creators of the game,the English,don't really do anything for the game anymore but keep it down,and as the IPL has suggested might have to be left out.All this indignation over Stanford's money is unseemly,and I wonder if its merely the press,rather than the people.Many ordinary English People I've spoken with can't understand why cricket is not in the 2012 Olympics.

  • nikolai on October 31, 2008, 11:43 GMT

    Has anyone whom has posted here actually attended the event? I am seriously disappointed in the media and its negative spin of what has been one of the most wholesome events in cricket, regardless of the format. Fans of all nations actually attending the matches have been entirely impressed in what feels and looks like real cricket. Stanford, the man, hardly figures in the matter, its about good clean fun and honest to goodness cricket.

    I have never seen such whining by a visiting team(s) in my life. Lame complaints regarding lighting and off field antics are just not cricket. I have attended both previous Stanford 20/20 tournaments with never hardly a mention of the lights being an issue, unless it related more the individual players ability to deal with them.

    England need to stop whining and concentrate on the game; for if the last three matches are any indication the West Indians are dominating because they are concentrating on just that.

  • David on October 31, 2008, 11:34 GMT

    Am I alone in wondering about the fuss? Of course Stanford has got his own agenda, he's not a charity worker. I'm just astonished to hear all this talk of English cricket "selling its soul" (with snooty words bandied about like tawdry", "vulgar" even "pornographic"). The game needs IPL, it needs Stanford, it needs to move forward into the 21st century. Test cricket is dying, and too many of its players are still paid a pittance in contrast to other sports. English cricket has been held back for the last 30 years by its innate snobbery about the game. It condemned Packer, treated one day internationals as a kind of hit and giggle, was the only test country not represented at the IPL. No coincedence that English cricket has fallen behind in so many ways. It doesn't all come down to old-fashioned virtues of a high left-elbow, knocking the shine off the ball, not cutting before June, playing for the love of the game like a good boy scout. Wake up, it's not 1905 anymore.

  • Greg on October 31, 2008, 10:10 GMT

    The combatants in this series are seriously underwhelming. Middlesex would come last in the Sheffield Shield unless Trinidad and Tobago were involved. If you put aside Pietersen and a slowly recovering Flintoff, England are a faceless team. Superstars? Who - name one! As the West Indies, they are the punching bags of world cricket. In the US, Stanford is a byword for education and learning. Stanford is learning a lesson right now. He should have bought quality or not bought at all. 20/20 CAN be successful in the US but you need elite cricketers involved, not journeymen. It's a strong concept - but weak in personnel. Try again, this time with Australia, India, South Africa and England involved and play it at Yankee Stadium. Drop in a pitch, make them an offer they can't refuse (money's not an issue, but get into bed with the BCCI if you have to) then you can expect US market penetration. Remember the lessons of World Series Cricket, Allen - only buy the best cricketers!

  • Sandeep on October 31, 2008, 5:59 GMT

    Allen Stanford makes IPL's Modi look like a saint. In their desire to frustrate BCCI, ECB has embraced an even more crooked businessman.

  • Ganga on October 30, 2008, 23:26 GMT

    Get over it. Nobody was forced or falsely coerced into doing anything. Cricket, like any sport is entertainment. And now we have something to talk about. The more money goes into WI cricket the better it is for the game.

  • Douglas on October 30, 2008, 23:03 GMT

    So why is anyone surprised? Stanford is after the notoriety and selling the US TV rights to fatten his bank accounts. He has not the slightest interest in WI or English cricket. Those people fawning over him are making themselves look even more ridiculous. The WI team which is outclassed by just about every other team in the world can hang on to his coat tails as that is their last salvation. The English team should try to do better. Digicell may soon get fed up and hand over the whole show to him.

  • James on October 30, 2008, 21:01 GMT

    England's players have no right to complain. A free holiday in the Caribbean and the chance to pick up £500k (getting bigger by the day given the falling pound). Stanford has got his agenda, he wants to look the big man and get cricket into the US where he can start getting some real return on his investment, but hen that is why he has splashed out he big bucks. If you don't like it, don't go and play. If you are narked that your wife has been flirting with the guy, or sitting on his knee, than why not have a quiet word with your wife.

  • sachit on October 30, 2008, 20:21 GMT

    look at the photo-does matt prior's wife or the other wag's seem like they were forced to flirt with stanford??? for god's sake these women should look after themselves. As for stanford he's at least kept the game alive in the windies.So it is unfair to blame him for everything!! Sadly the tournament lacks firepower. England,Middlesex T&T or the superstars are really below par for a ''Super'' tournament. Look at the dropped catches and poor batting and bowling.Cricket doesn't HAVE to involve the sub-continent or Australia , but it's damn more enjoyable when they're involved.

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