Friday, March 14, 2014

Macavity’s not there

APRIL 2014 (No. 555)
Can We Have Our Ball Back Please Mister?
(and while we’re about it - what about our game as well?)

So, the England football team which set off for the World Cup with high hopes has returned, having lost 2-0 to Chad; 3-0 to Mongolia and 5-0 to Tuvalu. The captain has been wheeled out to Press Conferences but none of the Manager, Assistant Manager, Fitness Coach or Chairman of the FA has felt it necessary to say anything in public. The kit manager has made a sheepish appearance to say not very much but that’s all. Oh — and the Manager has apparently resigned but isn’t prepared to talk about it and Wayne Rooney has been dropped forever for unspecified reasons. Far-fetched? Yes, for football but does it ring a bell in terms of cricket?
Cricket has ever been the worst administered sport in the world but now seems to display a real contempt for the paying spectator. The public doesn’t care about ‘dirty washing’ but does want to ensure that when they fork out their ever-increasing sums of money to watch a Test team in action, they understand what is going on and why. An informed spectator-base is one that will go along with decisions, even if they seem bizarre, in the knowledge that those who run the game are being straight with us.

Andy Flower, whose attitude to interviews seems to have been one of indignant surprise that anyone should dare to ask him questions, has gone but is going to have something rather nice lined up for him in the background. There’s going to be a new Head Coach — note, not Team Manager and doubtless, the usual suspects are being lined up. But it’s not about individual coaches and their work, it’s more a feeling that there is a real ‘closed shop’ operating at ECB level. Steve Harmison put his name forward when the post of an England Selector fell vacant. He didn’t mind not getting the job — Angus Fraser is a hard act to beat and looks a really good choice; what was insulting was that the only acknowledgement that Steve received was an automated Email noting his application — nothing else. The England overall supremo Hugh Morris, of whom it might be felt as Kitty Muggeridge waspishly said of David Frost, ‘He rose without trace,’ has trotted off to Glamorgan without a farewell comment. He was succeeded by Paul Downton, presumably with attendant white smoke, after years out of cricket but with lots of tips as a stockbroker. Geoff Miller stood down as Chairman of Selectors, also in mute fashion and was replaced by James Whitaker. Now that seemed a quite sensible progression until his now infamous interview. Normally affable and sensible, he looked like a startled rabbit in the headlights when asked only slightly difficult questions and if Sebastian Faulks is looking for fresh material in his revamping of P. G. Wodehouse, he need look no further than that performance, playing regularly on YouTube. It might explain why, one supposes, that no one from the England camp, except the players, ever comes out to talk any more. And the great panjandrum Giles Clarke? Like all the others — Macavity’s not there.

I really wanted to write something positive this month as Spring looms on the horizon and an old man’s thoughts turn to the cricket field but I feel, like so many others, adrift at a distance from the game. County members watch in dismay as another hotel rises and they still sit in stands without roofs. A regular correspondent from Durham was prescient when he predicted that Ben Stokes would be a success but he also saw that when it happened, no one at Durham would be able to watch him play in the future. Foreign mercenaries fly in and out with no real contact with supporters and decent players who have come through the ranks are being dispensed with, as clubs find it more profitable to feature younger players who are subsidised from the ECB. Men who might have matured and become even better are on the scrap heap at 28. I wish I could find reasons to be cheerful but at the moment, it’s difficult.

As E M Forster never wrote — Only Disconnect — that seems to be the motto of the modern English game.

John Symons.

(Please note: the views expressed in the Cricket Society News Bulletin Editorials and Notes are those of the author and not of the Cricket Society as a whole.)

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