Universe Podcast: “Let’s get at it”. #InspiringGenerations – the launch.

Wrote a demon blog and t’internet ate it. So rambled, below, on the theme of the ECB Action Plan 2109 – specifically the ‘Transforming Women’s & Girls’ Cricket’ tome, released and placed before the media on Tuesday.

There are ‘qualifications’, here, which I hope are decipherable. Chiefly, though, there is a genuine hope and even belief  that the massive commitment of funds really will change levels of awareness and participation: that the commitment to supporting and re-structuring (which may be politically/philosophically questionable to some) will at least work, significantly, in terms of the ‘gender re-balance’ that Clare Connor and others have spoken of.

Makes me smile that much of this feels driven by the need to keep pace or catch up with the Aussies – fair dinkum to them for blazing the trail for women professionals, in particular. But I don’t work and am not particularly likely to work at the elite end of the game. I’m a grassroots geezer and proud of it. What feels good to me is that because of the holistic, wholesale, humongousness of this project, many wee female humans will register cricket in a way that simply hasn’t happened, previously. The girls I coach will feel the sport-tastic blur going on above them. Love that.

In short, despite ab-so-lutely acknowledging concerns about the implications around new tournaments, new regions, I am buzzing – this does feel like a transformation. It’s right that we pour resources into W & G Cricket; it will be liberating, inspiring and blood-dee exciting. Just like sport should be.

 

*Note. Fully intend to get back into gathering in guests for the Universe Podcast ver-ry soon!

Below are some of the key commitments, from the ECB: copied & pasted from the “Transforming Women’s & Girls’ Cricket document”.

£20m investment by 2021.

171% total funding increase for girls’ County Age Group (CAG) Cricket.

8 new regional teams for elite domestic cricket.

500k girls in primary schools to receive a great cricket experience.

40 new professional contracts for female cricketers.

2,000(!) female South Asian All Stars Activators trained by 2024.

Final note; belatedly remembered (and am reminded, re-reading the document) that Women’s IT20 comes to Brum, in the Commonwealth games in 2022. Edgbaston could do a great job of showcasing that: see you there!

 

Universe Podcast/codcast. @cricketmanwales is in the kitchen with the #WomensAshes.

Could only be me. Could only be some daft bloke in his kitchen, trying to make sense of the #WomensAshes.

A ramble, then; a further adventure into longish yomps through Bristol and cod-psychological retrospectives on Eng Women Cricket, on Lanning… and on everything.

Have a listen?

 

*Important note – important to me, anyways*. I use the phrase “even though it’s the women’s game” here. This – I am about to argue – is not remotely the diabolically sexist remark some may fear. Why? Because what I mean is “even though it’s the women’s game – and as we know in a sexist universe it ain’t gonna be funded and supported to the level of the men’s game…” blah di blah.

Hope that’s understood that way because despite my middle-aged blokeyness and the inevitable baggage that brings with it, I am hoping, in my imperfect way, to make arguments FOR equality and respect for women in sport and beyond.

But back to the blog… and to the issues I look to discuss.

Shots fired? Some. But maybe more ‘issues raised’, as follows – or these are some of the things that fascinated, or struck, or tickled me.

  • England’s ‘mis-execution’.
  • Aussie superiority – the reasons why?
  • Perry’s genius.
  • Cultural differences.
  • Structural differences.
  • Fitness/agility/execution/performance.
  • England’s alleged lack of dynamism.
  • Australia’s alleged lack of dynamism.
  • That thing about The Women still needing to ‘legitimise their game’. (Cobblers!)
  • Prospects for Test Cricket for women.

And on the cooking front? Hilarious-but-true, kinda ‘caramelised’ the onions and distractedly dropped about a tonne of bouillon in there, so the alleged veg soup turned out brownish and over-salty. Metaphor for my life.

 

Since I wrote and recorded this, further interrogation of All Things England Women, for broadly failing to rise to the challenge and specifically getting ab-so-lutely Lanninged, at Chelmsford.

On the one hand this has been deeply disconcerting – you suspect *to the extent that* the ECB have been stirred into a series of declarations around policy/intent on professional cricket for women. On the other, just WOW: can we just pause to enjoy the exhilarating, stylish and entertainingly boomtastic way in which the Australian skip and her colleagues went about squishing England? Fortress Chelmsford was in shock. Aus did that thing of finding another level, that probably most of us (pommies) were fearing or waiting for. Either way it was magnificent.

So all the questions feel more urgent. And maybe most positively, the discussions regarding development and structure have exploded. Suddenly Women’s County Cricket has a partial reprieve and ‘commitment’ and ‘investment’ are re-promised.

In terms of the actual cricket, either this Ashes really will be a massacre, or perhaps England, or an England player or two, freed-up by the refreshingly-sexy pliably-rubbery deadness of the last two fixtures, will clonk some defiance into these strangely inequitable times. I’ll be in Bristol to see the last T20, so let’s hope for something there, eh?

 

The Universe Podcast 4. Swing; some Science.

 

 

 

Two years ago the Waltons visited Bath – and Bath Uni specifically – in support of my son, who was contemplating an application to the Department of Mechanical Engineering. As well as being wowed by the L, L, L, and indeed the F, F, F (Facilities, come o-on, keep up), a particular one of us was more than mildly diverted by a particular chance-occurrence. Or was it fate?

(By the way, it’s cool to call it ‘Uni’, right?)

Following an encouragingly cosmopolitan, reasonably well-healed crowd into the relevant building, we encountered the usual signage, plus material delivering to the departmental sales-pitch. A formula-something racing car, in the foyer; a video twinkling out sexy-but-profound Things You Should Know But Probably Didn’t, About Bath Engineering and a clutch of posters in a rack, speaking of specific research undertaken in the gaff.

The first of these posters was winking at me alone.

It may not, actually, have been called The Science of Swing but clearly it should have been. It was the story of one particular student’s release into the mysterious world of hooping cherries; some hows and whys of bowling swing – swing measured and experimented-upon in wind-tunnels and stuff. Proper, academic swing. Shockingly, I departed from family duties at that moment.

That project was written by a youthful James Scobie, the same James Scobie who triumphantly wheeled away to the Bath Uni Mech. Eng. staff room, where he still sits: that poster said as much.

Clouseau-like, I eventually discovered that the Dr Scobie was, on the day of our visit, “in the main sports hall, doing the student-welcome effort”. I went, and finding a gap in the worryingly-rehearsed but no doubt sincere questions from young hopefuls, began a conversation about balls. Later, graciously, James sent me his original research and our contact persisted, somewhat.

Two years pass and whilst delivering our newly-enrolled son into his room on the campus, I re-meet Dr Scobie, as arranged, for a further delve into the science and as it transpires, the poetry around the subject. The result is Podcast 4, for the Universe Podcast, which I present below.

It’s a rather magnificent 20-minute ramble through Laminar Flow, Turbulent Flow and dimples, on golf balls. Meaning there is science, but not of the deathly dry variety, I trust.

I strongly recommend it – the Dr is well worth listening to. The bloke who says WAGGA, instead of WACA (I think because he was raw excited and thinking of the GABBA) maybe less so.

 

 

I’m adding some thoughts and reflections because they may contribute to the understanding – maybe. Bullet-pointing, because a) speed b) there’s that feeling we bolted through many complex things and my head remains excited. To the extent that I will revisit this and re-claim some form of intelligent conclusion, in time.

  • It’s not about the humidity, folks!
  • It *may be* partly about the relative stillness that grey/cloudy/humid conditions deliver above the pitch. During ‘classically good bowling conditions’ at (e.g.) Trent Bridge in September, there may be an atmospheric stillness which enables the necessary Fluid Dynamics.
  • Conventional Swing is about the difference in two types of air flow… and about new balls and Boundary Layers around them.
  • The Duke’s ball swings (conventionally) when skilfully steered, when it’s newish, when the surfaces are in a condition that supports ‘hooping’.
  • The Duke’s ball is a ‘fabulous product’ with no unhelpful groove or slot between the four pieces of leather that make up the two hemispheres. The ‘fast’ or polished side can, therefore, be slick and quick – supporting swing.
  • The Kookaburra ball has a noticeable groove, which may negatively affect the possibility for swing.
  • *Also*, in Australia/India where there is often significant heat, turbulences above the pitch may interrupt or reduce the possibility for swing. James Scobie/Bath Uni conducted an experiment to try to replicate this WACA-esque phenomenon, using a grid to complicate air flow.
  • Wind tunnels are not 30 yards long. They are room-sized bits of kit in which the chamber may be the size of a suitcase, or tea-chest. The ball is fixed in position and air propelled across it to reproduce events. But the science is still valid.
  • Reverse swing is a function of speed and/or deterioration in ball condition.
  • Sandpaper can accelerate or make possible Reverse Swing.
  • Sugary spit can artificially maintain or improve the surface condition of the ball – and therefore promote swing.
  • Both sandpaper and sugary spit are ver-ry naughty.

Important: lots of chat arising about humidity and a perceived contradiction in the Scobie argument regarding the influence of muggy conditions. To be clear, Dr S conducted experiments where humidity was increased incrementally (and measured) in the wind tunnels. These showed clearly, in his view, that humidity specifically – the presence of water in the air – played no role in the production of swing.

Extracts, here, from a further explanation from Dr Scobie.

’humidity in isolation has no effect…

What we are arguing is than in order to cause the ball to swing you need the asymemetry set up by laminar flow on one side of the ball and turbulent flow on the other. If the environment is not conducive to this then swing will not occur’.

Encouragingly and for me more than slightly wonderfully, it is scientific fact (of a sort) that some of this remains… a mystery.

Last Chance Saloon?

Early the morning after, reflecting on another extraordinary night of sport. Savouring again (I AM a Glammy fan, after all) the intensity, the ecstasy and the daft rejuvenating joy of those key moments; Meschede’s knock; Smith’s two-in-two; VDG’s ultimate last-over roar. Wow.

The Crash-Bang Story is clearly that Glamorgan’s season remains alive but my own experience of the day was enriched by conversations with colleagues – Senior Blokes at Cricket Wales.

So respect to Matt Thompson, Kerry Lloyd, Peter Hybart and to Mark Frost, out in the Fun Zone welcoming folks and proferring his cricket storybook. (This for children, this intelligently linked to the CW/Chance to Shine project to embed/develop the link between sport and thought, all proceeds to cricket in Wales). Behind the Glam rollercoaster, there is honest, strategic, generous work.

Meanwhile, here’s how it was; the game – live.

 

Big Few Days coming up, for Glammy. In which a season, a coach maybe, might be saved.

Juicily, we’re against local rivals Gloucestershire, at Sophia Gardens, with conspiratorially muggy skies enhancing that possibility-for-intense-drama thing as we ease towards blast-off.

Glammy are without their recently-imported star Aussies but are emphatically buoyed by yet another great win away at Mighty Southern Softies, Surrey, a handful of days ago. After a prolonged period of disappointment, if not trauma, for Glammy fans, there’s a dangerous wee buzz building as the potential for a successful T20 campaign threatens to emerge.

Tonight, we know, is important: at 3.32 p.m. it’s still not clear if Colin Ingram will play. If the South African leftie-genius doesn’t march out there that would surely be a blow, unless the budding beauties – Donald, Carlson, maybe – sear into the void?

After my customary pitstop at The Plan, I scoot through Bute Park into Sophia Gardens to meet up with Matt Thompson, recently appointed by Cricket Wales to oversee the Player Development Pathway. (Official job title Talent Programme Manager).

Matt is every bit the spookily authoritative, engaging and – despite his preposterous youff – experienced cricket bloke I imagined he would be. I spoke to him for cricketmanwales.com and will post the podcast soonish.

By 6 p.m. a comparatively smallish crowd 3-4,000(?) is in and enjoying the sunshine. The Glam Media Team are hoping and expecting for more following ‘goodish ticket sales’. A win tonight will surely boost attendances for the remaining home fixtures but a defeat, in the context of frankly poor form throughout the County Champs and 50 over season, will inevitably see them remain lowish.

Payne – left arm over, quickish – opens to Donald, who drives him for two off the first ball and then middles the next to point, who gathers. The young welshman then survives two wobbles on consecutive balls as  a beauty beats him playing inside the line then a misjudged effort flies up into his face – off bat, I think – dislodging part of the helmet. Only three off the over.

Higgins follows, for Glos. Donald drives him lustily over mid-off, into the river, for the first boundary and follows that with an angled drive backward of point. Early signs are that the pitch is looking true-ish and placid and that therefore we could see a bundle of runs. After Payne’s second over – the third – Glam are at 20 for 0. Enter Tye – a unit – for the fourth.

People, it’s now a delightful evening and maybe you should be here?

Khawaja finally middles a pull over midwicket for four and Donald betters that with a cover drive for six. Good start now, as Glamorgan reach 37 for 0 off 4.

The night’s first great catch is a crowd catch, as Khawaja drives Payne majestically over mid-off but a yorker/full-toss cleans the Aussie out for the first wicket. 45 for 1; in comes Meschede. It feels like honours are relatively even as Glamorgan rack up 68 for 1 off the first seven… but maybe Glam would have liked one or two more boundaries? This is comfortable rather than explosive and the evening is looking set fair for top, top batting conditions.

Donald tries to invent nine different shots at once and spoons one out to backward point for another disappointing dismissal. He made a goodish-but-also-mixedish 31 – so neither bad nor really influential again. Absolutely right that he opens… but does need to flesh out these promising starts. Enter Carlson, who did so well the other night at the Oval.

At the halfway point Glam are 90 for 2, meaning 200 should be within their compass – but again this feels like a deck where nearly anything might be chaseable. We’ll see.

Carlson contemptuously despatches Noema-Barnett to square leg for six to signal the necessary gearing-up; he backs it up a superb, whipped cut-drive through point before sadly skying one to mid-off. Missed opportunity, you sense; 105 for 3. The incoming Cooke will know he needs to maintain, if not build, the momentum.

Meschede baseball-bats Smith through cow corner for six: come the end of the 14th, he’s onto 49 and Glamorgan are 131 for 3. (Spoiler: he gets his fifty).

Cooke sweeps Smith over backward square for six, drives him out over extra cover for four, then heaves him over midwicket for a further six. Important. The shadows are long and the night still: there is much drama to come.

Cooke is caught at deep midwicket off Howell for 29, in the seventeenth, bringing in the other hero of the Oval, Wagg. He must tee off, immediately. Instead, he falls l.b. to a cute slower ball. Salter must fire. Glamorgan are 159 for 5 off 17. Not enough, for me.

Things are in danger of falling apart, as Salter is caught behind, swinging hard to Payne, who now runs in from the River End. Meschede remains, defiantly swinging that same bowler over long on for another four, bringing his own tally to 63. Glammy surely need 20-something off each of the last two overs to be competitive?

They do get 25 off the last over, from a furiously frustrated Tye. Innings closed on 201 for 6, with Meschede on a creditable 77 and Selman also undefeated on 12. Good score, clearly but from where I’m sitting – looking straight down the strip on a glorious summer’s eve – it simply does not feel enough, against Klinger and co. Is that weird?

Gloucester have been competent rather than brilliant. Glam have been okay. Let’s see where this goes from here…

Hammond and the consistently excellent Klinger will open for Gloucester… and they will attack. Almost the whole of Sophia Gardens is now – at 20.09 p.m. – under deep shadow but as Glos race to 30-something this feels less than relevant. That is, until Hammond skies (and I do mean skies) Hogan to mid-on. After 3, the visitors are 39 for 1, with Hogan looking notably fired up; bowling full, quickly and with a beautifully bounce-inducing high hand. Heard it said that Hogan is a spent force. I like him for his intelligence, consistency and heart.

(Interestingly, we hear in the Media Centre that a Glam fielder has been penalised under the new law on feigning control or possession of the ball. Could be that Salter faked a return to the keeper but honestly not clear on this. The penalty is clear; five runs to the opposition).

In the sixth over, Cockbain exquisitely drives van der Gugten out through extra for arguably the night’s most delicious boundary before fluking an ugly one past the inevitably vacant leg slip area. But Glam respond, dramatically, having that man Klinger caught at long off *and* Cockbain caught behind next ball! Wow. 58 for 3 and game on with knobs on. Change of pace for the 8th as Salter comes in.

He fires in a beauty – ragging the ball for spin – but the edge goes through slip for four. Good little over, mind, encouraging shift in momentum, here. The wicket-taker Smith runs in again from the River End; like Hogan, the fella seems fired-up.

At the halfway, with Gloucestershire County Cricket Club at 76 for 3 and Glammy seemingly in control… I’m delighted and surprised. (Cue the inevitable six, from Hammond).

Wagg’s first ball is a peach, speared in, dismantling the stumps, removing the opener Howell. Such is the nature of things that his third – a perfectly decent, full, straightish delivery – is heaved over midwicket for six. 102 for 4 off 12.

Could be my eyes – long day, already – or my sympathetic nature but Meschede appears to be following the other Glamorgan bowlers by finding an extra yard: another sign that the home side want this.

A moment or two of concern for Wagg, who collects one on the head on his follow-through… and lies prostrate for some time on the pitch. He eventually storms off, having been instructed to leave by attending medical staff, understandably concerned re- a possible concussion. Almost funny but then not.

With five overs remaining, at 129 for 4, Gloucester have a lot to do. They attack van der Gugten, with some success – until Donald pockets Higgins for 37, at long on. This could be close. Crucial over from Hogan upcoming.

Oof. Carlson spills a tough chance out at square leg. Not critical, as Donald promptly takes Noema-Barnett at mid-on. 154 for 6. Jack Taylor biffs the last ball for six. 41 to tie, from 6.

Meschede from underneath me (as it were). Streaky four then dot ball. Awful misjudgement in the deep gifts cruel four. Then powerful drive for four – fifteen off the over. 27 from 2 wins it. The crowd are willing Glammy on, now.

The penultimate over will be Hogan’s. Another delay after Taylor takes a knock. Tense.

Roderick spoons a scoop-effort to backward square. Out. Should settle it but is settle a word we can use, here? No. Taylor hauls a six.

16 required off the last over, which van der Gugten must bowl.

We all leap as he cleans out Taylor with an emphatic yorker! But – there’s gonna be more buts, right? – Tye heaves a six high into the night sky, leaving 9 from 3 required.

Dot ball!

SIX!!

BOWLED!!! NEVER IN DOUBT!!

Stunning, painfully brilliant finish… for all of us. Massive, massive result for Croft, for Glamorgan, for Welsh Cricket. Take me to a dark room or a bar, swiftly, please? Fabulous, crazy, dramatic night.

 

 

 

 

 

In the ether.

Update: questions remain, following this extraordinary, garish, polarising Trauma of the Now. The role of the much-loved Boof may be chief amongst them, even if we accept that his six, soon-to-be-iconic words (“wtf is going on?!?”) are accepted as key to his innocence in the moment of ball-tampering. 

What  I’m wondering is – given the obviousness of Warner as a long-term arse – why no sense that he, at any stage, has been reminded of his responsibilities, reined in, by his coach, fellow players… or anyone else?

Fans have hated Warner (strong word but justified in this extreme case), for aeons. His cheap, unnecessary malevolence has been plain to followers of the game around the world. So in the whorl of emotions and reactions around the powerful conclusions from Sutherland’s enquiries, perhaps it might be wise to reflect some on that ‘environment’ thing? Again, this may bring us back to Boof… and to the Cricket Australia hierarchy more widely.

 

Here’s wot I wrote as the story was breaking…

 

So the world’s exploded into a rage that we really don’t need to add into. But we will anyway… because #sandpapergate.

The thing is hatred is a strong, ugly, unhelpful emotion and it can’t be good that there’s so much of it about: and yes this applies generally but let’s stick to cricket – to the cricket ether. 

Warner. Raw truth is Warner has been hated pretty much across the globe for some years. Ye-es, there is an argument that he is feared by opposition fans because he’s a threat, a player but let’s not be so daft as to think that the hatred is arising solely or even mostly from that; it’s not. It’s stoked by the persistent, cheap, boorish-aggressive behaviour of the player – of Warner. Warner carrying the flag for a country (or maybe just a squad?) who pride themselves on being the toughest.

Davy boy is the attack-dog, the snarling soul, the little big man, leaping and punching hysterically, hatefully sending all-comers off. He is Aussie Toughness personified.

Forgive us our feebleness but some of us don’t think real toughness is the same as Davy’s loudness, as his crassness, as being most-intimidating-in-a-foul way. We reckon the essence of real toughness is often a kind of quiet.

So this Aussie notion of ‘going to war’ and getting into the heads of your opposite numbers through erm, a game of cricket feels pitifully weak, as understandings of toughness go, to us. As a concept it feels weak, indulgently, incriminatingly weak, weak intellectually, morally and in terms of modelling.

Hang on, did I say morally? Haha! Yes! Because however hilarious and pompous these, my concepts are, I’m going to plant a flag round this baybee:

there is always a moral and/or behavioural dimension to sport – particularly at the representative level. It may even define the thing… as sport.

So, no surprises that an evidently persistent – and therefore presumably coached and intentionally ‘confrontational’ approach – has blown up in the faces of the aggressors. Whether this is traceable to a sort of natural justice, righteous sports-karma or simply and only to Bancroft’s exposed intervention is for you honourable sleuths to decide: I’m less interested in the timeline of events than the haul towards progress, here.

Aus cheated and were caught. And hoisted.

Previously, South Africa and their fans have been guilty of ugliness, belligerence, foul sportsmanship. (This may have been the spark but #sandpapergate is, we all agree, inexcusable, irrespective, yes?)

Before these guys… well, again, make your own chart. Kohli may be guilty, Anderson may be guilty, Broad, Atherton, Henry VIII: the video, the betamax, the whisper, the quill records the mortal wrong. Blimey. Where do we go from here?

Maybe we gather our wits. Maybe we penalise Smith, Warner, Bancroft and (after further, prompt enquiries), their coach. Maybe then we have an intelligent review of the strengths and weaknesses of where we’re at, with a view to legislating and/or recalibrating the Preamble to the Laws? Or we scrap them and determine to be contemporary in our judgement.

Said many times I fully accept that the volume of guffawing around the Spirit of Cricket means we have to be ver-ry careful of anything that sounds or feels like historic posturing. Like it or not, the universe will not blithely accept stuff that feels preachy, sanctimonious, archaic. Even if that stuff reflects good.

The Aussies cheating should be the catalyst not for Furious of Fremantle to scream ‘but what about?… but for calm reflections on effective ways forward. In the blur around this one despicable act, there must be a way to account for or prepare a response to (for example) Warner and Rabada’s ill-discipline – to cultural over-zealousness, to the prevailing macho-mania.

It could be of course, that the necessary weaponry is in place. That umpires and match referees, never mind the ICC or individual national authorities can sort this. Let’s hope that in the inevitable charge towards Decisive Action, we don’t fall into the trap of demanding consistency, when the situations demand intelligent, individual appreciation. (I say this in the knowledge that high profile former players and pundits alike will bawl out for that comforting c-word – naively, in my view).

This won’t be easy. We’ve heard too many braying about the stifling of characters in the game or ‘sanitising’ the great confrontations for this to be straightforward. But anyone with more than a handful of braincells must surely see that a) plain cheating is wrong and b) bitterness and x-rated conflict are not essential to the drama of great sport. Yes that sense that feelings are running high can be exhiliratingly present… but no, no, NO, this is not the object, the pretext for indulgence.

There is tellingly little sympathy around, for Smith, Warner and Bancroft. Even on their home patch, apparently. Whatever happens next – and there will be somebody, somewhere, right? – this is one of the great, self-inflicted booboos in modern sport. Outsiders view it as the biter bit, par excellence, relishing the fall of these particularly prickly protagonists.

We need to convert this relish over to energetic renewal. If Australia at large really is mortified, then the onus may be on them to start the ball rolling on the cultural education front. But when the immediate concern is for #sandpapergate, will Cricket Australia be bold or generous enough to make the link between broad (but weedy, but spiteful) confrontationalism and hollowed-out sport? I hope so.

 

What do we call this?

Okay. Maybe you’re centre-midfield on a parks pitch in North Lincolnshire and it’s down to you. This. The ball plummeting towards, their grizzly number six feeling for your presence, aware you’re the one who can head. You’re gonna not so much head as clear out the universe, power through, make the most intimidating statement ever made in sport.

This only works if you bawl something as you leap; something kinda specific. Something like ‘RICKY’S UP!’ – which may on the page sound cheesy but in the moment, no. The two syllables of the name project, control, make real the intervention in a way that RICK just couldn’t. It would be ricdiculous. The words, the sound, the something… decide.

Everybody who knows footie – knows sport – understands this. The words in the event are massive. What you call yourself, what you get called, how you’re spoken of , is critical. Not possible to be bona fide without (weirdly, mainly) two syllables.

Of course this is why we get Gazzas and Glendas and (don’t worry I’m coming to cricket now) Rootys, Cookies, Jimmys. Cobblers to any other cultural-sociological considerations, it’s about what naturally fits, then. So I can be as Rick as I want but if I plant the ball majestically wide of cover’s left hand somebody on the boundary’s going to mutter ‘shot, Ricky!’ If the England number three does that beautiful unfurling thing through extra-cover, Farbrace is going to rumble ‘played, Vincey!’ as he’s stirred to his feet.

How else, though, is the gorgeous-but-infuriating Hants bat spoken to, or of?

When he strides back to pavilion, eyes down, caught at slip, what else could it be from Bayliss but ‘what the **** was that, Vincey?’

Actually it could be lots of things. It could be silence, for one. Bayliss may choose a later opportunity, maybe to ask a wiser, more searching question. Like ‘where do you think we are with the dismissals, Vincey*? In terms of pattern?’ And then they together choose what to work on.

*Could be of course that in the real world moment there’s another nickname. Not in there – don’t know. I’m betting it’s two syllables, mind. Vince is worth talking about; with yaknow, words.

Clearly there’s a lot of chat around all those starts, all those frustrating, demoralising finishes. (Sometimes I wonder if they’re worse for us poor buggers watching than for him!) Plus a rich vein of psycho-gubbins around personality, freedom, responsibility and yes, that coaching framework. There’s a documentary series, never mind a blog around What, Exactly, Vincey Should Do: for now, I’ll stick with the former.

Some are fascinatingly clear that what they deem a ‘failure to learn’ simply disqualifies him already; however he might purr, this cat ain’t suitable for Test Cricket. Others argue that the problem isn’t so much centred on poor choices as kindof disproportionately fiercely-punished non or near-execution. Failing to execute shots he very often plays. Outside off-stump. Imperiously.

From memory I think I’ve only seen one media name blame technical issues for Vince’s predicament. Chiefly he’s getting slaughtered for going there at all, given we’re under, or about to be pitifully legs and arms akimbo under the cosh. There may actually be something comical about the level and intensity of verbals aimed at the rather serene-looking strokemaker but head-in-talons at the unbe-leeee-vably serial transgression across the Don’t Play Eet Less Ya’ve To Principle, us nighthawks – Yorkie nighthawks? – have typically stooped full-tilt into raging fury. Perspective? Proportion? Intelligent Investment? Na.

Here’s a thing, though. Plenty of us have woken the dog – quite possibly immediately before the offending nick of the wide-ish one behind – with a snortaciously approving ‘Yesss, Vincey’ as the ball raced to the off-side fence. We’ve muttered something about ‘class’ – and I don’t mean his private schooling in medium-luxurious Wiltshire. Thus many a dark, dark December night has felt defined (or possibly caricatured?) by the cruel see-sawing between expressive pomp and dumb, tribal humiliation.

Incidentally, I wonder how many of us have marked a beautifully squeezed J.V. drive with a follow-up aimed (in increasing order of spitefulness) at Starc(k)y, Smithy or War-ner? And is there something else about doubling up – going bi? Bitterness? Bile? Emphasis? Certainty?

See, I am more sure of my two syllable hypothesis than any of the Vince cricket-things. He’s a fabulously gifted player – milky, honeyed, rich, pure. And yet we wonder either if no-one’s home, if nothing’s been said or if our fears about the empowerment of players through (ahem) *personal discovery* have in his case reached an epic high, or low?

Freedom for learning is a gift and a blessing. It’s also very much at the forefront of contemporary coaching philosophies. They change. The need to decide stuff arguably doesn’t.

Vincey, come out and tell us: what’s been said?

 

 

Whites’ Mischief.

Our relationship with Australia and its inhabitants is extraordinary. Put simply, we can’t stand each other. We think they’re boorish and dumb (but noisy): they think we’re stuck-up and feeble. But who are these ‘we’s’ and ‘they’s?’
Hang on. I’m simply not the man for an epic deconstruction of this stuff. Partly because I suspect a three year research project into What Gives With Ashesness could only come up with with the same conclusions as my own hunches; partly because I get that it’s only Level 2 serious – where Level 7 is outright racism and Level 12 is war. So my general, sub-considered view would be let’s flick the vees at each other and crack on.
However, in passing, let’s also agree that the English (as seen by the Aussies – and please note this maybe really doesn’t include all The Brits) are Middle Class (or worse), pretentious, privileged, moneyed, ‘Imperial’. People you want to put in their place, rob, subvert, expose, humiliate, exact your own justice upon. (Note that historical issues unquestionably play a role here, in a frozen-in-chip-fat kindofaway).
I reckon there’s marginally less bile going in the other direction but maybe the sense that there’s something essentially superior about the dismissal of the Aussies by the English is telling. Like they’re the shepherd at the door, reporting a problem with the ewes but we don’t want to hear just now, thank you – dinner is served. In our heads they’re still rural underlings.
At the full, twisted and/or comedic extent of this we can pull out the criminal thing: The Banished. But is this really part of our framing now, or do we just revisit this for the larfs? As in Brian Moore and his SD’s wind-up? (Shackle Draggers, if you’ve missed that). Personally, now, I’m thinking the origins of (white) Australia barely register in the gathering of factors… but I may be wrong.
Incontrovertibly, though, there is feeling around this. The relationship is not so much loaded or complicated as part-sunk, with strangely, disturbingly animated baggage. England v Aus at anything has become charged but the cricket is something else.
There is proper history there. Facts and everything but mainly rivalry and dislike and increasingly, hype. A dash of romance, lorryloads of mischief, some outstanding sport and every now and then some real sportsmanship. But – and here’s my concern – the matrix in which the Ashes are enacted is (wouldn’t you say, currently?) more weighted with bitterness than any healthy game should be. Begging the questions, in 2017, post everything from Bodyline to Ball Of the Century to Buttgate, where do we go with this and how do we forensically isolate sociological import from banter, from That Which Transgresses?
I don’t think we can.
Jimmy Anderson has written in The Telegraph. He says (effectively) that the Aussies don’t say much when they’re scrambling but they like to bully folks when they get on top. They won’t like that but there may be some truth there.
Interestingly and probably controversially, Anderson says he asked the umpires in Brisbane about levels of intimidatory bowling against the England tailenders: something he knows will stoke the fires in more ways than one.
He also talks of how the current crop of Brits are quietish by nature and how they agreed, given that prospensity, to let their cricket do the talking. Clearly now, they have to turn that volume up.
Anderson is no angel. He’s clever and toughish and coolish and (I think) not that easy to like. The absurd thought strikes me that it will take bigger, better blokes than him (and David Warner, and Steve Smith, probably) to break the log-jam of spitefulness characterising much of what we see, hear, read.
If anything can sort this – and my expectation could only be that this might be temporary, until the next provocation, or ‘incident’ – it will be proper, unashamed, natural big-heartedness, a quality that may be lurking behind the bravado in certain cases but which has lately been reigned in (or ‘whipped’) for the appearance of team machismo.
Shame. Shame when Warner and Lyon talk utter, provocative horse-s**t and then *maybe* have reason to think that it’s worked. Shame when any professional in the media – on either side – toes that particularly grubby party line.
It feels impossible to appear unbiased in this so forgive me if I unleash one or two more contentious ‘views’; take them as seriously as you like. The central one being that the Australians, regrettably, are worse at this unravelling of the opposition. (Yes, more guilty than England are – guilty is the word I would use). They have made a kind of weirdly heightened machismo a badge of honour, a weapon, a pre-requisite almost, for Proper Aussieness. This idolises, breeds and infers violence. As a notion this is so plainly pitifully neanderthal, it’s a huge shame that it’s been notably successful.
Aus have made a virtue (hah!) of going beyond mischief – I, like most of us have no issue with mischief – to a place where they hope the opposition will break down under their assault. This is the plan.
The association they make between realness – real, successful Aussieness – and winning Big and Nasty is both juvenile and ugly. Mitchell Starc’s forced confrontationality, post-delivery. The endless chirp – wot Lyon and Warner sed. Smith’s ludicrous badge-kissing and slightly faux hysterics in the Buttgate interview. The Team Mentality. A psychologist really would have a field day – and surely words like ‘insecurities’ might crop up in their notes. Surely?
But I would say this cos I’m a Brit, right? Maybe.
I am a Brit and a cricket man – a sportsman. I don’t buy the argument that tolerances are different at the top level (which I never played). I don’t buy the idea that we’re simply not getting the (Aussie) joke, here, that we just need to chill on out and there will be handshakes at the end. Cobblers. There is too much that is unnecessary, too much that is anti-sport, that we can’t claim back or re-coup.
David Warner may not need to care how he is regarded over thissaway but many actively dislike him for his bullishness, his place at the forefront of Australian aggression. We view his claims to have ‘matured’ with some contempt. Really good player, total arse; still. That will always be part of his legacy.
Warner has role-played his way through a very successful career, opting to push his luck a bit in regard to his relations with the opposition. Almost certainly, he’s either been directly encouraged to be a pain-in-the-arse or the Team Mentality has supported that idea that maybe that would be good. I guess I’m saying that this is in no way good. It’s unnecessary and ugly and mean-spirited.
There are the laws and there are things undrawable, abstruse, beyond legislation. We all know, though, where the lines of fairness and decency are; know too, where understandably adrenalin-infused mischief veers off into distraction, anti-sport, intimidation. The game needs the players to manage some of this.