Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Yabba dabba don't

A Statement from Sir Frederick Flintstone:

"After a brief chat with my agent great deal of consideration, I've decided to call it a day as long as five day piss-ups are test match cricket is concerned and shall be retiring from the England Test Team immediately after the Ashes seriesor on Thursday morning if I don't pass the fitness test for Lord's because that's me buggered for the rest of the series. It's well documented that my body's been rebelling against the rigours of five day cricket but I would like to think that I still have a lot to offer the England set-up and I hope to be available for the one-day series and 20/20 games as long as I am fitwhere the money's far better and I don't piss everyone about if I crock myself on the morning of the game. Thanks for all your support etc...etc..."

Statistically, it's no great loss. Since 2005 England have performed far better without Andrew Flintoff in the side than when he's been fit but it's signal of a malaise that goes far deeper than statistics and I sincerely hope the morons running the EWCB (and the other morons running world cricket, especially in India but not, surprisingly, in Australia) realise what they've done.

Flintoff is a proper cricketer. Obvious? No. He's not a cricketer because he wears white clothes and goes out and hits a ball with a flat stick, it's because he has a peculiar talent that anyone who's watched cricket for a long time will recognise: presence. He's a good batsman with a decent technique and a properly aggressive and genuinely fast strike bowler but it's that quality you can't see that 99% of the journeymen currently toiling the world's greenswards don't possess that is the reason why idiots like me love the game so much. Watch a match with him in it and you never know what's going to happen. A moment of sublime genius, an application of skill and technique way beyond the capacity of mortals, is always just about to happen - the unplayable ball that cuts a batsman in half off a length; an effortless pick up of a good length ball into the second tier or the catch out of nothing. In my lifetime I've been lucky enough to watch at first hand players of the quality of Viv Richards, Ian Botham, Alan Knott, David Gower, Clive Lloyd, Shane Warne, Derek Underwood, Kapil Dev, Imran Khan, Barry Richards and Mike Proctor, all of whom could, in the space of 15 minutes of astounding ability or outrageous invention, turn a game through 180 degrees and make you tingle with anticipation. There's a few missing I know but there are also precious few from the modern game. Why?

The reason is the same one Flintoff is crocked and won't risk himself over 5 days. Money. Greed. They (sponsors, not the players although some are just as guilty) all wanted their pound of flesh and the EWCB were happy to cave in. There's no conditioning on the county grind when you're under contract to a dodgy banker or a Bollywood poptart. There's precious little reward for average cricketers in the county game but if you want 11 cavemen with 3lb clubs bludgeoning everything in sight into floodlight pylons and spinners bowling negatively into the rough as your adrenaline fix because you're so conditioned to having everything you do served up in handy easily digestible bite-sized portions, go to America, have your brain removed and watch baseball or buy a Sky dish and settle down to watch 20/20 for half an hour of synthesised mush. But don't for the life of me ever tell me you're watching cricket otherwise I shall be forced to kill you. Slowly. If you want to see a cricket match, take a couple of days off work and watch a county game. It might be a bit boring in places but that's the game. You can only play chess with 32 pieces and 64 squares. Stay with it, pump your money into that and invest it in proper talent instead of paying off Murdoch's sleaze fines for him. For my money, I would rather see someone who could mimic an effortless David Gower extra-cover drive (without a helmet on) than any ten-a-penny pinch-hitter. The wonderful thing about a 6 was that it was a rarity and a surprise, not an expectation. I mean, they even pull the boundaries in to make sixes easier to hit! When I used to watch cricket at the Oval, once one of the biggest grounds in the world, it took supreme timing or strength to clear the ropes, now I reckon even I could do it. Having said that, most 20/20 games appear to be the cricket equivalent of tip and run or touch-rugby where quick singles are the order of the day. What on earth is exciting about two teams getting 140 and nobody able to build a century? I really don't get it.

I'm old, aren't I.

8 Vegetable peelings:

Blogger Rog said...


7:02 pm  
Blogger Vicus Scurra said...

Yes, you are, and I would not rank Flintoff with those others that you named. However, there are plenty of cricketers playing today or recently who can match them. Tendulkar, Dravid, Sehwag, Yousuf, Saeed Anwar, Inzaman, Donald, Kallis, Duminy, Jayasuriya, Sangakkarra, Muralitharan, Gayle, Chanderpaul and, if you must have Aussies, Gilchrist, Hayden and McGrath. Further, the England team has, for the last three or four years had the best batsmen in my memory, and I remember when the middle order was Barrington, Cowdrey, Dexter and Graveney. There are a few sloggers around, but the skill level has never been so high. There's plenty wrong with the game - money, schedules, sledging, politics, slow over rates and all of that, but the actual standard of play in test matches has never been better.

7:45 pm  
Blogger Dave said...

What you said.

6:58 am  
Blogger Pamela said...

As I don't speak cricket, I shall simply nod and smile as though I get it.

6:06 am  
Blogger Richard said...

Vicus, these best English batsmen of whom you speak - who are they? English, not England qualified; ones who've come up through the national system and show that the game here is in rude health. Ian Bell and the criminally overlooked Rob Key (double century, kthxbi. And as I write, 175 n.o at Cardiff) perhaps but there are precious few who can command a game that I can think of. Central contracts have killed much of the hunger that drove outstanding county players to compete for a representative slot

4:38 pm  
Blogger Ian said...

Well said. Except Adam Gilchrist should have been on your list.

3:54 am  
Anonymous Blazing said...

That's two of us then. Great piece. Agreed with every word, and I'm so sad that we'll not see him against the really good sides, not just these pretend Aussies.

3:52 pm  
Anonymous MarkG said...

I've noticed that an awful lot of the blogs I like are written by people who can bore you senseless about cricket. This is another of those eternal mysteries of the human condition:

Why do I like the blog yet not the game?

The verification word du jour is ressary. A pessary, but more comfortable.

4:44 pm  

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