I’ll Show You What It Feels Like, Now I’m On The Outside – Being Outside Cricket

I have taken the unmitigated liberty of posting on this, my old home, but which I have not contributed for a couple of years. It’s been a while of mad transition in my life, moving out of London, devoting my sporting life to non-league football, and losing a stack of weight through necessity! About time. The other thing that has happened is I have just lost the appetite to watch cricket. I don’t hate it, I just felt the game, and its authorities rather had contempt for the likes of me and weren’t backwards in coming forwards about expressing their love of money more than their pastoral care for the sport. That’s OK with me, because after all, I am just one person and responsible for my own choices and my own life. I still follow Surrey, even though I live in Hampshire now, and I still like test matches, and have no strong feelings either way on Bazball. It’s good to watch, it’s maddeningly reckless at times (and has cost us one test series, possibly two), but best of all it really winds Australia up! That’s the best bit.

But why now, why today to write on here. Well, as I was scouting around past anniversaries on the internet, I was alerted to something that reminded me of this time of year in 2014. I suddenly remembered that February 6th was the anniversary of starting this site. I mistakenly thought it was 10 years ago, but forgot there was one year of How Did We Lose In Adelaide before that all kicked off, while it was well and truly kicking off. Then I wound my brain forward and remembered, we had two other anniversaries – on 4th was the KP Announcement, but I had missed that, but the 9th. Oh yes. The 9th was the day that Paul Downton and the ECB, frankly, told all cricket supporters who didn’t agree with their high-handed, nonsensical thought processes, to in the words of my piece at the time

“There in lies the true inner feelings that the ECB have stated loud and clear. Pay your ticket money, your sky subscriptions and shut the fuck up.”

As the years have rolled on, we did warn you. At the time too many were saying “they meant Piers Morgan” to which I replied, they should have said “Piers Morgan” then, because there were thousands of others who were as up in arms, but the ECB lumped them all together and caused me to go into apoplexy. Of course, the Cook Crew were keen to back the ultimate wisdom of Mr Difficult Winter himself, and were shown to be the sheep they were when he was booted out a year later after a spell where he couldn’t stop putting his foot in his mouth, breaching a confidentiality agreement, bowing to the obvious about Cook in ODI cricket about 9 months too late, being in charge of the Team England at the 2015 World Cup and then being sacked. That he has found a form of redemption at Kent has been good. I don’t wish anyone permanent ill. I was calling that out for the stupidity that it was.

He was replaced by Tom Harrison, who, and I hate to say I told you so (no I don’t), but I BLOODY WELL TOLD YOU SO, was the ultimate drowning man clutching at serpent syndrome. This empty suit, this evangelical, overpaid, overrated, greedy mad man has wrought so much damage on English cricket, we should make his reign a world heritage site for hubris. When he went, no-one wept. Not even he did as he trousered an obscene bonus and walked straight into another job, no doubt to cheese them off (It’s the Six Nations, isn’t it? How is he going to recast that? Reduce the games to 20 minutes a side and have 9 players?). When he came in , he used that magnificent first presser to kill off the KP kraken, allow Andrew Strauss to bring his personal grievance into team selection (remember that ridiculous job offer for the ODI team for Pietersen) and just show us it was plus ca change time.

Meanwhile, he embarked on the Hundred. A decision that caused a schism in the sport, and had me on the other side, as usual, from him and his money-grabbing caretakers of the sport. I may have gone over the top, and even been far too angry about it in hindsight, but when you see stuff you love being vandalised and you having no control over it, that’s hard to take. I couldn’t keep quiet. Until I was beaten.

A Simply Charming Man

As the years went on, I became further outside. My anxiety and panic means the thought of attending a T20 or test match strikes me with terror. About as much as the cost of it! Also, I don’t like events where I can’t eat what I want, drink what I want etc without being held hostage by rip off merchants flogging “beer” at nigh on £8 a pint. It’s this culture in sport that turned me to non-league, where you are accepted and part of the firmament. It brings me closer to sport, to the players, to the administrators and the management. You feel part of it, not a consumer, but almost a participant. Not in the playing way, of course not, but as part of the collective. County cricket had this, to a degree, but it didn’t make money for its true stakeholders, the owners, administrators and players, so it had to go. It is in its death spiral, and unless it reclaims some of the key ground lost to franchise drivel, will always be second fiddle. If we loyalists accept that, and enjoy the competition for what it is, and not worry about justifying it in a defensive way, we have a chance of enjoying something we like. Take it from me, I don’t see the best players in football, but the competition is much much more exciting. It depends what you want to watch sport for.

So I outside the cricket the public wants. That’s fine by me. I came at peace with that a couple of years ago. I will never forgive those who chose to oppose my view in snivelling devotion to a cause against a player they hated. KP has been tiresome since he went into media, but he’s entitled to his view. Horrible to feel powerless, isn’t it, when you hate his media appearances and can’t get rid of him out of the comms box isn’t it? When the decision doesn’t seem to reflect the majority of your public’s opinion? How you just wish he wasn’t there? That your majority view rules. Well that’s how it felt to be cheated of two more years of Pietersen in the test and ODI arena. He wanted to miss meaningless ODI series for the IPL, but now we see South Africa send a second team to New Zealand to play a home T20 series, and the West Indies haven’t fielded their best test XI in 20 years. Still we hear the plaintive cries of the need to protect the premier form of the game, but England, maybe Australia aside, it just isn’t, because it doesn’t make any money.

I gave my soul, and some of my sanity, to cry out repeatedly against what was happening. KP was they symptom, not the sickness – no-one cared. It was a power play, showing that the ECB controlled this, not you. You did not matter. Remember how Gary Ballance was the saviour until he wasn’t? That it seems to be, even post-retirement, that there wasn’t that much smoke to fan the flames of the dismissal (don’t talk to me about the book – six months after) is even more disconcerting. I could see what was coming. It was Tom Harrison. It…..was…..Tom……Harrison. You were warned.

I am relatively well, the whole era damaged me mentally, I know that. I don’t miss the day to day involvement, although I still love writing. I don’t have TNT so don’t get to follow the winter cricket, and my job is so much more time-consuming that despite working from home a lot, I barely follow home series on TV (yes – I am serious about home working despite what tedious liars tell you, so are most of us). I still love reading about the game, collecting old Wisdens and Playfairs, wallowing in the history of test cricket. I have no interest in T20. Once you’ve seen one six battered 100 metres, or the juggle catch on the boundary called the greatest ever, you know another one will be along somewhere next week being called the same. I don’t care who wins, I have no emotional investment. Following Phoenix Sports tells me how much emotion means. I do feel that for Surrey. But not enough. And not in T20.

So 10 years ago Paul Downton told us what he believed, what Giles Clarke, Hugh Morris, and the cadre of supine media who got in behind them thought. The fans were trash, to be milked, to be talked down to. If I played a small part in raising a voice, it would not have been in vain. But I am on the negative side of that ledger. What it brought me, and which I have been crap at recently, is the comradeship with Danny, Sean and Chris on here. We are all fans of cricket, we all care about different things in the game, and we probably disagree on more than we agree. But we are united in one thing. When Downton said what he said, we knew which side of that particular ledger we were on.

10 years confirmed. OUTSIDE CRICKET.

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