The king and the queen

I’ve picked up a few Aussie phrases and sayings which we don’t usually hear in the UK or associate with Australia – some are what we would regard as politically incorrect and others too rude to go into print but there’s a lovely rhyme to utter as a oath when you’re finding things exasperating!

So “**** said the king as a thousand…” and as to what the queen and the page boy get up to would force this site to close! I imagine there’s a lot of exasperation being expressed not only in the England team here, but also in NW8 as well as the written and social media!

Exasperation in that in September the hopes were so high after the English season, then the wheels on the bus started to come loose. There’s been more than enough written and speculated about the night time goings on in Bristol I won’t add to it, team selection was not well received and fitness issues plagued the tour before the squad left and since they arrived. Add to that more off field antics and basically England offered Australia all the buttons they could ever need to press to get under the skin and into the minds of the team. As often said cricket is 90% mental and 10% skill and what did we do to stop the bandwagon rolling ever faster downhill? But I think this underlined the management skills of the touring team but also that of the ECB not only here and now but also strategically over a long period.

Ive long admired and subscribed to Sky’s cricket coverage and understand that TV rights fundamentally fund the game across the globe but having seen the alternative approach here in Oz of free to air, I’m coming to the conclusion that the ECB got it wrong in terms of strategy but just chased the cash. No terrestrial or free to air TV organisation in the UK is going to touch cricket coverage – the BBC lost it in the 1990s when they treated it as something to fill the time before they moved to cooking, property and antiques programmes, C4 did well and refreshed it but did not have the appetite so I think we’re left with subscription and Sky/BT. The door has been slammed shut and the horse bolted years ago. Bringing T20 back in limited form to the BBC in 2020 is a start but not the whole solution. Here in Oz, it’s free to air but with adverts at the end of each over. I’ve not sat and watched it but have listened to the commentary and between over ads and you do get used to it, eventually!

There’s also marketing and the place of the game in the Australian psyche but that’s probably another blog.

So losing the Ashes is not the end of the world although it feels like it to some. The urn has metaphorically changed hands many times since 1882 and will do so again but this needs to be put into context. Or more accurately – money! Ashes series are economically important for both countries and will always be sell outs at the ground and generates cash like you won’t believe, so until the punter stops paying it will continue, but why would the punter stop paying ? Series in each country have favoured the home team in recent times so the urn swap is becoming almost certain and common place. Even when the away team wins it just generates more interest for the next time. So there’s always this in the background. Does it matter that one team plays poorly – 100,000 of us will turn up at the MCG this time next week to watch people playing for pride- and generating A$5m in ticket sales per day alone!

What am I trying to say? Ashes tests help keep the game going and spur interest I suspect more in Australia among the young than in the UK. But does the quality of the play matter? Of course it does…losing badly any time is damaging to national pride, so much so that I’m telling the locals here that I’ve come over to go round the Neighbours set but have got lost!

So why the poor quality from England? And why so good for Australia? Well there’s team dynamics for a start which I’ve blogged about already but also the strategic approach to the game. In England test match cricket whilst a nice little earner for the ECB is not regarded as the pinnacle by some in the ECB – all efforts being focussed on the one day and T20 game. It’s a stated aim to win the 50 over World Cup in England in 2019, almost to the exclusion of all else and so what if the test team does badly . The punter in England will still pay up! But shouldn’t interest in one format generate interest in others? I can see what the ECB are trying to do in raising the T20 profile to have two tournaments per season from 2020 but isn’t that killing the goose that’s laying the golden egg? How much can the public take or is one tournament going to turn into drinking competitions among spectators more than it is now? Ok, T20 generates cash for the counties which means for old f**ts like me I don’t pay so much for the other county games. I’m happy with that but I feel that the balance is skewed too much so that the longer game has become marginalised and unavailable to the test punters of the future to help cut their teeth on.

And is this having an effect on the performance at test level that counties are solely concentrating on the one day game to the exclusion of the longer game – I know one county where this is that agreed internal strategy! Non-cricket readers may be perplexed – cricket is cricket isn’t it? No…it’s like comparing a hamburger to fine dining – both will feed you but one can be devoured anywhere, the other takes time to savour, enjoy and digest!

And the techniques in each format are different and difficult to expunge from one format to another- hence the occasional T20 type approach seen in tests and county games but it’s becoming more than occasional. The lack of patience shown by the English batsmen compared to the Australians is noticeable in the extreme in this series – and that’s just one aspect. What’s to be done and will anything be done to restore the test side to glory in the format of the English game?

Personally I think there’s room for all formats but the balance needs to be better – only one T20 is needed, so decide which one, and keep the length short, bring the county game into midsummer and away from the cold of the spring and autumn – after all who ever heard of a spinner doing well in the cold April days in Derby but where always ripping through sides on the dust bowls in August – thats when they learn their trade and develop – hence our cupboard is bare! Getting batsmen used to building an innings, learn the patience that Smith shows by the bucket full, get bowlers on all types of wickets, build up their strength to be able to bowl really fast and I mean fast…like the Aussies or…we shall be uttering more oaths about the king and feel just like the the queen after her discussions with the page boy!

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