Duncan’s book

So then. No going quietly into the shadows for Duncan Fletcher, whose autobiography is exposing Andrew Flintoff’s drink problems (among other things). But where do the public stand on the whole issue? I’d be interested to hear everyone’s thoughts.

Fletcher says he’s been let down by Flintoff, that Fred was too wrecked to even throw a ball (let alone catch it). This is woeful behaviour for a sportsman, especially one described by Brett Lee as a supreme athelete. But why didn’t Fletcher – the most powerful man in English cricket – nip it in the bud at the first offence?

And why was Flintoff given the captaincy ahead of Andrew Strauss? At the time, we all bought into the fanciful notion that Flintoff alone could help us retain the Ashes; a leader of men rather than a tactician. He’ll drag the players with him through sheer brute force, we thought. So, it seems, did Duncan. Or was Fletcher so concerned with Flintoff’s levels of drinking that he thought the captaincy might rein him in? Either way, he – and David Graveney – must be accountable. It was a gross error and has cost England, Flintoff (and Strauss, let’s be honest) severely.

Who was he out drinking with? Yep, Ian Botham (who naturally doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with sinking 12 bottles of Chardonnay. In an evening). Me and my miniature mate Dan from the magazine were discussing this today, and he reminded me of a piece Simon Hughes wrote in relation to Flintoff’s World Cup boozing:

Before the last day of an England Test in 2004, I was on the pitch chatting with Andrew Flintoff when Ian Botham strode over. “There he is, the world expert on batting,” Botham chortled, referring to me, “the bloke who used to fall asleep fielding at long leg. True, you know! [Unfortunately it is]. Now then Freddie, you and Harmy are coming out with me tomorrow night!’ Flintoff nodded in approval.

When the two had gone their respective ways, Michael Vaughan wandered over. I congratulated him on his second century of the match. “Thanks,” he said. “Nice track, innit. What was Botham saying?”

“Oh, he was promising Harmy and Freddie he’d take them out tomorrow night,” I replied.

“Oh no he’s not,” Vaughan said. “They’re not going out with Beefy! There’s another Test match in three days’ time.”

Vaughan’s authority is his greatest asset. What will Duncan’s book bring tomorrow?

The longest spat

I keep meaning to praise Ian Botham and Ian Chappell’s continued spat which reared its cheerful head the other day. Botham attacked Chappell in his book; Chappell heard about it and responded to a local radio station. And loop. I’m going to steal the quotes from Rob Steen’s blog as I’m too lazy to find them elsewhere (thanks Rob):

The way Mallett tells it, when the two Ians, by now fellow commentators, were interviewed on Channel 9 in Australia a decade or two later, “the bad blood between them was obvious”. Recalled Chappell: “At the end of it, I’ll never forget, Ray [Martin] said to Botham, ‘Oh well, you’ll still have a drink at the end of a day’s play.’

“And Botham said, ‘Yeah, that’s cricket, mate. You sit down and have a beer, or wine.’

“Ray turned to me and said, ‘You’ll be having a drink with him after the commentary is over?’

“I said, ‘No, Ray. I can find plenty of decent people to have a drink with. I won’t be drinking with him.”

Storm in a dusty old teacup? Much ado about nowt? Sure, it’s a pity two such admirable cricketers continue to lower themselves by perpetuating something that should have been forgiven and forgotten long ago. On the other hand, this is a grave time in our planet’s history. An age where, courtesy of the expansion of the media, the ability of gossip to spread at the speed of light and the evolution of litigation, the number of durable and entertaining feuds feels perilously close to an all-time low. (Oh my Oasis and my Blur of not all that long ago.) The giggles, therefore, are not unwelcome.

Quite so, and long may they feud.

Notes from the pavilion for October 23rd

Links of note from the past 24 hours:

Sir Ian Botham

Ian Botham has been knighted. Richly deserved; his charity work doesn’t receive as much publicity as someone of his status might/should generate. More to the point…are his Sky colleagues now going to have to call him by his full title? He’s going to love every minute of this I suspect.

Boony, Beefy and old Boony

The infamous VB Boony dolls. Who would actually buy these things? (I’m serious. Tell me)

Boony Beefy and old Boony

The Malones.

The clapping seal

Jenny, my colleage at Cricinfo, has had two rather good days in the past week. Firstly, during the final Test at Trent Bridge, she spent a day with David Gower, Nasser Hussain, Ian Botham and the other Sky commentators. Naturally she’s in love with every single one of them (our ears are bleeding) but they all sound like great fun (and they have a lot of fun, too). David Lloyd (“Bumble”) is as you would expect him to be: sharp, constantly witty and an allround top bloke. Anyway I can’t spoil her piece; she’s writing it up and it’ll be published at Cricinfo quite soon.

As if that couldn’t be topped, today she faced an over (I think) at Shane Warne! And interviewed him and other stuff. So that’s two fairly cool (and unique) things you should keep an eye out on Cricinfo.

Misbehaving like Botham

But surely after the era of Ian Botham – who allegedly broke a bed entertaining one young maiden – there ain’t no misbehaving. “Of course it goes on,” smiles [Michael] Vaughan, “it just isn’t reported.”

Sh-sh-sh-shocking. From today’s Driving section of The Sunday Times in which Vaughan talks about his order for a Jaguar XK. The git.

Jaguar XK

Most inappropriate celebrity cricket commentators

Disclaimer: I have flu. I’m not thinking very straight. I don’t swear too much on this blog, so you’ll forgive the humourous outburst in this post as I amuse myself with a little story.

This is an old pub favourite of mine, usually only attempted after at least five or six pints, or at least when inhibitions don’t prevent you from acting out (as loud as possible) your best Samuel L Jackson impersonation. So. Who would be the most inappropriate celebrities to commentate on a cricket match and why?

Samuel L Jackson has to be one of my best, purely for that magically eloquent phrase, “You Motherfucker.” Picture the scene: Henry Blofeld is waffling uncontrollably at the mic, like the ageing cravate-wearing god of waffle he is; his producer, Peter Baxter, is tearing out what little hair he has left after a lifetime listening to Blowers’ fascination about red buses and curiously brown pigeons. And many other things. On comes Samuel, and the change immediately brings a a wicket:

“Yo, here comes Harmison and FUCK if aint got himself a wicket. That mother******’s bowled Afridi all over the mother******* shop. Yo bitch, you outta there!”

Baffled, Blofeld returns with a surprising and contrasting grace and ease of word. Jackson is sacked.

For entirely different reasons, The Rt. Hon. Tony Blair would also be utterly inappropriate as a cricket commentator. Even wedged between the uber-smooth Benaud / Nicholas combination, he’d out-shmooze Shiny Mark with such ease that Nicho would be reduced to his party-piece: taking off his wig and waving it around like a bafoon. Worse, though, would be our Tony’s handling of arguments that would arise in the comm box.

“Ambrosia. I think you meant Ambrose, there, Chony,” quips Benaud with unruffled glee. Nicho’s professional, but even he can’t hide a chuckle. Atherton’s on the floor, crying with laughter. Greig and Botham not sure what’s so funny; Botham assumes everyone’s laughing at him and smacks them with bats.

“Huh. Right, yeah – ok, hang on guys,” says Tony. “Look, I mean, you know, Gordon and I have been…oh no, wrong situation. [hands closed, palms facing inward in priest-like display of honesty to the thousands of listeners who can't see him.] Cherie and I are committed to…oh that’s not it either is it. Er, right, Euan apologies profusely to McEwans, he won’t do it again.”

Blair is sacked.

You see, we take our commentators for granted. They’re not a bad bunch, though; Nicho, as much as I’ve cringed and squirmed, is peerless these days as a presenter. He’s bloody brilliant, and his shiny shmoozing adds to the overal Nicho package. Celebrity commentators? Who’d have em?

Who would be your most inappropriate celebrities to commentate on a cricket match and why?

No more Ian Botham pitch reports, please!

So in response to England’s 288, Pakistan are 4 for 185. Flat batting track, huh? Thanks for nothing, Beefy.

And add to that, Inzamam has retired hurt and is off having x-rays. I’ve not seen any news as yet as to how bad the injury is, or whether or not he can resume his innings tomorrow.

I think honours are about even here, and neither side has taken a clear advantage. Mohammad Yousuf needs to kick on, and the lower order need to help him. I saw a couple of deliveries in the latter part of the day that kept low, so I think Pakistan will need a first innings lead, the more the merrier.

Simon ‘Yozza’ Hughes on the BBC


Bugger. Just missed Simon ‘Yozza’ Hughes on the BBC’s programme Loose Ends, who was speaking to promote his new book (which will be good). He also mentioned he’s been working on a DVD with, guess who, Andrew Flintoff. You can pre-order it at Amazon for about £15. Flintoff must surely now be the most marketable English cricketer, certainly since Botham but perhaps of all time.

Who’s tiring of it/him then?! I just hope he can continue his cricketing-brilliance this winter, next summer and beyond – I don’t give a shit about all the houses he buys or whatever advert/product he wants to promote.

Oh, Hughes’s thing on the radio should be up on the Beeb’s site tomorrow.