Australian press threaten boycott

Australia are gearing up to face Sri Lanka but a cloud is looming: the Aussie print media might boycott the Test because Cricket Australia have implemented a new policy in which they’re charging news organisations for permission to take photos.

How utterly blinkered Cricket Australia are. Any organisation that makes the ECB look vaguely competent is worthy of immediate ridicule. CA are renowned for major cock-ups. Remember the farce with the tickets for the last Ashes series? And of course the “fun police” inside the grounds. Cricinfo and other media companies also (if my memory serves me) had trouble at the grounds due to CA’s extortionate Wifi fees (all grounds in England are free, as well they should be). As if they don’t make enough money, they now want to risk their reputation and  for the sake of a few extra dollars.

I hope they boycott it. We do not want journalism following the same seedy, greedy path of television rights.

Atherton moves to The Times

Mike Atherton has been announced as The Times’ chief cricket correspondent, replacing Christopher Martin-Jenkins. Atherton is the foremost player-turned-writer and, at 39, quite young to hold such a prestigious post.

He’s by some distance my favourite writer, as he marries a deep knowledge of the game during his time as a player with the detachment required to write about it. The Times is also my favourite paper, so now there’s no reason to waste any more money on The Telegraph.

Notes from the pavilion for October 19th

Links of note from the past 24 hours:

Excusing India’s defeat

I’m in India, hence the total lack of any posts here (bar Ian’s – thanks), but while I was wolfing my breakfast this morning I read a curious sub-header in today’s Hindu. I don’t have it in front of me now, so forgive me if it’s not entirely accurate, but it said of Dravid’s decision to field first: “Probably due to extensive cloud cover”. The partisanship here is like no other country. Face it; England outplayed you.

The channel I watched it on contained commentators who shared a mixture of English and Hindu. But when Sachin was scratching around, as is his modern wont, any drive which pinged off his bat was met with “What a shot! What a shot there from Sachin Tendulkar…and it’s fielded in the covers preventing the single”.

Anyway, it’s a topic for another day. Here’s the brilliant contraption in which I was pushed up 46kms of India’s “Blue Mountains,” the Nilgiris. It really is spectacular here.

A steam train, the Nilgiri Express, pushed us up the mountain

Times World Cup supplement

Patrick has been slaving over The Times’ World Cup supplement over the past couple of weeks, which rolled off the printers and into the shops this morning. It’s a really good read (and not because I’m in it). Rod Gilmour, Nutley’s finest, also did a load of work for it before escaping to the Caribbean like the professional loafer he is.

Australian media reflect culture of winning

I can’t help but enjoy Australia’s slip from grace. I’m British and it’s my absolute right. Most of all though it’s the Australian media which really gets me going.

Australia only need lose once and immediately, without prejudice or loyalty, their champion side is reduced to a bunch of complete losers. When they enter a losing streak, as they have in the past two weeks, the headlines make hilarious reading: “hapless,” “demoralised,” “licking wounds,” “Australia agony”. It goes on and is completely, brilliantly merciless. Until they win, and they’ll once again be hailed as the greatest sporting side in the history of the planet.

I’m probably completely wrong, but the turncoat style of Australia’s papers is in some ways a microcosm of a society which simply cannot accept losing. Ever. In any form, at anything. And this isn’t to say the criticism isn’t valid – Australia have been shoddy, no mistake. It’s just the tabloid turnaround which just astounds me…there is never any balance or reasoned debate as to their fall from grace. “BLOODY LOSERS. SACK THEM ALL” you half expect a headline to read.

I met two great Aussies on safari last week, Shelley and Paul. Both in their thirties, travelled all over the world, they were eager to hear my thoughts of Australia. “Been to Aus then Will?” And I told them I had. Before I could finish Shelley said “Yeah great isn’t it? Awww the beaches, everything’s just great isn’t it? Don’t you think?” And it is, and I love the country. But disliking Australia was not an option!

Billy Connolly observed this in one of his stand-up routines years ago. He’d arrived in Australia for the first time and, at a press conference at Sydney airport, was bombarded with questions about the country. “How are you finding Australia Mr Connolly? Liking it here?” “I’ve only just got off the fucking plane, but the tarmac is indeed terrific!”

Not all Aussies are like this but the positive, must-win vibe runs through the country like a critical artery. Cut it, and there’s blood everywhere. Losing is just not an option and losers should be shamed. Britain is completely, emphatically the opposite. We love to shame the losers too, but we also love to love the losers and the underdogs. Whereas in Australia, a crap league side would be backed to the hilt with a genuine belief their fortunes would turn around, in England we actually enjoy the struggle! Of course we don’t want England to lose, but we just shrug our shoulders, tut, throw a dart at Ricky Ponting and move on. C’est la vie.

I’m not sure what I’m wibbling about now, but do leave your thoughts. Scott’ll be best placed to ridicule this post…

Benaud – the voice is back

Richie Benaud - The Voice

It’s not often that I can refer to two pieces in The News Of The World within a matter of hours. In fact, I can count on half my left hand the number of times I’ve read it in the past five years. It’s a fine publication I have no doubt, but I’d rather..well, I just think it’s crap.

Phworrr
However, I’d completely forgotten Richie Benaud’s famous and long-standing affiliation with the paper. He’s written for them since 1600, give or take a year, and I was amused to see the JPEG on their site (above) claiming “The VOICE is BACK“. The paper’s agenda is so clearly targetted at those with nothing better to do than scratch themselves in public, or eat microwaveable roast potatoes (I ask you – does anyone actually buy those things? What’s difficult about roasting a flipping tat?), so it’s amusing to see someone of Benaud’s stature and reverence rub column inches with ladies such as the one on the right.

Look at Benaud’s grin though – he’s loving it…

Blogburst

I’ve been invited and accepted onto a new service called Blogburst. A select number of blogs (under a thousand), Blogburst connects blogs with traditional media publishers (newspapers). So there’s a tiny chance some of my/our posts might end up in a newspaper in the USA. Which is rather cool, a bit bizarre but moreover most unlikely. They ought to though, because – well they just should! Scott, that means no spooling misktukes from now on! (from me too).

Cricket’s status and popularity in India

After the Ashes, cricket’s stock rose significantly in England. But even in September 2005, with most of the country drunk on Ashes fever – literally, in some cases – it probably only matched India’s insatiable appetite for the game.

This remarkable fact has been highlighted by Paul Coupar, who’s out there for The Wisden Cricketer and is kindly blogging for Cricinfo too. It makes quite startling reading:

And that appetite for cricket has not changed if Nagpur’s local Sunday paper, The Hitavada, is anything to go by. In a 16-page paper, there are 15 cricket pieces. Remarkably, one of them is headlined ‘Chappell has acknowledged receipt of email’. Over on the front page, the three lead stories are: ‘England Cook up a defiant story’, ‘Keep restraint, Pawar tells Chappell in surprise meet’ and, finally, the tiddling matter of President Bush snubbing a proposed nuclear deal with Pakistan.

I agree with Paul that the appetite for cricket has, in recent times, been somewhat gluttonous; Chappell-Ganguly-gate was unnecessarily long-winded, but it nevertheless demonstrates the unparalleled lust for cricket. Is there any other sport which binds a country’s people together as much as cricket does for India?

The last Sunday before the last Ashes Test

Quite a sad feeling, really, that it’s suddenly all come to an end for another 18 months. It does feel like yesterday that the Lord’s Test was getting underway, yet we’ve had four Tests squeezed in a matter of a few weeks. On the up side, there are but 15 months until the 2006/7 Ashes series begins; will England be defending them, for the first time in 18 years? Or will we be, once again, trying to wrestle them from Australia’s vice-like grip?

Frankly, we ought to be defending them when we next meet Australia. We’ve been the better side for the majority of the summer, bar a McGrath blitz at Lord’s. Another McGrath and Warne show might yet upset me, and the millions of English fans now hooked on the great game. Caged animal, backs to the walls, etc…buyer beware!

On what is the last Sunday before the last Ashes Test of the summer, there have been a veritable feast of words written in the press which I’ll briefly summarise…

Andrew Strauss’ diary for the Telegraph seems to get longer each week, and this week he’s written a very extensive and insightful piece.

Looking back, the first morning of the series, at Lord’s, seems like an age ago, but what is still very clear is the reception we received as we made our way slightly nervously on to the field that morning. Walking through the Long Room, we were met by the most incredible roar from members full of hope and expectation that this series was going to be different from its predecessors.

And

If I had been lucky enough to play in three Tests like that over the course of my career, I would retire very satisfied, but to have three in a row is astounding. All 22 players know that we have been part of something incredibly special over the past six weeks. One of the greatest series of all time is being played out, and it has created the best possible advert for the game.

That’s what has struck everyone who has seen this series: one after the other, each Test has matched and bettered its predecessor. You half expect one or two Tests to be rained off, or piddling out to a draw. Every bloody game has been painfully brilliant to watch; imagine what it’s like for the players involved!

He ends – not quite tempting fate, but… – with:

Regardless of the result, we will be determined to enjoy what could be the defining Test of all our careers.

Mike Atherton continues his excellent form (honk!) with a piece about Freddie. Jonny Wilkinson, David Beckham, and now Andrew Flintoff.

Rugby and football blossomed in the afterglow, much as cricket is doing now, but Wilkinson and Beckham have been in slow decline ever since. Wilkinson because his body cannot cope; Beckham because he cannot cope.

Regardless of the result at the Oval, Andrew Flintoff now walks in such company. Maybe he is not earning the dollars (yet) of the other two, but in terms of profile and popularity he bends his knee to no one at present.

Too true. Giant performances in the last three Tests, he will almost certainly be named as one of the men of the series – if not officially, then certainly by his teammates and the Australians. England needed something special from him, but I don’t think anyone quite expected he’d have such a country-binding affect. Oh to be seven or eight years old and have a hero like Flintoff to aspire to…

Meanwhile, Scyld Berry mentions something, and someone, we’ve all forgotten about: Duncan Fletcher.

More than anyone else, more even than Michael Vaughan, this England team are Fletcher’s creation, although he will always be first to give the credit to the players. Just as much as Jack, Fletcher can look at the England team and say “this is the house I have built”. The position which he took up at the climax – after sitting on the dressing-room balcony for most of the match – said so much about his approach. Close to them, but not of them. Ready to hand. ‘There’ – and Giles looked in for a chat before batting – but not imposing.

His influence cannot be underestimated, and should not be glossed over here so briefly. So I’ll do a post on him this week. But Scyld’s article comes with the depressing news that Fletcher has been turned down British citizenship. A win or a draw at The Oval might just persuade the Government to change their minds.

So, on to Thursday – and the weather is set fair (at the moment). Tell your friends; invite them over; crack open a beer / coke / tea / water; get your prayer-mats out!; “renew” your incontinence pants; change the nappies; charge your mobile phones in anticipation of “This is going down to the wire mate ru watchin?” type messages; don’t allow anyone with a heart condition near The Oval, or your TV; polish your voodoo dolls; tell everyone to come here and comment & chat like the crazed cricket-addicted fools we all are; are we in for another nailbiter?

May the best side win.