#23 – The Secret Ingredient Is Anger
So we’re mired in the perineum of 2013, and in between eating my own bodyweight in sprouts and mince pies my thoughts have turned to odd themes, such as revamping the current cabinet.
My first change would be to remove Teresa May and replace her with Richard Curtis. Not obvious at first glance, but try and follow the musings of a man hopped up on mulled wine and those frankly ropey chemicals they shove into turkey.
The right wing of the Tory party, Nigel Farage and UKIP, and various other think tanks and swivel eyed nutjobs are always moaning about immigration and how they want loads of people sent back. Well Curtis once made a film called Notting Hill, starring Hugh Grant, Julia Roberts, and a cast whiter than that on Downton Abbey. This is to be expected. At the time Grant was riding a post Four Weddings wave, and Roberts was the highest paid actress in the world. That wasn’t the clever bit.
Notting Hill was, previous to Curtis’s arrival, a part of London known for holding the biggest Afro-Caribbean carnival in Europe. If he can effectively clear an area so ethnically diverse of black faces imagine what he could do on a nationwide scale? There’d be queues of huddled masses yearning for a pee at every airport in no time.
With that fixed I turned my mind to the embarrassment of an Ashes tour currently taking place. Some of the ways people search to get to my blog are a bit weird, quite a few hits from Googling ‘Fern Britton Feet’, or ‘Bernard Cribbins Porno Movie’ for example (coincidentally, happy birthday Bernard). None of this is as bemusing as the turnaround in form, organisation, and competence of the England side in the last year.
While Australia, a land described by John Oliver as being totally comfortable with its casual racism, reverted to type and appointed Darren Lehmann (once fined for calling the Sri Lankan side a bunch of ‘cunts, cunts, fucking black cunts’ on the way back to the pavilion after a contentious lbw call) to put the Aussie back into them, Andy Flower’s England appeared to make the fatal error of successful sports teams; thinking you’ve cracked it. Let’s examine how the main players failed.
A perfect example of captaincy by numbers. The fielding plans he put in place looked great on the laptop the night before, but sadly when the opposition did something that wasn’t scripted he had no idea what to do. You don’t spread the field when the opposition is nine down; you bring it in and tell your bowlers to hit the stumps (bringing bowled and lbw into play). You don’t pick Monty Panesar and then bowl Root instead, leaving your front line spinner cooling his heels when you need quick wickets. And slowing down the game with ridiculous field changes to try and take time out of the game, and refusing to applaud an opposition fifty or century don’t make you tough or streetwise. It makes you look like an unpopular petty wanker. Keeps the job, but only because there are few credible alternatives.
If you were England captain where would you expect a senior player once considered a good enough tactical brain to have your job to be at your side offering backup and opinions, or grazing at fine leg with a ‘nothing to do with me’ demeanour? Total abdication of team ethic by the cricketer most like a footballer in his disdain for what’s going on around him. Irresponsible batting is excused because ‘that’s the way he plays’ (not true; the first innings in Melbourne shows he can graft if necessary) or ‘he’s a big game player’ (well there are ashes fucking test matches, which is pretty much as big as it gets for an England cricketer and where the fuck has he been?) When Swann was being flayed to all parts did he offer his occasional off spin as a respite? Course not. No doubt his autobiography will rival Frank Lampard’s on the It Wasn’t Me Shaggyometer. The sooner we tell him to bat at three and pull his finger out or fuck off the better.
Nick Compton must be confused as to how he’s been overlooked for someone with more technical issues than him, and more miles on the clock too. Must bring something, but it’s well hidden. Get rid.
No longer trusted as an opener, lollipop occasional off spin, shown up at six against pace and never a number three. I simply don’t get it at all, except as a stopgap to cover the massive loss of Trott. In mitigation he was massively let down by the senior batsmen around him, but they had their own problems.
When he’s in form and flowing he makes batting look the easiest thing in the world. Unfortunately he is part of the core of this group who have simply played too much cricket and are shot to pieces mentally. His game crumbled under pressure, and as a senior player he would be one the others were leaning on. remember, this man made the shortlist for Sports Personality Of the Year on the back of an imperious summer against this same bowling attack. Needs rest, and lots of it.
Despite fears his gingerness would see him burst into flames while running in to bowl he has proved reasonably confident and competent in the heat of battle. Only batting at six because Trott has gone home, and that’s a place too high, but a rare ray of hope amongst the shambles.
Keeping had improved leaps and bounds in recent years, and his batting was becoming more and more reliable. Sadly he is another one who has been on a non-stop treadmill of cricket and in the end was so out of form that taking him out of the firing line was an act of kindness. Another one who shouldn’t see a cricket pitch for three months at least.
Not a test keeper, at least not yet. Shown up in both Melbourne innings as not up to it. Batting passable, but needs a run at number six to prove he can cut it as a specialist when Prior comes back.
England’s best bowler. Not a high bar. Revelled in his pantomime villain role, especially at Brisbane. Batting confidence was totally obliterated in the face of Mitchell Johnson however, and got sucked into bowling short too often. Needs to sort his foot injury out and come back fresh.
Put straight back into the team on past performances. No evidence that he’s fully fit. His bowling lacked any zip, and his batting looked tentative (although again that might be down to the Johnson effect). Hardly the change of approach England needed really, so negligible effect.
If someone was carting me round like Australia was doing to him I’d quit bowling for good too. His arm and elbow are knackered, and they’re not coming back. He did the right thing in walking away. He was a liability, wasn’t getting the seamers time to rest, and he knew it. He’ll get caned forever for it, but these people are simply wrong. Even if he didn’t retire he was another one who had the haunted thousand yard stare of someone who needed time away from the game. A massive miss at second slip too.
Next cab off the rank now Swann has gone home. Obdurate if limited batting, comedy fielding, and decent bowling. might get a run now, unless Cook decides to insult him by turning to another part timer first when they need wickets.
Part of the big tall fast bowling barrage that was going to rip the Aussies apart. Last seen waitering drinks and larking about because suddenly he’s not good enough to actually play. Could be a great bowler, but needs to be trusted.
Again, big massive fucker who actually has a recent history of intimidating Clarke and co. in their backyard. Sadly Brisbane showed he isn’t that bowler anymore, so he was benched. The whole policy was flawed, but they never even really gave it a chance.
His Warwickshire buddies had him down as the key to England’s success. Judging by his terrible performances in the warm up games (as part of the good-idea-at-the-time-but-a-bit-shit-really huge bloke pace attack) Brummies are a lot funnier than I’ve ever thought.
It doesn’t swing in Australia as much as at home. But enough about the nightlife, these simply weren’t his favourite bowling conditions. needed a Plan B, and there wasn’t one forthcoming. Put everything in as usual, but is off form, and another who needs to get to a beach pronto.
Duncan Fletcher started to circle the drain after a 5-0 down under. Given some of the huge errors of judgment, not to mention an inflexibility of tactical direction that has been shown up on this tour, you have to fear for his job. As john Etheridge of The Sun tweeted there are some things which, in hindsight, look incredibly foolish. An 82 page recipe book for the players is one of them. If only he’s spent more time thinking about a new game plan which Australia hadn’t seen before, and not what Gary Ballance wanted for a light fucking supper, we might be better off. The Lampard Gerrard combination has been tried nearly ninety times. It doesn’t work, and everyone knows it. The England cricket team looked like the footballers will in Brazil. Tired, jaded, and with an embarrassing poverty of ideas and tactical flexibility.
Oh well, that’s that then. It’s a happy new year from me. Just Sydney to go and then the Australian in your office (who was saying fuck all back in July as we were handing them their arse) can pipe down again.
Next time, fiscal policy and darts. Be good.