The Terrible State of English Cricket!
Posted on October 9, 2014
When my oldest son and all his peers started playing cricket in early 2006, it came exclusively off the back of the thrilling 2005 Ashes victory against Australia’s invincibles that included the likes of Ponting, McGrath and Warne.
It was an absolutely thrilling series, resembling a three month penalty shoot-out where our children witnessed their fathers, grown men, pacing the room, hiding behind sofas and racing out to the garden punching the air as a pace attack including Flintoff, Jones, Harmison and Hoggard turned bully on the notorious Aussie bullies.
Flintoff was the stand out man for the kids. With his kit seemingly whiter than anyone else’s, his puffed out chest and up and at ’em attitude that brought back our own childhood memories of Ian Botham at his belligerent, “let’s give it some humpty” best. Boys own comic book heroics at its infectious best.
Flintoff to our kids, was their very own Botham, the one man they wanted to be as they began their life of playing a game that aids social development, brings life time friendships and endless pleasure. There is no other game where a team can feature a sixteen year old a 63 year old in the same line-up. Cricket is a sport that brings social contact and friendship with players who are generations apart.
Flintoff: Ashes Heroics Inspired a Generation of Kids to Play Cricket
Six of my original team of 2006 are still playing at Oakley CC now as senior members who all contribute to our two competitive Saturday teams and a Sunday friendly team. They won’t play anywhere else unless they move away from the area because they have learnt about teamwork, loyalty and friendship, all from the wonderful game of cricket.
Now in 2014, as I work at the bar of our local cricket centre for enjoyment, I hear stories of kids all over the country giving up cricket as soon as the full sized hard ball comes into play from 13 years old onwards. Under 15’s cricket has never had such depleted numbers and the effect it has on small village cricket teams is enormous as you need the constant flow of Colts coming through to bolster the men’s teams.
Without the flow of Colts, the local adult teams get older and more arthritic, before finally and desperately, over a century of tradition comes to end as the gates of the old field are locked for the last time and the developers move in to build an estate of cardboard boxes posing as houses. How sad is that?
If you ask a local cricketing stalwart about the demise of youngsters in cricket, stand well back, because you will get a volley of angry opinion, some of which will be near the mark and some that will come out like an incoherent rant from the Daily Mail Comment page.
You will hear tales of laziness, obesity, X boxes, Playstations, iPads, idle parents and kids who in general, have gone soft.
There is of course, a case for all of the above but, ultimately, cricket like any sport, needs an idol or an inspirational event to catch the imagination of a child; Ashes 2005 being a classic example that I witnessed first-hand.
Of course, there are lazy parents out there who see a trip to MacDonald’s as taking the kids on a day trip away from the PlayStation but the majority of mums and dads I associate with, would, if asked, rush their kids down to the village club at the merest hint of interest from them.
Cricket clubs are not only where kids make friendships, they are also places where parents meet new people and inevitably, as is the case with me, become involved in a playing, coaching or doing something on an admin basis.
However, without inspiration, cricket will struggle and the current state of affairs at the highest level of the game is embarrassing beyond comprehension.
Sadly, It would appear that the ECB (English Cricket Board) is rotten to the core, with allegations of bullying, favouritism, selfishness, terrible man management and ignorance of mental illness all thrown into an a mixer which blends something so unsavoury, the stench can be smelt from Hampshire to Lords.
Kevin Pietersen’s interviews and subsequent autobiography are just the beginning of the back stabbing, scapegoating and tell-tale stories that are going to stain the game further still. There are not many in this current crop that are going to be covered in glory after this all settles down.
When I heard Pietersen’s interview on Radio 5 yesterday, any lingering sympathy I had for him after the cataclysmic PR effort of a post Ashes sacking, drifted away as my toes curled to snapping point…Here is a man who could cause a dispute in an empty room yet still blame everyone else…I actually think he may be mentally ill, such is his delusional state. The way he makes out he is standing up for young players is nothing short of appalling; he, it would appear from this interview, is an uncontrollable liar.
I wrote a blog about narcissism recently, KP ticks so many boxes of those traits, yet after the premature demise of Andrew Flintoff, he was the box office player all our colts once loved. After the utter nonsense and self-indulgence he showed in that interview, I felt pretty sick really. Why does he have to do all this if he loves the game so much?
He should call his autobiography “Self-Indulgence- My Way”
Pietersen: A Cocktail of Brilliance, Disruptiveness and Self-Indulgence
The likes of Stuart Broad, Graham Swann and Matt Prior are also appearing rather childish and the management skills of Andy Flower are looking like those of a pent up little Hitler; it is a total embarrassment. I have never taken to Flower, nor Peter Moores for that matter and this is where I think some of Pietersen’s comments must ring true as he would have had his arse sued off by now.
What I will say is that if all this diatribe had come out in the press when George and his mates were nine years old, they wouldn’t have been begging me to find a cricket team to play for and I wouldn’t have been inclined to have found them one. That is the effect these selfish people are having on the game and they don’t appear to even care.
Personally, I am not especially keen with putting sportsmen up on a pedestal as role models to kids because that is not what they are paid to do. However, some sportsmen become role models inadvertently because of the boyish playground desire that still lingers within them. They are role models by default.
When any sport is full of passion, enjoyment and an overwhelming desire to win, it is so infectious, as we saw in the London Olympics a couple of years ago. Kids love it and the participating numbers rise accordingly.
When it is a game that is seemingly dominated by infighting, bitching and varying accounts of stress related illness, it is little surprise that the opposite rings true and the numbers fall away as the rest of the cricketing world watches on in a state of amused bemusement.
What child or indeed parent, would want to be associated with that lot?
Shame on the ECB.