It was around a year ago that cricket really stunned me.
I mean, I’ve been shocked before; as a 10 year old on the receiving end of a beamer from a frustrated 15 year old Devon bowler (‘orrible spotty sod); as a bowler dropping a simple caught and bowled chance with 2 runs to get and 9 wickets down (hands like hooves, me); and as a spectator, who’d booked tickets to watch sheer ineptitude (Bangladesh losing to Sussex by an innings and 200+ runs), sheer quality (Michael Clarke treble, Hashim Amla full stop), or even sheer downright fraudulence, in the case of three Pakistanis subsequently convicted of spot-fixing. However, in time; a week, two weeks, 6 months later; I have come to understand these things: they no longer stun me.
Last year was different.
It wasn’t that I was stunned by the 5-0 loss that England had suffered Down Under, as awful and gutless as that was. I possibly was not even particularly stunned by the unscrupulous, still properly unexplained sacking of the best England player in my living memory. No, that again is one of those things that will pass, one day…hopefully. I was however, permanently stunned by what I was reading in the press covering these events. Stunned by the response of the media who previously I’d backed to be, more or less, even handed. Utterly stunned by the patronising, shoddy press releases given by administrators, officials, and departing coaches, and how those press releases were interpreted.
I still haven’t gotten over it, and it seems to continue even to this day.
I was a Graun Online reader and occasional BTLer for years. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a Graun Online reader and occasional BTLer, but this is now out of habit, whereas I used to really buy into it. At one point I was a prescriber to ‘Lord Selvey’, hailing his every utterance BTL as someone who ‘got it’, and admiring his overall take on the game. Vic Marks was (and still is) demi-poetic, his easy radio charm reflected in his kind words, winking at you from both above and below the line. Add in a couple of solid contributors, plus Barney Ronay, and I think it’s fair to say that the cricket section of the Graun is the main thing turned me from someone completely ambivalent about pretty much everything in life, into the Graun reading, left-leaning, sandal-wearing, organic-veg-eating man that I am today. Thank gawd they didn’t have such a good team penning cricket articles for the Daily Heil at the time!
Anyway, around a year ago, this all changed. I’m not saying every article from this point onward was poorly written, but there was a point where I noticed that, well, I just didn’t agree with them. The entire gist seemed completely alien to me. The articles became increasingly short-sighted, the man was played instead of the ball, things got a bit personal, a few things happened, la de da, and now, I struggle to even look at the cricket section.
This had a fair amount to do with Selvey, in the Graun’s instance, but looking around the rest of the mainstream press it is entirely unfair to think that he was a sinister, one-man brigade of lies, mistruths and ECB propaganda. Instead it was clear that the press, as a whole, just didn’t “get” it. They didn’t understand the view of me, a fan. They were too entwined, and too close to some of the key characters involved. How many of them played with Paul Downton? How many of them went to a nice school also frequented by, say, Alastair Cook or Giles Clarke? How many of them would go for lunch with the coaching staff on tour? How many of them have just spent too much time in the press box, with the rest of them?
Enter people ‘outside cricket’. Bloggers. The Full Toss have been going for years, and I was mildly aware of them previously, yet I now read practically everything that they pen and the utterances in the comments, too. Even more so, Dmitri Old* maintained a fiery, no-holds barred blog which I followed and posted on for a year, to the point where I found myself not needing to write anything on my own blog here, as it have been covered before (and better) by Dmitri. Again I was a “little” bit aware of Dmitri’s work beforehand, but I didn’t really take too much interest until a post around this time last year caught my eye when he ‘fisked’ a nonsense article by Selvey – I was just so happy that someone else had noticed, and I wasn’t alone! What I’m getting at, is that bloggers filled the void left by the mainstream hacks – to the point where they’ve usurped them.
So where am I now? Well if last year I was stunned, this year I am still jaded from the whole thing. I considered the other day that perhaps I am a little bit “too” into cricket for my own good, and I should just sit back, ignore everything else and watch the matches (via a stream, of course – I do have *some* ethics, after all). I am hoping to inject some irreverence back into my blog, which is hopefully one of the things that will help me blog more (sorry). I’m looking forward to the World Cup to aid this, following it through Cricinfo, the radio, BTL and on The Full Toss. I’ll still retain one, miserable, angry little eye on the ‘press box’ view, but will I allow myself to get too bothered by it? Nah…so long as they don’t start it, by mentioning KP!
*Sending man-hugs to Dmitri for keeping me entertained for a year, when I really ought to have been working.