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November 2008
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John Stern: Time for calm and perspective in wake of Mumbai

November 28th, 2008 by John Stern in England and tagged , , , ,

The chances of England returning for the two-Test series in India seems negligible. I can’t believe that there is much appetite among the players to return so unless the ECB force them to go back, which is inconceivable, then the Tests are off.

This is a shame. Totally understandable, even inevitable, but a shame nonetheless. On the one hand, sport can seem utterly trivial at times of great tragedy and personal suffering. But on the other, this is when sport can show its best side, it can be a force for good, a symbol of public resilience, of normality, a sign that we will carry on with our lives in the face of vile pressure. Above all, it is a chance to remember why we love this game, its capacity to bring fun, entertainment and excitement into our lives.

I didn’t expect Kevin Pietersen to be standing in the lobby of his Bhubaneshwar hotel saying: “We ain’t going nowhere.” Nor did I really expect Lalit Modi to be saying with such certainty that the Tests would go ahead. “There is no problem with that,” is possibly one of the most glib statements I’ve ever heard from a cricket administrator and (to paraphrase Blackadder) you can imagine there’s some pretty stiff competition. Was it stiff-upper-lip Dunkirk spirit from Modi or was it textbook grandstanding from the man who effectively runs world cricket? I know where my money is.

Cricket politics is seedy at the best of times but seeing it intrude so urgently into this tragic situation was nauseating. For Indian cricket, the impact of the Mumbai attacks could be far-reaching. If there is any widespread long-term concerns about safety and security in the country then its status as the powerhouse of the world game is under threat.

But frankly that’s not important right now. Modi needs to show some understanding to his English counterparts at the ECB, whom for once I have some sympathy. They are torn between their players’ well-being which they can’t be seen to take lightly and the commercial needs of the Indian board. If the foreign office do not officially advise against returning to India then the ECB are potentially stuck with a whopping compensation bill.

It is worth keeping a sense of history and perspective here. In 1984-85, Indira Gandhi was murdered by one of her bodyguards and the British High Commissioner was also killed. After much soul-searching, England, captained by David Gower, continued their tour. In 2005, Australia’s tour of England continued despite the London bombings. The difference in Mumbai is the targeting of foreigners in five-star hotels, just the sort of places touring cricketers inhabit.

Players talk of having their security “guaranteed”. That is naïve. Frankly nobody’s security can be guaranteed. Anybody who lives in a major city does so in the knowledge that risks, large and small, to personal safety exist round every corner. That is life.

Cricket cannot insulate itself from real life, nor should it. Pakistan has become a no-go area for touring cricketers, we can’t let India go the same way. And the last thing we should tolerate is the idea that ‘western’ cricketers won’t travel to Asia but they expect Asian cricketers to travel to their countries.

Double standards and hypocrisy are never far from the surface in international cricket politics. It’s time for calm, rational thinking and a bit if perspective. Let’s put the money and greed to one side, just for now.

John Stern is editor of The Wisden Cricketer

Posted in England | 6 Comments »

Miles Jupp: England’s lost hours

November 28th, 2008 by Miles Jupp in England, One-day cricket and tagged , ,

As preparation for the Fifth ODI in Cuttack, England opted to have a team meeting rather than a practice session. The following is a transcript of a tape recording of their meeting in the team room at the hotel made by a private detective.

We can hear talking, laughing and the noise of darts and table tennis being played.

Peter Moores: Excuse me everybody. Excuse me.

There is the noise of more chattering and giggling. Someone is doing what sounds like an impression of Bob Willis.

Moores: C’mon now, guys. Let’s have a bit of quiet. Can you come away from the pool table for a moment?

The chattering gets louder.

Moores: (mildly) Kevin, would you mind getting them all to…?


There is instant quiet.


Moores: Peter Moores. Or Mooresy.

KP: Everybody shut up and listen to Morrissey.

Moores: Thank you Kevin. Thank you everyone. I know you’re all busy, so I’ll try to be brief. I thought we could all have that chat you opted for about our game plan for Cuttack. Now, I don’t want to worry any of you, but I’ve done some calculations and we seem to be four-nil down in the series.

Murmurs of surprise can be heard in the room. An unrecognisable voice (Tim Ambrose perhaps?) can be clearly heard saying “But surely we haven’t even started?”

Moores: Let’s not get our heads down about this. It’s just a matter of us thrashing out a solution. Now then, who has an idea of how we should play in Cuttack? Anyone?

There is a long silence, broken only by a waiter taking orders for drinks.

KP: Well we need to score more centuries. That’s what I think.

Moores: Brilliant. An excellent suggestion. Any others?

Collingwood: What about half centuries? I think they’re helpful too. And less stressful.

Moores: Possibly, Paul. Possibly.

Bopara: Sometimes scores in the forties can be helpful too. You know, just work the ball around a bit.

Moores: This is all good stuff.

Prior: What about someone going out there and putting together a really quick nine?

Moores: Well that’s certainly something to think about, Matt. We’ve talked a lot about roles recently, haven’t we? Is there anything anyone is particularly keen to do?

Harmison: I wouldn’t mind going home.

Moores: If we can just focus on the cricket for a little longer…

Ian Bell: I’d quite like to have a go carrying the drinks.

Cook: No, no. I’ve baggsied that. That’s my job.

Moores: I think Ian’s right, Alastair. It might be time to let someone else have a go mixing the isotonics.

Cook: Alright then. I’ll give it a go.

Moores: That’s the spirit.

KP: Remember though Al, this is limited overs stuff, so you’re going to need to play all of your shots. Both of them. Unless there’s a slip in place, obviously.

Moores: Actually, if you need a bit of advice about opening in the one day game, we could probably find Tresco’s number for you.

Prior: Or I could give you a bit of advice. I know a bit about opening in one-dayers.

There is nervous laughter and then what sounds suspiciously like somebody coughing and saying the word “bullshit” at the same time. Then a door opens, and we hear an enthusiastic voice.

L Wright: Oh Hi Guys! I didn’t know we were having a meeting.

Moores: Sorry, Luke, I guess I must have forgotten to tell you.

L Wright: No worries. I tell you what, though, it’s just as well we’re all here because those one-dayers must be due to start any day now. I’m really keen to get out there and do my stuff.

An embarrassed hush descends.

Moores: Anyway, that’s probably everything covered. Bowlers, we’ll be taking your names out of a hat in the usual way. Just remember to keep your chins up, to try and enjoy it, and that no-one at home gives a toss about one-day games. Any other business?

Harmison: Yes, I have an announcement. Tonight’s DVD is disc 2 from Lovejoy series Four. That’s episodes four to six.

There is much enthusiastic murmuring about this.

Harmison: We’re start the showing at seven pm promptly, and there will be a short toilet break between each episode.


Miles Jupp is an actor, comedian and cricket fan

Posted in England, One-day cricket | 2 Comments »

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