Posts Tagged ‘Cricket’
It was yet another dark wet morning when we cleaned out the hens. But the conditions matched our collective demeanour for we codgers were in no mood for jollity. We were remembering so many happy days on the allotments as we listened to our much-loved Test Match Special. Over so many years the programme has attracted a huge following, and not merely from cricket lovers. The great John Arlott and Brian Johnston were its pioneers and their style of knowledgable cricket commentary interspersed with stories of cakes, buses and the world at large created what became an addiction for millions. Every member had a nickname, one of those was the Major.
That was the title bestowed on Christopher Martin-Jenkins. It was a crib from ‘Fawlty Towers’ in which Major Gowan became a byword for lovable, chaotic behaviour. So it was with CM-J. He was renowned for eccentricity, forgetfulness and being late. Today we mourn his passing, today he is the late.
The Major was respected throughout cricket, not for his own modest playing record but for his deep-rooted love of the game and his detailed knowledge of its every twist and turn. In 2007 he became the only career journalist and broadcaster to deliver the annual MCC Spirit of Cricket Colin Cowdrey Lecture, an honour that ranked him alongside the likes of Desmond Tutu, Imran Khan and Richie Benaud. In 2009 he was awarded an MBE and in 2010 and 2011 he served as president of the MCC.
CM-J stepped down from Test Match Special last year when cancer struck, but he continued to watch the game and to write about it for the Times. In his final piece, reflecting on the death from a heart attack of fellow cancer-sufferer and former England captain Tony Greig, he wrote that: “It was probably for him a merciful release because the late stage of any cancer is often hell on earth”.
Regular readers may recall the response I had to an article criticising the Barmy Army, whose antics so often spoil the enjoyment of spectators. My critic suggested that I join the “Christopher Martin-Jenkins appreciation society”. He intended it as an insult, I received it as a compliment. In my view CM-J represented all that is good in cricket. He was fair, honest and courteous. He was entertaining.
CM-J was only 67 years old. He has gone too soon, yet another victim of mankind’s greatest scourge. I do believe in a God, but I so often find myself asking why man cannot live out his allotted years without an agonising ending. It is just not cricket. It is appalling that man’s efforts to uncover its terrible secret has to rely on charity.
Without doubt the radio will be at full volume this summer as we work on the allotments. The drama of the Ashes will, as always, beguile us. But we will miss the “Now I hand over to the Major”. That very special voice is bowled out, silenced for ever.
It was off to B&Q this morning for gravel galore. Most of the hen-runs are inches deep in mud and, being doubtful of the chucks willngness to use stilts, we are about to deposit the unpteenth load. Yesterday we watched the T20 finals on the box. Cardiff was bathed in sunshine for the occason, here to venture out of the ‘hut’ was to guarantee another change of trousers. Perhaps the old ode about oh to be in England should be reworded?
Fond though we are of our Columbian Black Tails we do begrudge the constant cost of weather-protection. Austerity has hit most of us in one way or another and, for most, times are hard. What really rankles is the behaviour of the polticians who work to a code of do what we say, not what we do. Whitehall has always been something of a gravy-train, but we had naively imagined that the furore about moat houses and the rest had brought it to the buffers. It seems that we were wrong.
Despite a much-lauded public pay freeze we now learn that more than 100 senior servants are still pocketing large bonuses, with £10,000 the absolute minimum. Some of the pay-outs seem beyond the bounds of irony; the Government Debt Management Office, for example, paid bonuses for last year to all its directors, with Jim Juffs, the chief officer, receivng an additional £15,000. Sue Gray, the Cabinet office’s head of propriety and ethics, was given £20,000.
Furthermore, the new rule that no non-executive director should be paid more than £15,000 has been ignored. The Department for Transport decided to treble that in recognition of “reputation and experience”.
Presumably MPs are outraged at the failure to set an example? Not on your life. They have been busy blowing a staggering £230,000 of taxpayers’ cash on artworks. Over the past twelve months – as the rest of us went in the direction of the wall – dozens of paintings, busts and sketches have been snapped up to decorate plush offices. A bust of William Gladstone cost £23,000, closely followed by a host of others. A portrait of Margaret Beckett cost £12,000 and Prince Philip’s bust £7000.
Of course you can’t hang pictures of such worthies as Margaret Beckett in less than sparkling surroundings and £120,000 was paid out for new offices and the tarting-up of existing ones.
The TaxPayers’ Alliance is less than impressed. It’s chief, Matt Sinclair, said; “Politicians keep telling us there is no alternative to new taxes and cuts – then go and squander so much on art for their offices”. He drew a defence from the coalition which amounted to the claim that Labour did much the same when in office. So that’s all right then!
We ‘ordinary folk’, as our dear leader likes to refer to us, may not be lions but we are certainly led by donkeys!
NO CHEERS FOR THE BANKERS!
No great surprise that bankers have slipped somewhat in the league table of public esteem. It seems that even estate agents and journalists are now better regarded by the great British public. If this fall from grace continues the bankers may even consider reducing their bonuses, but we shouldn’t hold our breath.
Meantime the scandal of the ‘fiddling’ of the Libor rate grows. At first it appeared that this was entirely down to the millionnaires at Barclays, now there is evidence that RBS were also implicated.
Tan Chi Min, a former RBS trader, is suing RBS for wrongful dismissal and claims he told RBS that a colleague ‘fixed’ Libor in 2008. He says that “anyone” was allowed to fix the rates.
Since RBS is now owned by the taxpayer, MP John Mann has urged George Osborne to tell all. Again we shouldn’t hold our breath for the bankers have friends in high places. No names, no Osbornes!
ARE YOU OUT THERE?
One of the joys of blogging is making new friends and making contact with some lost many years ago. Over the past few months these folk have mentioned that they log on from time to time. So if you are out there just leave a message saying I’m here! Sue. Malcolm, Paul, Gavin, Nigel, Clare, Roger, Colin, Geoff, Eric, John, Kinga…thats enough for now!
Bright sunshine this morning, life is full of surprises. But given just a hint of spring and codger’s minds turn to cricket. Unlike football, cricket has a long break and, come February, images of green fields and men in white coats and even whiter flannels flood our consciousness. But sadly this season threatens to be rather different. England have just redeemed themselves against Pakistan and we should be champing at the bit, but for the first time in our lives we find ourselves wondering if what we are planning to watch will have been planned in advance!
Last week the former Essex fast bowler Mervyn Westfield was sentenced at the Old Bailey to four months behind bars in a fixing racket the judge said was orchestrated by his team-mate, Danish Kaneira, the Pakistan leg-spinner. Even more devastating was the revelation that Kaneira’s approaches to players offering bungs from bookmakers were an open secret at Chelmsford. Mark Milliken-Smith, QC, defending Westfield, said it was “startling” that no one reported Kaneira, and accused the Essex players of deliberately “turning a blind eye”.
The scandal centred on two one-day games in the late summer of 2009, which were televised worldwide. Typical of what happened was that Westfield, 21, took £6,000 to concede at least 12 runs in his first over against Durham. Kaneira was to receive £4,000 the court heard. Nine days later after a night out with team-mate Tony Palladino, Westfield showed him bundles of £50 notes and said it was from fixing. Palladino mentioned it to other players but it was only in the spring of 2010 that the police were informed.
Yesterday Don Topley, the former Essex player, alleged that two county matches in 1991 were fixed. It is, he said, another sad day for cricket and for Essex. He went on to criticise the short prison sentence but his comments about earlier seasons left the impression that this was far from an isolated instance.
There are of course a number of previous cases involving other countries. Most people will recall the Cronje affair and, more recently, the conviction of Pakistan test players who bowled no-balls to order and were exposed by the News of the World. But we have tended to adopt a superior tone by assuring ourselves that this couldn’t happen in the English game. Cricket, after all, has for a century been a byword for fairness and honesty.
But now we know that it has been going on, and one would have to be a one-eyed optimist to believe that it only happened at Essex, although that county has a lot of explaining to do. The problem is that fixing doesn’t have to centre on the result of a game, it can involve betting on any aspect. And, cricket being the complex game that it is, there are many.
It is inevitable that once the new season starts every no-ball, dropped catch, poor over etc will be the subject of speculation. If this cancer is not dealt with now, and in dynamic style, the whole game will become suspect. With professional wrestling we know that the contest is pre-fixed, if people come to believe that cricket is the same there could be the biggest fall in attendances of all time.
Michael Vaughan has been quick to demand that any player found guilty of corruption – and that is what it is – must be banned for life irrespective of any sentences handed out by the courts. The cricket authorities are renowned for fudging issues, they fudge this one at their peril.
The perceived wisdom always was that cricket is a game played by gentlemen. It seems not. There is therefore only one remedy. Umpires and match officials must be charged with reporting any incident that strikes them as unusual, and each report must be analysed by the anti-corruption body. If suspicions are shown to be well-founded the Vaughan solution must be followed, no ifs or buts. And similar punishment must apply to officials and managers who fail to constantly check out what is happening in their dressing room.
Yes, it means that from now on every honest player or official must live under the same cloud as the cheats. But that is better than what will happen if the cricketing public abandons the game!
THINGS PEOPLE SAID ABOUT SMOKING; ” Giving up smoking is easy. I’ve done it thousands of times”…..Mark Twain “I wsa so horrified when I read about the effects of smoking that I gave up reading”……Henny Youngman “I’ve given up smoking before. Worst eight hours of my life”…….Lily Savage “I’d quity smoking if I didn’t think I’d become one of those non-smokers”……Bill Hicks “Here’s a sure tip to stop smoking; douse yourself in petrol every day”…..Bill Bailey “It is now proved beyond doubt that smoking is one of the leading causes of statistics”…..Fetcher Knebel “The room smelt of not having been smoked in”…..Ronald Knox “Cigarette sales would drop overnight if the warning said ‘Contains fat’ “….Dave Barry
There is not a cloud to be seen, the sun gleams from a blue canopy. But the beautiful scene is best viewed through the double-glazing, this is brass monkey weather. Our not so tiny hands were truly frozen as we thawed out the hen’s water this morning and we appreciated Albert’s brew, even if it was hard to work out what it was. The thought did cross my mind that it might be similar to the concoction produced by Baldrick in ‘Blackadder goes to War’. But it was hot.
There was a good deal to chatter about as we drank it. John Terry has lost his armband, Chris Huhne his cabinet office. England have embarrassed their critics by skittling Pakistan out for less than a ton. Under another Kenneth Clarke move the length of time that a record of criminality is retained on personal records have been slashed, in the case of burglars to just one year. So thirteen months from now keep an eye on your meter reader!
A lot of news to digest, but one obscure snippet dispelled our upbeat mood. It merited only a small paragraph in two of the dailies but it leapt from the pages for us. Here was the first taste of things to come under the Lansley NHS reforms. Axa PPP, the second biggest medical insurance company in the UK , providing ocver for more than 2 million people, has changed its stance on the drug abiraterone, thus enabling late-stage prostate cancer sufferers to benefit from it. Policies from Bupa, the market leader, and WPA already cover the treatment that means so much to many. The drug costs £3,000 per month per patient.
Abiraterone was developed by the Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden hospital, which is amongst the leading NHS cancer centres. Scientists found that some prostate cancers can produce their own testosterone. The drug works in a new way by blocking the production of male hormones in all tissues, not just the testes. The drug manufacturers are Janssen, who report that 3,300 men would currently benefit, rising to 5,500 by 2013.
For patients in dire distress the drug represents relief and hope. Maybe not hope of recovery, but certainly hope of a much higher quality of life in the short to medium term. So this is excellent news is it not?
The answer depends on whether the patient can afford private health insurance, or in the case of the wealthy, can pay out £3,000 each month. If he cannot, he will be refused access to the drug. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), the NHS drugs watchdog, has announced that the cost of abiraterone is not deemed a cost-effective use of NHS resources. In other words, the massive cuts imposed on the NHS mean that many expensive drugs are beyond its pocket irrespective of patient’s needs.
Cancer Research Uk was quick to comment that the decision, which is still open to consultation, makes “no sense”. But in a perverse way it does. This is a classic example of what the reforms are aimed at, the creation of a two-tier system in which money talks.
There will be a steady flow of examples of ‘two-tierism’, none of them will pass the morality test. The medical professional bodies are all locked in combat with the government, the rest of us are outraged. Lansley’s minions, such as Simon Burns, claim that the changes are supported by the majority of NHS clinical staff. A lie. The outcome of a YouGov poll has just been revealed, 80% believe that the bill should be withdrawn entirely.
Even if that were not the case, this example should send a shiver down every spine. Except of course those who, like so many members of the cabinet, have riches sufficient to buy good health!
THINGS PEOPLE SAY! ” I’d hate to be a teetotaller . Imagine getting up in the morning and knowing that’s as good as you’re going to feel all day”….Dean Martin “Health is what my friends are always drinking to before they fall down”……Phyllis Diller “If it was the fashion to go naked, the face would be hardly observed”….Mary Montague “If God had meant us to walk around naked, he would never have invented the wicker chair”……Erma Bombeck “We looked at each other with the clear innocent eyes of a couple of used-car salesmen”…..Raymond Chandler “What do you think has been the effect of the French Revolution? It is too soon to tell”…..Chairman Mao in 1970 “The only advantage I have found to being Jewish is that I can be openly anti-Semetic”…..Kirk Douglas “When men cease to believe in God, they will not believe in nothing, they will believe in anything”….G K Chesterton “I don’t believe in fairies, even if they exist”….Breandan Behan “A Scotsman is a man who, before sending his pyjamas to the laundry, stuffs a sock in each pocket”….Ambrose Bierce “India; done thje elephants, done the poverty”….Phil Tufnell “I would like to live in Manchester. The transition between Manchester and death would be unnoticeable”….Mark Twain “We are not retreating , we are advancing in another direction”……General Douglas MacArthur
The question has to be faced. To a group of blokes for whom cricket has been a big feature of their lives, it is an unthinkable question. But it has to be faced, and quickly!
When Mr Justice Cooke was passing sentence on the Pakistan players found guilty of cheating in the Lords Test, he remarked that the very name of cricket used to be associated with fair dealing both on and off the field. ‘It’s not cricket’ became an adage used by vast numbers of people, many of whom had no interest in the game. When I was a youngster, and a very poor player, cricket was an example for life. In those days you walked from the wicket the moment you felt the slightest nick as the ball travelled in the air to keeper or slips. It was a matter of honour. And if you fielded near to the boundary and knew that the ball had touched it before you grabbed it, you signalled a boundary to the umpire.
It all sounds old fashioned and goody-goody now doesn’t it? But that is how it was . I once shared a dressing room with someone known to be light-fingered, but even he dare not risk the contempt of his peers by cheating at cricket. Someone once described the game as religion in action, it was apt.
Over the years those standards have dropped. Even England’s leading batsmen wait for the umpire’s finger even though they know that they are out. Even England’s fielders claim catches that they know have touched the turf. But, as far as we know, our national team is guilty of nothing worse than lower standards of sportsmanship.
The fixing practiced by Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammaid Asif was appalling, and represents a huge threat to the future of a complicated game that is clearly vulnerable to so many ways of cheating. In this specific case, the aim was not so much to cheat their opponents but the bookmakers, for whom cricket is a massive industry in Asia. Their agent, Mazhar Majeed, took huge sums of cash in exchange for providing details of three balls which would be bowled as no-balls (front foot over the line). His promise was kept.
Unfortunately for him the person he gave the cash to was a reporter for the News of the World. Once the promised no-balls appeared as promised it didn’t require Sherlock Holmes to prepare a prosecution. But, as the Judge inferred, one would have to be very naive to imagine that this was other than the tip of an ugly iceberg.
The most worrying aspect of this affair is that it took a tabloid investigator to expose it. The anti-corrution squad of the International Ctricket Council (ICC) was nowhere to be seen. If only half of the boasts made on film by the crooked agent are true the practice of fixing specifics bits of action in top matches is prevalent. The game is, it seems, riddled with the cancer of corruption.
Already cricket lovers are casting their minds back to possibly suspicious actions. The top batsman who made a poor defensive stroke, the three batsmen out to a ‘hat-trick’, the fumble in the field, the crazy run-out, the no-balls..the list of possibilities is a long one. Of course, even international stars make mistakes, but suddenly we ask ourselves if they were mistakes. And remember that the result of the game might not be the fixing target, it could be incidental.
In his column of this morning, former England captain Michael Vaughan looks back and wonders if all the matches he played in were quite what they seemed. He recalls the Test against Pakistan in Karachi in December 2000. Pakistan had the match in the palm of their hands but suddenly collapsed from a strong position to leave England with a tiny target. Vaughan recalls what seemed ” a very surreal atmosphere, a feeling that there was something odd “. Or was it down to a “dodgy wicket”? This sort of speculation will pour forth over the coming months, not least in the New Year when England meet Pakistan again.
Vaughan agonises about the seemingly magnificent 169 scored by Stuart Broad in the now tainted Lords Test. At the time we hailed a new Freddie Flintoff, now we wonder if the bowling was sub-standard as individuals concentrated on what they had to do to fix a whole series of no-balls. One thing is for sure, the mounted trophy will have been moved from the centre of Stuart’s sideboard.
The ICC now faces a massive challenge. I for one have no wish to pay good money to watch international matches that may well be as dishonest as professional wrestling. Already the sense of longing for next season has been replaced by a doubt as to whether what we see will be real or faked. Already we are hearing stories of players from across the world being threatened with appalling retribution should they decide to tell all.
Most first class umpires and referees are former top players and they have to be the first line of defence. Not all matches are televised and their notes must cover all ‘unusual’ happenings. But that is far from enough. The ICC must come up with a watertight method of match reviews. Personal checks of bank balances and the like will not help, if a player can cheat on the field he is hardly likely to have a conventional Barclays account.
Most of that is my guesswork, I simply don’t know how the game can be brought back under control. All I know is that every cricket fan in the world is right now asking his or herself if there is any longer any point in watching or supporting cricket.
This is of course far from the first instance of cheating. But there can be no more whitewash enquiries, this has to be the last scandal, or the game so many love will crumble before our eyes, and quickly.
OOOOO JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR THE WEEKEND QUIZ OOOOO