Posts Tagged ‘Test Match’
We will remember yesterday for some time to come. We constantly hear ministers banging on about all being in it together, about this country or that being in an even more parlous state than us. And of course we know that there is no ‘us’, ours has become a deeply divided society, split into segments by enormous differences in wealth – or lack of it -and by race. Yesterday we suddenly experienced a total ‘usness’. It appeared at Lords.
The scenes at the home of cricket were almost unique. I say almost, having in mind similar scenes some years ago at Old Trafford when the last day of a Test match against the Aussies drew a similar response. At Lords the authorities for once deserve a pat on the back for setting low prices (plus free entry for kids), and opening those hallowed gates to all prepared to turn up. In the event 25,227 did, some queuing through the night.
There were no elitist corporate groups, no mob of obscene singers, no activities other than watching an enthralling day’s play. Here was living proof of two things. Those who say that Test cricket is dying are totally wrong, those who say that ‘ordinary’ folk have fallen out of love with the great game even more so. The packed house represented a total cross-section of society and, although loyalties were divided (but despite that everyone wanted to see Tendulkar), it responded to all that happened as one. Just for a day the old days in which sport brought together people from all walks of life and race returned. And by way of a bonus England performed magnificently. At the end the crowd as one saluted both teams.
Sadly it was a mere oasis in a desert of division which grows by the day. Today we learn that the Osborne plan for growth isn’t working, today we hear more exhortations to pull in our belts. Benchmark GDP statistics which compare us with other economies say nothing useful about ‘us’ because ‘we’ are not all in this together. In fact some are swelling like pumpkins, others shrivel, especially the ever growing number of young unemployed. Last week’s 2010 ONS figures show that the City paid £14 billion in bonuses. Bob Diamond of Barclays received £6.5 million, Stuart Gulliver of HSBC took £9 million. In fact, wherever you look, the richest became even richer last year.
A well timed report from the Resolution Foundation yesterday laid bare the raw figures. Of every £100 rise in national income since 1977, the half of the population on average or below average income received just £12. For much of the past 30 years the bottom half did see their income rise slightly, so they didn’t notice they were falling badly behind the rest. Now the cuts are leading to near-crisis financial conditions for many families, and the signs are that the now apparent inequality is creating a politically unsustainable situation. Our social elastic is heading for breaking point.
More and more ‘ordinary’ people are becoming aware of the huge differences in reward, in fact many are already in punishment mode. Jonathan Portes, head of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research has underlined where we are; “The top 1% has taken a hugely disproportionate share of growth while the middle and below have stagnated or fallen”.
Osborne’s purloining of “We’re all in this together”seems to recognise the political embarrassment of a future where half the population falls further behind while the top tenth vanishes into a realm unrecognisable to the 90% of basic-rate taxpayers. Yet he simply doesn’t seem to grasp where he is leading us. In fact he is now talking of the abolition of the 50% tax rate, only paid by the already very rich.
If he makes that move at a time when food, gas, electricity and petrol prices are rising, pay frozen, cuts in benefits, high inflation, he may well find that for the first time in decades half of the population will cry enough is enough. At the very least that one act will make people more aware than they have ever been of the fact that ‘us’ has become ‘them and us’. And even in a pragmatic society like ours it may prove the final straw. Ever the opportunist, Ed Milband is talking of the ‘squeezed middle’. He is right although why he fails to mention those at the bottom is hard to fathom.
To an extent we have always been a divided society but it is only now, as the cuts begin to bite hard, that people bother about it. Lying awake worrying about mortgages, jobs , bills greater than income and a sharp fall in living standards whilst knowing that the rich are getting richer by the day does funny things to people!
But it was good to recapture the feeling of oneness, if only for a day!
TODAY’S SPECIAL QUIZ ON THE SUBJECT OF FESTIVALS; 1. What type of festival has become associated with Reading? 2. In which country is an Eisteddfod celebrated? 3. What is the season leading up to Christmas known as? 4. Which Scottish city hosts what is claimed to be the world’s largest arts festival? 5. Yom Kippur is the Day of what? 6. Which Hall is the centre for the BBC Proms? 7. Which religion celebrates the festival of Passover? 8. Since the 1940s, Cannes has hosted what type of Festival? 9. The Buddhist festival of Parinirvana is also kmown as which Day? 10. The celebrated Spalding Flower Festival takes place in which county?
A hot and sunny morning on the allotments! We wandered about in a daze for this was a very rare experience, the sort of day when Blackpool beach sounds like a treat rather than the equivalent of Scott’s last journey. It was also the sort of day to trigger thoughts of cricket. Right now those are not positive thoughts, and I am not referring solely to yesterday’s bizaare Twenty20 between England and Sri Lanka. Pieterson and Morgan apart, this England side couldn’t have beaten a Co-op egg! Why players such as Bell are excluded is one of the great mysteries of the age!
But far more worrying is the gradual takeover of the administration of world cricket by India. The International Cricket Council (ICC) is cricket’s equivalent of football’s Fifa. In every sense! The ICC is already heavily influenced by the Board of Control of Cricket in India (BCCI), its present chairman is the former head of the BCCI, Sharad Pawar. Under the present rules there is a fixed term for ICC presidents and no one country can hold the office for two consecutive periods. At today’s ICC annual meeting in Hong Kong, India is proposing that once appointed a president can rule for life! Now that is even worse than Blatter at Fifa, he at least stages the occasional election, albeit a corrupt one of course.
Ridiculous, it simply can’t happen. Oh yes it can! As in the case of football many of the countries that vote scarcely play cricket. How can Argentina, Afghanistan etc be allowed to decide Test match schedules? But hovering in the background is Narayanswamy Srinivasan, the power in Indian cricket, the owner of Chennai Super Kings and the chief executive of India’s board. What he wants he gets. Remember the plan to reduce the next world cup to the top ten teams to eliminate all the one-sided and meaningless games that marred the last one? During a recent tea-break at a meeting in Singapore, the man of power talked to the various chief excutives who had just ratified the decision. When the meeting resumed the majority reversed the decision and the next world cup will be just as tedious as the last.
How is this overwhelming influence obtained? Geoffrey Boycott has no doubts. “Many countries that play cricket are frightened to death of India’s financial power. You’ve got TV stations queuing up in India to beam the coverage of their tours in to India and they pay a lot of money for that” says the outspoken Yorkshireman. He is clearly right, India has a vast audience for cricket and filming rights produce a bonanza for authorities often reduced to counting the piggy-bank.
So the odds are that this week will see a new order at the ICC with an Indian president taking the top job on a permanent basis. Two outcomes are obvious. The new umpires’ Decision Review System will be scrapped. It has proved popular with the fans but India has already refused to use it on the forthcoming tour of England. Of greater importance, there will be an eight week period each year when no international cricket will be allowed. This will give free rein to the Indian Premier League. That will be a financial body-blow to England. But even more important than that is the threat to good governance.
We all know from the scandal surrounding last year’s Test series with Pakistan that a cancer of corruption is spreading within the game. This emanates from Indian bookmakers who make fortunes, often in distinctly unethical ways. Millions of pounds change hands daily on such obscure things as the number of ‘no-balls’. The only body that can even attempt to keep this under control is the ICC. Need I say more?
The complex game of cricket is open to corruption like no other. It is already losing its reputation for fair play and a strong incorruptable ICC is the only hope. The idea that any single country should hold sway on a permanent basis is appalling, the idea of that being India, the home of cricket manipulation, even more so.
If this goes through Fifa will look a paragon of virtue by comparison. The English, Australian, New Zealand and South African delegations should walk out if necessary. That may only account for four votes but world cricket without the four would be less of a money spinner to say the least. India may hold all the power but matches played against Afghanistan and Argentina would soon show where the pulling power really rests!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S EGGHEADS QUIZ; 1. Germany 2. Italy 3. Alan Titchmarsh 4. Gennell 5. Ernie Wise 6. China 7. Westlife 8. Potter 9. Holly 10. Colin Farrell.
HIGHEST SCORE SENT IN SO FAR; 8 BY J ROACH. HOW DID YOU DO?
Once we have cleaned out and fed the animals we always gather in the allotment shed/committee room for a brew and a chat. In Albert’s case add in a puff on his pipe- his response to the anti-smokers amongst us is that he fought a war against Hitler and has no intention of bowing the knee to the new breed. He also often points to the fact that we have become the binge-drinking capital of Europe with more deaths from liver disease amongst young people than the rest of the dreaded EU put together.
Of course the fanatics that continue to bang on about smoking include many who see booze as a safe alternative. It is not, and it is also decidedly more anti-social. Don’t agree? You would had you been at Ascot where a mass brawl of drunks showed the Queen that there is now more to racegoing than horses. Or you could visit any of our big city centres tonight or even Test Matches which will soon earn an X-rating for obscenities and general mayhem. These are not the pious words of a bunch of priggish toffs for we too enjoy a drink, but we prefer not to impose the outcome on the rest of the community.
However, our big discussion point today was the Army with which many of us have either past connections or relatives now serving. Some weeks ago this blog spluttered in outrage when redundancy notices were issued to soldiers on the front line in Afghanistan. What we hadn’t anticipated was the glee with which the opportunity to leave would be greeted.
Nearly 1000 of the next generation of military leaders have already applied for voluntary redundancy. According to today’s Telegraph the total embraces many of the brightest officers and soldiers. The number includes several future battalion leaders and officers who had been singled out as potential generals. And more applications are flooding in from all levels. Military chiefs asked for 25 colonels to volunteer but 52 wish to do so. Six brigadiers have applied and 48 majors with an average of 16 years’ experinece between them. The Army is literally inundated with request from senior NCOs, who provide the “backbone” of discipline in the field. So concerned are the authorities that Gen Sir Peter Wall, the head of the Army, is said to be holding informal meetings in an attempt to persuade the more talented individuals to stay.
But morale is at an all time low. One decorated officer, who has commanded a battalion with distinction in Iraq and Afghanistan, is on record as saying that “when you know the amount that has to be cut and the inevitable impact of that on the Army, what’s the point of staying?”. Like many of his fellow commanders, he has handed in his request to leave. One infantry commander, as yet undecided, told a reporter that he has “never known morale quite so shocking. people see the way its going”. Another officer based at Army Land Command said that “the erosion of the force’s package is having an effect. There are many heading for redundancy who are pretty impressive players, operations have produced some exceptional leaders but we are about to lose them all”.
The first reaction of most of us is incredulity that we are continuing to take part in wars that have little to do with us whilst at the same time reducing numbers to dangerous levels. But there is more to it than that. There is a chronic lack of funding for training units deployed to Helmund. Several infantry batallions have been given just 100 rifle rounds to train with for each soldier. And we have all heard, often at first hand, of the lack of equipment and protection for those under fire every day. Yesterday another two soldiers were killed in Afghanistan.
I read in some recent memoirs of the loathing the troops feel for politicians who fly in for photo-opportunities. None have seen active service themselves, all are happy to sacrifice young lives in a war that the men on the ground know can never be won.
Yes, the country is in a financial mess and there have to be cuts. But the decimation of our Army and Navy has already gone too far. We now have to withdraw from all external conflicts or perform another U-turn, this time on the Defence Review.
The alterantive is to continue to play the role of world policeman with small and totally demoralised forces. Last week the prime minister summoned to Downing Street the head of the Royal Navy who had spoken out. He would have been better employed summoning, for an explanation of the shambles, the wives and parents of those who are losing their lives.
But that would involve bravery, not spin!
TODAY’S NEW EGGHEADS QUIZ; HOBBIES AND LEISURE; 1. Which part of the body names a millenium feature on the London skyline? 2. Which sport would you watch at Aintree? 3. Are there more chairs at the start or end of a game of musical chairs? 4. What links a novice’s ski slope and a garden centre? 5. What name is given to the promotional scheme to save points for cheaper plane travel? 6. In the year 2005 most Bank Holidays fell on which day of the week? 7. What colour would a Sloane Ranger’s wellies be? 8. The initials RSVP come from a request in which language? 9. What colour are most road signs on UK motorways? 10. In which UK county might you holiday on the Broads?
CONGRATS TO JPL WHO SENT IN 9 CORRECT ANSWERS TO THE LAST QUIZ!!!
The sun has vanished and our spirits with it. And the rain is on the way just in time to ruin the Test Match. In situations like this we allotmenteers tend to focus on the bad news and there was plenty of that yesterday. We read to our surprise that Michael ‘Tarzan’ Hazletene was on the rampage in the Lords. His mission seemed to be to torpedo the government’s proposals for referenda whenever British sovereignty is threatened by the EU. Our surprise was not at Tarzan’s stance but the fact that he has not gone to that great jungle in the sky. He lives and doubtless delights in the news that Germany is insisting that the UK makes a substantial further payment to prop up the Greek economy.
Meantime Alan Milburn caused a stir by describing the amended NHS reforms as a “car crash”. One hopes not, since the plan involves closing half of the country’s Accident & Emergency departments. But all is not doom on the health front for down in Hertfordshire the NHS Trust has issued a final warning to nurses who show too much cleavage. It claims that patients are very upset by such a sight. Clearly all major problems have been resolved and it is good to know that should Albert be admitted whilst on holiday in Herfordshire he will not suffer a heart attack. But I shouldn’t mock for at least one consulatnt had the good sense to throw the posturing Cameron off his ward!
But if you really want a story to match today’s gloomy weather you need look no further than the revelations about Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs). These were the brainchild of Blair and Brown who saw the advantage in being able to boast of new schools and hospitals without the cost appearing in the Chancellor’s balance sheet. As is the habit of all politicians they forgot to read the small print and now hundreds of schools, hospitals, prisons, motorways and government buildings are owned by private entrepeneurs and are saddled with massive repayments. By the time the private owners are paid off the taxpayer will have incurred costs six times than he/she would have done had the state funded the building.
Britain’s biggest PFI contractor is Innisfree which owns or co-owns 28 NHS hospitals, 269 schools, the Whitehall HQ of the Ministry of Defence, a Scottish motorway and a Welsh jail. It employs only 20 people and is headed up by David Metter, who received pay and dividends worth £8.6 million last year, and has built a personal fortune of £60 million from PFI contracts. He appeared before the public accounts committee yesterday and, for good measure, added that as a “non-dom” he does not even pay full UK taxes.
When the hospital trust of which I was chair became a Foundation Trust it received an early visit from the head of Monitor. As we walked round the site he commented on the number of new buildings. I explained that all had been funded by the Department of Health. “Be thankful” he said, ” those with huge PFI debts to repay will struggle to survive”. How right he was.
This is yet another example of politicians doing ‘clever’ things that we either are not aware of or don’t understand. Within years they are telling us that many of our schools and hospitals etc have built masssive debts and need to become more efficient. In most cases they are in debt as a result of decisions imposed on them!
We all tend to bang on about whoever is in charge of the paddle-ship UK. Frankly we would be better off if Eddie the Eagle took over!
TODAY’S EGGHEAD QUIZ; GENERAL KNOWLEDGE; 1. Who described 1992 as an ‘annus horribilis? 2. In which country would you see the Great and Little Orme? 3. According to Rudyard Kipling the female of what is deadlier than the male? 4. Which country hosted soccer’s 1966 World Cup? 5. Which ‘Jailhouse’ song gave Elvis another No. 1 in 2005? 6. What falls out if you have alopecia? 7. Which singer is Mrs Johnny Dankworth? 8. Who lives at Home Hill? 9. How does James Bond like his Martini served? 10. Which Richard was the first knighted New Zealand cricketer?
In a national competition the highest score was 8..can you match that????????
No need to remember my radio this morning for the Test Match is over. Throughout the duration of every game Test Match Special is a must, and even those unenlightened souls who are not obsessed by cricket enjoy listening to the mixture of commentary, anecdotes, stories of cakes and occasional gaffes. Of course the greatest of the latter was Brian Johnston’s reaction to Agger’s immortal line about Ian Botham ‘ failing to get his leg over’. On Tuesday it was once again the blushing Aggers who triggered convulsions. Whilst watching pictures of Kevin Pieterson adjusting his bat handle, Aggers remarked that “It’s not easy putting a rubber on, is it Michael”. With Phil Tufnell alongside Michael Vaughan it was no surprise that once again convulsive laughter stopped play.
On the allotment we all enjoyed that. Come to think about it we’ve enjoyed much of what we’ve heard on the news recently. In fact we have decided to run a sweepstake on the number of about-turns performed by Agger’s fellow Etonian, the prime minister. I’ve drawn 8. The calculation ends on Novbember 1st and I reckon that I’m in with a chance. Of course agreeing what is or isn’t an about-turn can be difficult but we have unanimity on 5 so far.
The fifth emerged yesterday when Justice Secretary, snoozer Clarke, was forced by Number 10 to abandon a plan to give rapists, and other serious offenders, a 50% discount in return for early guilty pleas. Just weeks ago Kenneth Clarke announced that the policy was agreed but Andrew Cooper, the new PR guru in place of the departed former editor of the News of the World, advised Cameron that the Tory brand was being damaged.
Just days earlier Cameron, under pressure from Clegg, in effect dismantled Lansley’s NHS plans which now face rewriting and resubmission to parliament. A few weeks ago the Caroline Spelman plan to sell off the forests met a similar fate, as did the plans announced to make anyone unemployed for more than twelve months lose 10% of their housing benefit. And then there was Cameron’s conversion to interventionalism in foreign civll wars.
Working for this prime minister must in some ways be worse that serving under Grumpy Gordon. He used to decide everything, Cameron leaves his team to dream their dreams and to announce them. He then has private polls of public opinion carried out and, probably, reads the Rupert Murdoch line before deciding whether to step in and stop the whole shebang. You could reasonably say that he makes more screaming U-turns than a getaway driver without a satnav!
The amazing thing is that Ed Miliband seems incapable of even scoring a point as one ministerial humiliation follows another. In the House yesterday the two bickered and threw insults but one was left worrying at the thought of either of them being in charge of a town hall, let alone a country.
But there is a mounting opposition to the saga and it rests on the Conservative backbenches. Several broke cover yesterday in defence of their right wing heroes such as Clarke and Lansley. But the protests could become politically dangerous should the Conservatives begin to reap some of the blame for what is happening. Fortunately for the PM that is not likely so long as the human punchbag called Nick is happy to take the punishment.
My own view is that ‘Dave’ should carry on having his ministers dangle off the gangplank. Just three more and I could be fifty quid in pocket. Should be easy for him for practice makes perfect!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S EGGHEADS QUIZ; 1. Its star’s John Challis (Boycie) 2. Philadelphia 3. Hilary 4. Dolly and Cissy 5. Eddie Brown’s 6. Darrin Stephens (Bewitched) 7. North Tanton 8. Paul Shane 9. Mrs Polouvicka 10. Bernard Hedges