Ashes silent treatment: some observations01/03/2019 - Author: admin - Comments are closed
Beefy’s shouting it from the rooftops. Photo: telegraph.co.uk Underdog Ashes victory, 1989.
Some ramifications of England’s ban on its players mentioning the Ashes.
1. BAN ALL MEDIA
If English cricket authorities want their apparently fickle players to focus on New Zealand and the Champions Trophy instead of the Ashes, they can’t just ban players from answering reporter’s questions about the Ashes. They will have to stop the easily distracted stars from reading the paper as well. And stop them from examining the web, checking their text messages, glancing at their Facebook page, or conversing with British citizens, including their spouses, and pets.
A clue to the magnitude of the challenge facing Andy Flower’s ruling was immediately obvious.
On the Telegraph website, beneath the story announcing the Ashes talk ban, was this headline: “England will whitewash panicking Australia 5-0, says bullish Sir Ian Botham”.
“I don’t see Australia competing with England for a little while, a few years yet,” Botham said. “I’m loving it. I absolutely adore it.
“Over the years, we’ve had to put up with Australian commentators here enjoying it and gloating. Well, see how they enjoy it for the next few years.”
Such sentiments are careening around the British airwaves. How could they not? By all measures, England is currently a superior team to Australia, and deserved hot favourites. Australia is coming off an implosion of an Indian tour, Homeworkgate and David Warner’s Twitter tirade, and boasts a batting line-up which wobbles every time the ball does. Even the most illiterate England player knows all of this, and just in case such self-evident truths slip their mind, there’s commentators such as Beefy revelling in the upcoming carnage.
This England team will have to be locked in the caves of Afghanistan to avoid the fact that they should belt the living suitcase out of an inexperienced, demoralised, vulnerable Australia. And it’s hard for the coach to keep up hydration and repeat effort fielding drills when the players are in a dusty, frigid cavern out of satellite radio range.
2. MIND CONTROL
Can England control its player’s minds as well as their mouths?
Coach Andy Flower wants to beat New Zealand in the current Test series – England lead 1-0 after bowling the Kiwis out for 68 in their second innings of the first Test – and then win the Champions Trophy. An everything-to-lose series as favourite against a dour, battling team of lower standing, followed by yet another irrelevant one-day series in which half the Test team does not participate. How can Flower stop the minds of his men wandering to: “Can’t wait to smash those Aussies”? Hypnosis? Psychedelics?
3. THE WAR
What if someone slips up, and mentions the … er … Ashes?
This ban is a red rag to the bull of Fleet Street. Expect more questions than ever of players about the Ashes. It will be a parlour game for scribes, dulled by the faux World Cup of the Champion’s Trophy, to trick an England star into saying something verboten. Sliding scale – 10 points for Joe Root confession, 100 points for an overheard Jonathan Trott aside. If Jimmy Anderson, keen for electrolytes after another five-for, accidentally lapses into candour when asked for the 17th time whether he is feeling confident about the upcoming clashes for the Ashes, how will he be punished?* And how will such admonishments affect morale in the dressing room?
* May we suggest the following? Suspension for the next 10 Tests.
4. SECRETS AND LIES
What subterfuge will England players resort to in order to discuss their Ashes fixation?
We all know that the more you try to ignore an itch, the worse it torments. Private chat rooms and discreet counselling services must be set up at secure locations by rebels in the team management to enable players to sneak in a few observations about David Warner’s lack of footwork against the moving ball, or the crosshairs painted on Shane Watson’s pads. Given how little happens most of the time on the cricket field, aimless chit-chat is a vital human inetraction, a sanity-saving necessity. Repressing quips, boasts, jokes, jibes, speculation and gossip – the lifeblood of a game in which one stands around in the open air for hours – is a high risk ploy. Upset the equiilibrium maintained by idle chatter and gaskets could be blown … This way madness lies.
5. FLOWER WORKS FOR KAOS
Do you get the feeling that since the ban was announced, everyone is thinking about the Ashes more than ever? Could Andy Flower be that deviously brilliant, that capable of using his genius for evil instead of goodness, that he concocted this ridiculous ban purely to put more focus on the Ashes challenge to come, rather than less? Do you remember when Australia had England by the throat? Prior to an Ashes series, shrinking violets such as Glenn McGrath would predict 5-0 victories. Such bold statements weren’t considered simply boastful, they were rated as calculated gamesmanship, or confident honesty. Flower prefers nervous evasion. Is he Siegfried?
Yes, Australia was underdog in that fabled series, when they defied the scoffing Poms to record a memorable Ashes triumph in the Old Dart. Maybe a few crusty middle-aged English fools are still scarred by that 0-4 result. But they ought to have been exorcised by pulverising the Aussies and owning the Ashes for the past two contests. And the Australian team that year? Let’s just say that Messrs Marsh, Taylor, Boon, Border, Jones and Waugh, now in their early fifties, could give the incumbent Aussie willow-wielders a run for their (big) money. And England, alas, does not have the following eighties county yeoman to throw at the invaders:
Barnett, Newport, Jarvis, Curtis, Stephenson, Cook, Moxon, Capel.
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