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No 99, Aug 6 - The Grumbler's County Cricket Newsletter
🟣 Will James Rew come through? 🟢 Freeing up cricket on YouTube 🟤 One-Day Cup news 🔵 Salter & Hales to retire 🔴 Social media toxicity 🟠 Samuel Beckett & Andre The Giant - cricket friends
Social media often feels like wallowing in a sewer so I have taken a little time out to let the smell dissipate and breathe some cleaner air.
I used to take a break during the Blast as it tends to bring out angry over-reactions from football fans who only dip into county cricket once a year. Now, I tend to duck out during the-tournament-that-shall-not-be-named.
It should be no surprise because, even before it started, my demographic were told: "It was not for you".
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When it comes to division in cricket, it cannot be clearer than that. Forget that it is parents and grandparents who introduce so many of us to the sport, get tickets, drive us to games and dip our hands into our pockets to pay for diversionary ice creams and fandom-creating merchandise while trying to get us hooked.
I thought about this as I watched a gaggle of enthusiastic kids and their families clamber over the boundary boards to get onto the pitch at the break in the Metro Bank One-Day Cup game at Chelmsford this week.
Sports is a communal activity and fans are created by togetherness, not division.
That is why I am ducking out for now. All I will end up tweeting about is the damage done by the-tournament-that-shall-not-be-named and try to pick holes in its future. This is not a good space to occupy (but I spend too much time there). It is cricket, on free-to-air television, trying to attract an important audience. The expensive sheen and permasmile PR make the critics look all the more curmudgeonly to those new to the game and unaware of the quicksand this House of Fun has been constructed upon. It is best to wait until the end to assess our current position.
As David Hopps pointed out in his column in The Cricketer this month, the current culture of division is capable of condemning the most positive of social media posts. He used one of mine as an example. And, he is spot on, ageism is part of English cricket's problem. Indeed it the only openly acceptable ‘ism’ in the UK. If that "it's not for you" quote had been directed at another marginalised party then the media reaction would have been entirely different. It is the very definition of prejudice.
Everyone knows where I stand on the-tournament-that-shall-not-be-named. I wrote a book called Last-Wicket Stand because, unlike almost every other recent change in English cricket, I feared it would see the end of the county structure which, though far from perfect, is the foundation of the game in this country. Meanwhile, the manner of you-know-what's introduction made it clear the ECB’s leadership were untrustworthy and, though much has changed, convinced me that the organisation is no longer fit for purpose.
If, according to Sanjay Patel's slip of the tongue, this is the final season of the-tournament-that-shall-not-be-named then I would celebrate for a night before turning my focus towards helping to create something much better and much more inclusive which looks after the game at every level. After all, younger demographics do not own the copyright on a desire for something better.
But it won't be (but it is his, which is telling in itself) because there’s a television deal, there’s money involved and, perhaps most importantly, it will involve the ECB accepting some sort of egg-on-face fallibility. (Remember Giles Clarke was re-elected as Chair a year after the Allen Stanford affair, went on to become the first President and was a awarded a CBE for service for cricket four years later.)
And, anyway, no-one wants to listen to the views of people such as myself.
As the plummy-voiced people at the top of cricket keep telling me "It's not for you".
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Player moves, contracts and loans
Contracts: Aldridge (Somerset - 2yrs)
One-Day Cup signings: Shaw (Northamptonshire), Lloyd (Glamorgan to Derbyshire - loan), Lamb (Lancashire to Sussex - loan). Webster (Essex), Ali (Gloucestershire), Youngsters sign rookie contracts (Essex)
One-Day Cup and Championship
This is typical of the BBC Sport website’s approach to county cricket, with the latest version of a 60-year-old trophy being ‘the alternative’ to an event only a couple of seasons old. And increasingly looking like it will not go much further.
The national broadcaster is desperate to appeal to youth and has to sell its ‘own’ products very hard to justify its license fee. Shedding older but very popular talent to make room.
The corporation has been neutered by the government in the last decade so I rely on podcasts for political insight. It is telling the journalists who had left the corporation in the last few years have suddenly found a more authentic voice. It is similar in sport. Too safe, too nice, too vanilla. This is the accusation rightly thrown at official club content but we expect more from the BBC. That said, their radio coverage of county cricket has been a lifeline for the game and fulfilling their remit perfectly. The market will not cover but it is important to the culture of the country so let’s give it airtime.
The BBC, the NHS and, yes, county cricket, these are imperfect, idiosyncratic yet cricket parts of British culture. Improve and streamline them but protect them because their value is greater than merely financial. But a proper news agenda and wider perspective is part of that.
News, Views and Interviews
As ever, this is thoughtful yet provocative from Jarrod Kimber.
During my time in US sports, it was clear that basketball (NBA) and soccer (MLS) were employing the most liberal attitude to the use of match highlights on social media. It was no coincidence that their fanbases were the youngest.
House of Highlights is the poster child for supporter-created sports content. In cricket, Rob Moody has been doing something similar for years. If you watch cricket videos on YouTube you will have seen his work at some point. He specialises in the weird, rare and wonderful - Shane Warne bowling medium pace in a floppy hat, the coolest crowd catch in history, Imran Khan’s career in county cricket
I interviewed him for my podcast a couple of years ago, see below. It is an incredible story of devotion to a project and the importance of clever curation in content.
A decade or so ago, it took days of research and archive-trawling through VHS tapes to put together a video of all Glenn McGrath’s boundaries in Test cricket. These days it is much easier.
But YouTube operates a three-strikes-and-you-are-out rule. Your channel is not recoverable and, with many right holders so trigger-happy, everyone dealing in aggregating match highlights is living on a knife edge.
The BBC and other national broadcasters must have bunkers full of old sports content unlikely to ever see the light of day again. (I went to the HQ of the Nascar content team a few years ago, they are the world leaders in aggregating archive content and, yes, the original tape recordings of their races are stored below ground to prevent damage from natural disasters.)
So let others aggregate it. Share revenue if you want. YouTube is the internet’s video archive, everyone can find it, everyone can search it and everyone has a great user experience.
A sport like cricket, which is still looking for a truly global audience, should use it.
Put this in a box labelled “If this can go then so can county cricket as we know it”. It is getting pretty full at the moment.
While James Rew looks quality, the graph above is full of players who have not lived up to their early promise.
What is more surprising, Samuel Beckett played two games for Northamptonshire or Andre The Giant liked cricket…
…or the fact that they were friends…
…and only talked about cricket
The story of this newsletter
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