Wednesday, 17 September 2014


'Kolpak' countries (Cotonou Agreement)

Yes I went there with the title, someone was bound to, don't moan.

Picture this...

It is September 3rd and it's late in the day on the third day of the Roses match in the County Championship. Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale side is fielding and he moves himself closer to Lancashire's South African batsman Ashwell Prince. Then an exchange of words takes place.

At first Gale was reported by the umpires for a level two offence (seriously insulting or obscene language). Because this was his second time this season, he received an automatic two-match ban. Very sad for Gale, as his county was about to win the Championship.

On the eve of Yorkshire's win over Nottinghamshire that sealed the county's first County Championship victory since 2001, they were told that Gale would not be allowed to receive the cup or be part of the official ceremony, pending further investigation.

Today it was revealed in The Telegraph that Gale is to be charged by the ECB with a level three or four charge, for using racist and abusive language. A date for the hearing has not yet been set.

The article quotes the following exchange:

Prince: "F*** off back to cover point."
Gale: "Well you can f*** off back to your own country you Kolpak f*****."

Which part of Gale's sentence is racist? On its own, the "Well you can f*** off back to your own country"-part does appear to be. If I heard this on the street, racism would be my first assumption. But it was not said on its own. In fact, the Telegraph transcript continues with "you Kolpak f*****." without allowing for a pause, not even in the form of the humble comma.

It now becomes important to understand what a Kolpak is.

In 1995, the Bosman ruling had ensured that players from any EU country could not be prevented from working in any other EU country, according to the EU's own principle of freedom of movement of workers. This put paid to rules that prevented teams from fielding more than x foreign players. However, there was no such protection for non-EU players and the German handball league (as many others) still imposed a maximum of two players per team, only now it was directed at non-EU players.

Maroš Kolpak had been playing for TSV Ostringen in the second division since 1997 and was a legal resident and worker in the country (i.e. if he had been a chef or a bank teller, this would never have happened). In 2000 his team decided that there were two other non-EU players they wanted to play more badly than they wanted Kolpak and therefore, under league rules, they could no longer employ him.

In 2003 the European Court of Justice ruled that the Association Agreement that Slovakia had with the EU (at the time, it is now a member) meant that workers and players from that country and any others with similar agreements should be considered equal to EU players.

Back to that fateful third of September:

When seen as a whole, as it should be and as it has been reported, I do not believe Gale's remark had anything to do with race. It is clear to me that his focus was Prince's Kolpak status, a ruling the effects of which the ECB itself has tried to negate ever since it was made.

I certainly do not agree with the Telegraph, which argues that "Kolpak could be construed as racism in this case because Prince is black and was brought up in Apartheid South Africa." I can't even see how they came this conclusion. (You know, like in school when you get marks for the process even when the final answer is wrong.)

I would advise Mr. Gale never to use that phrase again, though.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

I have a problem

I wrote this yesterday as an explanation to one of my therapists, in a stream-of-consciousness type e-mail that was meant to clarify my tear-strewn phone-call to her, as to why I couldn't face leaving the house and coming in for group therapy.

Sunday night I couldn't get to sleep. Nothing unusual and not really a problem most of the time; it happens to me once every two or tree weeks, without any identifiable cause (I'm not brooding, nothing's different from other nights, I just don't feel sleepy) and generally I get through the next day without complications.

But on Monday morning I woke up with my heart pounding and a lump in my throat. I couldn't think of a reason why, but I was upset and very emotional. Perhaps I dreamt something, I seldom remember my dreams (by coincidence the last time was only a few weeks ago, but in that I helped fix someone's computer problems.) Probably because I was so fatigued, I didn't manage to roll down the heavy shutters like I would usually do; and started to feel overwhelmed by emotions.

The emotions weren't in any way specific, but I felt very exposed and unsafe. It felt as if every raw emotion that I've been trying to suppress for 41 years had been laid bare. I was afraid I would panic and scared to lose all control.

I tried to 'man up' and make myself go to therapy, but the thought of interacting with people just made me feel worse. I didn't think I could handle all the other emotions rushing in at me, even from strangers (in our phone call I mentioned the bus driver, who could be curt, or very friendly; I feared this would be the straw that broke the camel's back.)

However, somewhere in the rising panic I found a smidgeon of common sense and decided I might as well try to consciously experience it. This is something I talked about with my psychologist*, that I would try (albeit in a more controlled fashion) to allow it to happen and to experience that nothing bad would happen. This too is very scary to me and I am still shaking and my heart's still pounding, but I'm still here. So maybe there's something to it...

For the record: I have suffered several depressive episodes, at the worst of which, in Februari 2012, I was convinced there was nothing else I could do but kill myself. I had been in bed, crying for eight hours straight, I had played in my mind and analysed about eleven different scenarios of how I could kill myself, but with the final spark of hope, or whatever it was, I called a friend and told them I had a problem.

Despite yesterday's setback, I am feeling like I'm well on the road to some semblance of normality.

* I'm seeing, in different capacities: two psychologists, a psychiatrist, a sociotherapist and a dietician. My anti-depressants are prescribed by my GP.

Don't wait as long as I did. Talk to someone before it gets that bad.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Why Alastair Cook should have left as ODI captain and why he can't now

happier times

I wondered why Graeme Swann came out publicly with his now well-publicised remarks about England's ODI selection policies and I have come to the conclusion it must have been exasperation.

Since, as both sides acknowledge, they were such good friends before, he must have broached the subject in private before coming out with it in public. (If not, they may have to reevaluate their relationship.) Sometimes we need a friend to tell us things we don't see, or call us on things don't want to face.

But Alastair Cook may not be the best at taking friendly advise, however strongly Swann felt about it. Seeing he was getting nowhere, possibly not even planning to, he let the cat out of the bag on national radio.

I love Cookie dearly, but I don't think he should be bothering playing one-day cricket anymore. He doesn't need to. He's proved a very good point in Test matches. He should just enjoy being England Test captain.

What Swann said is not anything new. And it certainly isn't uncommon. He did stand by his friend earlier in the year, when many others called for his head as Test captain, but he also knows the way the ECB approaches one-day cricket is long overdue for a shake-up.

It is not at all surprising that England and Cook - whether it is a natural fit or Cook has adapted to the culture of the ECB, the mentality of the two now seems interchangeable - have painted themselves into this corner. They are too afraid to let go to be able to improve. All they can ever hope to achieve are stop-gap measures and those players will most likely be dropped at the first sign of, almost inevitable, failure.

Instead, they will plod on with the current side, with too many Test players and a fear of losing that overrides every instinct to grab the initiative. Illustrative of the mindset was Cook's reaction after the loss of the first ODI to be played.

We weren’t at the races today and I don’t quite know why. It was not a 300-wicket; nor was it a 160-wicket. It’s not the end of the world but it is frustrating. You can’t win every game of cricket, certainly not when you play like that. We will just have to dust ourselves off and play better.

As long as they're locked into their current mindset, look forward to more such bloodless resignation. If only there were some spark there. Steel is all well and good for Test matches, but now England need something more explosive.

He’s a good friend and has been a supporter and it’s not helpful at this time because I am going to go and captain in this World Cup.

Perhaps cutting the cord with the Test side and filling the ODI team with players who have a proven track record in one-dayers wouldn't win England the World Cup next year, but it would increase their chances. The important thing is that any changes are made before it's too late.

In reality they should have been made earlier, long ago even, but given the strange nature of the cricket calendar and the total lack of Test matches these coming months, England are in the extraordinary position of still being able to change their ways and try new things. After the three ODIs left in this series against India, there is still a seven-match series against Sri Lanka in December and a triangular series with Australia and India in January before the World Cup starts in February. With so many matches, they could afford to try and change things.

Unfortunately, chances are they won't.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

ba-NA-na, ba-NAH-na

a loverly bunch of...

I just happened to glance into a colleague's locker as I walked by and noticed something strange.

SK: "Is that a banana?"

C: "Yes."

SK: "Did you mean to leave it in there?"

C: "I'll eat it tomorrow."

SK: "What if something happens or you fall ill?"

C: "It's not locked."

SK: "And in the meantime we'll be wondering where that horrible smell is coming from. No thank you. Please take it with you or throw it away."

the BS of petulance

Stuart Broad

You may or may not know, that I listen to a lot of online cricket commentary through Guerilla Cricket, a lovely alternative, interactive commentary service that stays in touch with its listeners through Twitter. You can tweet them @guerillacricket. (While you're at it, I'm @SubtleKnife00, look me up.)

During one of the recent Test Matches between England and India (I believe it was the third one, at the Ageas Bowl near Southampton, at the end of July) the commentators were talking about Stuart Broad's reputation of petulance and Not Fred Titmus (@FredTitmus) mentioned that petulance should be measured on the Broad scale.

So I decided there should be such a thing. As you can tell from the title of this post, it is abbreviated BS, make of that what you will...

The Broad Scale (BS) of Petulance:
(from mildly petulant, 1., to extremely petulant, 10.)
1. irritable
2. discontented
3. ill-tempered
4. fractious
5. contrary
6. peevish
7. querulous
8. insolent
9. petulant
10. Broad

Yes, on the Broad scale of petulance, petulant ranks ninth out of ten.

Stuart Broad