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

making a clean ship

a crochet cobweb - Halloween is coming...

Or a clean sweep if you prefer your English without Dutchism. But then, who does? I can't even imagine the kind of boring person who would say such a thing.

Anyway, this establishment is open for business. We're still under the same management, but we've dusted the place, gotten rid of the cobwebs and generally spruced it all up a bit.

Hope you like what we've done with the place and come visit us again soon!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

tearing through the smiles

viking funeral

This is going to be my first blog post in a long time. That’s what I’m telling myself. This time I’m really going to finish writing it and I’m going to post it. It'll be a ramble, so bear with me.

The reasons I feel this urge and the motivation to follow through, are, in chronological order (though not necessarily in order of importance):
1) the death of Robin Williams and the overall assumption he took his own life;
2) the way in which my social media friends responded to this news;
3) the many people who shared stories of their own struggles;
4) the way in which others responded to those stories;
5) the way in which people have shared details to helplines and other information;
6) it’s a bit of a ‘perfect storm’.

Last one first: I was already feeling a bit delicate after a rush of grief over Kevin at the Pet Shop Boys concert last Sunday. For the first three or four songs my eyes were filled with tears, thinking how the last time I saw them, the last time I saw any live concert, was with him. It was one of our things, although we didn’t get to do it often enough. We even met at a concert, we chatted, he pointed at me and said “We should be friends”.

There was a smile as well, don’t be deceived, I cried and smiled at the same time and it wasn’t a negative experience. Every time I miss Kevin, I also remember the good times, it’s not something I do, it’s something that happens to me. Someone told me recently how impressed he was with my attitude to the loss of my best friend and as usual I found it very hard to accept the compliment. But I’m working on it and, if you read this, I really appreciated it.

The thing you need to know about me above all, is that I have always pushed my emotions away - the negative ones first and foremost, but all of them to a certain extent - and in a weird and twisted sort of way Kevin’s death helped me. I couldn’t shut them out, I had to grieve. And the world didn’t end because of those feelings, even though they overwhelmed me at first; so if I survived that, perhaps I could start to let others in a bit more?

In five days it will be nineteen months since he died and I’m still taking baby steps.

By the way, perhaps you should know I was already in therapy when this happened. Almost exactly a year before, I had hit rock bottom. After months of shutting myself off from the world (except for work, I’ll get back to that later) and a day of lying in bed, crying continuously, listing in my head all the ways in which I could kill myself, I decided I was going to take the plunge or get help in that instant. Which, for some reason, I did. I’ve called it a spark before, the tiniest possible measurement of hope, perhaps?

So what were some of the examples of things that have crossed my timelines - okay, I know that sounds like a sci-fi reference, but I was serious and I didn’t think about it until I saw it written down. And as one friend said: “Wait, there's a way to do this shit that isn't silly jokes?” (I’ll withhold his name and anyone else’s, though of course except when I’m linking to stuff that has their name in it.) - in the less than twenty-four hours that have passed since the news of Robin Williams’ death hit the internet?

Let’s start with an article about Why Funny People Kill Themselves. It’s a thoughtful and thorough piece, although I would like to add some comments to it. Please read the article first.

reading break

Now, having read that, think how many people appear funny when they’re sad inside – and then remember that it’s not just the funny ones: it’s the ones that seem competent whilst they feel they’re losing their grip, it’s the ones that look calm though all they feel churning inside is chaos, the ones that seem full of life but feel dead and empty, the ones that you think arrogant, who are actually cowering inside.

And many more.

All of the descriptions above have been, or are, true for me. I continued to work before and after my deepest point. As organised as I was in the office, my house was filling with clutter (and trash, I’m ashamed to admit), my finances were a mess (I work for a bank, foor goodness sakes!), my boiler was broken, so I lived under a duvet for some months and I heated water on the stove to wash myself (not unlike the method described in this article I read recently about bucket baths. I’ve been thinking about going back to a slightly modified version of them. For the environment, or to make myself feel better about not doing enough for the environment, I’m not sure.)

Without exception every reaction to Robin Williams' death, every comment about the possibility that he ended it, every post about mental illness that my friends posted was thoughtful, kind and considerate.

I understand that there is a great deal of self-selection going on there, I wouldn't be friends with people for very long (if at all) if they didn't fit a few criteria. But on the other hand, I do have rather broad interests and especially on Twitter there are many people on my cricket lists (yes, I know, plural) whom I do not know all that well outside to that shared interest.

The last mention is for someone who I only recently struck up a few conversations with on Twitter, and who later posted this blog, I stole the idea for the picture at the top of this post from him.

P.S. I completely forgot to mention that Kevin was also depressed and in the months leading up to his death and had been quite vociferous about wanting to die. One of the things I did that helped me, was that when I informed them about his death, many of his friends asked the question: “Was it...?”

Hearing (or seeing) them think the thought, ask the question – and then seeing/hearing the relief when I explained that, although we weren’t sure (at the time) exactly what happened, it was natural causes – did steel my conviction never to go back there myself.

Stuart Broad

P.P.S. I’m not quite sure how, but since so many of my Twitter family came to me through cricket, it seems slightly ironic that this quotation is now doing the rounds. Does anyone know the context in which it was said?

Cricket is basically baseball on Valium. - Robin Williams.

Pictured: cricketer Stuart Broad, last week after receiving a ball to the face. This was after his helmet cushioned most of the blow...