SAY WHAT YOU SEE
“That was shit.”
The singer was clearly startled.
“Sorry, I didn’t quite hear what you said there?”
“I said that was shit!”
The mood amongst the small crowd turns from surprise to hostility and our small gathering makes a hasty exit from the bar.
My wife and I used to go to watch a band most Saturday nights in a little bar off the beaten track in Thailand. They were an excellent six-piece with two lead singers (one male/one female) who alternated and had a wide repertoire, usually cover versions of current and classic hits.
On this particular evening we were joined by my good friend David Townsend, journalist, broadcaster and published author of ‘Do They Play Cricket in Ireland?’ (he likes that last bit especially – it’s taken over from his catch at College Park as his favourite topic of conversation!).
The evening was going well initially with the band following their well-worn formula. However, it was the male singer’s birthday and his family and friends in the crowd were drinking heavily and buying him shots.
After a while he announced they were diverting from their playlist, and were going to perform one of their own songs. What followed was a wailing, howling, noisy thrash metal rendition.
At the end of the song, the singer, clearly pleased at his efforts, implored the crowd to give their thoughts on the performance. While my wife and I kept silent, staring at our phones with heads firmly down not making eye contact, David told him exactly what everyone (bar family and friends) was thinking – hence our having to make a swift retreat.
My wife and I still laugh at this regularly – usually when we have a bad meal or encounter poor service. Invariably when the waiter/waitress asks if everything was okay, we smile and reply “Just wonderful. Thank you so much!” Instead of telling the truth to their faces.
I mention the above as the expansion in the streaming of games has meant I’ve been able to watch much more cricket than would normally be the case. The downside has been that with many of the streams either under the control of ICC or national governing bodies, the commentators are reluctant to actually say what they see. Everything is wonderful; errors and shortcomings brushed under the carpet. It makes viewing all the poorer.
The sycophantic nature of the broadcasts mean more often than not, I turn down the volume. It got me to thinking too about the journalists and other media that cover the games. Too often they take the safe route, afraid to upset, afraid to question, probe. That made the work of George Dobell in uncovering the Azeem Rafiq racism case all the more commendable.
There are few advantages to getting older. My back hurts more often, my right knee gives me grief, my teeth are falling to bits, but on the plus side I am more likely to write what I actually see and believe, than taking the safe middle ground where people can’t be upset/offended.
One of the benefits of being an independent site is that we aren’t indebted to any outside influences restricting what we can publish. We can also speculate without waiting for stories to be 100 per cent confirmed. Sometimes we get it wrong, but we score more often than we miss. And if we do get it wrong or not quite right, what real harm has been done? Haven’t we got people thinking and talking about cricket?
You only have to look at the gossip column of the BBC Sport site to see how many papers get football transfers wrong. If they were to be believed Newcastle would have signed about 50 players this month. Still, it remains the most popular feature on the BBC Sport website.
Is the sport of cricket more sensitive to criticism than other sports? Nobody likes criticism, but surely constructive criticism is a good thing?
Having said of all that, I understand that he who pays the piper calls the tune. I not too long ago sat on the other side of the fence. To be fair to Cricket Ireland and ICC/ICC Europe back then, I was more or less left to my own devices when it came to reporting on the game.
Only on one occasion was there an intervention, when it was felt that my reporting on the women’s team was too harsh and damaging to their sponsors. This was in the midst of some really big losses, and the commercial department felt I should be softer on them. I felt they deserved better than to be patronized - but I relented.
In my own mischievous way I went OTT with the next report. Despite a brilliant 13 from x, Ireland narrowly lost by 280 runs to y. Z was the best of the bowlers with 1 for 100 etc A really battling performance from the Girls in Green who will look to bounce back in their next game against the same opponents…
One of my favourite matches involving Ireland was the Women beating Bangladesh in the final of the T20 World Cup Qualifiers off the last ball. Lucy O’Reilly striking the winning boundary in the midst of an electrical storm after a storm of a different kind – an attempted Mankad!
It’s almost six years to the day since that famous win, and I wrote at the time that with serious (any) investment, this team comprised of entirely amateurs could emulate and indeed surpass the achievements of the men.
There has been some progress in the awarding of six part-time contracts, thought to be in the region of 10-15k, as well as 11 non-retainer contracts, which have no direct financial benefits. The last figures I was aware of suggested that the value of the women’s contracts were about 7 per cent of their male counterparts.
With Ireland participating in the Women’s Championships over the next three years, they will be facing the heavy hitters of the game. It’s no doubt an exciting prospect, but potentially a daunting one given their maulings by New Zealand in 2018 remaining fresh in the memory.
Part of me thinks a two-division Championship with six teams in each playing each other home and away, one-up, one-down, might be a safer, gentler introduction to the tournament.
However, one of the advantages of youth is fearlessness. Let us hope that my worries over lack of depth in the squad are proven wrong.
They are going to need serious investment and support. Now more than ever.