Archive | January 2013

Trendsetting cricket

Cricket is the pre-industrial sport that saw out the industrial age and ventures into the uncertain post-industrial, information age. Trendwatching.com is a worldwide commercial trend monitoring service that has recently published its annual list of new consumer trends to watch out for. As followers of international cricket or players of club cricket, which, if any, of these cutting edge trends will we experience this year?

Anything shown in italics in the rest of this post, comes from the Trendwatching briefing. Surprisingly, perhaps, I find evidence of seven of the 10 Crucial Consumer Trends for 2013 in our timeless sport. Hold onto your wide-brimmed hats, because: 2013 will be the perfect storm of necessity and opportunity (motto to be adopted by the ICC Champions Trophy?).

Trend 1: Full frontal – not just transparent, but naked and proud

T20 provides cricket’s first trendsetting example. It brought players out of the dressing room, sitting them like a brightly dressed rabble of club cricketers on the boundary edge. Next, it put players on a live microphone. Shane Warne showed the BBL TV audience the best – explaining what he would bowl and with what effect – and worst – abusing Marlon Samuels – of transparent cricket coverage. The camera’s next move can be to one place only: the showers.

Trend 2: Presumers and Custowners – consumers will embrace even more ways to participate in the funding and launch of new products and brands

doagThis phenomenon, its potential unlocked by the Internet, is found in a project that, ironically, deals with cricket’s ability to adjust to the changing world. The movie now in post-production, Death of a Gentleman, considers how Test match cricket can survive. It was funded by fans of the sport, responding to a social media campaign operated by the film’s producers, Kimber and Collins, using the crowd-funding website FundMe.com.

Cricket would seem a viable market for this sort of approach. Its followers include many more affluent and connected people, protective of their niche interest. But searching the major crowd-funding websites no other cricket-themed products or services appear to be looking for our seedcorn cash. Maybe the release of Death of a Gentleman in 2013 will change that.

Trend 3: Emerging squared – emerging brands from all over are catering for emerging middle classes all over

Cricket seems well ahead of the curve on this one. Emerging markets initially experienced economic growth by manufacturing products or low cost services for the developed world. Increasingly, those emerging economies produce and create to meet their own and other emerging economies’ needs.

Indian cricket, at its most distilled in the IPL, is an archetype of the business of emerging nations no longer being developed to target the consumers of the developed world. Sold out stadiums and a prime-time audience reach of 160 million at home. Back in the ‘home’ of cricket, it gets an afternoon (live) broadcast on ITV how many? ITV4.

Trend 4: Mobile moments – lifestyle multi-if-not-hyper-tasking: why micro-convenience, mini experiences and digital snacks will rule

Cricket followers are fairly well catered for on their smart-phones, able to tune into a game for moments between meetings, calls, lessons, trips or whatever else punctuates their productive day. Apps provide news, scores, statistics and my personal favourite enables me to create a wagon wheel. This is a fast developing area. I wonder if this year when we take our seats at the ground for a day of Ashes cricket we will be downloading match-specific apps that connect us with anyone else with that app in the ground, for debate, images and even dates?

Next come the trends that affect the consumer as amateur player, rather than consumer as viewer.

Trend 5: Data Myning – why consumers want good data not big data

Businesses hold data about us, which in this trend they provide to us rather photo(2)than merely use to market to us. The relevance to cricket is, I think, unrealised but becomes possible with the spread of computer-based scoring across club cricket. Hitherto, the typical cricketer has glanced over the scorebook in the bar after the match to assess their contribution. But with ball-by-ball data recorded digitally, each player by the time they have showered, could receive a detailed breakdown of their innings/bowling spell, player v player chart and wagon wheel. Crowd-source your pennies to me for this idea.

Trend 6: Again made here – local manufacturing is the new service economy

Bat manufacture probably never left the UK but it is on the up again. Bespoke bats and factory visits are the hook. Millichamp & Hall hand-make bats at their workshop at the Somerset County Ground in Taunton. Customers are “entitled to come and visit” the workshop, making it an experience not just a transaction.

b3 batsA new challenger launched in 2012: B3 cricket in Nottingham. Offering off the shelf, custom and bespoke bats, B3 is as keen on the service element as M&H. Intriguingly, it advises that each bat has a unique reference number for reproduceability of your perfect bat. Moreover, recognising what creatures of habit batsmen can be, the customer is encouraged to bring along their favourite, but retired, bat for the new one to be made in its image.

I could not find actual or potential cricket equivalents for three of the trends

  • New life inside – it’s time for products that give back to the environment
  • Appscriptions – digital technologies are the new medicine
  • Celebration nation – flaunting the new ‘it’ cultures

leaving one trend:

Trend 10: Demanding Brands – brands’ wishes will be consumers’ command

The New Zealand cricket team are making some extreme demands of their followers early in 2013, but there’s an even better fit to this trend. It’s not considered fashionable, but it’s the basic modus operandi of local cricket clubs. In return for wearing the club’s crest, the playing member paints the sight-screens, hangs the nets, sweeps the dressing room, pulls the pints, runs the socials, etc. There’s an awful lot about brand loyalty that local cricket clubs could teach commerce.

Ashley Giles owes me nothing

Cricket followers burn a lot of time and energy mocking, criticising and castigating the players our passion draws us to watch. We are particularly harsh on those who we believe are not fulfilling their potential in the sport. Steve Harmison, Mitchell Johnson are examples of players who have shown what they can achieve and then failed to live up to it. Another target of denigration are those who have reached a level in the game that their talent does not merit and struggle at that level. We’re also harsh on the superstars. Class is permanent but poor form is happening now and it’s not acceptable. Age dulls their talent, but not their self-regard. And their play may be impeccable but their conduct, dress sense, or off-field companions demonstrate they have less of a grip of other aspects of life.

The first group waste their talent, which we wouldn’t do if only we were so blessed (genetically predisposed). The second group waste our time. We don’t want to watch cricketers whose inability to score runs or take wickets is a result of a technical incompetence not seen since school net practice. The third group waste the emotions of hope, respect and even adoration that have risen through us watching them at their peak, only to be sullied by the inevitable demonstration of their humanity.

Then there are the small number of players with whom our relationship is less complicated. Australians may feel this way towards Mike Hussey. As an England supporter, I felt this about England’s new limited overs coach, now leading the England team in its one day series in India. He performed and behaved as well as I could have expected. I felt that Ashley Giles owed me nothing.

Giles was an orthodox left-arm spinner operating in a period when finger spin was thought impotent in international cricket unless the ball could be made to turn both ways. Giles’ inclusion in the England team felt grudging – if we really have to have slow bowler, he’s the least worst option. On debut against South Africa in 1998, Giles went for a ton taking a single wicket.

It was over two years until Giles played another Test – in Pakistan – and he moved quickly into credit with an analysis of 59-20-113-4, bowling 36% of the overs in Pakistan’s only innings. A five-for was earned in the next match and seven wickets in the series decider at Lahore. Giles had taken 17 wickets in the three match series, a record for an English bowler in Pakistan, and only one fewer than Saqlain Mushtaq.

For the next two years Giles played more, particularly in the Sub-Continent, than he missed. In India, he took his test best at Ahmedabad in another endurance display (5-63 in 43 overs) despite achilles and foot injuries that hindered his motion and earnt him the ‘wheelie-bin’ moniker. Giles was part of Michael Vaughan’s team that defeated South Africa at the Oval in 2003 having conceded 484 in the first innings. That summer, Giles took only 22 wickets in first class cricket. A single wicket in two tests in Bangladesh followed. But success in Asia came again before the year was out, with 18 wickets in the series in Sri Lanka.

Vaughan’s team found form and momentum, winning six consecutive test series before the Australians arrived for the 2005 Ashes. Giles was a near ever-present as the principal spinner, lower-order banker for a useful 30 and smart gulley fielder.

In the pre-series match-ups conducted on paper, Giles and keeper Geraint Jones, were the two England players deemed clearly inferior to their Australian opposite numbers – Warne and Gilchrist. What sort of player was ashley giles bowling 2Warne’s opponent? Giles is a big man. That and his splayed feet and high knees gave him an untidy, rolling run-up. But in delivery he pivoted hard on his right foot, arched his back, pulling his arm through classically high and strong, with head, often sporting blue reflective shades, tilted right. And he spun the ball. Too tall to give the ball very much air, but on helpful wickets, Giles was comfortable bowling in the low 50mphs, getting bite and bounce.

Giles, of course, didn’t come close to matching Warne in the 2005 series. But he managed to be both victorious and vindicated – taking wickets at Edgbaston after attracting a lot of criticism with a newspaper article, having his own ‘ball of the century’ moment piercing Damien Martyn’s confident defence at Old Trafford and scoring a half-century on the fifth afternoon at the Oval that took England to safety, a draw and history.

Worthy, committed and respected, but not a spotless career. Giles, under Hussain’s prickly leadership in India in 2001 was heavily criticised for bowling outside Tendulkar’s leg-stump from over the wicket. Wisden called it ‘unedifying’ and hoped the ICC cricket committee would stamp it out. Hussain recalled: “People went on and on about it being a negative tactic and against the spirit of the game.. and I think that affected Ashley’s career for a while..”

After the 2005 Ashes series, Giles was one of many of that team to experience injury or illness. He returned home from Pakistan with a hip injury in November 2005. It was 12 months before Giles played again – in the warm-up matches ahead of the Ashes series.

The player who owed us nothing was on the hardest tour of all, without any cricket for a year, with a ‘remodelled’ action designed, but little tested, to protect his frail limb. In his absence, Giles’ place had been taken by Monty Panesar, a loose-limbed natural left-arm spinner, who had had immediate success.

This is where my affection for and sympathy with Giles is at its strongest.  Duncan Fletcher was loyal to his men and to his methods. Giles at number 8 gave the team balance, even though the team was no longer the same. And so came about a sequence of events that tipped the balance from Giles being a cricketer who owed me nothing, to one who deserved better of England. Imagine being called upon after a year away, unable to work, to do the most difficult thing your job involves. That’s what happened to Giles, who played at Brisbane and again in that defeat at Adelaide that still makes me shudder. He didn’t bowl poorly, but misjudged a chance to catch Ponting on his way to his second century of the series when England had declared at 551-6.

Giles was replaced for the third test by Panesar, who took five wickets on the first day. Family illness required Giles to return home soon after. And that was that.

Giles did not play again as injury forced him into retirement. The last year of Giles’ playing career may well anger me more than it does the player himself.