A select XI: cricket blog posts of 2014
The Internet grazes and devours like a beast of legend. And we, the bloggers, are principal amongst its feeders. Tasty morcel, indigestible lump, essay, review, polemic. We cook them up day after day, the speed of service following and often surpassing the pace at which cricket is played across the world.
While most of what we write is good for the moment, fits a particular taste and soon goes off, there are pieces that can be reheated and offered up again, with flavours stronger and deserving to be savoured.
I have selected eleven blog posts. All were written, to my knowledge, for free. To that basic qualification applied in 2012 and 2013, I have added another in this annual review. I have limited (or perhaps, extended) my choices to bloggers who did not feature in either of my previous annual selections. Arbitrary and constraining, but something similar doesn’t seem to have done Wisden any harm in its annual selections. Introductions over; let the list begin.
2014 was a year of political, oppositional or campaigning cricket blogging. At the very forefront in the UK was The Full Toss, whose writers rebutted and dismantled each decision and subsequent justification offered by the ECB in trying to create a new era for England cricket. TFT responded to every idiocy of the administrators with posts that managed to be both passionate and measured. The cumulative effect was powerful, but each individual post stands alone. I have selected the open letter to the Managing Director of Waitrose, England’s principal sponsors. It is notable for the overt campaigning stance and the recognition that if the regime is run for money, those who provide its income should have the influence to make it listen.
Kartikeya Date (A Cricketing View) addresses all aspects of the contemporary game with fearsome logic and absolute self-confidence, while remaining highly readable. The post I’ve selected wasn’t dealing with the most significant issue of the year, but its forensic treatment of a matter of ethical and administrative importance – the ICC’s censure of Moeen Ali’s wrist band support for Palestinians – is characteristically unequivocal and informative.
Where does the ICC draw the line? […] Is Moeen Ali’s beard a problem? He has spoken of it being symbol of his faith. […] Typically, the ICC will probably say that the beard isn’t an article of clothing. The ICC does explicitly ban “visible tattoos incorporating any Commercial or Manufacturers Logo”. Perhaps Moeen Ali should consider getting the top of his head or arm shaved to depict the phrase “Save Gaza”. The ICC shouldn’t have any objections to that.
The third piece I’ve selected from the year’s output of posts taking issue with the running of the game comes from the West Indies. David Oram is an authoritative voice on the cricket in the region. When the West Indies team withdrew from the tour of India, Oram was a key source in understanding what was going on. In this piece, Oram begins by asking,
I’m not the only one in the Caribbean right now asking myself ‘do I really care anymore?’ If the players don’t, then why should I? Why can’t everyone just get on and play some cricket?
He goes on to consider the role of the media and the failure of local reporters to gain a profile outside of the region, meaning reliance is placed on the perspective of ex-players heavily involved in the staging of international games. Oram is a very useful counterbalance to those views.
Philip Hughes’ death was the most shocking occurrence of this and many years of cricket. King Cricket, providing outstanding daily entertainment for thousands of cricket fans, changed gear to cover a story that could not be ignored. I found the tribute, at a time when it was hard to know quite what to think, to be a clear and direct statement of why Hughes’s fatal accident meant so much to those of us with no direct connection with the talented, enigmatic batsman.
We don’t much care whether he would have been great or not. What we’ll miss is Hughes’s career, however it might have panned out. That was the fascination – in seeing things unfold.
Blogging is often at its best when focused on a detail. Christian Drury is rare amongst bloggers for being able to sustain writing over a much grander sweep. In ‘The sporting spectacle out and about in the imagined community‘ Drury dealt with the spectating experience at a cricket match, traditionally and how it has been upended by the IPL.
Being seen in the hospitality box at an IPL match – with Preity! Shilpa! SRK! – is confirmation of arrival amongst the elite of a new India, commercial and commodified. It is a place in a parade of parvenus, unlike the ingrained privilege of a Lord’s Test, society calcified over generation.
Mobilising social and cultural theory with his own rich prose, Drury has produced several exciting and provocative essays in this vein that offer pleasing descriptions of the familiar alongside the spark of new insights.
I hope that Declaration Game provides a comfortable home for writing about cricket statistics. Seamus Hogan, though, operates on a higher plane of numerical manipulation. In his university department’s blog, he has written several articles about cricket. I sense a love of cricket kept in check by professional propriety. In a recent piece, Hogan sought an answer to a question that many observers feel is self-evident, ‘Are ODI scores increasing?‘ Applying the controls on comparisons that we hobbyists tend not to trouble ourselves with, Hogan’s conclusion is counter-intuitive.
The second post about cricket statistics comes from an unlikely source: Scott Oliver of The Reverse Sweeper. Oliver’s cricket writing includes interviews, musings on literary theory and his seven part series on Adrian Shankar deserved to do for cricket blogging what Serial has done for the podcast. My selection is Unvital Statistics a piece that demolishes, with the help of political theory, the case for introducing statistical measures of fielding.
Yet the fundamental problem with individualised fielding stats is that the game of cricket – all team sport – is about intangible, unquantifiable relations and human traits, chief among which is generosity. Looking out for your mates. Putting everything you have in the pot before you measure it
Rarely do I start reading a blog post with one opinion and am so persuaded by what I read that I finish it with the opposite point of view.
In hosting the cricket blogger survey in recent months, I have come across a lot of, for me, new blogs. Amongst those I have enjoyed are: Voice from the Stands, Jack Vittles, My Life in Cricket Scorecards. From the back catalogue of two ‘new to me’ blogs, I enjoyed these excellent pieces.
The profile of Indian cricketer and airforce officer, Sky and Seam: the dreams of Shikha Pandey, on Grass on the Seam (Snehal Pradhan), reveals so much about the player and also the challenges of being a top class woman cricketer.
The Reckless Swipe, as a blog title, is a poor description of the measured writing found on Nick Allbury’s website. I particularly enjoyed this piece – The IPL and the difficulties choosing a team to support – where Allbury struggles to come to terms with, or sustain an interest in, franchise cricket.
But with the IPL I can find no angle. The teams, though featuring the name of a city, give me no sense of locality and any individuality that can be derived from it. There is no underdog, just one businessman pitting his wares against another. I don’t even get a true sense of India. The IPL may be played on Mars for all I care.
Cricket blogging encompasses many subjects and approaches: polemic, profile, statistical analysis, cultural theory, etc. Its essence, though, is story-telling. My final selections are tales from writers’ younger days.
Gary Naylor wrote a short series of ‘Summer the first time’ posts on 99.94 about how cricket entwined the young Naylor in the 1970s. His piece on fast bowling and Michael Holding, in particular, may help to give new life to the early memories that many of us have about cricket.
In the heat of England’s hottest summer in living memory, I closed the curtains and watched, on our new colour television, every ball of the Fifth Test on the scorched grass of Kennington’s Oval. There was King Viv’s 291 and Dennis Amiss’ magnificent return to the colours, going back and across to counter what was coming at him. And what was coming at him, was the most awesome sight in cricket – in sport – Michael Holding.
Dmitri Old was in the vanguard of writers challenging the powers that be in 2014. But the piece that caught my eye, Straight Down the Middle, recounted a schoolboy trip to Holland and a challenge issued and accepted by a West Indian cricketer. It’s the sort of story with which Old and his teammates, in particular the captain, will be able to earn their dinners for years to come.
Which blog posts that you read in 2014 deserve another read or a chance for a fresh audience?