Cricket, Stanford-style, going to hell in a handbasket
Forgive (again) the dewy-eyed sentimentalism, but the cast-iron proof that all is not well with cricket comes tomorrow when England plays the ”Stanford Superstars” in a winner-takes-all Twenty20 match in Antigua worth $1m to each player on the winning side.
The match, sanctioned by the England and Wales Cricket Board, is backed by the Texas billionaire, Sir Allen Stanford. You might have seen Sir Allen on the telly this week, as he cavorted with the wives and girlfriends of the English cricketers – bouncing Mrs Emma Prior, the pregnant wife of the team’s wicketkeeper, on his knee – while the players were involved in a warm-up game.
There had been rumblings that the ECB had sold its soul for the Stanford millions, that it was dancing with the devil. But then came the footage showing Stanford and the English WAGs and the ECB’s worst fears were being realised: this really was a tawdry, shabby pantomime which they had signed up to. Of course, the incident became tabloid fodder.
A British journalist by the name of Stephen Moss – who says he belongs to the ilk of cricket lover who can best be described as wistful, nostalgic and yearning for a golden age – recently rang the editor of Wisden, Matthew Engel, to help with a story he was writing about the state of the grand old game.
He wanted Engel’s opinion about the rampant growth of Twenty20 cricket, the Indian Premier League and the fact that a team representing England, and wearing the Three Lions on their cable-knit jumpers, was about to embark on this folly in the Caribbean. In short he wanted an answer to the question: what the hell’s happened to our game, the game of village greens, gentlemen and fair play?
Moss tracked Engel down to the United States where he is covering the US election. Engel’s answer, via email, was telling: ”I’d love to help,” he wrote, ”but I’m really really out of it, partly because I’ve been doing other things, partly because I’m so appalled by what is happening to cricket.”
If the editor of Wisden is throwing up his hands in despair, perhaps we should all start to be worried.