Remember the personalities?

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This article has been rewritten, due to two ‘cricketing’ events that have just taken place. One was extraordinary; the other wasn’t. One is attracting huge media coverage; one isn’t.

And it’s the wrong one, of course, that is exciting too many idiots.

Yes, idiots. I know that this post might offend many, but I simply don’t care. I know that I might struggle to get this rant past my erstwhile editor Devon, but hopefully I will because this is important. In fact, I would posit that this is the future of TEST cricket right here, right now. And if you are offended, then tough! You have the right to be so, and I have the right not to give a damn! What I will offer is this: these are MY views, and not the views of the site.

[Editor’s note: the above phrase is seconded. Dewis is a moron.]

Chris Gayle was out of order in what he said to the attractive female interviewer Mel McLaughlin. But not by much. He is one of the game’s greatest entertainers. He is a player who will fill grounds just by his presence. I myself have made the trip to a T20 match just to watch him play. Will I remember Hales’ 99 for England at Trent Bridge a couple of years ago? Well, yes I will. But I will remember more the sight of this massive man muscle his way to the middle and crash a couple of boundaries. Chris Gayle is a larger than life player, who lives his life as a gangsta rapper playboy. He is a player who fills grounds. He is one of the game’s last true personalities. The game needs Chris Gayle.

To be clear, this is the event that is making so many people jump up and down. The British newspaper The Guardian (the paper of choice by the darling left, and the paper of choice by all those who wish to demonstrate their superior moral compass) has employed such cricketing journalists as Marina Hyde (that cricketing genius) to give her expert analysis of this. This is the event that has caused a cricketing friend of mine, who knows and loves the game dearly, to state to me he would rather see the death of cricket, than allow players like Gayle to play the game! This is (sorry Richard) madness! What should have been a shake-of-the-head moment has gone crazy!

The other event to cause my article to be rewritten is Ben Stokes’ innings. That innings, that glorious, wonderful innings where he scored the fastest ever 250 in a Test match. I will come to this later.

I want to make this really clear. All those who are happy and approving of the kicking Chris Gayle is receiving are merely using his daft comments as an excuse to seize the moral high ground. It is being used as a way to make themselves appear better than their peers. It has nothing to do with equality, nothing to do with breaking down barriers of social injustice. There is nothing to be gained for the advancement of women’s rights by this. For a game, the Big Bash League, that employs extremely attractive girls to jump up ad down and dance wearing provocative and sexy clothes at every boundary or fall of wicket to try to set themselves up as some arbiters of feminism is frankly utterly ridiculous! Cricket Australia, you are utter fools!

[Editor’s note: views of writers do not necessarily reflect the views of MTW etc. etc. Make my life easier please Dewis.]

The right to be insulted is becoming the scourge of our digital age. Too quickly these things become something bigger than they are by those seeking only to better themselves on Twitter, Facebook etc. There is no consistency. When Maria Sharapova flirted with an attractive male interviewer, it was talked about – a bit – but quickly passed over. Now, apparently, that was also ‘really bad’, because hypocrisy isn’t allowed (it is allowed – back then when it happened those pen wielding feminists were heralding her comments as a blow for ‘Girl Power’). I would love to be able to go to my game to escape the worthy bien pensant, who cares not for anything outside of his or her sad and desperate need to pump their empty soul vessels with a little self-righteous indignation! But no. The Guardian newspaper’s moral thought policemen – sorry, I mean PolicePEOPLE – are here, thankfully, to show me how a boring, pale world is the way to go. And when all these character-laden folk have been corrected, new ways to be insulted will need to be found. Thus a cricketer who has not raped anyone, not killed, not stolen, not defamed etc can be made to be the villain of the age. A cricketer who just left a field of play, pumped after a quick 40 spent a few seconds asking a lady to have a drink with him. A lady who apparently was sexually insulted (really?), and who dealt with the situation very well, and made Gayle look like an embarrassed fool. Yes, he needs to be severely punished indeed! Forget all those terrorists blowing up school children! No no no! Forget the bomb throwing mass murderers. It’s Chris Gayle! BURN HIM!

This post was going to be about personalities in our game, or the lack of them. The British Broadcasting Centre (BBC) have an end of year programme called the Sports Personality of the Year. This year the shortlist of winners included no cricketer. Not one. I think there were about a dozen contenders. A female footballer from a team that came third, the first rugby league player ever nominated, even a homophobic boxer were included. But not one cricketer. In a year when we won the Ashes, and when we gave the world arguably the best batsman in Root, and the best bowler in Broad we couldn’t get a player on the list. And this is worrying because if our game doesn’t produce personalities, why watch our game? Why not stick on a computer simulation and watch that instead? Who cares who wins, who performs, who produces if it’s not being performed by a somebody?

I, as the oldest contributor to Mind the Windows, am old enough to remember the eighties. [Editor’s note: and the forties.] I came to cricket in 1985. Botham, Gower, Lamb. These were my heroes. These players were MEN. They would win or lose, and afterwards there would be pictures of them smoking cigars, quaffing champagne. They DID things outside of cricket that gave themselves flavours. They broke the laws, flew planes over grounds, got into trouble for having smoked cannabis several years previously, they were often bad boys with barmaids. They appeared on embarrassing TV programmes. They were stars of our game. Not just bad boys-they raised millions for charity, They were almost AS BIG as the game.

Too many just trot out the lame excuse that the game isn’t on terrestrial TV here in Blighty as the sole reason for the BBC’s decision. But it isn’t true. If the game was allowed to produce characters, it would be on TV. Kevin Pietersen, a marmite lad, is still our most famous player. He spent 2015 playing meaningless cricket in meaningless leagues around the world. We may have become a better TEAM for his exile, but is the game overall better without him?

T20 is not cricket. It is a perversion of the game. The administrators should look at it purely as a means to keep red ball cricket alive. I am not against it at all (perversions are good), but if it doesn’t pay homage to our real game, then all we will end up with is baseball. The BBC isn’t interested in the game generally, because of it’s Gentlemen and Players past. It is seen as elitist. There is a strange snobbery that sees Golf (the world’s most expensive and pointless sport) as politically correct, yet cricket (that has allowed thousands to better themselves through honest endeavour) as archaic and anachronistic. Yet if there were more players that actually drew in the crowds, all broadcasters would be interested. The game needs personalities. It really does!

During Stokes’ incredible knock, the commentators kept using the term ‘Box Office’ to describe him, as if this was an incidental quality outside of his true worth. Yet this is the most important quality in any player! For every slow, boring accumulator of runs the game is desperately in need of a ‘Box Office’ player. For our great game to be able to accommodate a Compton or a Cook we need a Flintoff or a KP or a Stokes. Many don’t rate Chris Woakes, because as an all rounder he isn’t as glamorous as Ben Stokes. Yet Woakes is a fine player. If we want to keep our game alive, and allow those to play without the impudent arrogance of a ‘Box Office’ player, we need to acknowledge the urge to play the game in a way that will allow the game to grow as MORE important than purely winning! Nobody who never lived through the age of Botham, and watched the matches he performed in live can understand the sheer visceral power of his stage presence.

I sing opera for a living. A decent voice sings in the chorus. A personality voice, pinned with a great technique sings the solos.Nobody wins or loses on an operatic stage, it’s how we perform that keeps our art form alive. Cricket needs to understand it shares this need.

Which brings me back to Chris Gayle. The word on the net is that he is going to be banned for life from the BBL. If this is true, then even I (as a KP admirer) will not bother to watch it any more. Cricket Australia, the world’s most quiet cricket authority when their own players misbehave is now the world’s most outraged body. They are insulted by a few seconds of one of their star imports being himself. There is no thought as to how a man from the Caribbean who has earned enormous riches (and who famously enjoys them-see his Twitter pictures) might have a different set of ethics to a Sydney Socialite or an Islington Luvvie. Nope-we don’t want our players to be individuals. The modern day sportsman is purely professional. All hail Alex Hales for giving an interview after his 60 in the first innings of the second test in South Africa that was an utterly boring plastic PR perfected interview. Let’s praise young Joe Root for bleeding all the personality out of himself, in preparation to be England’s plastic captain, who will ever offend anybody. Let’s not remind ourselves about how the game was made into our national sport during the Age of Grace. How players before the First World War would wear their own coloured scarfs, how the daring do of those unhelmeted heroes who would dash to the ground and perform exploits thrilled the nation, through the papers 24 hours later. How back then it was the result AND the heroes who would thrill, shock and delight.

No, we now need to teach our young guns that the most important feature of being a professional sportsman is to only say the right things at all times.

If Gayle has indeed been banned, then don’t be surprised. Your outrage has landed us the banning of one of the games greats. Our game is infinitely poorer without him. And when nobody bothers about Test Cricket any longer, because there is nobody worth bothering about, what then?

Baseball.

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