If the whole of England is flattering Jofra Archer, the reddest, hottest property this World Cup, Barbados, his country of birth and where he imbued most of his cricketing lessons, is sulking. A day before the England-West Indies fixture, Barbados’s leading daily Barbados Today ran a bitter editorial titled: “The other side of Jofra Archer euphoria”, in which the writer blasts Archer’s impatience with Windies cricket and alleges that he was discriminated against during the U-19 days, a grouse Archer still nurses and reason he quotes for leaving Barbados.
The writer rants: “It must not and should not go forth that he was done some major injustice by regional selectors. As was the case then and is the case now, it was a matter of choice. The regional selectors were entitled to choose the 15 they thought were the best at that time, just as much as Archer is entitled to choose the direction he thinks is best for his career and future at this time.” Another newspaper, Daily Nation, goes parochial: “If West Indies indeed trounce England and build a great team, it will be a decision he’ll end up regretting. He would feel pain when he sees Bajans celebrating around him.”
There will be five Bajans in the opposing squad – Jason Holder, Shai Hope, Carlos Brathwaite, Ashley Nurse and Kemar Roach, besides West Indies Under-19s teammates in Shimron Hetmyer and Nicholas Pooran. The perpetually chortling Archer is hardly frazzled at facing fellow Bajans, though. “It’s just another game of cricket, same as today, same as the last game,” Archer told BBC Sport. “I know them pretty good. I played with a few of the guys in under-19s, so it will be good to actually play against them this time. I’ll be able to share some knowledge but I do that whenever we play.” England will hope familiarity would offer insight while the discrimination backstory would fuel him up for an inspired performance.
Eoin won’t sing, but yeah boy can play
The finicky English press loves to nit-pick, even if everything’s going England’s way. Their latest obsession—actually an old one, but fished out again during the World Cup— is Eoin Morgan not piping the “God Save the Queen”. So The Sun, the paparazzi kings, ran a debate the other day: “Why doesn’t Eoin Morgan sing God Save the Queen?” Most of them pointed out to his Irish roots, while the more rabid ones claimed it was a political statement, a deliberate snub to the monarch. There also popped up the good-humoured “he wasn’t a choir boy,” and some unprintable sleazy ones that evaded the moderator’s gaze.
In the past, Morgan had addressed the question himself, though he left the suspense hanging, saying: “It’s an old, long story and a personal thing. It does not make me any less proud to be an English cricketer.”
His former Irish teammates, though, have a better explanation. “He doesn’t sing the Irish anthem either!” Apparently, he doesn’t hate singing, but detests listening to his own sound.
West Indies’ batsmen Christopher Henry Gayle has always been a crowd favourite. His supporters flock the ground with huge banners, hoping to catch a glimpse of their rockstar hitting bowlers out of the park. In their game against South Africa, the supporters were sitting with frowns on their faces as the match was washed off after just seven odd overs. But Gayle brought back the smiles on the faces of a few lucky supporters. Like he did during a rain-affected practice match earlier, he walked out and spent time signing autographs and posing for selfies. Gayle also drew attention for the quirky “Slash hat” he chose to wear. The official twitter handle of the World Cup tweeted a picture of him with the caption: “Appetite for destruction” referring to American hard rock band Guns N’ Roses’ debut album. Gayle’s hat resembled that of the band’s lead guitarist Slash.
Professional footballers taking keen interest in the cricket World Cup is a good advertisement for the quadrennial showpiece and the game as a whole. Harry Kane set the ball rolling by turning up at Lord’s to meet his Twitter buddy Virat Kohli. The majority of English footballers, however, follow cricket, as the game is a significant part of English culture. Gary Lineker captained the Leicestershire Schools cricket team for five years before switching to professional football.
He was equally good at both. Gary Neville had scored 110 not out, batting alongside Matthew Hayden (140 not out), as he played for a Lancashire club, Greenmount, in July 1992. The unbroken partnership took their team to the Hamer Cup final.
About a year-and-a-half ago, Neville told Wisden: “I was an impatient batsman. My brother (former Manchester United player, Phil Neville) could bat for five hours.” United centre-half Chris Smalling played the game at school level. Earlier this year, former United captain Steve Bruce decided to stay put in Barbados for two extra days and delayed his arrival at Sheffield Wednesday until February 1 to take charge as their manager. Bruce wanted to “fulfil his dream” of watching England play in the West Indies.
The English footballers’ cricket love seems to be spreading over to Germans. Before the World Cup, Germany and Bayern Munich star Thomas Muller revealed his support for the Indian team and Virat Kohli by wearing the Team India shirt. Last Sunday, when India faced Australia at The Oval, former Germany midfielder and Liverpool legend Didi Hamann was in attendance. Hamann, in fact, is a serious cricket fan.
Two years ago, while chatting with a Twitter follower, he was told his sledges were worthy of a cricket sledge. He parried it with a wink: “Don’t know how cricketers keep concentration doing it. Watch bit of NZ vs SA.” Last winter, he was in Australia also, to watch them play an ODI against India. Andrew Flintoff is a reason why Hamann got attracted to cricket. The two also became friends, when the German played at Newcastle United for a season.
Cricket at Sky-high price
There’s a good chance of the ‘Cup coming home’. But does anybody in the Blighty care outside the country’s cricketing fraternity and the circles of elite? A report on The Daily Mail pointed out how six-year-old Josh Crannis had no idea about the World Cup taking place in his country. Cricket has become significantly richer in England over the past two decades, especially since Sky’s takeover of the sport in 2005.
Figures put out by the paper show how TV deals, £103million between 1999 and 2001, when Channel 4 and BSkyB were joint right holders, have shot up to £1.1billion for the upcoming period 2020-2024. The downside of Sky’s monopoly over live coverage is that real-time action is out of free-to-air TV and accordingly beyond the masses’ reach. Even after a cut-price offer of £100 for the dedicated cricket channel for the entire summer, it remains expensive to a vast majority. Little wonder then that the women’s World Cup football match between England and Scotland on the BBC had a peak audience of 6.1million compared to 1.3million on Sky for the England versus Pakistan ICC World Cup fixture.
Trevor and Out for Bayliss
How much cricket is too much cricket? For England coach Trevor Bayliss, every game that doesn’t feature his team isn’t worthy of his time. You’d imagine no coach would take his eye off the matches at the World Cup in an attempt to identify the tiniest of weaknesses their opponents would have. Bayliss, however, has left that task to his support staff.
The Australian, who has a reputation of having a hands-off approach and laid-back attitude to coaching, hasn’t watched a single match of the World Cup so far. And he does not intend to either. “I have seen the results but just bits and pieces here and there. Not a cricket watcher unless we’re involved,” Bayliss told BBC’s Test Match Special. “We’re watching enough cricket so don’t want to spend our days off watching other games. It’s sometimes on in the background; I obviously keep an eye on the results but to sit down all day and watch the matches I don’t really need to… I’ll leave that to others.”
A birth and a funeral
A death, a birth and a cricket match on either side of it. The six-day gap between England’s two matches has aroused a gamut of emotions among some members of the team. Moeen Ali was excused from training on Wednesday after his wife gave birth to daughter Haadiya. The all-rounder is eyeing a return to the playing XI after being left out of the Bangladesh game. While his off-breaks weren’t seen necessary in Cardiff, where England loaded its XI with pacers, Ali is likely to be in contention for the match against West Indies.
While Ali was away for his child’s birth, England coach Trevor Bayliss had taken a couple of days off to visit Glasgow to attend the funeral of his friend. Both are back with the team – Bayliss rejoined the team earlier this week while Ali was back with the squad in Southampton on Thursday.