Come on, let’s admit it. We were all looking forward to the bloody end-of-season finale. Sure, they have become a little formulaic – but an England Ashes tour down under wouldn’t be an England Ashes tour down under without rows, recriminations and a round of sackings to finish off the narrative.
What we hadn’t bargained for was the ECB attempting to ramp up their ailing franchise by bringing in previous showrunner Andrew “Director’s Cut” Strauss, who not only wrote out a number of minor characters – Ashley Giles, Chris Silverwood, Dom Bess – but then went for the jugular, Game of Thrones-style, by killing off two much-loved protagonists with barely a line of dialogue for preamble.
Strauss doubtless had his successful reboot of the much derided white-ball set-up in mind, though it remains to be seen whether audiences will react in the same way to his signature move. And he has left himself room to script a return for both James Anderson and Stuart Broad should things not go to plan – if the critics continue to weigh in, say, or Joe Root discovers that going to the West Indies without England’s two all-time leading wicket-takers wasn’t such a smart move after all.
Clearly an overhaul was needed after the much hyped but sadly one-sided battle scene, filmed on location in Australia, in which Root’s men were unceremoniously mauled by a Dothraki horde (led by Pat Cummins in a loin cloth and some heavy eye make-up ). With England’s Test ratings falling, and uncertainty about whether Root could cling to power, Strauss acted quickly by commissioning a dollop of off-field drama to distract from the underlying structural failings.
Root remains on the Any-Old-Iron Throne for now, while Tom Harrison continues to lurk in the shadows – despite displaying all the popular touch of Cersei Lannister. Plot development for Strauss’ next installment is a closely guarded secret, but rumours have suggested a number of potential twists, from Broad being brought back from the dead by the mystical ministrations of the Red-Ball Witch to a climactic assault on Lord’s by the Night King (played by the guy who runs the Hundred’s Twitter account) and his unholy following (women, children, people who refuse to wear ties).
Winter isn’t so much coming for the ECB as already set in, and the fight to unite the Seven Kingdoms/18 first-class counties could drag on for several more seasons – or at least till Kevin Pietersen arrives on the back of a giant dragon to raze the lot.
Anyway, here’s hoping that Strauss is given a big CGI budget and a free hand. After all, to borrow another saying from TV land, English cricket jumped the shark a long time ago.
If you love someone, set them free. Alternatively, if you love someone, make them engage in regular 360-degree evaluations, dig into grievances about their man-management skills, look at the victorious Ashes and T20 World Cup campaigns they’ve slaved over and say, “Thanks, champ! How would you like a six-month contract extension?” Justin Langer’s entanglement with the Australia men’s team always had a star-crossed aspect to it. After resigning, he apologised if he had come across as “too intense”; Langer was, in the words of old Bill Shakespeare, “one that loved not wisely, but too well”. As for the players’ side, Cummins put it succinctly: “I don’t think he should be surprised.” At least now Langer, who had spent months away from home, will be able to return to the bosom of the people who really matter – his former baggy-green team-mates, who know the meaning of true mateship ever after.
For some traditionalists, the annual sight of IPL owners paddling themselves silly in a banqueting hall while indiscriminately splashing the cash is pretty much the confirmation of end times (well, they’ll be right one day). But never mind the ostentatious affront to decadence that is the IPL auction – the Light Roller has discovered something far worse.
Last week Ben Stokes tweeted: “Just jumped on the NFT bandwagon.” A few days later, having changed his profile picture to that of small, pixellated monkey wearing a cap, he added: “Can’t believe that @ASAC_NFT have made me a Honorary Ape,crazy man thanks to all the team.” If all that makes no sense whatsoever, then give yourself a pat on the back. NFTs – or Non-Fungible Tokens – are the new celebrity grift, you see; and while footballers have been attempting to coin it for a while, it seems cricket too is to be subjected to the blockchain babble of digital pseudo-art. Don’t expect it to end well.