It’s only taken the best part of 10 months and two attempts, but the England and Wales Cricket Board’s search for a new chair has at last come up with the outcome that the counties identified for it from the off.
Richard Thompson, until now chair at Surrey, is clearly the best person for the job. What a shambolic process though, one in which Thompson’s two competitors in the final round were laughably both existing ECB board members.
Just how hard this organisation must have been trying to resist the overhaul that the leader of the most successful county threatens.
“Thank God for that! He will save English cricket,” was the response of one Surrey member, who added that Thompson’s first action should be to sack Sir Andrew Strauss, currently leading the ECB’s high performance review. And there in a nutshell is Thompson’s challenge.
His wide spread of supporters will all have different perspectives on what needs to be done to rescue the sport from the dead hand of corporatism that has alienated the counties. And the lengthy process to recruit him means that he is now saddled with decisions that will be difficult or even impossible to unwind.
The Strauss review is nearer its end than the start, although its recommendations will then go through a consultation process within the sport. Not too late for the new ECB chair to put his own stamp on that one should he need to.
Much more concerning for him will be the final act of the now departed chief executive, Tom Harrison: a new broadcast deal which would appear to cement the future of The Hundred until at least 2028. Thompson’s room for manoeuvre on this controversial competition may be severely limited.
Cricket’s professional calendar is a mess. The first-class counties are suffering financially, the sport’s traditional fan base is frustrated by the lack of red ball cricket at the height of summer, and The Hundred sits square in the middle of all this.
Surrey were vocal naysayers on the competition from the off. Some believe Thompson’s own objections have eased in recent months, although possibly as a wily expedient to improve his chances in the recruitment process. His early pronouncements on The Hundred will likely determine the length of his honeymoon period.
First things first, and the recruitment of a CEO to replace Harrison. I’ve no doubt Thompson has identified who he wants, or maybe a couple of candidates from within cricket that he knows and backs to implement the programme he desires.
Thompson would be wise, too, to make early, wholesale changes to the ECB board, a collective which has singularly failed to show effective leadership through a series of challenges over the past year.
Not least of these has been handling the charge of institutional racism levelled against the sport. Many within it are aghast at being labelled discriminatory and don’t recognise in the commentary the sport that they know.
Finding the nuanced solutions that are required amid the rancour and sweeping judgements won’t be easy, but all who love cricket would do well to bind behind Thompson to help him discover them. I wish him well.
Talk about biting the hand that fed your childhood imaginations. Quidditch is renamed quadball so that the earthbound adherents to JK Rowling’s game for flying wizards can distance themselves from the author’s views in the trans debate. What a sad example of the corrosiveness of cancel culture.
If cricket had never existed, would someone have the flight of fancy to invent it today? And wouldn’t its creator deserve to be celebrated, whatever their legitimately held views in an open debate which by its nature can have no absolute right or wrong answer?
Quidditch for me will always be the voice of Stephen Fry flowing from the car CD player on long journeys. Hard to square it with people running around with brushless PVC rods (regulation length between 32 and 44 inches) between their thighs at all times, not a true Firebolt or Nimbus 2000 in sight. And a tennis ball ‘snitch’ in a sock dangling from the back of one official’s shorts.
I guess, like cricket, ‘quadball’ will eventually become an Olympic sport if I live long enough. But it will never be quidditch to me.
Who won in Brum?
A whopping 51 per cent of the medals at the Commonwealth Games which ended this week in Birmingham were won by just three teams: Australia, England and Canada.
These are the nations that – along with Scotland and New Zealand – have typically hosted the Games (India, fourth in the medal table, was a recent-ish exception in 2010). That is too dominant for the long-term health of the Games and evident in thin fields in a number of events.
Not that the ebullient crowds seem to have minded. The Games were clearly a great success overall. Cricket perhaps didn’t make the impact it would have hoped for. Para sports were very welcome, but small fields of athletes were especially acute here (a perennial problem at regional level competition and even many events at the Paralympics themselves). And newcomer esports was an unexciting TV experience to my old bloke’s eyes.
But the marquee sports delivered spectacle – athletics especially so – and there was a string of uplifting stories below the dominant three countries that deserve to linger longest.
Congratulations to the likes of Nauru, Niue, Malta, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea on their single medals. And of course Guernsey with its pair – its best haul since 1986, taking the island’s all-time total to eight. This included its first medal (Alastair Chalmers’ bronze in the 400m hurdles) outside shooting and bowls.
Ed Warner is chair of GB Wheelchair Rugby and writes at sportinc.substack.com