Mistakes and Changes

Panos

Copyright: Birmingham Mail

 

Mistake: an action or judgement that is misguided or wrong

Change: the act or instance of making or becoming different

Football: to frequently feel misery or despair 

Quite a lot of the time, it’s difficult to admit when mistakes are made. It’s in our human nature to show pride in decisions we’ve made and be stubborn in sticking by them. In order to counteract a mistake, change must be made. Change is a scary part of life, it will either prove successful or unsuccessful. However, sometimes it’s in the best interest for mistakes to be recognised and change to be thrust upon as a result of that mistake…

Mistakes seem to be the forefront of the last 4 months of Birmingham’s season. The board clearly thought keeping Rowett on as manager would be a mistake, and therefore rectified what they perceived to be a mistake waiting to happen. The appointment of Gianfranco Zola could be seen as a mistake, with just two wins coming under his tenure. Poor performances from the players, despite being a regular occurrence in football, show mistakes. Heck, even the league table is a mistake, as the current squad we have most certainly isn’t lacking to the point where we are fighting relegation from the Championship.

Of course, change in football has a lot more implications than the blind eye would first make out. Every decision made, from the appointment of a manager to the price of a pie in the concourse, affects the running of a club. There’s little doubt that Trillion Trophy Asia (TTA) bought Birmingham City with the intention of selling on for a profit. Paul Suen, one of the main men behind TTA, is synonymous with buying companies with financial issues, restructuring them, and selling them for a nice payday. As noted by Daniel Ivery of Often Partisan, the stock price of BIH has taken a slight downturn.

BIH Stock

As you can see, the stock price was sitting fairly steadily between HK$0.480 and HK$0.500 between January and February. However, in the middle of March, the graph drops quicker than Blues’ position in the league table. So obviously, things aren’t going quite so well on that front. TTA want to sell on at some point from 2018, when they are legally allowed to do so, but you feel something will need to change in order for Mr. Suen to add some revenue into his retirement fund.

Of course, finances and stock prices are completely out of the control of the Blues fans. Our club has been in dire straits since relegation from the Premier League in 2011, but TTA give us that sense of relief with the promise of money and signings, which they duly delivered on in the January transfer window. The focus of all football fans is on the results that happen on the pitch. 2 wins and 7 draws in 22 games under Zola is equal to gaining approximately 27 points across a season, 17 points less than the 2013/14 season where we survived with one of the last kicks of the season. Bottom of the table form, to put it simply.

We never have been, and hopefully never will be, a “sacking club”. Teams such as QPR and Leeds went through managers like there was no tomorrow, which inevitably proved that knee-jerk reactions and chopping and changing simply doesn’t work in the short run. However, sometimes a line needs to be drawn. Our form under Zola would make sense say, we had a Rotherham-esque squad and we were in the relegation zone before he took over. But we don’t and we weren’t. Something needs to change, and I believe this has to be managerial. Many of the reasons behind why I think this, you can find on my previous blog post back in February, in which I talked about Zola and weighed up different arguments to his management.

In reality, the fans who are expecting Zola to go before the end of this season are likely to be disappointed. With 5 games to go, I can’t see him being sacked or resigning at all. The off-season will probably be a busy one. Gianfranco is a man of pride, and will likely weigh up his options and decide if he can actually do the job next season he was put in place to do. If he personally feels he is out of his depth, he may walk away from St. Andrews. The board will have a decision to make, and may even opt to give Zola the start of a fresh new season to prove himself to them, as Panos particularly remains in support of the Italian.

It is a shame to see Zola failing, though. One of the nicest blokes in football, and an absolute legend on the pitch, with the feet of a wizard. You can’t doubt his passion for success and his care for Blues; but unfortunately for him, the fans, and the club, it hasn’t worked out and it’s time to move on and find a successor. The new board need to recognise their mistakes, and change them for the better. Do we really trust the owners to appoint the right manager should Zola depart? The Daily Mail are reporting that Slovan Bratislava manager Ivan Vukomanovic could be the next man at Blues, should they decide to move on from Zola.

Admit the mistakes. Make a change and rectify the mistakes. Don’t repeat the same mistakes, and more importantly, listen to the fans.

Keep Right On.

Zola: the questionable appointment that has divided Birmingham City

zola

Copyright: Getty Images

 

Birmingham City have never been a club renowned for frequently sacking their manager. The sacking of Lee Clark back in 2014 was the first manager we had sacked since I started following the club in the late 1990’s – all other managers in between this time had left of their own accord or had been snapped up by a more attractive club. The major roots of the loyalty with our managers is down to the fans, as despite the troubled times of recent years, they have always stuck by the team and backroom staff. However; after two months in charge, and just one win to show for it, Gianfranco Zola is beginning to lose even the most loyal of Blues fans. 

We could sit here all day and complain, as many people on Twitter still do, about the sacking of the fan favourite Gary Rowett and the controversy which surrounded it, but we won’t. The matter-of-fact is, the board sacked him due to him failing to show full commitment to the club alongside a few disappointing results, including a dismal 3-0 defeat at home to Barnsley. Trillion Trophy Asia (TTA), who completed the takeover of the club in October, were clearly not going to be pushed over by an uncommitted manager who could’ve jumped ship mid-transfer window, which would have limited the clubs ability to sign players. Zola was then appointed within 24 hours, with the majority of the contemporary focus going towards the upcoming transfer window.

Gianfranco’s previous managerial record wasn’t outstanding to say the least, but there was no doubt in his ability to produce flare,  football of which we have rarely, if ever, seen down St. Andrews. Take a look at Watford’s 2012/13 season which Zola managed – they did the double over us, scoring 6 and conceding 0 in the process, and demolished Leeds 6-1 in their own backyard. Watford were the top scoring club that season, with an impressive 85 goals coming across the 46 games. The main criticism of that season, of course, was the inability to gain promotion with their loss in the play-off final to Crystal Palace. There is something interesting to take from looking at this season from Watford. After 13 games, they were actually struggling in 16th place, just a mere 4 points above the relegation zone. You can make of that what you will. Either way, the proof of some form of success in the Championship, along with being a big name in himself, was enough to lure TTA and Panos Pavlakis into securing the Italian.

So, 14 games into Zola’s reign, and we find ourselves with just 1 win and coming off a 4-1 home thrashing at the hands of fellow strugglers QPR. Questions are being asked in recent games about Zola’s team selections, with formations chopping and changing maybe once too often. It appears Gianfranco is still trying to find the right balance with the team, especially with the new additions in January. The changes makes sense though, and criticism on this front seems uncalled for. In the game against QPR, we started off in a sort of 3-4-3 / 3-5-2 formation, which looked odd on paper, however this formation was the one that was switched to in the 2nd half against Preston, one which we were in control of. Prior to this, Zola adopted the formations used frequently by Rowett and attempted to fit these formations in to his style of play. Again, this is something which would be harsh to criticise, as he attempted to keep the players comfortable in a tried system, with an addition of his own touch.

However, there are some things which have deservedly come under fire from the Blues fans of late. The once-solid centre back pairing of Morrison and Shotton seem to have crumbled since his appointment. It seems neither are used to the “play from the back” style of play Zola loves to push onto his players, and prefer it the old-fashioned way. As much as Gianfranco wants to play his own way, he must let Morrison and Shotton play the way they’re most comfortable with. Another deserved criticism towards Zola would be his team selections. For the QPR game, the formation made sense with Nsue and Keita bombing forward as wing-backs and looking fragile in defence, but an inexperienced Dacres-Cogley playing a sort of centre back role? Strange. He seems to struggle to find the best midfielders and wingers in the team as well. Our defence is poor, without doubt, but our inability to control the play in the middle is definitely  contributing to our downfall. Saying that though, we don’t exactly have midfielders who are blessed with this ability. Gleeson and Tesche are better off in holding roles, but have been below average all season. Davis and Gardner are more “get stuck-in” box-to-box midfielders, and sometimes don’t seem too comfortable on the ball, but can definitely produce game changing moments. Kieftenbeld definitely has the ability to control the play, but as the others, has been performing below standard. Frei and Adams are the two bright sparks in the team recently, however both seem to be stuck in-between the starting XI and the bench.

As much as a lot of people are looking to make Zola their scapegoat, maybe they should turn their attention more to the players and their performances. There is no question about their passion for the club – just look at Jutkiewicz’s winner against Fulham and the celebrations that followed. However, they are letting Zola down just as much as they are letting the fans down. Nsue brought much excitement with the announcement of his signing, but defensively he has looked about as useful as Callum Reilly did playing at RB in the Lee Clark days. Keita has looked extremely promising, and is someone I can see being snapped up by a Premier League club within the next few years. Again, defensively just looks too fragile in an area that is letting us down. Grounds, he tries his hardest in all honesty, especially adapting to the CB role in recent games, but makes the one too many mistakes which often prove costly. Every one of the midfielders are under-performing, some more than others. Jutkiewicz’s goal record possibly means less criticism is coming towards the forwards, however the amount of spurned chances we see per game is concerning.

To put it simply, we haven’t been good enough in any department. This ranges from the players, to the management, to the board and Panos Pavlakis. Defensively we are fragile. In the middle, we’re struggling to control the game. Upfront, we’re missing a handful of chances every game. Zola has a lot to answer for and the next few games could decide his future with the club, if there is one. In his most recent post-match press conference, Zola has stated we’re “working every week on the same problems but not eradicating them”. If we’re working on things in training and they’re not coming into fruition in games, management has to be questioned. Imagine how much things would be different now if we held onto that 1-0 lead against Brighton in his first game in charge? This has been the running theme as well, we certainly have looked decent in some games where we have been unlucky to not come away with the 3 points. 1 win in 14 isn’t a fair reflection in my opinion, but we certainly haven’t been THAT much better than what the form table shows.

Zola out? Not just yet, however it isn’t half close. The 4-1 defeat to QPR was inexcusable, however some of the Blues fans chanting “you’re getting sacked in the morning” and what-not to Zola need to pull their heads out of their backsides and realise that does absolutely no favours to anyone apart from their own self-centred egos. There’s nothing wrong with making your voice heard when you’re disappointed in the results, in fact I encourage being vocal so the team knows how displeased we are, but think again when you want to chant stuff like that towards your own manager. The next few weeks are going to be crucial going forward, with or without Zola, but we should count ourselves lucky we aren’t *yet* in relegation panic mode. We should look ahead to getting this useless season out of the way, and focus on the possibility of promotion next season, as we definitely have the potential to do just that.

Up the Blues, and Keep Right On.

My anxiety: 4 years on

2012: The year I turned 16 and left secondary school.

2012: The year I realised my ambition in life was to become a journalist.

2012: The year the Mayan Calendar ended and everybody thought the world would erupt into a ball of flames and explode. Oh, how we wish that prophecy was true now we’re less than a week away from either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump becoming President.

2012: The year I discovered something that still affects me every day, that I suffer from anxiety.

I have never spoken publicly about anxiety and what it is to me, so I guess the fact that I’m even writing this (I hope) can be seen as a step in the right direction. Only close friends of mine are aware of my anxiety, and even then it took me 2 years to tell someone for the first time. Anxiety itself prevents you from telling anybody you have anxiety. What if they don’t believe me?  What if they start to judge me and see me only as my anxiety, rather than the person I am? Will they start treating me differently? Fortunately for me, the people I have told have been incredibly supportive and without them, I don’t think I’d be writing this blog post right now.

The purpose of me writing this post isn’t to entice sympathy or attention, but to discuss on an open platform what I currently experience, and hope that this could influence someone else in a similar position to mine to find their hidden strengths to fight anxiety. It isn’t easy, at all. The common phrase I hear is “just talk to someone [usually a doctor] about it, it really helps”, which in fairness is true, but if only it was that easy. For myself, this is initially flawed as my GP requires bookings to be made via telephone, and the social aspect of my anxiety means I am absolutely terrified of making phone calls, which isn’t exactly helpful considering I’m studying journalism.

The topic of being a student brings me on to possibly the biggest event of my life which occurred due to anxiety. I started studying Sports Journalism at the University of Bedfordshire in September 2014. It wasn’t exactly my first choice university, but nevertheless I was pleased to be going off to study the course I wanted. When the time came to move and I finished unpacking my room, I sat down and thought to myself “now what?”. I dropped out of university a month later. I couldn’t bring myself to go out during Freshers’ Week. I didn’t know anyone and the thought of having to go up to complete strangers and talk to them was daunting. When the induction started, I enjoyed the sound of the course and what was approaching this semester, however I didn’t exactly talk to anyone during this time. To me, it felt like everyone already knew each other and were getting along so well and I was just an intruder in their circle. There were quite a few reason aside from anxiety why I decided to drop out, however anxiety was the prominent reason behind it. On a positive note, I re-applied to university in 2016 and was accepted into my first choice university. Currently, I’m in my second month here and despite still being affected daily, I’m pushing on and plan to stay on for the three years and finish with a first (optimistic, I know!)

I discovered I suffered from anxiety rather unintentionally back in 2012. At the age of 16, I was rather ignorant to mental health. I never looked it up on the internet to research it. We were never taught about it at school, only the odd poster knocking about saying how pupils could talk to their tutors about “anything”. I think it’s imperative we teach school children about mental health, however that’s another topic that could be dwelled upon.

Anyway, I knew for quite a while beforehand that I wasn’t fond of speaking on the telephone. When the house phone would ring, I’d be the last person to answer, even if I was the nearest. In 2012, I was preparing to move from my school to a sixth form college as my school taught IB and BTEC, but I wanted to study A Levels. To get into the college, I had to phone up and book an interview. There was my problem. I knew there was an interview to get in, and that scared the absolute life out of me, but to even get to that stage I had to face a task which felt like was the equivalent of climbing Everest. This is where I realised something was up, that it wasn’t right for someone to be living in absolute fear of something which many deem as a simple and everyday task. This is where I realised I had anxiety.

Four years on from this realisation, I’m sat here typing up this blog in my student halls, still with anxiety which more than likely has worsened over the years. Sleep is getting shorter and shorter – I’m lucky if I can manage 6 hours, but even then I’d be waking up numerous times throughout the night. Everyday situations fill me with dread – going to a lecture, going to the shop, not going out with friends/leaving them early due to being overwhelmed by anxiety. Heart palpitations appear more frequently. Often, I’d notice for no apparent reason my hands would be shaking or my knees would be trembling. In a scenario that occurred just last night, I found myself unable to control my breathing. Don’t even get me started on having to interview people for my course, bloody heck.

Despite all this, I find myself considerably happier than I was back in 2012. Put into perspective, I’m doing things I’ve always wanted to do. I spend every day surrounded by groups of friends. I’m meeting people I hadn’t seen for some time, and also people I’ve spoke to for years via Twitter I’m finally getting to meet. I’m going to gigs I’ve missed out on previously due to anxiety – I was anxious as hell for Jamie T a few weeks ago, but I thought “fuck it”, and it turns out to be one of the highlights of the year. I’m on the road to the career I dream of, slowly but surely. I even had a bloody conversation with Karl Pilkington the other week.

I guess the moral of this is, anxiety can get worse, but you can always become happier. Anxiety can and will always knock you back, but there are times where you will persevere and overcome it, completely smashing it out the park. So if anxiety ever knocks you down, don’t see it as a step backwards, but as a step closer to that one time where you’ll defeat it, on your way to destroying anxiety for good.

 

 

 

#repealthe8th: Why Ireland’s abortion laws belong in the past

Abortion – one of the most discussed and defining issues of modern times in Ireland. As per the Eighth Amendment, “the State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.” In simpler terms, the Eighth Amendment acknowledges abortion in Ireland as being illegal and therefore a criminal offence. Abortion, however, has been a criminal offence in Ireland since the 1800’s under the “Offences Against the Person Act 1861”, but a referendum was held in 1983 to induce a change to the constitution. On the contrary, in 2013, it was decided that abortion can be legally performed in Ireland if the pregnancy endangers the woman’s life, including through the risk of suicide.

Speaking from a personal point of view, the fact that it’s 2016 and a modern day country in the western world still illegalises abortion is preposterous. The amendment denies all pregnant women in Ireland access to basic healthcare which should be a right, and instead forces almost 3,500 girls and women in Ireland to travel to the UK to access abortion services. Alongside the emotional affects a pregnancy and the subsequent decision to go through with an abortion has, a pregnant woman in Ireland will therefore have the additional stress of money, accommodation and travel. This brings me onto one of the most controversial and widely discussed cases in Ireland.

Abortion Protest.jpg

“If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament” a pro-choice demonstration in Ireland, 1992.

 

In late 1991, a 14-year-old girl is raped by a man who was later discovered to have been sexually abusing her since the age of 12. The female victim, who was known in the media as “Miss X”, consequently became pregnant from this sexual assault. Due the illegality of abortion in Ireland, the victim and her parents planned to travel to the UK in order for an abortion to occur.

As the victim and her family were also taking action against the rapist, they enquired to the Attorney General whether DNA could be taken from the unborn child to prove to the courts that the rapist was indeed the father. However, as they arrived in London for the abortion, the Attorney General actually obtained an injunction preventing them leaving the country and therefore the abortion. During the injunction trial, the victim made her mother aware of how she constantly contemplated seriously injuring herself or committing suicide in order to end her turmoil. Despite this, the judge ordered that the victim must not leave Ireland for a period of 9 months, completely disregarding her emotional state.

Of course, an appeal was made to the Supreme Court in the hope they would overrule the judge’s decision. Fortunately, after weeks of stress and pain, the Supreme Court found in favour of the victim and she was allowed to travel to London for an abortion. However, it was understood that the girl suffered a miscarriage at a hospital before undergoing abortion procedures.

This is just one of thousands of cases that still occur today. Despite the constant instances where women’s care and basic human rights have been neglected, the Eighth Amendment continues to inflict emotional distress on women in Ireland. A March 2016 poll carried out by Red C and Amnesty International concluded that 72% of people want abortion decriminalised, alongside a massive 87% who want access to abortion expanded. Support is growing, however pressure needs to be put onto the Irish government to at least propose another referendum on the issue for the sake of thousands of women a year. Pro-choice does not mean anti-life.

Before I finalise this post, I’d like to avert attention towards campaigns set up in support of repealing the Eighth Amendment. RepealEight is a coalition of 60+ organisations who fight to raise awareness for how urgent it is to repeal this amendment. You can find them on www.repealeight.ie or @repealeight. You could also donate to their cause or subscribe to their mailing list. There is also a growing artists’ campaign to repeal the eighth amendment, which has gathered almost 3,000 signatures from artists so far, and their website is www.artistsrepealthe8th.com.

I’m aware that the majority of people who have read my posts so far don’t reside in Ireland, and therefore this post may be their first instance of hearing about this amendment. If you are one of these people, I urge you to research more into this as I have and make even more people aware. Just because it isn’t happening to you, or even near you, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening elsewhere. Women should not be told what they can and cannot do with their bodies. The Eighth Amendment needs to go, and quickly. Thank you for reading and please spread the word. #repealthe8th

 

Equality: Women’s Tour de Yorkshire

Yesterday (23rd March 2016), news broke that the winner of the Women’s Tour de Yorkshire will be receiving more prize money than the winner of the Men’s Tour de Yorkshire. The winner will receive £15,000, in comparison to the £1,000 prize money that the winner of the 2015 competition received.

Cue the typical outrage by the white male misogynist:

 

 

“Sexism! Where’s the equality? Disgusting!” shouts the male who never cares about ‘equality’, unless something benefits females more than males. I had a quick look through the Twitter profiles of some of the people replying to the news such as above, unsurprisingly I don’t see any of them who are equally disgusted at the unacceptable unequal pay in Tennis, which has been all over the news of late. These same people who are calling for ‘equality’ as above, are definitely the same type who think women aren’t allowed to watch sports and should spend their time ‘making sandwiches’, or whatever. Do these people who are angry at the women’s prize money really care about gender inequality? No, they don’t.

The fact of the matter is, even with this increase of prize money, women cyclists are predominantly paid less than their male counterparts. In men’s cycling, there is an imposed minimum wage of approximately £25,000, which is great as this prevents the major cycling teams underpaying their lesser known male cyclists, who’s main job is to support the better known cyclist who has a greater chance of winning. However in women’s cycling, there is no minimum wage. Many female athletes just consider professional cycling as a hobby, including 10-time world champion Marianne Vos who’s Twitter bio is “Fulltime-hobby-cyclist”, who also said:

I just knew I loved the sport and I didn’t care so much about the money. As I’m getting older I realize that, given the finite amount of time you can do this, it’s not sustainable.

Now let’s look at prize money for other major races in which both males and females compete in. The next major one-day race is the Tour of Flanders, in which the prize money will be a decent £15,600 for the lucky male winner. What’s the prize money for the winner of the Women’s Tour of Flanders? An absolutely massive £957. Arguably the biggest cycling event is the Tour de France, in which the male winner claims approximately £355,000 in prize money, lucky bloke. There isn’t even a women’s Tour de France, I guess women just can’t compete with the superhuman strength of these strong superior male athletes!!!! Why is the Tour de France a male-only event anyway? The President of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the world governing body for cycling, Brian Cookson even said “women aren’t physically capable of completing 21 stages.” Yeah, alright mate.

If you’re sitting there reading this and are thinking “hang on, I’m a misogynistic creep”, you’re probably asking questions such as “you’re an idiot, how can they pay women more than they currently do when they don’t create as much revenue as men?” or “shut up feminazi, how can women earn the same as men when they are physically weaker and compete in less races?” Well, meninist, good questions. Why can’t women’s events be televised just as much as men’s events? Sure, the audience may be lower, but there is an obvious demand for more women’s sport being televised, not just cycling. Why can’t women’s sports be advertised more, even if they aren’t televised? Money generated through actual fans turning up could also help in increasing wages. Look, I’m not saying women’s footballers should be earning Wayne Rooney-esque £300,000 per week, but the gap between how much men are earning in sport compared to the amount women are earning needs to be narrowed down.

However, I must take this opportunity to praise the women themselves in sport. From the scrutiny, the massive pay gap, the physical demand, women in sport need to be appreciated for their dedication to doing something they love which hasn’t many of the benefits their male counterparts enjoy. I hope that doesn’t come across as being patronising, but women aren’t praised enough for their contribution to sport.

So, to all those shouting stupid stuff at the prize money being higher for women than men for one cycling event, please take into account the hundreds of other factors and how this is just one step closer to achieving the equality you’re so busy shouting for/at (obviously dependent on which suits the male more!!). From my own point of view, anything that attempts to close the gender pay gap and improves gender equality gets a thumbs up from me, but a lot more needs to be done in cycling, sport, and employment overall across the globe. Also, big up Asda who are sponsoring the Tour de Yorkshire and are the sole reason behind the prize money being more lucrative for female cyclists.

If you want to rant at me because of how much you hate this article, or maybe even offer some praise/feedback, you can find me on some social media websites, which you’ll be able to access on the left hand side. Equally, you could leave a comment.

 

 

 

 

 

Five moments that changed cricket forever

This Friday (27th November 2015), all cricketing eyes will turn to Adelaide as the first ever day/night test will be contested between Australia and New Zealand. The idea of this dramatic change in cricket, with a pink cricket ball being used rather than the standard red, came about from the International Cricket Council (ICC) in response to a decline in test match attendances across the globe. The belief is that day/night test cricket will be more convenient to supporters, with the majority of the days play occurring after traditional working hours. As this could possibly change test match cricket forever, I decided to review five moments that changed cricket forever.

1. World Series Cricket and Kerry Packer

Controversies of World Series Cricket still live on today, as only this week did Cricket Australia announce it would formally recognise the competition and its records. In 1977, Kerry Packer formed a breakaway cricket competition known as World Series Cricket (WSC). This was in response to Cricket Australia refusing his offers to broadcast Australia’s test matches on Packer-owned Channel Nine, who wanted to remain loyal to current broadcasters ABC. Another factor which contributed to the formation of WSC was the popular view that international cricketers were not paid enough to make a living solely from cricket.

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The media were seething with fury at the formation of World Series Cricket.

With the establishment and the media furious at this newly formed breakaway competition, and their inability to ban it completely, WSC had restrictions forced upon it from the start. Describing the five day international games as test matches? Barred. Packer renamed them “Supertests”. Naming the sides from the nation the players were born in? Barred. Packer renamed Australia as “WSC Australia XI”, West Indies as “WSC West Indies XI” and the rest of the world as “WSC World XI”.

So, how did WSC change cricket, I hear you say? Quite predominantly. Ever since, cricketers are full-time professionals and, as far as test playing nations are concerned, are very well paid. Night matches, which were introduced in WSC, are now very common and as stated at the start of this article, are now being introduced into test cricket. Coloured kits rather than the traditional whites, helmets, white cricket balls, floodlights, marketing and drop-in pitches, all were a product of World Series Cricket.

2. The birth of The Ashes

The Oval, 1882. England had just succumbed to their first loss on home soil against Australia. Silence rippled around the ground as the English supporters were astonished as to what they had just witnessed. British newspaper “The Sporting Times” composed a satirical article exclaiming that English cricket had died and that “the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.” A follow up series between England and Australia in the same year, this time in Australia, was scheduled to be played. Leading up to and during the series, England captain Ivo Bligh continuously mentioned the ashes and specifically promised that England would “recover those ashes”.

As the term was never made the official name of the meeting between England and Australia in test matches, “the ashes” disappeared from the public eye following the series. However, The Ashes as we know it now was truly revitalised in 1903, when England captain Pelham Warner returned victorious from Australia and published a book named “How We Recovered the Ashes”.

The official ashes urn is believed to contain a burnt cricket bail, which was presented as a personal gift to Bligh following a victory in Australia. The urn remained at Bligh’s residence until his death in 1927, in which his wife Florence presented the urn to Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), where it has remained ever since. Despite Australia winning The Ashes 32 times, the official urn has only travelled to Australia twice. Due to the victorious team only being presented with a replica, a large crystal Ashes trophy has also been presented as of 1998. Ever since, the rivalry between England and Australia has always been a fierce battle, and is arguably the foundation for the success of test cricket.

3. The introduction of Twenty20 Cricket

 

The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act came into effect in the United Kingdom at the fall of 2002. Why am I telling you this? This act coming into force practically ended the 50 over Benson & Hedges Cup which had been running since 1972. The ECB needed another competition to fill its place, and from here onwards, Twenty20 (T20) cricket was born. A game of cricket completed in approximately three hours? The ECB were confident this would attract more people to enjoy the sport of cricket. The first ball to be bowled in a T20 match came at Chester-Le-Street on June 13th 2003, bowled by Neil Kileen. A relatively unknown Kevin Pietersen also featured in the game, scoring 25 off 16 balls.

“When T20 started, everyone took it quite lightly as a bit of fun, whereas over the years it’s become a very big event and there’s a lot of prize money at stake now,” – Yorkshire director of cricket, Martyn Moxon.

In 2008, franchise cricket had arrived in format of T20, which we know as the Indian Premier League (IPL). More and more T20 leagues have come about ever since, such as the Australian Big Bash and the Caribbean Premier League, with pressure on the ECB to introduce franchise T20 cricket to England.  The economics of the game has completely changed since. There’s now a price on everything; players are even auctioned off to owners of all of the IPL teams.The figures from sponsorships is a great amount; in 2013, PepsiCo bought the sponsorship rights for the IPL at a staggering £44 million. In 2010, the IPL was valued at $4.13 billion. In my personal opinion writing this, the incentive to play cricket nowadays is humongous. However, with the primary economic focus being on T20 cricket, youngsters coming into the sport will only center their skills based on the format, such as big hitting and slower balls.

There are positives and negatives to weigh up in terms of T20 cricket. In England, T20 cricket is basically what is keeping the sport alive in terms of finances. Released this week were attendance figures across England, which included record figures such as 513,000 people attending County Championship matches. Despite this, domestic cricket in England would struggle without T20 cricket and solely relying on sponsorship deals. Ultimately, T20 cricket has indeed increased interest in cricket, as the ECB intended back in 2003. Chris Gayle is a prominent player for West Indies, as shown by his explosive record in all formats. However, he rarely plays test cricket for West Indies, prioritising the IPL and other T20 leagues.

4. Bodyline 1932/33

As stated earlier in the birth of The Ashes, the rivalry between England and Australia is a fierce one. Bodyline changed the whole course of relations between England and Australia to the rivalry we see today. Bodyline was a tactic devised by England to combat Australia’s exceptional batting, which included the great Sir Donald Bradman. The plan was simple, set a majority leg side field, bowl short balls towards the body of the batsman in hope of a deflection off the bat hence creating a catching opportunity. At the time, this tactic was considered intimidating and going against the traditional idea of sportsmanship.

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England fast bowler Harlow Larwood strikes Australian batsman Bert Oldfield during The Ashes tour of 1932/33.

Back in 1932, protective gear was limited. They had no helmets, no thigh pads, no chest guards, no arm guards and shoddy pads and gloves, with the cricket ball remaining as hard and lethal as ever. In the picture shown above, Bert Oldfield’s skull was fractured after being struck on the temple, further increasing the tension between the sides. The controversy peaked in the third test when Bill Woodfull was struck in the chest in front of 50,000 Australians. The crowd began jeering and became verbally abusive of the English players, as they feared that a batsman could possibly be killed, a riot only avoided by police presence. As a direct consequence of this series, the MCC passed a law stating that bodyline bowling breached the spirit of cricket. Further laws have been created over the years due to the bodyline series, such as the amount of leg side fields being restricted and restricting the amount of short balls being bowled in an over. These laws live on today, and in a poll of cricket journalists, commentators, and players in 2004, the bodyline tour was ranked the most important event in cricket history.

5. South African match fixing

In 2000, Hansie Cronje led his South African team a tour of India. On April 7th of that year, Delhi police formally charged Cronje with fixing ODI’s in March for money. At the time these charges were made public, the South African board, players and media supported Cronje’s plea of innocence. However, four days later, the board sacked Cronje as he revealed to them he wasn’t being entirely honest.

Cronje’s fate was effectively sealed on June 8th, when fellow player Herschelle Gibbs publicly confessed he had accepted an offer from Cronje to perform poorly in return for $15,000. This confession led to a chain reaction of further confessions. Henry Williams, Pieter Strydom, Mark Boucher, Lance Klusener and Jacques Kallis all testified that Cronje approached them and offered money to fix a match. Gibbs and Williams were banned for six months, the rest acquitted. Cronje was banned for life by the South African cricket board. On June 1st 2002, Cronje was killed in a plane crash which after an inquest, revealed the cause of death was pilot negligence. It remains unknown to this day whether Cronje was murdered or not, with conspiracies flying around that a betting syndicate was behind his death.

This incident opened up a major door in cricket. Despite cricketers’ salaries increasing constantly, corruption in cricket remains a big issue which needs to be combated. Since 2000, allegations of match fixing and now spot fixing, are being thrown about. The ICC, cricket boards, players, supporters and the contemporary media acknowledge that still today, bookmakers and syndicates are active in their attempts to fix the sport of cricket.