Cricket is a-changing as if to celebrate the New Year and you can see it with the arrival of the England one-day side for a five-match series against India.
Once again these matches will be played at high speed — five in 17 days — the sort of blink-and-you-miss-it rate that has become common in recent times. This summer and next autumn England plays back-to-back Ashes series and my guess is that there will soon be even more of these fly in, play and fly out events. You can be sure that the authorities have approved this system partly because it gives an advantage to the home side which swells the attendance, keeps the coffers full and cuts down on hotel and travel costs as there are not too many non-playing days.
As usual Duncan Fletcher will be the Indian coach but England has appointed Ashley Giles as a separate coach for the One-Day International matches, so that Andy Flower can have a moment or two to play with his children. A nice human touch but how long will it be — especially if England should win this series with style and panache — before other countries follow its example?
Not very long is my guess. Success in sport soon finds a whole army of imitators.
One fact I can guarantee. You will like Giles, a talkative, happy-go-lucky soul who, not all that long ago, acted as an on-field advisor to Michael Vaughan when he was England captain. Don’t be deceived by his affable nature. He gave Vaughan a lot of sensible advice and he has just guided Warwickshire to the first division championship. No fool, this one.
There will be more changes that will affect the game deeply as a result of the deaths of former England captain and TV commentator Tony Greig in Australia and Christopher Martin-Jenkins, the writer and radio commentator in England.
Greig’s death, at 66, was a tragedy for cricket. He was the great salesman, a larger than life personality who had the added gift that he could think clearly about cricket and he said what he thought without fear. Well, he was 6ft 7in.
He also embraced every nation. India loved him when he toured as captain and late in his career he cuddled up to Sri Lanka where he was equally popular. As much as anyone he pushed away the charge that South Africans still have a streak of apartheid deep in their souls.
Who takes his place? No doubt Channel Nine will find another talkative former Australian player to commentate just as in England the BBC will have plenty of volunteers for the seat left vacant by the man known universally as “CMJ”.
Will BBC go for another former player or will it make a conscious effort to find a broadcaster like CMJ, perhaps a journalist, to fill that place? I would like to think that it will promote a broadcaster — after all its football commentators are almost all from that discipline — so that there is a new man aspiring to the level that has not been reached since John Arlott retired and rian Johnston died. Cricket has thrived down all the years because poets, essayists and men of letters adorned the game with their words from Nyren in the 18th century, the jazz musician Benny Green and even the former Prime Minister John Major.
Oddly enough it might have been Giles, the thinking man’s cricketer who made a big impression when he retired and put in an occasional appearance on Test Match Special, the best of all the world’s cricket programmes. He preferred to try his hand at coaching and now it is easy to see why.