THE BLOG

Monkeys Humping Footballs: The ECB Has Gone Past Being Merely Ridiculous

16/10/2014 14:49 BST | Updated 16/12/2014 10:59 GMT

There is a good line in the film Days of Thunder in which Randy Quaid's character, a motor racing team owner, expresses his displeasure with his two principal drivers after they crash into one another during a race.

He tells his drivers that both he and his team, as a result of the incident, appeared not merely ridiculous, but instead: "looked like a monkey fucking a football."

This is a good description of the territory the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has lately moved into, its every action now seemingly steeped in tragicomic futility and bearing the unmistakable hallmark of imbecility.

For the dispassionate observer, it must be very funny indeed.

Let's start with the ECB-appointed team captain, Alastair Cook, who needs only to speak to demonstrate he is dull-witted and lacking in self-assurance.

You can see how, from a distance, a poor judge of character might mistake Cook for a leader. He looks the part. He is doe-eyed beneath glossy, luxuriant dark hair. He has a fine physique and his jawline is both strong and prominent.

In another time, he could have been a dashing World War One fighter pilot, or a matinee idol.

For the ex-public schoolboys that people the upper echelons of English cricket's governing body, Cook's appearance is clearly intoxicating, none more so than for ECB Chairman Giles Clarke, whose knees he makes weak.

That, of course, is what that weird stuff we heard in the summer was about. Remember? How "he [Cook] and his family" were "very much the sort of people we want the England captain and his family to be". A 61-year old man's strangulated attempt at articulating a crush, that's all. For Clarke, Cook is a hero, sired by heroes.

For many English cricket fans, particularly those fond of thinking, it is frustrating not to have a natural leader as captain of the national cricket team, not least because so many of the other cricketing nations have thought to put natural leaders in charge of theirs.

You need only compare Cook's television interviews to those of Australia's Michael Clarke, Sri Lanka's Angelo Matthews or India's Mahendra Singh Dhoni to see immediately the gulf in leadership ability and, frankly, intelligence.

Where Cook is quick to fall back on the clichés and management speak favoured by morons in every walk of life, other national team captains have the confidence to speak openly, considering questions and instinctively trusting their ability to answer by thinking for themselves.

They do not need to be told what to say.

You will not hear them speaking, for example, of the need to "take the positives", nor to "execute", nor to "put it in the right areas going forward".

They are unlikely to say, as Cook did after defeat by India this summer: "We just need to look at ourselves, try to upskill and improve. The potential is there, but we are just not delivering."

As a result, they do not sound like trained, corporate mouthpieces. Rather, they sound like what they are: measured, articulate men capable of inspiring others.

Despite the crushing weight of evidence over the last twelve months to support the assertion that Cook is a disastrous captain, Giles Clarke and co have never wavered in their support for him. He may be inept tactically, weak as a leader and struggling even to justify his place in the team, but he is handsome.

And while that lasts, he will remain captain.

But, to return briefly to the Days of Thunder analogy, if Cook is one of the ECB's principal racing drivers, then, of course, Kevin Pietersen is - was - the other.

There is little point going here into the batsman's backstory. The ECB has sacked him, despite his being arguably the best player ever to represent England, and by now even the hill tribes of the Brazilian rainforests must have heard about it.

What is wonderful, though, for fans of idiocy everywhere, has been the ECB's decision to remain completely silent in the face of increasingly loud calls for it to account for its decision.

Like the child who believes he becomes invisible when he closes his eyes, ECB heads Clarke, James Whittaker and Paul Downton seem to believe silence will eventually cancel out the public's desire for explanation.

If you can put aside your affront at the sheer arrogance of the strategy, it is possible instead to enjoy it as a piece of fantastically wrongheaded slapstick: highly paid men in suits ducking beneath windows and desperately gesturing to one another to keep schtum.

In fact, even their self-defeating flirtation with villainy - giving mendacious briefings to sycophantic journalists, leaking backfiring dodgy dossiers - is richly comic, in its way. Nothing seems to go to plan. Ever. Everything blows up in their faces.

No lesser authority on English cricket than Geoffrey Boycott recently pronounced the ECB had made itself a "laughing stock" in the eyes of the world. He was not wrong.

But rather than feeling aggrieved by the ECB's incompetence and disregard for the fools like you and me who pay extortionate prices for matchday tickets, perhaps the time has come instead to sit back and enjoy it for what it is: the most hilariously poorly run public institution in Britain.

Let them have their way with their footballs, if they must. Nothing will ever change. After all, it's only cricket.