There are three things that the British media of 2013 are seemingly obsessed with. Thankfully, the innocent game of cricket has so far been untouched by the first – the cold, steely hand of Operation Yewtree. This must be a relief to any commentator who was employed by the BBC in the 1970s (most of whom are dead, apart from one exception). Secondly, nor has any cricketer yet been caught twerking – although Jonathan Agnew’s attempt at the sprinkler came rather close. With these two newsworthy phenomena of the modern age definitely not-linkable to cricket, it calls on the third prong of the media’s news fork to be the subject of today’s article, namely trolling.
Writing about Shane Warne is one of our favourite things. It’s remarkably easy, hence why it’s up there with declarations of love to Rachel Riley, heartfelt defences of Devereux and pictures of Amjad Khan as one of our staple go-to articles on a slow news day when Editor Steve is brandishing a stanley knife whilst muttering about ‘website hits’, ‘retweets’ and ‘accusations of libel’. And we’re going to do it again (talk about Warnie that is, not hang around the Countdown studio fire escape with a box of matches and a camera).
The reason why we’re going to do it again is that Warne is omnipresent in the media ahead of this upcoming Ashes series and that the media in general, in an era of rolling 24 hour news, internet sites, social media and falling newspaper sales, must write about something. Anything. Therefore when a gobshite opens his mouth, the ensuing stream of of puke automatically gets regurgitated into the news (can puke be regurgitated? Please let us know via the comments section). Warne’s criticism of Cook’s captaincy has generally been met with derision, even though since the fifth Test at the Oval, the line between ‘winding-up’ and actual opinion has been eroded as far as Warne is concerned. For a while it was hard to know quite what Warne genuinely believed and what was a gentle piss-take. Now though, his ramblings have unequivocally been classified as trolling; purposely talking crap in order to generate anger, vitriol and reaction.
In Friday’s Daily Telegraph, Warne stated that if England are to become No. 1 in the world, then Kevin Pietersen or Graeme Swann should be the captain. That’s right: two men who might not be playing for England much beyond next summer. One of whom has: a) already done the job, briefly; b) at least once been the cause of significant dressing room upheaval; and c) can sometimes be regarded as selfish and arrogant; the other of whom has apparently demonstrated a good captain’s brain in his three whole T20 matches as skipper, whilst also being troubled by an elbow that is hardly conducive to a long career ahead of him.
However, Warne also finds space to praise Cook, albeit in spoonfuls rather than bucketloads:
“The other part is to create a good team environment and a happy dressing room, which is where Cook’s strengths lie at the moment. He has reintegrated Pietersen well, too.”
Perhaps – just perhaps – the fact that someone had to be “reintegrated” suggests that that person is not really made of captaincy material – especially when creating a good team environment and happy dressing room is part of the job.
The final point to note is that nobody knows whether England can get back to No. 1 in the Test rankings. But note we say “back to” – because they already got there once, and that was under the risk-taking, innovative, brave, prepared-to-lose-to-win, prematurely-declaring, attacking and proactive Andrew Strauss. Oh, hang on.
The final, final point to make is that under Alastair Cook’s captaincy, another England team – the ODI side – did manage to reach the top of the rankings, as meaningless as they actually are. That’s not quite the same as being the mace-holding kings of Test cricket, but further endorses Cook’s credentials. The final final final point is that under Cook, England have lost one Test match, along the way winning a series in India and winning the Ashes (however, we can’t remember what happened in New Zealand…). The thing is though, there could actually be a serious discussion about England’s approach to Test cricket – throughout 2013 their cricket has been far from perfect and definitely below the best of their ability. But no: hyperbole and trolling is the way to get people to read your website or buy your newspaper.
We know how the motto goes: don’t feed the trolls. We know the Telegraph is becoming awfully poor in its cricket reporting (mind you, they employ a cast that includes Scyld Berry, Derek Pringle, Michael Vaughan and Geoffrey Boycott, as well as Warne, so outspoken rubbish is not something that they are strangers to). We know it’s piss-easy to rip apart Warne’s confused and misguided rubbish. But come on Warnie, haven’t you got some manifestos to write? We decided to check his official website (complete with Alan Partridge-esque heraldic emblem) to see what else has been occupying him.
His website does thankfully contain his four part “Where is Australian Cricket at?” epic for all to see. But it also contains dozens of articles about 888poker, including 10 tips published in May that promised “for Lesson 11, be sure to come back next week and remember that improving your poker skills is a constant task, it is always a good idea to keep notes of your playing sessions so that you can track and analyze your game.” His dear readers are still waiting for that next lesson. Admittedly the website does contain news on his charitable foundation (nine articles – and a link to a very impressive sister website) and fitness tips (four articles), which is to be applauded (and not even we would mock charitable endeavours), but his poker articles total 27. And as far as we could see, not one carried a warning about the dangers of gambling, discussed responsible gambling or provided a link or reference to somewhere like Gamblers’ Anonymous.
So, we should be sorry. We should be sorry for rising to the bait, biting like a fish at an angler’s worm. We should be sorry for providing Warne’s website with more hits and we should be sorry for wasting our own time writing this diatribe about him. But when it’s as easy as shooting fish in a barrel with a massive fucking shotgun, we’re not sorry. We’re just disappointed when our heroes let us down. And that’s as applicable to Shane Warne as it is to Stuart Hall.