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Grateful thanks

It has been many a month while my occasional lurch into print was frustrated by a "'dead" blog. This is a thank you to daughter Genevieve who made me a present of my own website in the first place: to Pino Agnello who had much to do with the original design but also gave of his time on many occasions to deal with blips in the system. They with others have taken to heart my concerns at losing this emotional outlet - and, after much coming and going have finally re-established a link between what I choose to write and the modest number of readers who have the measure of curiosity to follow my trains of thought. To all concerned, I offer my sincere thanks and look forward to the next moment when elements of the sporting life allow me to indulge myself with personal observations of a greater or lesser importance.

Complaint to MCC Magazine

Complaint by Edward Dexter re Article Headed : “PLAYING FOR STAKES” Neil Robinson. MCC magazine.

1: …… during an “idle” tour free winter spent in the offices of a city insurance broker who had evidently employed the famous cricketer more for the glamour of the association than with any idea of giving him anything to do…

The word “idle” is pejorative.

The “insurance broker” was not an individual. C E Heath was a major player in the insurance world and did not engage staff on a whim. My father was an insurance man of standing, also my brother John and I wished to emulate them.

“famous cricketer” – I was by no means famous in the spring of 1959 after an unsuccessful tour of Australia.

“more for the glamour of the association than with any idea of giving him something to do” – I worked on an equal basis with a small intake of “apprentices”. I took and passed Part 1 of the Insurance Examinations.
So little did my “glamour” impress that I was called to the Chairman's office in the Autumn of 1962 and given an ultimatum. No more cricket or you must leave. I had just been appointed Captain for the 62/63 Tour of Australia. I left.

The remainder of the paragraph about betting seems to have been lifted straight from The biography “Dexter the Enigma” – Alan Lee. It was unauthorized and I had not a single conversation with Alan Lee in the writing of the book. Alan Lee was a sports writer for “The Sun” at the time.

2: … “ Dexter took to travelling the country with a portable (TV) set”.
In the early 60's, I doubt there was such a piece of technology. I have no recollection of this. I did travel with a tiny portable screen in later years when I was broadcasting. On one occasion, the commentary monitors went blank and my mini picture had its finest hour.

3: … “Botham, Compton Dexter – for them the game was not a technical challenge or a test of concentration”. Anyone who knows my character, let alone seen me practise for hours on end will know this to be rubbish. How did I come to wager that Alan Davidson would not get me out more than once in the 62/63 series, if I was anything but confident of my technique. Also see Ossie Wheatley's comments on my undergraduate cricket development at Cambridge. “Dexter, the enigma”

I was also dismayed to read a supposed connection between Denis Compton's modest educational opportunities and his liking for a bet. What presumption and what hubris. Recently there was an obituary of the late Michael Melluish which stated that his National Service home posting arose mainly from his skill as a wicket-keeper. A similar off the cuff put down. I wrote in protest to the Editor without effect.

This kind of feckless, irresponsible writing belongs in the tabloid world and reflects badly on journalism as a whole. To find an MCC publication blithely repeating a series of half truths and ill-researched assumptions is simply shocking.

Reference 1,2 and 3 above, I seek a an apology in the next MCC magazine alongside my written statement above. A token contribution to the MCC Foundation would also be acceptable.

UNFAIR PLAY at Headingley

UNFAIR PLAY at Headingley.

When James Anderson lost his wicket fending off the umpteenth bouncer at Headingley, it was the clear duty of the umpire to call "no ball". Law 46 - Fair and Unfair Play (short pitched bowling) insists that the umpire acts under two separate threads of the Playing conditions. 1. Only two bouncers per over - the ball in question was the third or fourth. And 2. Repeated short pitchers which by their line and height are likely to inflict injury - Anderson had already taken a considerable blow on his bowling hand.

On the second count there is reinforcement of the instruction to umpires. They shall NOT take into account protective clothing. They SHALL take into account the relative skill of the batsman. Anderson bats at number 11 because his skill level against a "bodyline" assault is modest.

What part of the word "unfair" do these "world class"? umpires not understand? Though I picked out the last ball dismissal as an open and shut case for intervention, they had ample evidence to take action much earlier. On various occasions the fast bowlers went round the wicket with the sole intention of " bouncing" people out. "Repeated" Yes. "Length" Yes. "Direction" Yes. Prior was bounced out twice. Not something that should happen to a player of his skill but the ploy was unfair in the first place.

I do not begrudge Sri Lanka their first Series victory in England. The batting of their Captain Mathew was the outstanding individual performance of the match - although new boy Moyin's century for England was hardly far behind.
England's bowlers had a shocker on the fourth day and barely deserved to be let out of jail.

But to go back to Moyin. I am sure that I was not the only one to detect real style and composure on his previous appearances and credit to the selectors for pinning their faith in quality rather than quantity. The most telling feature for me is how narrow he looks in defence, meaning that he has retained his sideways position more than most of the moderns.

Being lazy by nature, I doubt I would have put two fingers to my IPad keys but for a separate concern about the conduct of the match. If comments after the fourth day by ex- Captain Jayawardene were accurately reported, when he brazenly voiced the intention to "give plenty" to England's less experienced batsmen i.e. Sledging, then I believe he should have been taken to task by the ICC referee for bringing the game into disrepute.
It is a pernicious development in our greatest of games and cuts right across the principles of the preamble to the Laws setting out in detail what is meant by " The Spirit of the Game". Sledging is shoddy, underhand, secretive and generally abusive. Not only to the recipient but the game itself.

The very thought of Gary Sobers, that Prince of Sportsmen, indulging in such sleazy tactics is ridiculous. Or Wesley Hall or Richie Benaud - all colossi of the game and revered down the generations. The sledgers of the modern game, however talented they may be with bat or ball, may do well to consider to what extent their legacy will be for ever tarnished by opening their mouths once too often.

Bubba Watson's Masters

I confess myself one of the doubters about Bubba Watson taking a second Masters. But when he got into contention, he was so compelling to watch that it was hard not to be wishing him into the winner's enclosure.

He mastered his emotions to speak clearly and concisely at the elegant little ceremony when the previous winner Adam Scott presented the famous Green Jacket. Engaging was the way he compared 2012 with 2014, feeling that he rather “lucked in” the first time but had to work very hard to achieve the second.

Unless a new generation of players learns to hit the ball as long and high and straight as he does off the tee, then there is little to stop him adding one or two more Green Jackets to his collection.

Fascinating to me were the action photos of his golf swing in the Daily Telegraph on the Tuesday after his success. I noted his TWO straight arms well into the backswing giving great width. Then there is the huge lift of his right foot at the top. The moderns tend to stay more flat footed but I remember Jack Nicklaus lifting his heel pretty high so there may be something to it.

The most eccentric part is that he never actually grounds his heel at any stage being on his toe at impact and then, not surprisingly swivelling the foot through the best part of 90 degrees at the finish.

This reminded me of Henry Cotton giving Gary Player, no less, a swing tip to beat the pull hook that beset his driving from time to time. On the practice ground Henry said “ hit a few without grounding your left heel”. The result was a series of dead straight shots flying twenty yards further than usual.

I read somewhere that some of Gary's best golf was played subsequently when he had the feeling, at least, that his left heel was in the air at impact.

All power to you, Bubba. I hope that your body stands up to the inevitable stresses and strains of your fabulous hitting and that you will have the chance to defend the Masters title in April 2015.

Meanwhile there was much made by commentators of the recent spate of successes of left hand golfers. arguing that, under pressure it is safer for them to fade the ball at the key right to left holes like the 10th and the 13th. What they failed to mention was that prior to the new breed of golf balls and the huge headed metal drivers. no left handed fader of the ball was ever going to be long enough. Any right-hander hitting long raking hooks was always at an advantage. It must be said however, that Bubba Watson did not bother with such niceties much of the time, hitting the ball so long and straight that he had no need to.

England Cricket in disarray

Nobody seems to be able to pinpoint the reason for England's cricketers suddenly hitting a brick wall. That they have lost confidence is easy to see but that may be a symptom rather than a cause.

It is a single image on TV which has given me a possible clue. It was a clip of Ashley Giles, freely touted as the next management supremo, tottering down some steps onto the field of play in some highly coloured romper suit carrying a hefty bag of unspecified kit. What on earth was he about to do? Can you imagine Arsen Wenger ever demeaning himself in such a tawdry way at Arsenal.

In general it seems to me that the great number of support staff, all being paid a handsome sum presumably, all feel that they have to be seen to be doing something cogent and impressive 24 hours a day. If that is so, then surely there are bound to be cases of management overload as experienced by the players.

Obviously the role of the Captain is hugely diminished, maybe necessarily given the amount of press interviews and related duties he is expected to perform. But someone else, not a whole army of people, needs to take up the slack. My feeling was that Andy Flower fulfilled that role well until even he, possibly, became just one of a crowd.

Chain of command needs to be clear and concise. I remember from National Service that the Colonel of the Regiment seldom, if ever, joined in with troop activity. He was probably a rather lonely man as a result. But his responsibility was absolute and he made damn sure that everyone below him knew exactly where they stood.

I recommend that whoever is selected to take responsibility for all our England teams maintains a healthy distance between himself and the lower ranks. I hope I never see again any ageing cricketer staggering about in practise sessions trying to prove what a jolly good sport he is.