NORMAN GILLER’s had a good innings (73 not out, since you ask). He just wishes that the current Ashes series was played more in the proper spirit
It is with a sadness mixed and shaken with relief that I embark on what is likely to be my final year on this mortal coil. Before I go, I would like to wish a wonderful 2014 to the journalists with whom I have journeyed, and to my many new friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter. Hope you’ll miss me when I’ve gone.
My sadness is because – as I prepare to depart – the spirit of cricket is severely damaged, and my relief is that I can now lay down the burden of being a sports addict for longer than the Queen has been on the throne … even longer than Piers Morgan has been a prat.
I have it on the authority of my six-year-old grandson, Daniel Giller, that I am not much longer for this world.
We sat side by side during a family lunch on Boxing Day. First he studied my profile and said: “Granddad, you have a very long nose. You must have told lots and lots of lies.”
“I never lie,” I lied. “I am a journalist.”
He followed up with: “How old are you Granddad?”
“Guess,” I challenged.
“Uh, 87 …?”
“Not that old.”
“Try going in the middle.”
“A bit older. 73.”
A pause while he did his maths. “Wow, Granddad … you’re nearly dead.”
I almost died laughing.
It was a conversation that made me consider my mortality, and I wondered how much the stress of watching sport has knocked off my life expectancy.
For example, I have been living on Australian time since the first Test in Brisbane last month and have the cricket bags under my eyes to prove it. I have not been as much dismayed by our likely whitewash as the spirit in which the matches have been played.
There has been naked hatred between the Aussie and English players, and proof that the spirit has gone out of the game came at Perth where the England fielders failed to applaud a splendid century by the muscular Shane Watson.
That, as we used to say, is just not cricket. There has always been bitter rivalry between the two teams in Ashes Tests, but this time around it has been almost poisonous. The sledging has become insulting and threatening rather than the old-style banter
I used to share a lunch table regularly with my old Express colleagues Denis Compton and Keith Miller, who were sworn enemies on the pitch and hard-drinking pals off the field.
I asked Denis and Keith if there had been sledging in their day. “Not nasty stuff,” said Compo. “It was friendly banter. If I made a bad shot, Keith would say things like, ‘Told you that you shouldn’t have had that sixth glass of whisky’.”
Keith recalled a famous incident during the notorious Bodyline series in the 1930s: “England captain Douglas Jardine complained to Aussie skipper Bill Woodfull that one of his team had sworn at him. He turned to his players and said, ‘Ok, own up. Which of you bastards called this bastard a bastard?’”
But in their day you would never have seen a century by an opposing batsman go without the fielding team applauding. It’s part of the tradition of the Glorious Game.
Wonder how much applause our batsmen can generate in the final Test? I hope there is something worthwhile to keep me awake, or even alive.
PIERS MORGAN MAY BE one of the outstanding journalists and broadcasters of our time, but continually he exposes himself as a sporting clown online. Some of his Tweets suggest a severe case of narcissm from too much admiring himself in the Mirror. Most bizarre.
He has ignored my advice to take a low profile, and he became a laughing stock when leading the campaign among some Arsenal fans to get Arsene Wenger kicked out as the club’s manager. To put it into Fleet Street speak, Wenger has been the Arthur Christiansen of managers, a professor of the game who has earned the right to pick the timing of when to stand down. It made Gooner Morgan seem a right goon.
Piers, who along with most others was not in the Christiansen class as an editor, then showed he possibly has the early signs of dementia by agreeing to face a barrage of express deliveries from the retired but still fearsome Brett Lee.
If you had offered me a suit of armour, I would still have declined the invitation. But Piers proved he has lost all sense of reality by going through with it. Ok, he escaped serious injury but just one mistimed ball could have caused lasting damage.
Brave, Piers? No, more like foolish.
So, onward into my final year. I hope I am still around in the summer to see Steven Gerrard collecting the World Cup as England skipper in Brazil. I am sure they have the talent to do it.
Oops, another inch on my nose. Happy New Year.
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UPCOMING SJA EVENTS
Mon Mar 24: SJA British Sports Journalism Awards, Grand Connaught Rooms, London
Mon Apr 14: SJA Spring Golf Day: Croham Hurst GC, Surrey. Booking details to be announced