Thursday, December 2News That Matters

Surely, the IPL show cannot go on after Chris Lynn’s jab revelation

It was, even by the standards of this year’s Indian Premier League, a jaw-dropping moment.

There on Tuesday was Aussie cricketer Chris Lynn, in the middle of a plea to his government to lay on a charter flight to get players out of the country at the end of this year’s tournament, revealing, matter-of-factly: ‘We get vaccinated this week.’

Excuse me? The fittest, most protected young men, currently playing cricket in a bio-secure environment are jumping the vaccine queue in a Covid-ravaged country where thousands are dying because of a shortage of medical resources, not least jabs? Surely not?

Chris Lynn's comments smacked of entitlement and a lack of awareness of the situation

Chris Lynn's comments smacked of entitlement and a lack of awareness of the situation

Chris Lynn’s comments smacked of entitlement and a lack of awareness of the situation

As it turned out the next phase of India’s vaccination policy, which will be available to over 18s from Saturday, will only extend to home players rather than those overseas cricketers who are seemingly growing increasingly wary of playing on while all around them suffer.

I understand the suggestion that the IPL can provide a distraction to India’s cricket-mad population in such troubling times. And I appreciate that we were all grateful to West Indies, Pakistan and Australia for coming to England last summer when Covid rates here were high.

But this just seems different. Lynn’s comments smacked of entitlement and a lack of awareness of the absurdity of the richest competition in cricket carrying on in a country where millions are being denied basic medical facilities that could save their lives.

Sport has played a huge part in helping so many of us cope with the last year. But it increasingly feels like it will be morally wrong if the IPL show just goes on and on. 

IPL stars are protected in a bio-secure environment as India is ravaged by a Covid crisis

IPL stars are protected in a bio-secure environment as India is ravaged by a Covid crisis

IPL stars are protected in a bio-secure environment as India is ravaged by a Covid crisis

Millions are being denied basic medical facilities in India that could save their lives

Millions are being denied basic medical facilities in India that could save their lives

Millions are being denied basic medical facilities in India that could save their lives

Counties are still a big hit 

English cricket may be obsessed with a ‘new’ audience and the ever-mystifying ECB decision to gamble the domestic game’s future on the Hundred, an unnecessary new format.

Yet at the start of a pivotal season for the game comes genuine satisfaction for cricket’s existing audience.

The County Championship is a format that would never be invented in today’s impatient world. But the first three rounds of the grand old lady of the game have been magnificent. Truly, they have provided everything the cricket fan — new and old — could possibly want.

Unfashionable counties like Gloucestershire have been given chance to take on the big boys

Unfashionable counties like Gloucestershire have been given chance to take on the big boys

Unfashionable counties like Gloucestershire have been given chance to take on the big boys

The dry, albeit cold, April weather has led to far better pitches than usual at this time of year and a good, even contest between bat and ball. And extra points for draws have helped encourage disciplined batting which has led to gripping, proper four-day contests.

Spinner Matt Parkinson bowled Lancashire to an innings-and-five-run win as Kent

Spinner Matt Parkinson bowled Lancashire to an innings-and-five-run win as Kent

Spinner Matt Parkinson bowled Lancashire to an innings-and-five-run win as Kent

The conference system, initially brought in just for this season, has proven that it might be here to stay by giving unfashionable counties like Gloucestershire, and a promising batsman destined for the England team in James Bracey, the chance to show they can keep up with the big boys.

But what has stood out most of all so far is success for spin, the discipline so often literally frozen out of the domestic game by early spring red-ball starts — and exposed as England’s biggest weakness by another chastening 3-1 Test defeat in India this winter.

Most of all, there has been the leg-spin impact of Matt Parkinson, whose influence in three months with England this winter was restricted to the emergence of tweets from his teenage years bad-mouthing Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni. Now he is making a far more positive impression, with 15 wickets in just two matches and a carbon copy of Shane Warne’s ‘ball of the century’ to dismiss Mike Gatting in 1993 when he bowled Northants’ Adam Rossington. And it was at Old Trafford, too.

There are five more rounds of the Championship before the first Test against New Zealand on June 2 — all starting on Thursdays so supporters, for once, can get their heads around a typically baffling schedule. It is truly an early-season treat and one that may well see unusually full county grounds when spectators are allowed back next month. 

Parkinson in seven heaven

Matt Parkinson’s second innings figures of 7-126 at Kent were the best by a spinner in the 2021 Championship so far. 

Only Sussex paceman Ollie Robinson, with 9-78 at Glamorgan, has better.

Ditched tour was money talking  

A major crisis was averted this week when the Cricket South Africa members council finally agreed with their interim board to adopt a new administration that will incorporate a majority independent board.

It has staved off, for now at least, the very real threat of South Africa disappearing from world cricket, and is a salient reminder of how important England’s incomplete tour before Christmas was to the hosts.

It is perhaps a pity that England’s players did not show the same determination to carry on in South Africa as they have shown at the IPL. It is said Indian bio-secure bubbles are more stringent than in Cape Town.

Not according to Adam Zampa, one of the Australians who decided enough was enough and headed home from the IPL last weekend.

Cricket South Africa members council finally agreed with their interim board to adopt a new administration that will incorporate a majority independent board

Cricket South Africa members council finally agreed with their interim board to adopt a new administration that will incorporate a majority independent board

Cricket South Africa members council finally agreed with their interim board to adopt a new administration that will incorporate a majority independent board

‘We’ve been in a few bubbles now and this is probably the most vulnerable,’ said Zampa on Tuesday.

England’s players do not seem to agree — though it would appear that is money talking once again.

One player who will not be on show this week is Jimmy Anderson, 38, who will miss Lancashire’s match against Sussex as he continues to recover from a torn calf.

It will leave him with just two matches — against Glamorgan and Northants — to build his fitness ahead of a seven-Test summer.

But if anyone can turn up for England with barely any preparation and still excel, it’s Anderson.