Thursday, 22 September 2011

Private Eye

Private Eye has been celebrating its 50th anniversary.  As a subscriber to Lord Gnome's organ from time to time, Fantasy Bob joins in the congratulations.  The magazine is an essential part of British life bringing a mix of satire and exposure to an otherwise increasingly bland media world.  It is never better than when it is pricking pomposity or exposing self serving lies or bureaucratic untruths. Long may it reign over us.

September 1968

There have been over 1200 Private Eye covers.  By FB's reckoning there have been 7 which have featured cricket or made some reference to cricket.  The most famous  featured Basil D'Oliviera - commenting on the shameful events which led to D'Oliviera's exclusion from the MCC touring party to S Africa in 1968.  Even though the barb is directed at the racism shown throughout the event by the British establishment, the cover seems hugely racist to our modern sensitivities - so far have attitudes changed.  

Gower and Major
are both saying 'Well you won't be in for long.'
The other cricketers featuring have been David Gower twice, Imran Khan twice, Michael Atherton (with Graham Gooch)and Ian Botham (with Viv Richards).  This is not bad going, football despite its media saturation only manages 16 and no footballer has more than 2 covers. By contrast Margaret Thatcher had 95 and Tony Blair 92.

But there may be few better moments to think further about the Eye's relationship with cricket.  Cricket will have featured in most of its regular spots from Pseud's Corner to Dumb Britain (the latter is edited by Marcus Berkman author of the Rain Men that excellent account of obsessive cricket players).  But its greatest claim to fame might well be in its exposure of the dodginess of Allen Stanford at a time that the ECB was prostituting the game in front of him by agreeing to the Stanford series deal. 

The amnesiac
waving goodbye to cricket's integrity
The Eye called Stanford right.  Not long after the series, in which England were embarrassed on and off the field of play, Stanford was arrested on charges of fraud and running a $7 billion Ponzi scheme from offices in Houston and Antigua.  He has been held in a Texas jail without bail since his arrest in 2009. He was  beaten in prison by another inmate, then became addicted to pain killers as part of his recovery.  His trial has been delayed while he is weaned off the medication, but this year he presented a new defence - complete amnesia.  

The 2 T20 matches that are being played at the Oval between England and W Indies this week are the contractual residue of the ECB's deal with Stanford and reflect Sky's pound of flesh in the deal.  These matches are completely meaningless - other than for Graeme Swann who takes on the captaincy.  Should he thank Lord Gnome for the honour?

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