Is golf hurting English cricket?

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The second Ashes Test ended at Lord’s yesterday with essentially the same outcome as the first one
Posted on
July 3, 2023
by
Robert Green in
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

The second Ashes Test ended at Lord’s yesterday with essentially the same outcome as the first one at Edgbaston: Australia won. Put another way, England lost. If one believes some of the noise surrounding England cricket at the moment, one would think that the team’s captain, Ben Stokes, may not care about the result too much because the ’Bazball’ brand of cricket he encourages is all about entertaining, ideally with some winning thrown in. I don’t buy that, but I did like a quote of his the other day, responding to criticism that his players hit too many ”bad shots”. Stokes said: “It’s only ever a bad shot because it was out. You might try the exact same shot at another ball, catch it sweetly and it sails over the rope for a four or six, and then no one will say anything.”

He is, of course, largely correct. And he may well feel his magnificent innings yesterday was a vivid example of that point. But if there is a problem with the England cricket team at present, is golf perhaps to blame? A couple of weeks ago, writing in The Guardian, Barney Ronay said: “If England play most of the time like a group of men in a raging hurry to get to a round of golf, then this is in part because they are.” He went on to say of Jonny Bairstow, the batter/wicketkeeper, that “he is just back from serious injury (and a bizarre leg-break incident while playing golf is in itself deeply Bazball)”. You may know that Bairstow slipped while leaving a tee at Pannal Golf Club last September, with those horrible consequences. In The Times this past Saturday, Gideon Haigh wrote that “England’s top order batted as if mindful of an imminent tee time.”

A few days after his first blast, Ronay had another go, writing about Bazball in anthropomorphic fashion: “We are here to save Test cricket. And we will do this by taking franchise money from December to May [such as by playing in the Indian Premier League], playing golf during the red-ball season at home…”

In some respects, Bazball might be cricket’s equivalent of LIV – ‘GOLF BUT LOUDER’. LIV Golf celebrates its first birthday at the Centurion Club near St Albans this week, this tournament following immediately upon the victory at Valderrama yesterday for Talor Gooch. LIV has had a seismic effect on the sport over the past 12 months, potentially reshaping the game rather more dramatically than Bazball has reframed Test cricket, albeit unfortunately the more decisive action has been in the courts rather than on the course; in secret meetings rather than open championships. It will be fascinating, although not necessarily in a good way, to see how things look a year from now.

Finally, by way of another digression, Ben Stokes’ point about it only being a bad shot in cricket because it was out reminded me of something the great Brazil and Real Madrid full back, Roberto Carlos, once said: that the easiest job in football was being a reporter on the sport. “You begin with the result,” he said, “and then you work your way backwards through the game to justify how it came about. In reality, playing the game is not like that.” Yes, judgement is often easier with hindsight - whether that be about football, cricket or golf.

 

You can follow Robert Green on Twitter @robrtgreen and enjoy his other blog f-factors.com plus you can read more by him on golf at robertgreengolf.com

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About Robert Green

Robert Green is a former editor of Golf World and Golf International magazines and the author of four books on golf, including Seve: Golf’s Flawed Genius. He has played golf on more than 450 courses around the world, occasionally acceptably.

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