Interview of Cricket Fans (ICF) – 3
Cricket may not have been the most viewed sport in United Kingdom but it is definitely one of the most popular sport there. The way English crowd support their players is really inspiring to watch and whenever you listen to the iconic song called Tom Hark by Piranhas, you come to know that this match is definitely being played in one of the grounds in England. Not just the crowd there, but every Cricket fan can relate to that song, and whenever it is played, one just gets the vibe that is produced after listening. I have been very fortunate enough to get in touch with one of the fans residing from England and share a few words on the sport that we love so much. My next guest for the interview is Marc Gisby, as he shares his perspective as a fan of England Cricket in-depth and also a bit about New Zealand Cricket.
Thank you for taking part in this interview, can you share your early memories of this sport? What made you fall in love with Cricket?
I was never a fan of cricket really growing up. I was a big football and rugby fan. In 2004 I was very ill and of school for most of the summer. With parents working my grandad and great uncle would look after me. My uncle was a huge cricket fan and it was, at this time, on free to air via Channel 4 in the UK, so while I was off he had it on. That summer New Zealand and West Indies toured and I fell in love with the sport watching Stephen Fleming, Bond, Astle and especially Vettori bowling. Then when West Indies toured I got to see Chanderpaul, Sarwan and especially Lara. The ball Giles bowled Lara through the gate that tour and being mesmerised with the flight and guile of Vettori, were the reason I started bowling spin!
So you started taking interest in spin bowling after watching Ashley Giles and Daniel Vettori in that series?
Yeah definitely. When I started watching and bits in earlier years I had glimpsed (2003 World Cup for example) you mainly saw pace, pace, pace. So naturally, when I started watching, I wanted to be a Bond or Hoggard/Flintoff paceman, swinging the ball. When the spinners came on, especially Vettori, it was more a thinking game. It was all about flight, drop, drift, angles of seam. It was much more fun to watch for me personally. I still rate Vettori as one of the best spinners I’ve ever seen, up there with Murali and Warne. While I appreciate his numbers are nowhere near good comparable, a spinner has never really given me more joy to watch them bowl than him because of his command of the pure skill of spin bowling. I think he’s a highly underrated cricketer who got better with age.
You told me you started watching Cricket around 2004, just a year later, one of the greatest of all time series happened in 2005 – The Ashes. Tell us your memories of watching that series.
Oh wow! What a summer! Yeah it was fantastic wasn’t it? Being new to cricket I hadn’t the experience of being an England fan, constantly thrashed by this brilliant side from 1989 onwards, so I couldn’t really understand the fear. The first test I was at a University Open Week and so missed it, which I was glad for to be honest considering we were 93/7 at the close after skittling them. From members of family and older cricket club members when I got back it was a case of here we go again. Then the second Test happened and as Jones took that catch, I’ve never celebrated harder! Yet you could feel the excitement in the air. People who weren’t cricket fans were talking about it, I was being questioned alot at school as the only one in class who was a cricket fan! During the 3rd test the excitement reached fever pitch for me until Ricky Ponting on that last day played that sensational innings. I began to doubt, myself, that we could do it. The last day of the 4th Test I was at a BBQ with the family and we had it on. I would use every opportunity to sneak indoors and watch what I could without people knowing until I screamed oh no as I think it was Jones hooked Lee to deep square leg to leave us 6 down with 20 or 30 to get and Warne on fire. Come the end a few of us were indoors watching it as Giles poked on through mid wicket to win it. I was at school for the 5th Test and me and my friemd would sneak a phone into class to keep track of the Test. Until we were caught! It was just an amazing summer really and it was that summer I started playing club cricket. Cricket was on front and back pages of papers, it was on the news, it gripped the country like nothing I’ve ever experienced before or since cricket wise to be honest.
There was a hero that emerged from that series in the form of Kevin Pietersen who made his test debut, he scored 473 runs at an average of 52 in that series, your thoughts about him and his career stint with England.
He was a freak talent wise. Closest batsman I think in my time of watching, opposition truly feared (For what it’s worth I think Stokes is now there as well) He sort of exemplified the attitude of that Ashes side when on second morning of first test, he deposited McGrath back over his head into the grandstand. His battle with Warne was the highlight of that entire Ashes series. The way he played him gave confidence to others to play similar – for example Trescothick and Strauss attitude to Warne morning of the second test. They weren’t stuck poking and prodding. They used their feet, they swept, they hit him straight and set platform for team 400 runs (not for the first time in the series) on the first day. It changed the outlook of the England side. Pietersen was a big part of that. His 200 in 2006/07 Ashes and the series he had in 2010/11 Series’ in Australia showed he was a winner. I think what helped Pietersen was playing ODI in native South Africa, back end of 2004 into Jan 2005. It was an absolute cauldron he endured in that series and in making the 100 in the second Odi gave him belief he belonged on the world stage, something I feel he craved and needed. He excelled as a batsman and person when he was loved. As we saw in the South Africa “text-gate” when shoe was on other foot, he couldn’t cope with the negativity but what a player. Also his 186 knock in Mumbai was the defining moment for him during the 2012 tour to India.
A few words on your arch rivals Australia? Which is your favourite England vs Australia match irrespective of the format?
I think the T20 in 2005 to be honest for one moment. Gough was on a hattrick and as he sprinted in he fired a bouncer I believe that hit the batsman. The roar of the crowd and the response of the players was something I don’t think people really experienced before. Certainly not the Aussies I don’t think. It was that moment that fired the litmus paper for the series. Gough who had experienced close to decade of being hammered by them, was forefront of the attitude. It was brilliant to see and to feel. I’ll pick a Test to balance things out would be morning of MCG test in the 2010/2011 series. Bowling them out for 98 then finishing 152/0 at close showed what the England side at that point was all about. We weren’t a flash in the pan, we were for the first time since the 80s the dominant side. Trent Bridge 2015 needs a mention just for Broads reaction to Stokes catch off Voges!
Talk us about the transitional phase that England Cricket went after that shocking exit in 2015 World Cup. Did you ever imagine in 2015 that you guys would lift the next World Cup trophy and become one of the most dangerous side in the white ball format?
To be honest no. We certainly had the players to be that side but the attitude towards One Day cricket was to pick our best players – in that way it was generally Test incumbents at the time. Cook, Trott, Bell for example. Wonderful long form players but never thought of them as ODI players because their game isn’t set up that way. It was embarrassing as fan. I know people talk about 2015 but we can’t forget 2011 either really. We lost to Ireland in the WC and then were even more embarrassed by Sri Lanka in the quarters than anything in 2015 World Cup for me personally. Chasing 250ish they didn’t lose a wicket and we were bereft of ideas and talented ODI players. To then have that same attitude 4 years later was poor. On the flip side it was the greatest thing to happen to us! Without those WC, we wouldn’t be where we are which is arguably the most fearsome ODI side on the planet. What changed was picking best players for the format, something we should of been doing after the 2011 World Cup. We have a way we play and yes sometimes it will cause embarrassment (being 20odd for 6 v South Africa) but then it will give massive highs like 481 scored against Australia for the new World Record. I think the rules of ODI cricket help us in that they are hugely in favour of batsman, which is our strength.
World Cup 2019 – England were beaten by Pakistan first, then that shocking loss to Sri Lanka happened, and 3 days later y’all succumbed to Australia in the group stage, what was going through your mind at that time, did you feel you guys would not even be able to make it through the top 4?
Here we go again really! It was an awful start. We didn’t play well and we deserved to lose, make no bones about it. Pakistan showed us in the series before World Cup, we were fallible and they were dangerous. I genuinely thought we were out but the unfair format (in my opinion) helped. Only thing I hung onto was Pakistan in 1992 and Australia in 1999 were similarly poor if I remember correctly (Australia certainly). We didn’t deserve to progress having lost 3 games in the group stage. It’s not how a World Cup should work being heavily favoured for the big teams. People argue associates aren’t good enough but they never will be if they aren’t given the opportunity. It’s where football and rugby get things right. You may lose constantly as Greece/Iran in football or a Romania/Spain in rugby if you got to a world cup but at least you have the opportunity because it’s more open. Think of Kenya in 2003 (politics helped granted but beat good teams like Sri Lanka) and better yet Ireland 2007. They can do it if given chance. I may have gone off topic but in my opinion the world cup is the best tournament for the sport in question in the world. If you mess up so be it. That happens everywhere else like Olympics for example. As brilliant as later stages were, we were indebted to the closed format of our sports supposed grandest stage.
This interview would be shallow if I didn’t ask you about that Test Match victory in Headingley in the third test, your thoughts on Stokes heroics?
What can you say about him? He’s developed into a World Class matchwinner with bat or ball. It was ridiculous and no matter what anyone says, the ONLY person who believed Stokes could win from where we were, was Ben Stokes! He was lucky with the fumble from Lyon but you need that luck on the big stages. It was a ridiculous knock and the roar and the ball flew past point was deafening. What a moment from a superb cricketer. As Nasser once said;
“No Ben Stokes! You cannot do that!” He’s proved time and again, he can and will.
Since we are talking about Ben Stokes, we have to talk about arguably the greatest ODI match of all time – England vs New Zealand, Finals 2019 World Cup.
What else can I say that I didn’t before? He is a big game player for us. Always there to stand up and be counted. He got extremely fortunate with the hit off the bat and that for four but again you need those moments and he tends to get them more often than not because he puts himself in a position to make those moments, to force the opposition info mistakes because of the pressure he puts on them. I do wish it wasn’t New Zealand though. Anyone else! With my love of Shane Bond, Vettori, McCullum and Fleming be all time favourites, as brilliant as it was, it was hard to see New Zealand lose.
Why do you think England lose more test matches at home? They may not have lost many series in their own backyard but they seem to be not as dominant as other teams like India or Australia are at their home, is it the change in the white ball format that led to their downfall?
I think our conditions are the fairest for a contest. Dukes ball usually does something all match, whether it’s swing/seam, so bowlers are always in the game. If you negotiate it, runs are there to be had if good enough and spinner can come into the game. Australia wickets are unique with pace and bounce which is something you don’t see much, although that’s dwindled for Australia itself. India have a wonderful side to play in India and there win in Australia showed they aren’t to be taken lightly anywhere. I think to some degree white ball has certainly impacted technique – see Bairstow for example. Was averaging 50+ for a year, mountain of runs and white ball has changed his technique v the red. I don’t think our players play enough red ball, county cricket. For example, Taunton spins as does Chelmsford yet because of the schedule of international cricket, you’re flying to India or Australia and not playing truly competitive cricket, it’s just 2-3 15 a side games which offers nothing really. I wish tours were less rush, rush, rush and you could acclimatise. I think there is less freedom in Test cricket, less scrutiny if you’re out. Mainly though I think England is just an excellent place to play test cricket for away sides. From a spectator point of view I will always prefer a contest to the one sided games you may see elsewhere around the world. South Africa is also excellent for visiting sides. England and Sri Lanka won there in 2019.
That was a long but detailed answers given by Marc in this interview as he perfectly articulates his perspective as an England Cricket fan and it is this type of content that I wish to derive from fans as this is the main reason for me to be conducting such interviews. The best part for me was how he became indulged into watching this sport largely thanks to Windies and New Zealand for touring England at that time of the year. This is just one of the many stories shared by Marc and I have absolutely enjoyed every bit of this interview even though it lasted for two hours. If y’all have managed to make it till here, then I would like thank you for reading this article as this is something that I have started enjoying and would like to continue to do so in the future. Stay tuned for my next article as there are plenty of other stories to be derived from fans, also do share this article if you enjoyed reading this interview.