Ifs and Butts

When English cricket summers end I usually experience a feeling of disappointment and regret. Not this time.

Not just because of what's gone on in the past month, but also because this has been a messy, badly constructed season. England switching formats and opponents as frequently as Eoin Morgan switches hands. A needlessly divided and therefore denuded County Championship, a Twenty20 tournament expanded to the point of meaninglessness and another competition of a length, as Neil Kinnock said twenty-five years ago this coming week, 'irrelevant to the real needs'. For someone who loves the game but has an increasing number of competing demands on his time, it is becoming harder and harder to follow what is going on, let alone write about it. But the love will endure. It always does.

Talking of irrelevancies, a final word on Ijaz Butt, who's been making all the headlines this past week and will probably find himself on the receiving end of a writ before long. It would be interesting to know what the Pakistan players think of him, given that his statement simultaneously undermined the diligent efforts of the Pakistan team (especially the outstanding Umar Gul) and gave extra motivation to their opponents. Not much, I would guess.

England go to Australia in good shape. For the first time in many years they have the world's leading current spin bowler in their ranks, and they have a decent - I wouldn't put it any more strongly than that - chance of retaining the Ashes. I'll be with them in spirit, if not in person.

With or without the shadow of corruption, the endless carousel that is modern international cricket never stops (which, of course, is part of the problem), and Australia are now in India for a short series which will supply some further pointers as to what may happen in November and December.

See you soon.

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