Bear with me a little as I self-indulge on a little trundle back through 2017.
I’m really only writing this as a cathartic measure. I started reflecting on what was achieved during the year, and it was so random that I thought I should actually go back and take a proper look.
The year started benign enough. The “Can’t Bowl Can’t Throw Cricket Show” was pumping along in its regular weekly slot on EON Sports Radio in Australia. I’d hazard to guess it was the country’s only regular weekly live national cricket radio show that ever existed. I certainly haven’t heard of any others.
That all came crashing down to earth when EON Sports radio went broke midway through the year. All that meant is that we went back to being a podcast in what is now its fifth year. We recorded 31 episodes in 2017 and saw our average downloads increased by 300% year on year. Our main sponsor TheGame.cool stuck with us and allowed us to continue to give away the best prizes globally on a cricket podcast to our listeners. Honey Badger Cricket also returned to give us another Test grade bat to giveaway once the Ashes finishes.
We interviewed Sreesanth about match fixing, Chris Green about his experience in the PSL, Fawad Ahmed told us about going out to bat in a Shield match without a bat, Wisden editor Lawrence Booth gave us his time as did New Zealand batting coach Craig McMillan. Gideon Haigh and John Etheridge actually came into the studio. George Dobell allowed us to laugh at England with him on the line once again. In our last show of the year, Afghan legends Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi even let me chat to them.
Massive thanks to Cat Jones, Dan Liebke and Isanga. We have our creative differences, but we all trust each other and I think those differences and trust are reflective of the quality of the content. Well, I trust them. I’m just assuming they trust me. Actually, I know that Cat doesn’t trust me in the slightest. Who am I kidding.
What does 2018 hold for the podcast? I have no idea. But as I write, we are still having fun with it, we get to interview amazing cricket people and it is something we all created by ourselves. That in itself is rewarding.
My writing dropped off a little this year in term of volume, and depending on who you ask, possibly quality as well. I did a few pieces for Dawn in Pakistan. It is always a thrill to see your stuff in print rather than in pixels. But my drivers changed.
I knew maybe two years ago that I didn’t want to do this cricket thing as a full time career. It just doesn’t pay, the freelance lifestyle is shitty and at the end of the day, it was always just a hobby.
Given that, the pressure was off. When I did write, I did it because I wanted to (like now), rather than because an editor gave me a deadline. I guess I went back to being more of a blogger than a classical journalist. Having said that, what is a journalist or a blogger these days? It’s all morphed into one.
Not having an editorial boss is fun. You can write what you like. Tweet what you like. Argue with who you like.
The reality is that I like doing jokes. Sometimes I miss the mark. Well, often I miss the mark. But again, it who cares? I’m just a bloke with a keyboard doing it in a way that keeps me amused.
It is why I deliberately aim to get rejected every year for official Cricket Australia accreditation. That almost backfired on me in 2017 when they tried to give it to me even though I didn’t apply for it. Sense soon prevailed.
Some “journalists” are struggling still to work out how to engage with me. I’m not safe for them to be seen interacting with. I know this, because one senior guy wrote to me and told me as such. Another told me I still had time to change my ways and join the mainstream. “Stop being so deliberately contrarian” he said. “When you put your mind to it Dennis, you do good stuff.”
Some of the feedback from the establishment is just so damn condescending, but highlights to me the exact reasons why I don’t want to join these guys. I don’t seek their approval. I don’t want to do it their way. I don’t want my voice to sound like theirs. There is a glut of same-same out there and it can be boring for the most part.
Look at the spew-worthy way that the players strike played out in the Australian media.
As one ex-player told me, “[journalist x] is so far up David Warner’s arse, he will need Google Maps to find his way out” based on the way he was reporting the issue. One leader of the journalism apparatchik even went as far as to tell as many mainstream journalists that no-one should support Cricket Australia in their writing.
Fuck me! Independent thought anyone?
To be fair, many of the Aussie journos were out of their depth in this dispute. I can’t think of any that have run a sizeable business or had to manage a profit and loss statement. But nevertheless, they made sure to try and persuade the Australian public that Cricket Australia management was some kind of evil anti-proletariat set out to destroy the game. It was utter garbage.
At times like these, you could be mistaken for thinking that the majority of the travelling cricket media are a herd of sheep that all write the same way, follow the same thought patterns and just try harder to impress each other and seek their approval.
I don’t want to be them. I don’t want to sit in the press box or write match reports. Good on you if that’s your thing. But it isn’t mine. And that’s why I reckon you guys hang around and play with me. You are searching for things that aren’t so Channel Nine or ABC. There’s plenty of us out there. Just keep an eye open.
It’s also important to realise that we aren’t mutually exclusive. You can play with both camps. An you should.
The Player’s Strike was a lowpoint in Australian cricket journalism. I think many will look back on their conduct in time and feel like they were stooged by the ACA’s propaganda and Ed Cowan’s charisma.
2017 also saw me shoot off to Pakistan to make a documentary about the links between cricket and that wonderful country. It was a spur of the moment thing, conjured up after multiple whiskeys whilst watching the Champions Trophy semi final with my mate Brett Graham in a Sydney pub when Pakistan torched England. That night forms the opening chapter of my upcoming book.
Twelve weeks later and I was in Karachi. I had camera men, fixers, incredibly hospitable fans and an amazing country give me the best 15 days of the year. I also had no idea what the hell I was doing or how it was all going to work. I just took a risk and with the blessing of my wife, jumped on a plane.
I just hope that when we finally launch the end product that I’ve done the story justice. I had no idea how long it takes to make a doco. Shooting it is the simple part. Even getting to Imran Khan and Misbah in hindsight was relatively easy. But scouring through about 160 hours of footage and cramming the best bits into 90 minutes with some sort of narrative is complex.
Many thanks to Fahd at Pakistan Cables, the 61 amazing humans who donated to my crowd funding campaign, the crazy cats at the Super Daddy Cricket Club as well as Qasim, Shahid, Haroon and the guys at Cricingif.com for making it all possible. You guys are all family now. That means I get to crash at your place for Eid next year.
Speaking of Cricingif, I also did 15 or so episodes of “You’ve Got Bail”. You can find that on YouTube. Some of it was funny. Well, I think so. We had clocked over one million views of the series after only four episodes. That is just nuts.
We might ramp it back up again. Who knows?
This year also saw me start a book. Its current working title is “How The Hell Did I End Up In Pakistan?”. The story of how a bloke with a keyboard went from a nobody in the cricketing world to a nobody in the cricketing world interviewing Imran Khan at his house less than five years later. I’m nearly half way through. I hope when I finally release it that you buy a copy. I aim to donate some of the proceeds to a kids charity in Pakistan. I just need to sort out a few more details on that front.
I ended the year on nearly 72k Twitter followers, 46k on Facebook, over 1k on Instagram and hundreds of thousands of podcast downloads and website views. Not that we should use this as any kind of serious measuring stick, but it is some kind of guide.
Together, we are doing something right.
Next year, my focus is on finishing the book and the documentary. I may even pop over to the UAE for the PSL at the end of February if a few moons align. I have no idea what will happen with the podcast or my blogging. They will go wherever the universe takes them. I have a desire to get back to more satire. I’m horribly shit at it, but it gives me a way to express myself on issues that the staider styles do not.
From a cricketing standpoint, 2017 continued to deliver.
Pakistan won the Champions Trophy after qualifying last and then beating India in the final. This was simply out of this world and kick started the World XI matches and the slight re-opening of the dream that full international tours could one day return to Pakistan.
There was the emergence of Afghanistan as a major player. 11 straight T20 wins gave them a world record. Kohli’s 3 x double hundreds was just ridiculous. Steve Smith hit the 2nd highest ever ICC Test batting ranking behind Bradman. What a freak. There was the final Tests of Misbah and Younis Khan. The women’s game grew again with the World Cup, the Kia league, the WBBL and The Ashes. More Tests for the girls please. Also, how good were Perry, Healy, Taylor and Harmenpreet?
PSL spot fixing occured at Islamabad under Wasim’s watch and no one raised an eyebrow. He quickly did a runner and is now at Multan. Let’s see how that goes. Starc took 2 x hat tricks in the same Shield match. Pujara proved himself again. So did Rohit in ODIs. There were the spinners. Lyon. Rashid. Yasir. Every single one from Sri Lanka. You can’t kill off the Universe Boss, but wouldn’t it be great if we could kill off KP?
There was the emergence of Dean Elgar as world class after starting his Test career with a pair. Ben Stokes broke a guy’s eye socket and the English press as one tried to defend him. Fucking lunacy. Pundits finally worked out that Moeen Ali offers bugger all. Cook’s innings at the MCG was pure class. The West Indies are broken. I feel for Jason Holder. Harsha made it work at Cricbuzz and then found his way back into the commentary box. Legend. Dhoni is an amazing player. Best keeper/batsman post Gilly? Bangladesh are a serious threat at home.
We had the launch of the Test Championship and ODI Championship. Finally. The Big 3 was killed off by an Indian. There were the October rule changes. But WTF is fake fielding and why do we need it?
Sreesanth was cleared by all the courts but the BCCI still ban him for life. Total anarchy.
Finally, and for the record, I do not hate India. I do not hate Jimmy. I think that the vast majority of mainstream cricket writing is lacking in any sense of prosecuting issues other than in a superficial way and I don’t care if you think I’m just a troll. It just means you are missing the point or expecting something from me that I’m under no obligation to give.
Thanks for playing with me in 2017. Let’s see what havoc and fun we can create in 2018.
Ok, now I’m climbing off my soapbox and going back to dumb jokes and memes on social media for a while.
Have you heard the one about James Overratedson?