Bless are the Types, for they will inherit the earth. There has been a constant evolution in the ruling class of English cricket. For many decades, the sport was ruled by the Blazers. The Blazers were faceless. They smelled of port crust and Chesterfield canapes. They ruled the committee room with liver-spotted iron fists. Over time, they made the summer sport their own private stronghold.
The Blazers were eventually flushed out by the Marketing Men. The marketing men were rainmakers and brokers. They weren’t wearing blazers. They wore ties and suits. They knew the sources of income. They made deals and monetized the product. Over time, they made the summer sport their own private stronghold.
And now we have the beginning of something else. Shrunken, sandblasted by confusing cultural forces, English cricket has entered a new managerial era, at least on its visible sides. Tom Harrison is still hanging in there. But around him there is at least the appearance of change.
With the appointment of Rob Key as general manager and Brendon McCullum as Test coach, English cricket is no longer run by blazers or assholes. Rather, it’s run by…guys. The future is here – and he’s wearing Stan Smiths and tweeting memes. Welcome to the rise of the Blokes.
Keysey, Baz, Morgs, Stokesey. This is the new world order of English cricket. Informal, friend, disguised, playful. Guys. Bros Dudes with views. The guys are in the house, and they screwed up the standard interview process. They know a guy. A really cool guy. And the decisive point, the real key, is that they are not like these other people. This is the big problem.
Or at least that seems to be the spin. Perhaps the New Order’s greatest achievement to date is convincing the world that this is something new. That, as Key suggested, the Blokes are somehow outsiders, mavericks, an astringent alternative to the usual “altar boys” who fill leadership roles. In reality, of course, they are just a different clique, wearing sneakers not brogues, and presenting their lack of qualification and experience as an act of liberation, a destruction of the barricades.
How did we get here anyway? Key did not apply for the job of managing director of English cricket. He was approached by his golf partner, Andrew Strauss. McCullum was approached in turn by Key, after being recommended by Eoin Morgan, who is one of McCullum’s best friends. McCullum has never coached a red ball team. Key never handled anything. Thinking old bro-skis! Key also never oversaw an interview process, but he knew enough to state that McCullum had “broken” his by having vision, vibes, crazy energy, etc.
So it happened. Cool guys make summer sports their own private fiefdom. And to be fair, these guys, with their skinny pants, cool hues, regular-man looks, represent a current version of sporty masculinity: the sensitive, playful, and clubbable alpha type, but also tattooed and avid gym-goer and , like, totally out of sanity and cool views, more aggressively inclusive than you, full of headless jerk energy, craft coffee, semi-ironic yoga, just being a great guy.
And who can say that it will not be a success. It’s undeniably an exciting time and some super talented programming. What’s not to like about Key? He knows cricket inside and out. He is intelligent and willful. People who know him seem to love him. The same goes for McCullum, who is a really impressive person, who knows teams and systems, and was a very good orthodox Test cricketer.
It’s a change too. We haven’t really had guys before. We had Peter Moores, who was brilliant and capable, but also looked like a little Doctor Who seeing his latest series. Trevor Bayliss was good but almost ridiculously relaxed, basically a hat on a stick. Chris Silverwood tried hard, but he was more of a barbecue dad than a cool head coach. Bring on the brothers. It looks, if nothing else, like the modern world.
And yet, we should be wary of confusing it with something new, or even a setup that seems to have obvious answers beyond the hopeful facade. McCullum will “give an identity to England”. This identity will be, we hear, vibrant, courageous and forward-looking, because those are good words. Key, meanwhile, says he will nominate “the best people.” But who are the best people? There have already been scathing comments about things like coaching qualifications. Perhaps elite English cricket will now be run on some sort of strongman model, a world of populism and personal appointments.
Is it good? Does this make cricket more likely to survive and grow? Because underneath the man side of it all, there are some uncomfortable truths here. Obviously it’s laughable that English cricket can preach inclusion and openness to new people and then establish its seat of power that way, avoiding due process in favor of phone calls from pals and people who are good on television. . That’s the problem, right there: closed shops, invisible barriers, hiring based on good feelings and whoever is in your sights. Even stranger, those inside this process don’t seem to have a problem distributing power in this way. Uh, brothers? Not cool.
What will success look like from here? Winning games? Play exciting cricket? Getting people to care? It’s telling that such is the feeling of doom around this team, this format, that the general response is something of a hopeful shrug. Keysey jumped out of the com box. The Spice Girls present Top of the Pops. But there is at least talent, energy and charisma here. Like a military coup in a failed state, the Blokes seized power. We wish them good luck. Don’t call it a revolution.