Friday, May 06, 2011

Three in one: Latin, history and cricket

Imperator Anglorum est omnis divisus in partes tres, as Julius Caesar might have written if he was a modern day cricket writer. And I'd like to think that is the path he would have taken, not least because English Twenty20 cricket is sponsored by a drinks manufacturer called Rubicon.

Caesar knew a bit about three men doing one job, which is the situation facing the England cricket captaincy after yesterday's announcement. In 59BC, Caesar, Pompey and Crassus formed a triumvirate or three-man alliance to organise Rome's domestic cricket tournament. The Romans were mad keen on cricket, as this photo of a set of stumps proves.

Pompey was six years older than Caesar, had several notable successes behind him and was undeniably posh. Andrew Strauss, the Test captain in cricket's new triumvirate, is Pompey.

Caesar was also posh but tried to hide it (by going to darts contests at Ally Pally, probably). He had promise but his best victories were ahead of him. He is Alastair Cook.

Which makes Stuart Broad, who will lead the T20 side, our version of Crassus, who was in Caesar's triumvirate because he controlled the money, which sort of sums up Twenty20.

The Roman triumvirate didn't end well. Crassus was bumped off early after a super-over decider against the Parthians and Caesar and Pompey had a massive barney, resulting in both of them losing the confidence of the selectors. Octavian took home the ashes.

It might all be happier for the triumvirate running English cricket. Broad and Cook don't seem to be over-run by a desperate need to topple Strauss and Andy Flower, the England team director, said yesterday that he hoped everyone could be mature about it. It may work.

What is certain is that while Cook takes on the one-day side with a modicum of leadership experience behind him as captain of England Under-19, MCC and the England senior side when Strauss skipped the tour to Bangladesh last year, Broad has been given the reins with no captaincy experience to his name. That does not mean that he will fail - and I wish him well - but he has never had to think about running a side in this way.

As I write in The Times today, Broad may not even have captained a school team. I spoke to Frank Hayes, the former Lancashire and England batsman who is master in charge of cricket at Oakham School, and he could not recall any match. “He may have done in his early years, but not the first XI,” Hayes said.

Paul Cook, a batsman who has played a bit of second XI cricket for Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire and now captains Lincolnshire, was made captain instead. Hayes told me that Cook was simply the more natural leader, although Broad "was always destined to play at a higher level".

Broad was a footsoldier when Oakham played Bedford School in 2003. A young Alastair Cook made a double hundred for Bedford that day, but he had already been marked as a Future England Captain.

Broad had not, but maybe that is something to do with the bias that selectors tend to have in favour of batsmen rather than fast bowlers when picking a captain. Broad will be only the second fast bowler, after Andrew Flintoff, to captain England since Bob Willis in 1984.

That does not mean that the experiment will not work. “Stuart knows the game backwards," Hayes told me. "He’s been a thinking man’s cricketer since about the age of 12. He is a good leader and he loves the game. He has a natural exuberance which is great for English cricket and in my view he is just the man for the job."

We shall see when England play Sri Lanka on June 25 and Broad becomes the 85th England captain whether that hunch pays off.

6 comments:

JimF said...

Surely Imperator Anglorum in partes tres omnis divisus est?

Love the article and analogy. Puts the ashes bus trip celebrations in Trafalgar Sq in a whole new light.

Excellent shot of the triumphal stumps celebrating Pompey's triumphs in the East. Shame he didn't reach Australia.

Anyhow Pompey's veterans must surely include Flintoff and Colly, anxious to secure lands in retirement.

Worryingly thought - if you extend the analogy Cook now has to marry Strauss' daughter.

Ahem.

JimF

Paddy said...

Not if you're trying to echo Caesar, Jim, who wrote (as you should well know) "Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres". But thanks for the comments.

Pompey would have kicked Australia's backside (and their Hibernian criminals) easily. Trying to work out who will be Brutus in the analogy - Pietersen?

Pablo said...

True bravery the one of those roman batsmen, considering the bowlers used to have a catapult on their side back then.
I like the triumviri analogies (surely Octavian will be this fellow Barney Gibson, 15, wicketkeeper for Yorkshire). However, I would have chosen the one of the Holy Trinity. You know, One Divine Being and three persons. Tough to say who is who, though.

Paddy said...

Is that "the" Pablo, who used to comment on my Line and Length blog? Good to hear from you again. Sorry about the paywall and sorry also that I don't write so much about cricket on here. Some of my other readers complain when I do...

PABLO said...

Why yes, it is that "Pablo", and some of your other readers should be ashamed of themselves. Now that summer is approaching, it feels like cricket. Not that winters are bad, particularly the last one with the Ashes and all, but there is something to summer and cricket that just feels right. And blogs should incorporate it accordingly. If they can also provide a reasonable ammount of romans, barbarians, and characters like the Earl of Onslow (a modern wodehousian character, if such word exists), then we shall be fine.

Davidfkkl said...

True bravery the one of those roman batsmen, considering the bowlers used to have a catapult on their side back then. I like the triumviri analogies (surely Octavian will be this fellow Barney Gibson, 15, wicketkeeper for Yorkshire). However, I would have chosen the one of the Holy Trinity. You know, One Divine Being and three persons. Tough to say who is who, though.