Stan's the man
Dave Fulton looks back at where in all went wrong for England during the multi-million pound Stanford series.
Last Updated: 05/11/08 11:19am
Hey, fair play to Allen Stanford. The big Texan with the billion dollar smile and comfortable lap pulled off a heist that might have proved too much even for George Clooney's character Danny Ocean in the film Ocean's Eleven.
Armed with the big helicopter, a Perspex box full of $20million, and that smile, Stanford dazzled and hypnotised everyone including the England cricket team, whilst secretly training a crack team of West Indian Twenty20 specialists to steal the loot from under the noses of the red-hot favourites.
It wasn't England's money in the first place, of course but you can bet there'll be some pretty sick players on that plane to India - £600,000 is a life changing amount of money for many in that squad and it's far from pocket change for the big guns.
England seemed to want to talk about the ethics of the concept and how they could be portrayed favourably. With people feeling the pinch back home as the credit crunch becomes a full blown recession, England's management was sensitive about managing their media image rather than concentrating on winning a game of cricket.
Peter Moores didn't want the money talked about; Kevin Pietersen preferred potential celebrations to be muted and respectful; only Graeme Swann stuck his neck out and mentioned a desire for a pink Ferrari.
England looked uncomfortable from the outset and it showed in their performances. By the end they looked like they'd been mugged in every sense. Stanford's XI had few real "Superstars" but they were united in their collective purpose. Chris Gayle's team realised this could be a once in a lifetime opportunity and knuckled down for six hard weeks in preparation for their smash and grab.
Fitness levels were improved, skills honed and game-plans hatched as they focussed on the money. There was no embarrassment, no moral dilemma. Stanford's 2020 for $20m might not have been sport in the English sense of the word, where notions of national pride significantly outweigh a singular pursuit of cash, but the Superstars team resembled a prizefighter, who recognizes the chance to make a better life for himself and his family. It came down to hunger.
England are due to appear in Antigua for the next four years. If the Superstars prepare with the same vigour the result could be repeated on an annual basis. The core of the England team does not need this fixture when they should be resting and planning for their winter battles.
No one can blame them for wanting to win such a huge amount of money but the players have been talking about playing too much cricket for years. It is a situation the ECB needs to look at.
Far better to send a different team. Throw in the likes of Graham Napier, Dawid Malan, Joe Denly and Dave Masters for their day in the sun together with England's fringe players like Ravi Bopara, Samit Patel and Luke Wright and watch them scrap it out with the Superstars. Such a team would be more likely to capture the imagination of the public and more likely to see the contest for what it is: a cash game. They might even be prepared to sit on Sir Allen's lap themselves.