Monday, 9 December 2013

The Modernist Bob Simpson

Having promised myself I'd get to bed early and have a decent sleep tonight, I made the mistake of picking up the November 1970 copy of Australian Cricket that was sitting on top of a pile on my desk. It threw me into a strange, slightly disturbing time warp.

In an otherwise unremarkable issue this full-page photo of 34-year old retired cricketer turned finance manager Bob Simpson standing in front of Harry Seidler's 'Australia Square' building stuck out like the proverbial... well... Harry Seidler building. A student and acolyte of a murderer's row of Modernist masters including Marcel Breuer, Walter Gropius, Alvar Aalto and Oscar Niemeyer, Seidler moved to Australia in his 20s and along with Robin Boyd et al, immediately set about transforming the way the county looked. 

As something of a modernism trainspotter, I have a keen eye for Seidler designs though to be honest, probably prefer his early International Style houses (Rose Seidler House, his first Australian design and built for his mother, is both a psychologist's and design nerd's wet dream) than his later commercial work, which probably suffers from the sheer volume of dodgy knock-offs with which it co-existed. 

Looking at Australia's most sadistic fielding drill sargeant standing in front of this building, I couldn't help but be reminded of the time I chased a girl to Paris and ended up in a spirited argument with her out the front of the similarly-proportioned, Seidler-designed Australian Embassy building. Is this just sounding bizarre and a very tenuous reason for a blog post? I really should go to bed. 

Anyway, by the point I chased the girl to Paris I was already in London, so "chase" is probably too strong a word and makes me sound like the unbearably wet male lead in some twee Audrey Tautou film. In actual fact my romantic mission was typically shambolic and once I was in Paris I realised I hadn't booked a hotel. That was a bit of a deal-breaker if you were looking to impress this girl, so in a severely misguided attempt to redress the situation I checked in at the $400 per night Marriott, right by the Eiffel Tower and hence Seidler's Embassy building.

With hindsight I realise this probably wasn't a great move on a student budget but I thought it was a tactical masterstroke at the time. I remember precisely three things about that trip; (1) The argument out the front of the Harry Seidler building (I can't remember what it was about though, I was probably too busy looking at the building); (2) like every other time I have been to Paris, we went down to the Eiffel Tower and decided that the queue to go up it was way too long; (3) the girl was on a study tour with another girl who would not leave us alone, rendering my $400 per night outlay an utter farce. 

I just realised that there is no real ending to this story. The relationship with the girl went hot and cold for a while and then fizzed out. She did come and watch me play cricket once though. I bowled like an absolute drain and she missed the only wicket I took. The writing was on the wall.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Cricket's Unsung Hero

It was a real pleasure to interview Rob Moody, aka "robelinda2" about the tremendous service he provides for cricket lovers with his YouTube uploads. I feel like this piece over at Cricinfo was the least I could do given the hours and hours of enjoyment his work has provided me. 

As I soon discovered via Twitter, the love out there for Rob is intense though hardly surprising. He'd get a motorcade around the MCG at the Boxing Day Test if it were up to me. Aside from anything else he's just a lovely bloke with an indefatigable love of the game. 

I also have some reflections on the new Adelaide Oval over at The Guardian. I'm a traditionalist when it comes to cricket grounds, but I'm well aware of the realities of the situation. 

Other than that, the Guardian OBO is keeping me too busy for lengthy reflections, but Mitch is bowling alright, isn't he?

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Wasted Afternoons Stocking Stuffers

With my girlfriend overseas for the next three weeks I'm under under a kind of tacit agreement to not even set foot inside the upcoming Mossgreen Sports Auction, but a number of items have caught my eye.

In the past I have unsuccessfully lobbied to have one of the "Spy" Vanity Fair prints reclassified as suitable home decor. I think the doctor is quite fetching but apparently I'm on my own in that analysis.

Sticking to the icons I can't ever see myself having the $3000 loose change to spunk on George Beldam's definitive though ludicrously posed shot of Trumper but we can all dream. It's a lot more fun than shares, surely? 

"DON BRADMAN'S FIRST TEST BAT: Full size "Duke & Son - Warren Bardsley" Cricket bat, signed to the reverse under the headings 1928 England and Australia - 19 signatures from the 1928-29 English team headed by Chapman, including Jardine, Tate (2), Hendren, Leyland, Patuadi, Larwood; and to the right reverse 17 signatures headed unusually by Jackson and including an early Bradman, Ryder, Woodfull, Andrews, O'Reilly, Richardson. Later inclusions collected by Bradman for this charity item include Richardson, Ironmonger and Alexander. 47 signatures in all. Unique and desirable."

With an estimate of $120,000-$150,000 this one is for hedge fund managers and members of the Rolling Stones only. It's one of a few Bradman bats in the auction, actually. If I was so rich that I could buy this I would introduce it to people as "a bat signed by Archie Jackson" and then afterwards just note in passing that it was Bradman's first Test bat. I think I'd need to buy a bat rack, actually. That would be about as extravagant as I got as a rich person; 1992 World Cup shirts off eBay, some old Wisdens and a bat rack. 

There's an array of very cool and very nerdy caps in this sale ($1200-1500 is surely a steal for Wasim Akram's Pakistan cap, right?) but this is labelled as a "Pakistan Test cap". Really? Please say it ain't so...

I won't bore you by pasting them all in here but the other caps that caught my eye were the Sri Lankan Rebel tour one (no photo guys??) and the uninentional history lesson on the evolution of Tasmania's cap. While we're on cap talk, Albion have put together a brilliant black one with yellow insignia for WA this Sheffield Shield season. Apparently it's based on a photo from their archives. Just a bit of cap chat for you. 

Actually no I will paste another, here's the Len Maddocks issue Tassie cap from the 60s. I think you'll see why many players wouldn't be caught dead wearing caps in that era.

Anyway, I'm not telling you what I'm actually going to throw a sneaky online bid on for the Mossgreen Auction because I don't want to be outbid. On the other hand, if anyone wants to start some kind of Kickstarter type fund for me, I really would like this Dennis Lillee pinball machine that recently appeared on eBay. Just brilliant.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

The little magazine that could

I've been busy stressing out about making my Guardian OBO debut today (it didn't go too badly all things considered; I might get asked back on Day 5), so haven't written anything today. Here's something I prepared earlier for The Cordon:

I love the ABC Cricket Guide. Long may it live.

Friday, 23 August 2013

The History of English Cricket Advertising Part 3 - The 1990s

I'm going to cheat a little bit here and stick some 2000s ones onto the end because they're possibly not worth a post of their own, save for the retrospectively amusing ads from the early years of cricket on the Internet.

The 90s might have been more politically correct than the decades prior, but the cricket ads were no less naff. Oh, and I've tacked some 2000s ones onto the bottom because this is the collector's edition boxed set.

1990 - The David Gower Shirt
"Is that a Gucci you're wearing?"

"No, it's the summer line from Gower."

1990 - Graeme Hick for Duncan Fearnley
The 90s was probably the first time that a significant amount of batsmen started to use their highest score or landmark innings as a kind of personal branding tool. This was definitely the case with Hick's 405. There are photos of him wearing a t-shirt with that 405 logo in the England dressing room that just make me think there had to have been teammates sniping about it behind his back.

1990 - England Players for "Helmwise Casual Gear"
Admit it, this is the first cricket blog on which you've seen a photo of Mark Ramprakash wearing a Jean-Michel Basquiat t-shirt, isn't it? Angus Fraser is also unnervingly 'greased up' in this series.

1990 - Dermot Reeve
There is no name more regal than Dermot Reeve. Actually, Dermot Reeve once bought something from me on eBay, prompting me to attempt a series of embarrassing emailed questions confirming it was indeed England cricketer Dermot Reeve supplementing my Paypal account. I am 100% sure he doesn't remember that exchange but I'm counting it as the first time I "interviewed" a cricketer, all the same.

1990 - Robin Smith for Gray Nicolls
There is nothing worse than lining up at the shopping centre for your tacky family portrait and having to wait for an England middle-order batsman to ham it up for the camera.

1990 - Robin Smith for Puddleducks
The thing is, if you handed Robin Smith a cheque in 1990, he would promote literally any product put in front of him. Can't believe Puddleducks didn't become a fashion icon though...

1990 - Mike Atherton for Royal Jelly Ginseng
The look on Athers' face here suggests he's not entirely certain of his agent's sanity for arranging this endorsement deal. That or he's just running low on Ginseng.

1990 - England v West Indies on Sky
See the young Lions roar, except for Ricardo Ellcock, who will manage to get himself injured a month before the tour and never get near international cricket again. Love Dev's glasses. Also possibly the last we see of Keith Medlycott for this blog post.

1990 - Box Briefs
Well, I can't say I've ever bought a jock strap in the first place, though the club I played for in England had an amusing tradition of playing "jockstrap football" on the ground during rain delays. That might be a Hampshire thing, I'm not sure.

1991 - Benson & Hedges Cricket Videos
You'd never see an ad like this these days, would you? These videos were also probably priced at a level comparable to a compact car. Were VHS that expensive to produce? I distinctly remember paying $49.95 for a cricket video once and thinking it was a reasonable price "for a double video".

1991 - Chris Lewis for Harlequin White
I'm not going to make a joke about Chris Lewis and white stuff, I swear. I thought Chris Lewis was brilliant when I was a kid. Mind you, I was also an intense fan of 'The Scatman' when I was a kid.

1991 - Rapid Cricketline
The only real downside of no longer having a landline phone at home is that I can't answer it in cricket gloves. You'd struggle if it was a rotary though, I guess.

1991 - Graeme Hick 405 Range
A big part of me wants one of those t-shirts but seriously, how much of a dick did every one of his teammates think he was for agreeing to this nonsense?

1991 - Giant Gray Nicolls Bat
This isn't so much an ad as a demonstration of the kind of thing I'd love to have in my office. Imagine propping it up in the background before you switched on your webcam before and skyped someone.


1991 - Graham Labrooy for Classic Bat Company
One for fans of The Twelfth Man. When I was growing up, we had a  family doctor (in the unlikely event that he is reading this, hello Dr Labrooy!) who was a cousin of "Grahamy". He genuinely did get sick of 13 year old me asking if he had any Graham Labrooy updates every time I had a sniffle. 

1991 - Graeme Hick's Cricket Quiz Phone Line
Before kids could rack up Latin American-level debt on smartphone games, they had to run up their parents phone bill with stuff like this. Good clean fun at just 36p per minute.

1991 - John Emburey for Warwick Wright Peugeot
Not even Alan Partridge would get involved in an endorsement deal like this, though I can totally imagine one of the sales staff saying "want to go take it for a SPIN, John?" to the laughter of no-one.

1991 - Paul Gascoigne & Graham Gooch for Stuart Surridge
If you don't enjoy this image then there is no joy in your heart.

1991 - Robin Smith for Puma 
There is a common misconception that England were completely abject during the 90s but it was merely a question of percentages; while Australians were out there giving their cliched 110% level of application, players like Robin Smith were only offering a mere 101%. Makes a difference when you add all those efforts up.

1991 - Mike Atherton and Robin Smith for Gray Nicolls 
How many times has Athers been unfairly beaten about the head with his university degree? Hardly did himself any favours here, I guess.

1991 - Stuart Surridge
When quality counts... send for Mark Greatbatch.

1991 - Viv Richards for Reebok
The tagline at the bottom of this is delusional even by the standards of the advertising industry; apparently Viv only wore Reebok's because he liked them. 

1992 - Duncan Fearnley - Simply the BEST!
A Zimbabwean, an Australian and an Englishman walk into a cricket bat factory...

1992 - David Gower for Open Championship 
It always puzzled me that Gower promoted a brand whose named called to mind tennis or golf more than cricket. There is something a bit "Vote for Pedro" about that t-shirt, too. 

1992 - Mike Gatting, Mark Ramprakash and Desmond Haynes for Gunn & Moore 
"Yes Dessie, it's just you on the ad mate, that's why you're the only one at the shoot."

1990 - Daffy, Neil Fairbrother and Wasim Akram for Reebok
Actually just made me think of this scene from Wayne's World.

1992 - Robin Smith for "No Sweat" 
I mentioned the bit about Robin Smith signing any sponsorship deal put in front of him, didn't I?

1992 - John Major for Gunn & Moore
This has just about everything you could ask for in a cricket ad. Pun? Check. Brilliant and cringeworthy photo? Check. John freaking Major? Check. To be fair, unlike a lot of bandwagoning pollies, at least Major is a genuine cricket fan. You'll never see Kevin Rudd pen a housebrick-sized ode to the great game, that's for sure.

1992 - Stuart Surridge
Gooch continuing the "personal milestone bat" trend with his iconic 333. Bet you didn't expect to see the words "Richie's Rig" today either, did you?

1992 - Sachin Tendulkar and Tetley Bitter
Not so much an ad as just one of the greatest photos in the history of sport.

1992 -England Cricketers for Tetley Bitter 
In case you're not able to enlarge this, the description of Chris Lewis is "Bothamesqueley". Yep.

1993 - Alec Stewart for Reebok

Cricinfo profile as it should be:

"Alec James Stewart, b. April 8, 1963, Planet Reebok"

1993 - AXA Equity & Law League
"Introducing a new game that is so dazzling we went with an ad that even the dowdiest accounting firm would find a bit bland.

1993 - AXA Equity & Law League Shirts
This is more like it. The mid 90s was the high water mark of cricket shirt design if you ask me. And by that, I mean they were simultaneously terrible and great. Gladstone Small doesn't look too convinced by Asif Din's pajamas at bottom though.

1993 - British Airways 
This is a fairly accurate representation of the role designated to women by cricket administrators of the 90s; handing out miniature cans of tonic water and returning Martin McCague's tray table to its holster for landing.  

1993 - Cornhill Insurance Test Series 
"...Bring the Test to life and cover your life." 

I guess death was an ever-looming presence in English cricket at that point. How long ago that seems now...

1993 - England Cricketers for Bolle
"Robin, the good thing about this is that in 20 years time, absolutely no-one will be laughing at this photo.

Is there a brand that screams "90s" more than Bolle? 

1993 - Merv Hughes for Easton
The moustache that launched a thousand advertising campaigns.

1993 - English Blazer
This might be a bit douchey, but it's also a bit nice as well.

1993 - 1993 Season Video
Here is a film of the 1993 English Cricket Season, appropriately surrounded by dark clouds.

1993 - Alec Stewart and Jack Russell for Kookaburra 
Bit of a "hedge your bets" move from Kookaburra. There is nothing worse than committing to an entire summer of ads featuring a bloke who's not in the team. Or as I call it, "doing a Doug Bollinger."

1993 - Merv Hughes t-shirts
Apparently Merv is meant to be 'The Terminator' in that photo at the bottom. Judging by the amount of t-shirts on offer, Merv-mania knew no bounds in '93.

1993 - Robin Smith for Puma
Robin Smith clearly on the outer at this point; replaced in his own ads by a pair of shoes.

1993 - Neil Fairbrother for Slazenger
Yep, a "power play" from Neil Fairbrother, that renowned brute. Seriously, the only way Neil Fairbrother could have been less popular in white clothing is if he had've added a pointy hood to his ensemble and started a bonfire. 

1993 - Tim Rice Cricket Line 
Live commentary BY Tim Rice? At 48p per minute I'd want at least a little bit of heavy breathing.

1994 - Curtly Ambrose for Doc Martens
This seems a really bizarre sponsorship combination but I cannot deny that I enjoy the sight of Curtly in a Northamptonshire shirt.Can't imagine Curtly partook in much of the sponsors merch but I might be wrong.

1994 - Brian Lara for Peugeot
This was an actual car that Brian Lara drove around in, which is a rare instance of personalised number plates being socially acceptable. This one's got a pun, a bizarre air-brushed photo and Brian Lara; a genuine triple threat.

1994 - David Gower writes for Sunday Express 
"Look, he really is writing this column. We sent him along with a notebook and everything!"

1994 - Fantasy Cricket
For all the meat-head culture of the world's various football codes, it remains astonishing to me that it was they and not us nerdy, trainspottery cricket fans who harnessed the potential of fantasy sports. 

1994 - Graeme Hick for Pony
There is no caption that can do this justice. Just roll around in its splendor and immediately set it as your twitter avatar.

1994 - Chris Lewis for Oakley Sunglasses
You may scoff at Chris Lewis' various statistical columns, but no other cricketer has ever rocked such a startling array of eyewear as this man. 

1994 - Sky
"Choose the winning side. If that side happens to be England, barrack for them without any sense of shame."

1994 - Wicketz Board Game
They got off on a bad foot with the horrendous name, but only English readers could confirm whether this game was any good. Looks like yet another Test Match rip-off to me.

1995 - Beef & Lamb - In a Stew
Kidderminster, Preston and York not such big meat eaters.

1995 - Brian Lara Jewellery
As with all of Graeme Hick's '405' tat, this looks like a massive reach, even for a star as big as Lara. If anyone sends me a photo of themselves with their 501 necklace on, I will award you my copy of Brett and Shane Lee's book, "Lee to the Power of Two" as a prize.

1995 - Cricinfo
Yep, this is what cricinfo looked like in the early years. "One of the many cricket pages on the Internet."

1995 - David Shepperd for Doc Martens
Dickie Bird must have been spewing that he missed out on the limelight here.

1995 - Dickie Bird for Doc Martens

1995 - Graeme Hick for Duncan Fearnley
Keep dreaming kid and one day you too might average 31.32 in Test cricket and have your spirit slowly crushed by mean-spirited Australians. 

1995 - Mitre
They'd want to be water-proof tuxedos, amirite? Amirite?

1995 - Rory Bremner "Creased Up"
True story: my computer literally made a groaning sound as this image uploaded.

1995 - West Indian cricketers for Sandals
If you could have any West Indian of the 90s back playing Test cricket right now, who would it be? 

1995 - Brian Lara for Wisden
As bright as the Wisden yellow is, there is no taking my focus off that studded belt. Not Brian Lara's finest moment, that one. The recollection of the "Joe Blogg" brand also made me feel a little bit old.

1995 - Graham Thorpe & Phil DeFreitas for X-Rays
Great for shielding your eyes from the blinding horror taking place before your eyes and maintaining the innocence of youth.

1996 - Mike Atherton for Adidas Eye Protection
"Listen Mike, we could afford to sign you but Lara's asking price was too high. Can you just stand near him as often as possible so we can get a good shot for the ad. Even better if Dominic Cork is in frame; he's coming up trumps in our focus groups at the moment."

1996 - Botham & Lamb
Ball's deep... in conversation.

1996 - Brian Lara 96 Cricket
Admission time: I used to 'save' my game as I went along on this and exit the game if Lara got out, re-entering at the point at which he was still in. So basically the way that Shane Watson wants actual cricket to work.

1996 - Dominic Cork and Mark Ramprakash
Just a couple of chilled out entertainers basking in the thought of their upcoming decade of success.

1996 - Darren Gough for Pony
I always struggle to understand the logic behind ads featuring a bowler batting. 

1996 - David Gower for Natwest
I need to go take a Gower Shower. Enough is enough, Dave.

1996 - David Shepherd for Wisden
There are many reasons for which Wisden will never ever die, but ruddy-cheeked old English blokes is a key one. 

1997 - Amoeba
Without going into details of my immediate, visceral reaction to this image, you have to question the logic of this. How many people other than my clinically insane Uncle bat without gloves on? Because that is what you'd have to do for this product to work properly.

1997 - Ashes Series
Never gets old, does it? Oh it does? Actually yeah you're probably right.

1997 - Guardian Ashes Desktop Scorecard
I remember my use of this having prompted my Dad to shake his head in befuddlement and say something like, "geez this information superhighway is unreal isn't it? I'm going to have to get some lessons on how to use it." He's still literally never used a single website in his life, despite the fact that he has one himself.

1998 - Robin Smith for Chase
I was wary of this brand until I saw Robin Smith sitting on the light roller with his thumbs up, now I must have all of their products.

1998 - Phil Tufnel for the Telegraph
Accidentally cropped the edges of this one and as I was about to re-scan it I had one of those moments where you question your own sanity and whether your university degree was actually worth the $30,000 when you're sitting in your underpants scanning photos of Phil Tufnel at 11:30pm on a Wednesday night.

Haven't gotten to the bottom of all that yet but will keep you updated.

1998 - Darren Gough for Duncan Fearnley 
Duncan Fearnley start sponsoring fast bowlers; always the most bracing sign that a brand is about to start spiraling down the toilet at least a little bit. 

1998 - England v South Africa Test Series
I laughed at this before remembering that England had actually won this Test series. Bit of a false dawn though, wasn't it?

1998 - Darren Gough Gargoyle Sunglasses
Introducing cricket's flip-up sunglasses pioneer, Darren Gough.

1998 - Gray Nicolls Box
In the name of 'innovation' and 'continuous improvement', sometimes businesses are forced into decisions that seem a little bit insane; like attaching a protector to a pair of gloves and pretending it's a new and unique product.

1998 - Nasser Hussein for Gray Nicolls
"So Nasser, what does it take to reach the pinnacle of international cricket."

"To be honest mate, if you pull your pants up high enough the rest just takes care of itself."

1998 - Wisden/Guardian website
In  the late 90s I was constantly having to make the call as to whether I used our minuscule internet bandwidth surfing cricket and football sites or logging onto Napster to download some Asian Dub Foundation songs. 

They were crazy times, weren't they?

1998 - Worcestershire & Graeme Hick
Graeme Hick being presented with all of the fan mail he received for the decade prior.

1998 - Nick Knight for Hunts County
The British are much more adept at hating Nick Knight than Australians are so consider this a caption competition and leave your entries below the line.

1998 - Nasser Hussein for the U15 National Cricket Championship
"This competition is very important to me. I am 100% behind it."

Is that the least convincing ghosted-by-a-PR-goon quote you have ever read in your life?

1998 - Tony Cottey for Lord's International
If I was going to pinpoint a reason why this brand wasn't a huge success, it's probably that they just went and spunked all of their marketing budget on a big name endorsement deal. 

1999 - Cricinfo 365
I used to get this email. In fact I possibly signed up to hotmail with the intention of receiving it, now that I think. Youngsters, this was in the boring old days before there were comments sections that descended into death threats against the Channel Nine commentary team.

1999 - eBay
This was in an issue of Wisden Cricket Monthly and so early in eBay's rise to global domination that the Comic Sans font was apparently considered to fall within the corporate style guide for marketing communications.

2000 - Cricinfo
Interesting that as early as 2000, Cricinfo was marketing itself as a "Grandaddy" Internet operation. I still remember the thrill of watching a live text commentary of a Derbyshire game as though it was some kind of hugely significant moment in history.

2000 - International Cricket Captain 2000
"To be a great captain you need timing, tactics and patience. And a better spinner than Chris Schofield."

2001 - Arrow Sports
I don't think even Arrow Sports know what they're trying to say here.

2002 - Cricnet

A more important development in my life than the advent of sexting, to be honest.

2002 - 
I'll have to get back to you on that one.

2003 - Andrew Flintoff for Woodworm
The only way you can combine the phrase "Hell for Leather" with an image of a man wearing a polar fleece sweater is if that man's name is Alan Partridge.

2004 - EA Sports Cricket
"Oh, racial insensitivity was stamped out of sports long ago," they say. And they're wrong.

2005 - Geraint Jones for Puma
Great example of seizing your short window of marketability and milking it for all it's worth. That kid is trying to figure out who is in the photo. They told him they'd give his shirt back if he guessed right.

2007 - Monty Panesar for Asics
No boundaries... and no pitch so speak of, as it turns out.

2007 - Darren Gough for the PCA
If you could have an international cricketer in your office cricket team, it'd surely have to be a batsman, right? Suppose it depends on the type of carpet and whether there's a good enough poster tube to bat with.

2007 - International Cricket Captain feat. Kevin Pietersen
Captain KP. Memories...

2009 - Michael Vaughn for Skins
It's pretty fashionable to hate Michael Vaughn in Australia these days but not many Australian cricketers of his era would have enough self-deprecation to appear in this ad. Can you imagine Matthew Hayden agreeing to this?

2011 - Eoin Morgan for Slazenger
Those eight blokes would make a hell of a batting line-up for Ireland.

2011 - Craig Kieswetter for Puma
At this point, I need a much stronger drink than Earl Grey.