Tag Archives: cricinfo

Journo Talk 1: Jarrod Kimber tells me to get real

I am hoping this might turn into a semi-regular feature, in which proper cricket journalists talk about their jobs while I grow increasingly jealous and bitter.

First up, it’s ESPN Cricinfo’s Jarrod Kimber. 

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By Sam Blackledge

When Jarrod Kimber replies to my e-mail, I feel a twinge of excitement.

This could be it, I think. My ticket to the inner sanctum. Another step closer to the dream.

Then I read his answer to my first question: ‘What advice would you give to a budding cricket journalist?

“Find a niche,” he says.

“Just being a cricket writer isn’t going to get you anywhere unless you are lucky enough to pick up a gig with a newspaper, and even then you probably need to be known for something to get a foot in the door anywhere.

“You need to specialise in something and be known for that, because cricket is so big, so vast, that trying to make it without something you are known for would be very hard.

“So your best bet is to find something that no one is covering or focusing on, and do that.”

Translation: good luck, kid.

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In the space of a few years Jarrod has gone from the enfant terrible of cricket blogging, littering the web with snarls of ‘fucken’ this and ‘Christ’s sake’ that, to an established – if not quite establishment – journalist.

He insists the potty-mouthed voice of Cricket With Balls, the anarchic site where it all started, was just a character.

“It was never really going to cross over to the mainstream,” he says.

“The way I write now is probably more like how I wrote before I wrote about cricket: long form pieces, telling stories.

“If anything it just took me a long time to come back to that in cricket, partly because I created this other identity.

“But also things change. I’m a father now, I’m almost ten years older than when I started.

“I also learnt too much about how the cricket administration sausage was made, which meant I stopped being comfortable making the players into villains.

“I still have the character of Cricket With Balls, and am working on a novel in his voice, but for now am happy with how I am writing.”

The contents of the sausage were revealed in Death of a Gentleman, the 2015 documentary Jarrod made with fellow reporter Sam Collins.

They set out to explore the future of Test cricket, but stumbled into a murky world of secret ICC meetings, questionable financial governance and intimidation.

I ask Jarrod whether, given the growing awareness of corruption, drug abuse and dodgy dealing, sports journalists are now required to think more like news reporters.

“One of the things I love about writing on sport is that you always get the chance to write about other things within it,” he says.

“Business, power, race, politics, all of it is right there.

“The problem with many sports writers is that they started working when their job was turning up at a ground or a press conference and reporting what happened.

“You would hope the future involves more sports writers breaking stories and not fearing retribution (which does happen), that more people look into the bigger picture, not just the day-in day-out nature of it. But you could say the same of pretty much all of society.

“Sport is corrupt. It is poorly run. The best interests of the sport are not being looked after and there are tonnes of stories out there.

“Sport has never been this corrupt, and there are more sports journalists than ever before.

“Instead of just regurgitating content they should be questioning people and organisations.”

I became slightly obsessed with Jarrod and Sam when they teamed up as ‘Two pricks at the Ashes’ and later ‘The Chuck Fleetwood-Smiths’, trying not to corpse their way through a series of video blogs from Test grounds around the world.

Their mock homo-erotic relationship, and the simple fact that they appeared to be having the most tremendous fun, brightened up many a dark winter night.

These days Jarrod is still hovering around the boundary edge, soaking up the atmosphere and putting the cricket into perspective with typical panache for readers of Cricinfo and listeners to his TalkSport podcast.

I’m interested to know whether, like many news reporters, the cricketing press pack are worried about the way the industry is heading.

“I think clickbait is dying a natural death at the moment,” he says.

“It will be replaced by something else, perhaps worse. The listicle is the thing now, but even that is not as full-on as it was a year or two ago.

“Long form has actually had something of a comeback, and I would say now there are more long articles written about cricket than at any time in history.

“I think what will go from cricket writing is match reports being the major form of writing.

“We can see the highlights now easier than ever before. What we need is the analysis, the context and the story.

“The best match reports often did this, but there is no need to give the entire story of a day’s play anymore, just take out what matters.”

Twenty20 has revolutionised the modern game, but it’s not just players and coaches who have had to adapt their approach.

Jarrod says a T20 match report is “about as important as a fart in a mooncup”, and believes journalists must keep pace as the game continues to evolve.

“The sport will dictate the changes and the writers and editors will follow,” he says.

“There won’t be many in the media leading the way, just like the administrators don’t lead the way.

“The sport leads, the rest follow.”

Follow Jarrod on Twitter here.

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Back in the game: returning to the strange world of village cricket

by Sam Blackledge

I AM a journalist. I spend my days making phone calls, chasing stories, following tip-offs and generally making a nuisance of myself. It is an exhausting, exhilarating and all-consuming profession, leaving very little time for anything else. But last year I decided I needed a hobby, something to take my mind off the daily grind. So I joined my local cricket club.

As a teenager I was a decent player. From the age of about 12 I would go up against senior teams, men three times my age and twice my size, and every now and then my looping legspin would get the better of them. It certainly bamboozled my peers when I played for my school team.

I had tentative trials for Warwickshire but drifted away from the game as other interests took over – college, university, relationships and then the world of work. When the 2011 season started, more than ten years had passed since I last hung up my whites.

The first net sessions were eye-opening. Though my passion for cricket had remained strong since I stopped playing, I had forgotten about the senses of the game. The hot, sweaty smells of kit bags, the echoing acoustics of the indoor school, the weight of the bat, the hardness of the ball. Everything was alien, like relearning a language I had been listening to all along.

As a naturally shy person, banter has never been my strong point, and sports clubs are not the most welcoming environments for people like me. I decided fairly early on to keep my head down, concentrate on my cricket, and made half-hearted attempts at small talk whenever the need arose.

Quickly realising I no longer had the control to bowl leggies, I switched to offspin, although there was precious little spin as I struggled with my action when practice moved outdoors. As a schoolboy it took all my effort and concentration just to get the ball down the other end. But now taller, older and uglier, I was dishing up all sorts of rubbish, unable to find my radar or settle into a rhythm.

My first match came along soon enough, a friendly fixture for the Sunday team, and I was a bag of nerves as we fielded first. No matter how much you practise, nothing can prepare you for the moment when you are standing at mid-off and a ball is cracked in your direction. Time slows down and speeds up all at once. It’s fight or flight. Every bit of my instinct was screaming: “Hard ball. Very fast. Get out of the way.”

To simply move, of course, would spell disaster. Quite apart from conceding a boundary, I would have been marked out as a problem fielder, a weak link to be hidden away. All these thoughts were racing through my head when the ball slammed into my ankle, looped behind me and the batsmen scampered a single.

Over the next few months things got slightly easier. My first wicket came with a neat caught-behind in my second game, and I celebrated a bit too enthusiastically. I soon realised that no one really celebrates on Sundays. Towards the end of the season we arrived for a Sunday home game to find one of the opposition players warming up by running around the boundary. Our laidback captain looked on, incredulous. “What’s he doing?” he spluttered. “It’s Sunday.”

My bowling was improving in fits and starts, but batting was a different matter. I scored seven runs, with a top score of 5, at an average of 2.33. Chris Martin, eat your heart out.

Many cricketers claim that they can remember every shot, every run and every moment of their greatest innings. I never quite believed it, thinking the statistical detail of their autobiographies came not from memory but from carefully studying the pages of Wisden. Now I am beginning to catch on.

That glorious 5 – a career best – came in my only match for the Saturday second team. It was a warm afternoon, FA Cup final day, and we endured a crushing away defeat – conceding 278 and managing just 106 in reply. I came in at No. 10, with the game in its final throes, the opposition’s two spinners bowling in tandem, and survived 27 balls before being caught at silly point.

It was great fun and summed up everything I love about the game. Nothing seemed to matter – the hopeless match situation, the fact I hardly knew which end of the bat to hold, the agonising cramp in my legs from 50 overs in the field – and yet it mattered more than anything else. I was in my own little world, battling my demons, playing a sport I cherish and that I had thought I would never play again.

After a couple more wickets, a shocking dropped catch and a fair bit of rain, the season ended. My statistics tell the story of an expensive part-time bowler and tail-end batsman with a tendency to get out clean-bowled. But my memories are of so much more than that.

I recently returned to winter nets ahead of the coming season. It is still awkward, terrifying and challenging. My bowling is slightly better, my batting seems to be getting worse. I still have trouble working up the courage to talk to anyone. But it’s great fun. I’m doing it for my 12-year-old self. I think he would be proud.

This piece first appeared at Cricinfo.

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