Joe Root is light years away from the visibility David Gower enjoyed and, away from terrestrial TV, some team-mates in Australia might as well be in a witness protection programme
At the risk of making myself a hostage to fortune, it is very possible that Australia has already delivered its most withering put-down of England before an Ashes ball has even been bowled. I may come to regret this rash statement when this year’s exquisite causal link between someone’s girth, someone else’s wife, and some form of baked goods is made. But given how much of modern journalism seems to be about “calling” things in the comical belief that functioning as Earth’s wrongest bookmaker makes one relevant, let’s give it a whirl: to read that the Australian media has branded England’s Ashes squad the Unnameables is to experience the sting of the sledge that really lands.
Who are ya? Who are we? It goes without saying that the captain, Joe Root, is light years away in visibility from past players such as David Gower – that level of English cricketing celebrity is a lost world. Even Jimmy Anderson is a throwback to a time of greater recognition, just a few years ago, after which the progression to comparative anonymity has been steady. Most of the other members of England’s squad enjoy the sort of obscurity you’d expect from one of the better witness protection programmes. No one could accuse them of being household names. Even the absentee Ben Stokes – accused of something else, and awaiting resolution on that front – isn’t one. The days of people other than the deeply committed knowing every player are gone – which means that the days of children ever becoming deeply committed are imperilled. Last weekend the BBC website ran a quiz asking people if they recognised various members of Australia’s squad; they might have had similar results if they’d tried the same with England’s.