On The Front Foot: A silver lining to the billion-dollar downfall of Allen Stanford

  • @stephenbrenkley

The incarceration for 110 years of the man formerly known as Sir Allen Stanford brings to a symbolic close his bizarre relationship with English cricket.

Before the fraudulent nature of his banking enterprises became evident, and when it seemed he was just another stonking-rich philanthropist who wanted to put his riches into cricket, he negotiated a five-year deal worth $100 million. In the event it lasted less than one.

That was time enough for the launch of the ill-fated liaison when Stanford landed in a helicopter at Lord's accompanied by a Perspex box laden with $20m in notes, which was the prize on offer for a single match, the so-called Twenty20 for 20. That match, between the Stanford Superstars and England, took place at the end of a surreal week in Antigua in November 2008. England, embarrassed by it all, lost abjectly. Stanford, who was convicted of a fraud amounting to $7bn, behaved more or less as if he was king of the world.

He duped enough other people for English cricket to be forgiven. But the manner in which they pandered to him, and the fact that they received $3.5m from him, may stalk them forever. There is an additional point worth considering, unpalatable though it may be. Before the Super Series, Stanford, since stripped of his Antiguan knighthood, had been around West Indies cricket for three years. His regional Twenty20 tournament not only made some players rich but revitalised the game. The legacy of that may still be felt in West Indies' climb back to cricket respectability. Stanford, crook though he was, may sleep easier at nights for knowing that.

Knotty problem for old-timers

Bad news for long-ago cricketers on the gongs front. The Queen's Birthday Honours unfortunately managed to overlook Alan Knott and John Snow, Ashes-winning heroes from more than 40 years ago. Perhaps their deeds were too long ago to count, perhaps they have never been forgiven for their flirtation with the breakaway World Series Cricket. There is hope. Sixty years after he bowled England to a Bodyline victory, Harold Larwood was finally made an MBE in 1993.

No reprieve for Doctrove

By common consent, the standard of elite umpiring has never been higher. TV replays regularly show the crack standards of the likes of Aleem Dar, Asad Rauf and Simon Taufel. The Decision Review System has changed their lives, and some research into that by Douglas Miller is published in The Cricket Statistician. This shows that bottom of the list for having decisions upheld is Billy Doctrove at 55.3 per cent. Was it entirely a coincidence that Doctrove has just announced his retirement?

A Rose by any other name

Being at the ground once known, rather fetchingly, as the Rose Bowl has been to recognise the force of commercial imperatives. The newest international stadium is now the Ageas Bowl, backed for six years by a Southampton insurance company. Six of the 18 headquarters county grounds now bear the name of various companies, two of them with capital-letter acronyms to make them seem still more exclusive. The Oval, Kennington Oval that is, is in its fourth commercial manifestation. It may be time for ground records to be amended with each name change.