How undesirable is Trenton Oldfield?

It seems Trenton Oldfield has successfully appealed against having his visa revoked. He is the Australian thirty-something who took it upon himself to disrupted the 2012 Boat Race in a supposed protest against elitism while failing to notice that Oxbridge is more meritocratic than elitist on account of its really hard exams.

He calls it protest, and still thinks he has the right to do what he did that day. But it was in fact a form of sabotage; it was an attempt, partially successful, to deny freedom to others while at the same time claiming to exercise his freedom to protest. It doesn’t work like that, Trenton, really it doesn’t. It falls into the same category as forcing your way into someone’s office or place of work and denying them the ability to do their work. You don’t exercise your freedom by denying freedom to others who are simply going about their lawful business.

The decision, right or wrong, is a kick in the teeth for Theresa May, the Home Secretary. But what should she do now? What should happen, supposing we agree with her that the narcissistic, selfish little man’s presence in the UK is indeed ‘undesirable?’

He clearly loves Britain. Well, he said he ‘fell in love with London within hours of arriving,’ so one supposes he loves Britain too. The reason, you see, or one of them at least, was that he got the impression ‘there was room for people like me.’ There was room in London for people interested in justice and fairness. Which is nice to hear. Though one can’t help concluding that what he really meant was that he has a special regard for justice and fairness that is otherwise lacking in Britain. But he’s here now, so all is well!

Is it possible, however, that his love for country and olympian self-regard could be used against him? Is it not about time we, Perfidious Albion, lived up to our hard-won reputation? We doubly know he loves Britain because he fought so hard to stay here, despite the country’s inherent and odious elitism. His struggle is all the more impressive because he tells us he wants to raise a family here, too. O what sacrifices he is prepared to make for his love of country!

No, that last bit doesn’t make much sense to me, either, unless he’s like all those other middle-class revolutionaries who love Britain so much they want to move here, live here, enjoy the peace and harmony our rotten people and unjust political system seem to have quite inexplicably produced, and turn us into some utopian fantasy – not unlike Karl Marx and his fellow-travellers, now I think about it.

Anyway, that love he has for our country. How do we make use of it? Well, here’s a suggestion. You may or may not know that our cricketers are finding it hard going in Australia. It’s not clear if this is because Trenton (Old Trenty, as I affectionately like to call him) is right when he says Australia is unnacceptibly racist and they are giving our Yorkies a particularly torrid time because of it, or because the Aussies are just playing better cricket than us at the moment. But it is clear that our cricketers are definitely not finding it easy. How about we tap into Old Trenty’s obvious love of country and call him up to play for England in the next test match?

It is true that he might not survive the experience, considering the reception the Aussie fast bowlers, revved up by Oldfield’s outrageous slander of their country, are likely to give him; or, for that matter, the Aussie public. But he’d be willing to risk it, I’m sure. We know he’s brave: he risked decapitation last year while fighting the Oxbridge elitists. If that’s a just war, then surely fighting the Aussie racists is equally just, even a duty. It is also true that convincing him to play for England might not be entirely straightforward: not because he doesn’t like England, we know he luuurves England, but because he might think selecting a cricketer to play for his country just because he’s the best is a bit elitist. But I’m sure his newfound regard for Blighty would win out.

So far, so good. Now comes the sneaky bit. When the Ashes are over (unfortunately not to English satisfaction, as is the most likely outcome at the time of writing: and now doubly-unfortunately confirmed.) and it is time for the cricketers to come home, Andy Flower mislays the man’s passport.

But don’t worry too much for Old Trenty; he won’t be too inconvenienced – he would already be home.

This is only one option, of course. Another might be to slip him on a different plane to Cooky and the lads: the one going to Syria, perhaps. He might then learn what genuine injustice and unfairness in society looks like.

Ho hum! If only things were that easy. The thing is, I think perhaps he should be allowed to stay. You see, he is in fact married to a British citizen. They have a child, but that’s immaterial. It’s her British citizenship that is key. They could go and live in Australia, despite his ridiculous argument against doing so, but British citizens do have rights – inalienable rights. Genuine spouses should have automatic residency rights in the country of their spouse. That’s basic. It’s a matter of individual liberty over arbitrary state power. If he breaks the law then the law should punish him, but his residency, on balance, and barring extreme misbehaviour, should not be affected. No matter how disagreeable he is. And Trenton – Old Trenty my lad – you are disagreeable.


There’s a good time and a bad time to win your first sporting cap

Seeing new players emerge onto the sporting scene is one of the great delights of competitive sport. It’s almost as pleasing as watching seasoned professionals performing at the peak of their powers (which reputedly occurs at around the age of twenty-six); or hanging on beyond their pensionable age through sheer brilliance, force of will and managerial loyalty.

Sometimes the arrival of new players is the consequence of panic. Managers, coaches and selectors, fearing the sack or the harsh side of their supporters’ tongues, look for solutions in new faces. The trouble is, this approach doesn’t usually work unless it is part of a wider, more-considered strategy. Fergie’s kids may have been kids, but they were the product of a carefully-considered youth strategy.

I remember the dread days of English cricket in the 1990s. New faces seemed to appear as often as they did on that eponymous show of the 1970s; and if they failed, they would get the same cruel treatment from those infinite legions of judges ready to cut them down. A player (or a comedian) might achieve fame for their allotted fifteen minutes, then be cast back into their obscurity and only reappear, if unlucky, a couple of decades later in a game of Trivial Pursuit (this also applies to the comedian).

There were reasons enough to panic in those days: not least the West Indian executioners masquerading as bowlers; though it’s probably more accurate to call it fear. The real panic was with the selectors. They struggled to find an eleven with which they were happy, and only later realised that a debutant was as likely to fail as succeed. Though that was the era, was it not? And the lack of team continuity – and confidence in selection – perhaps contributed to a poorer win-loss ratio.

It’s a statement of the obvious that young, inexperienced players are more likely to succeed if they debut in a settled side. Andrew Strauss’ first test match perhaps illustrates the point: a century at Lords against New Zealand in 2004. He might have got off to this flying start anyway (and average just over sixty in his first year), but the settled nature of the team helped. Trescothick, Vaughan, Flintoff, Hoggard and Harmison formed the backbone of a side on the up; and a year later they won the Ashes in that great summer, of which I remember escaping from the office into the sun and watching the drama unfold in the nearest establishment possessing a television, and then later on the day of celebration at Trafalgar Square to witness the intoxicated victors falling out of their bus.

We forgive winners, I’ve noticed that. Six years after the 2005 Ashes, the English rugby team got up to their own mischief during the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand. But there was one key difference. They didn’t play well. Vaughan and Flintoff won, while Tindall and Tuilagi lost – simple.

Between getting knocked out of the 1999 World Cup and winning the competition in 2003, the England rugby team possessed a winning culture. Against New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, they won ten out of twelve games, which is no easy task. At that time, players emerged into a team imbued with confidence and true ability, each adding something new rather than merely trying to arrest the decline. Okay, so a review of the debut list shows quite a few forgettable names; but each player who broke into the side for a permanent run, rather than so Clive Woodward (not yet knighted) could ‘take a look,’ were genuine talents. Ben Cohen, Mike Tindall, Iain Balshaw (what could have been had injury not blighted him!), Jason Robinson and Steve Thompson all made the team better for their inclusion.

Sporting fortunes rise and fall: Always. After 2003 and 2005, the rugby players and cricketers alike fell off quite drastically. But the cricketers were soon back, even reaching number one in the ICC rankings and winning the two most recent Ashes series. There is a buoyancy to the side, and the expectation is that each new player will succeed rather than fail as they did in earlier eras. Take Anderson, Broad, Swann, Cook and Trott: they all improved the side and they all succeeded almost immediately. One might mention Anderson’s pre-2005 Ashes debut, but he was only kept out of the side by the great quartet of Flintoff, Hoggard, Harmison and Jones. That’s no insult.

We are currently in the throes of the Autumn Internationals. England has already played Australia and Argentina, winning both quite comfortably, and there is a sense that a player will now only force their way into the side if they are going to improve things, rather than because there is no other option. That’s where we want to be, and it doesn’t really matter what happens against New Zealand at the weekend.

I don’t expect England to win the game, although they might, and despite last year’s unexpected triumph; the All Blacks won’t have forgotten that one, and they’ve not lost a single game since. No, the mood is buoyant and the supporters can tell Lancaster and this crop of players might be onto something. Which makes it all the more exciting to see new players pulling on the shirt for the first time: because to get into this side, they really do have to be pretty good.