Twenty20 – Sustainable Cricket?

This week has been a bad one for the newest form of our most dearly beloved game. It seemed that 2008 was the absolute watershed moment for the T20 format. The first season of the IPL, the Stanford Millions competition in the West Indies, and of course the T20 World Cup, won, appropriately, by India. But 2009, and particularly this past week, has proved a real test for the form known as ‘Hollywood Cricket’

The man at the center of all of this is the American businessman Allan Stanford. Back in 2008 Stanford famously rolled into the home of cricket, Lords, with a basket full of money, and won quick friends.

His inaugural tournament, at the ground named in his honor in Antigua, saw a bunch of West Indian teams, play the best County side in England, and the England cricket team itself. From the get-go the competition had the real feeling of a farce. Why were West Indian players playing for a team called Stanford Superstars? Why would a national team involve itself in what was set-up as a franchise competition? The answer was of course the mighty dollar…in fact $20 Million or so.

The first sign of problems should have been that the game of cricket was being sold-out to a man who professed to have no interest in the actual game. But the cash strapped West Indians, and for some reason the Poms, jumped straight into bed with the Texan. Another sign of the problems with Stanford was the extraordinary footage of the billionaire cavorting with the English players wives during a competitive game.

But still, although the players made it clear that the situation was becoming increasingly uncomfortable, the lure of the mighty T20, and the dollars that came with it were too much to refuse.

When word first came out last week that Stanford’s millions were in fact based largely on fraud, it really should have come as no surprise. Suddenly the egg on the face of cricket administrators was so apparent, that even they couldn’t shrug it off. Much has now been written about the incredible lengths that the game will go to, to attract corporate funding. The cash cow of T20 was previously unquestioned. Now, of course, the Stanford Millions will be called off, and reports suggest that many of the West Indian players had been talked into investing their prize money back into Stanford’s fraudulent business practices, thus they now had not even the dollars to show for it.

Another blow to T20 is the increasing range of players who are nominally pulling out of the upcoming IPL tournament. Already Australian stars Mitchell Johnson and Michael Clarke have reaffirmed their disinterest with the competition, and now Ricky Ponting, who was admittedly quite poor for the Kolkata Knight Riders, has pulled out. With the cricket schedule so packed, it is increasingly going to be a conscience call for players juggling monetary and national interests. In fact, speaking of juggling, what is to be said of the England cricket team, who heard of their upcoming riches after they had been allowed to be involved in the IPL, and then subsequently got skittled for 51 by one of the weakest teams in the world. Surely players are now seeing that perhaps the juggling act is increasingly difficult. What seemed easy money is now certainly something else.

T20 came around incredibly quickly. Sure it has had a life at English county level for quite some time, but the fact we had an international world cup and the inaugural franchise competition so soon after the game’s inception, is extraordinary. I wonder about the true longevity of the shortest game. The games are certainly exiting, but there is little room for subtlety or intrigue, players either smash it and get a boundary, or smash it and get out. If one of the major arguments against ODI’s has been their sameness, surely the same is only multiplied in T20. For every ‘David Warner’ Moment, there is a myriad of relative sameness. Smash…Six…Smash…Out.

As money dries up worldwide the only real incentive to be involved in the game will diminish also. So far there are no real outcomes to one-off International T20’s as we have seen between Australia and South Africa and New Zealand, this summer. These games are almost International Friendlies, as the main attraction for the game has been the IPL and its riches. But, as I stated, if the dollars dry up, or are lost in fraudulent situations such as that of Allan Stanford, then not only will the administrators have to think about the real purpose of the game, but they will also have to question their decision-making before they jump into bed with any gung ho businessman with a buck.

Do EcoVillages and Other Sustainable Developments Inform UK Housing Concepts?

Green developments are perceived as a means to circumvent local planning processes. Private investments in earth-friendly, resilient development can still work.

In this age of sustainable design and building, it’s an unsettling fact that the “eco-towns” thought to offer housing solutions in the UK have not come to fruition. But in the best ways of looking at it, the stalled concepts of green communities might provide ideas and lessons for the kinds of communities that are and will be built in the near future. The problem may not have been green building per se, but the process by which such communities are bureaucratically created.

In 2007, Gordon Brown initially proposed ten large-scale, carbon-neutral communities that would be built on greenbelt land. Ideally this would have delivered 200,000 new homes which, of course, are sorely needed in the UK where an estimated one million households are waiting for affordable accommodations.

The idea of earth-friendly building is technically no longer a pie-in-the-sky concept. LEED certified buildings, including residences, as well as Passivehaus construction, which entails structures so energy efficient they draw little to no energy from outside sources (using solar or geothermal energy instead), are becoming commonplace in Europe and the world over. With construction supply networks incorporating once-advanced technologies and materials as standard equipment, it has become increasingly expected that high-performance buildings make much better use of resources (energy to build and energy to operate) than in previous times.

But something that is well understood by experienced homebuilders and investors (such as land fund managers) is that it is unsavoury and nearly impossible to parachute in a large-scale development onto any community. EcoTowns have yet to be built, and the reasons are largely because existing communities opposed them – not because they are environmentally sustainable, but because they impose large changes on the existing communities themselves. The progressive concept was perceived as a means to circumvent planning authorities, but those authorities fought back.

Two communities are still on the planning process track, in North West Bicester (a 382-acre, 2,600 home site) and Rack heath (near Norwich), which could include 5,000 new homes, 30 per cent of which would be affordable. Each would feature renewable energy use, efficient waste reduction and management, minimised transportation emissions (incorporating public transport, bicycling and car sharing) and efficient water use. But as of late 2014, neither has been built.

Top-down planning is problematic in England, particularly in the new “localism” era. Planning authorities are required to increase the housing supply to meet the high demand, but how and where is to be worked out with local communities. This is how private development companies are accustomed to working – develop a plan and provide the infrastructure necessary to enhance the community. Typically, these are on a smaller scale so as to minimise disruption and to answer immediate needs, such as to provide housing that then makes the area attractive to employers.

Still, the environmental goals and tactics can be incorporated into smaller, investor-led development. Energy-efficient homes are more valuable. Natural green spaces, watershed management, preservation of habitat and healthful living amenities (such as walking and biking accommodations) still provide a qualitative living experience.

This is why capital growth planning from private investors has a greater chance of succeeding in the next few years. Working through prescribed (and modernised) planning processes, they can propose community-appropriate development where eco-friendly features are a clear enhancement of the local environment. In other words, sustainability does not require large-scale building.

Individuals can get involved in these developments as investors, including members of those existing communities; before doing so, however, they are advised to consult with an independent financial advisor to determine if the investment fits an overall wealth-building strategy.

National Trust Areas of West Cornwall

For those with an interest in National Trust places and spaces, the westernmost tip of Cornwall is home to an intriguing diversity of sites – despite not being known for having a particular high concentration of them. Ranging from gardens which make the most of the county’s temperate climate, to areas which offer a window into Cornwall’s unique past – aside from the region’s fantastic coastline and laid back way of life, it are these sites including those under the management of the Trust which contribute toward making the region such an appealing place to visit.

What follows is a short guide to some key National Trust sites in West Cornwall.

Trengwainton Garden
Trengwainton is a luscious and exotic 25-acre garden situated just a few minutes from the south coastal town of Penzance. The abundance of prehistoric-looking ferns and trees as well as a family trail makes this destination well tailored for any age range, whilst intriguing design flourishes such as a walled garden built to the dimensions of Noah’s Ark and an amazing array of colourful flower varieties may well bring out the more childlike side of older visitors.

Levant Mine and Beam Engine
Mining is a huge part of Cornish history and the Beam Engine at Levant Mine is significant because it is the only still-working Cornish beam engine in its original site. To see the huge water pumping machine working today is quite a sight and does well to conjure much imagining of a world literally powered by steam – and knowing that until the helping hand of a formidable group called the ‘Greasy Gang’ restored it to its former glory (after 60 years!), it is truly a special and unique attraction. Levant Mine and Beam Engine is located north of St Just.

St Michael’s Mount
St Michael’s Mount lies just off the south coast just east of Penzance. The castle and surrounding island is home to the St Auben family and a community of villagers which works to sustain itself as a self-contained parish. The mount and castle is open to the public at specific times relating to the seasons. Yet, despite the necessity to plan your visit, the attraction is more than worth it – and perhaps one of the best links to Cornwall’s amazing past, another way of life, as well as the county’s wider relation to the rest of the world.

Godolphin Estate is a fine example of Tudor/Stuart architecture and garden design located just outside of the small town of Helston. The estate covers around 555 acres in total though restoration is ongoing in places meaning certain areas are currently out of bounds whilst others can only be entered with a tour guide. Despite this there is much to see, and one of the most striking aspects of this attraction is the way in which it has remained so unchanged for hundreds of years. Its tranquil well-kept gardens are also a prime asset.