So what are our memories of this universally enjoyed Cricket World Cup going to be? Or rather what’s the general feeling going to be – we’ll all have moments but what what’s central, or seminal, or telling? For me there’s something tectonic and vital and mostly positive gone on, to do with the gear-shift towards more explosive and exciting action. People hollering and whooping more; more crash and bang, more fireworks; more freedom than ever from those wielding the willow.
Not everybody wants that, of course. Some would honestly have preferred scores to be tightly contested around the 250 mark, with cute hands and daredevil running and imaginative bowling being decisive, rather than belligerent hitting on an epic new scale. Some would say we’ve gone further away from ‘proper cricket’. The Warners/Finches/Maxwells and McCullums have redefined what’s feasible, through stylishly-brutally marmalising the notion of what 50 over batting looked like – particularly in the early phases. There’s no polite reconnaissance of the bowling now… it’s a carve-fest from the first delivery. Some regret that.
I think it’s truer and fairer to say that this is simply and increasingly a different game. It’s barely the same genus as Test Cricket, let alone the same species. And because the world’s changed, because kids and teens and maybe all of us are hot-wired now into orgasmic boomathons, there’s likely no going back. But that different game – the one where a screw is turned slowly, or a plan hatched over time – can run beautifully parallel.
It seems certain to me that this Proper Cricket thing may need (may need to rely on?) the support of its adrenalin-soaked bi-product. Don’t faff with Test Cricket, mind; its quiet majesty or deep dull glories really should be preserved in a kind of tamper-proof aspic. We can surely identify this as the authentic cricket experience – the soul of the game – and let the riot-in-a-brothel next door rumble on. So don’t go phoning The Rozzers, grab a beer and a flag and maybe some fancy dress – get into it!
World Cup 2015 was magic. Electrifying and sporting enough – everything a legitimate global sports event should be. Zillions of people all over were engaged or they were going ballistic. Staying up all night, bawling at the telly or into their bevvies or tinnies or teas – captured or enraptured.
Look the Australians were the best team and they won. The Black Caps were a revelation and they made the final. There was that inflamed heartland thing going on again, as the local gangs glared good-heartedly enough at each other then went at it. We could all buy in at the death – pick our second team and give it some verbals.
In the end – the chillingly appropriate, utterly predictable end – the Aussies were undeniable and (goddammit) magnificent. There was that revelatory sense that whilst reasserting themselves they’d broken through into somewhere new.
Hours later and earworm du jour is
Some things change/ some stay the same… (‘Hymn to her’, if I’m not mistaken?)
Meaning I’m with Chrissie Hynde. Whilst thinking cricket. (I know… you may need to either ‘go with the flow‘, here, or stretch back in your chair to the Eighties).
OK, prepared to indulge? Then get this. Chrissie’s American; she’s got that streetwise thing goin’ on. She’s a wit – somewhere between a wit and a guru. She’s surfing ahead of something, maybe, happy to be exposed – to lead. You would listen. Hynde would be wicked company – authoritative on life, you feel, as well as on her particular metier. Park that thought.
Some time ago I spent three hours in the company of Mike Young, the Chicago-born fielding consultant to the Australian cricket team. He was leading what tends to be called a ‘workshop’ for coaches at Glamorgan CC. In fact it was a chat in a classroom setting – that was the way it turned out. But it was superb.
Mike told us about his early days and the extraordinary but okaaay, viable leap he made from pro baseball, to coaching in Chicago, to coaching fielding… in Australia… in cricket. The story was in every sense fabulous despite the obvious crossovers between (mere) catching and throwing skills. The more Mike spoke the clearer it became that something about his manner as well as his knowledge made it figure entirely that he became central to the great and dominant Aussie cricket teams of the incomparable Warne/McGrath era.
Without him ever (I promise!) being boastful, we learned that McGrath may owe his longevity to Young in the sense that Mike sorted out his throwing arm and shoulder and that a Hussey or two felt deeply, deeply indebted to the baseball man. As time went on and Mike’s presence became ever-more integral to the cause, a series of world-beating teams pretty much insisted that Young was traveling with them as they blew the opposition away around the globe. In short the players loved him and wanted him on board because they rated him as a bloke and as a coach.
After an absence, Young has been back working with the Australian team. A team which has just stormed to another Cricket World Cup trophy – their fifth.
I am not here to make some ridiculous claim that Mike Young’s affability has turned Aussie cricket around and gifted them the World Cup; I don’t even know the current level of his involvement. But I am going to say this; Young is hearty, inspiring, funny and charismatic. He gets the necessary humour of this blokey-sporty thing. He understands how players feed off matie-ness as well as offering brilliant, convincing leadership in which they trust.
That phenomenon (I like this notion of team ‘humour’) strikes me as boomtasticallly relevant now. It’s the matrix; players being gathered, being receptive.
Almost always it takes personality to drive that; almost always the coaching staff are key.
Darren Lehmann evidently has this liberating confidence – as does Mike Young. So it figures to me that this Australian side has transformed in remarkably quick time from a side battered by England (of all people!) into an unbeatable, backslapping grin-monster. They are happy, they are playing without fear, they are (as I tend to say) outliving themselves. They have found that delicious and deliciously transient nirvana; or more accurately they have been suggested, prompted, freed towards it by the coach.
That, within the cosmic thunderclap of change, is the thing which stays the same. It may have more to do with reading humans than with reading the coaching manual, or reading the riot act.