Bomb raid stoicism

Amidst the concerns about what effect T20 cricket will have on the future landscape of the game, and the ‘sanctity’ of Test cricket, there is much to celebrate in the format. And not just on the field. In fact, far more off the field.

I was fortunate enough to be asked by English radio station TALKsport to help out with their coverage of the ICC World T20 which will necessitate the occasional day of match coverage when the Proteas are not playing. Saturday was one of those days.

It was raining at 6.50am when my alarm clock went off and it was still raining when I emerged, still breathing, after 15 rounds of intense competition with the Underground’s Northern Line. By the time I had unpacked TALK’s mobile broadcasting kit in the rain for the benefit of the grim faced security personnel and set it up in the commentary box, it was raining even more properly.

Two hours later the ground was swathed in more white tarpaulin bandages than a burns victim. Three coffees and half a dozen grim radio updates later, it was time to hunt. The early start had precluded breakfast and there were only biscuits available in the media centre.

Food foraging was conducted amongst thousands of stoical, cheerful supporters who had hunkered down under the stands while the rain poured down above. It was still only 11.00am, an hour after the scheduled start of the New Zealand-Scotland match, but Dads were grimly and determinedly sipping their first pint of beer – duty called.

The difference to most such occasions was that their children were with them. There were children everywhere, completely unburdened by the weather and unperturbably thrilled by the prospect of seeing international cricket – at some point – while they sat cross-legged under the rafters munching the cheese and pickle sandwiches packed for two hours later.

England’s embarrassing demise against Holland didn’t matter to them – not as much as did to their Dads, anyway – but the prospect of seeing the world’s best cricketers in a manageable time frame had everyone enthused.

There is a fortitude amongst English cricket supporters unrivaled by any others. Perhaps it is just that they have been systematically reared to expect grey, cold and wet conditions, but there is clearly another gene in play – the one which saw the citizens of London smile their way through the blitz in World War Two.

Everything now points towards England being eliminated fron the tournament, even if they beat Pakistan on Sunday, because run rate will decide their fate if three teams are level on points. England will need to beat Pakistan by a bigger margin than Pakistan beat Holland by on Tuesday, and few would bet on that.

It’s all plenty of fun. A lot of fun, actually. Even the old soaks in MCC egg&bacon ties have been turning up, though there isn’t really enough time to savour enough gin&tonic (unless it’s a double-header).

The Proteas have been keeping a low profile, not as a policy, but because there is an extraordinary desire to win this carnaval. As much as every player displays his (genuinely) relaxed demeanour, there is a happy acceptance that T20 cricket can throw unplayable situations at any team. But they want to be prepared. The Proteas’ approach is to be, mentally and physically, 100%

They have learned over the last 18 months how much better it is to ‘save up’ the good times for one proper celebration rather than have a premature taste.

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