Perhaps it is simply because the times are moving on ahead of me, or perhaps it is a largely English phrase which has yet to register, but it’s been mentioned several times in the last couple of days. Apologies if it’s rude – I wouldn’t know.
The most recent occasion it was used was in describing Kevin Pietersen’s appointment as England’s new captain. Apparently, it was a decision which took ‘big Kahunas’. Or would that be ‘kahunas’? I’m not sure.
Before that, the phrase was used by a deliriously happy Proteas coach Mickey Arthur in the immediate moments after South Africa had clinched the Test series at Edgbaston on Saturday evening.
Unable to remove the grin from his face, he struggled to find the right words to describe both his emotions and his thoughts on the innings that had just been completed by his captain, a glorious, undefeated 154. And clearly he didn’t care!
“Yussus, I can’t, I mean…that was – you don’t see bigger Kahunas than that in sport! The guy is unbelievable, the greater the pressure and the occasion, the more he rises to it.”
I put it down to Mickey’s three daughters, all of whom are at an age when it is important to stay abreast of changes and improvisations to everyday language and vocabulary. Maybe that’s where he learned it.
Pietersen, too, had shown that his own kahunas are not lacking in stature during his brilliant innings of 94 which inspired England’s rousing fightback during the second Test. There’s no doubt you need the courage of your convictions to play some of the shots KP does and there, clearly, cannot be a fear of failure. You wouldn’t play left-handed sweeps if you were afraid of what people would say should you fail.
The difference between Smith and England’s new captain, perhaps, is not the size of their kahunas, but how long they are able and willing to keep them intact. I have no wish to offend sensitive readers by continuing this analogy (which I don’t really understand, remember) but if I am on the right track then it’s fair to say that sporting kahunas tend to swell and become more and more difficult to control as the excitement and tension of the sporting climax nears.
By South Africa’s willing admission, KP was within minutes of batting the tourists out of the game at Edgbaston but then, on 94, his magnificent Cahoonas burst all over the place as he holed out to long-on attempting one, inappropriate thrust too many.
Smith, too, battled like crazy as the finish line neared. His throat dried, the hot sweat on his hands and neck turned cold, his eyes even moistened a little and he became tense as he imagined the pleasure just a few minutes away.
But he was still there at the end, job done.
That, perhaps, is the kind of control the England selectors are hoping their new captain will acquire with his new status. Big Kahunas all round, then!
ps – Kahunas, one loyal reader and surfer tells me, is a Hawaiian word used to describe the courage of big wave riders.
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