Straight into my inbox this morning, courtesy of my
good comrade LeftyJ:
Wow, so Thushara gets five wickets, and smashes 40 off 29 balls, and they give
the M.O.M. award to Raina for his 76. Giving mom awards only to the
winners is cricket's version of mvp awards only being given out to NBA players on
teams with 50+ wins.
In practical terms, nothing is exactly what you
do during a boycott, while still presenting yourself and your (in)action as
principled and praiseworthy. The act of boycotting then becomes a symbol of status,
since only the powerful can afford to boycott. The rest can only compromise and look the other way.
So we won’t say Outside the Line has been
boycotting the Olympics (or the India v. Sri Lanka one-day series) because that
might give the impression that we are seeking commendation for our actions.
The Olympics were not ignored due to any overriding
ideological differences, or great moral convictions. Even though it’s fun to scoff as big, bloated, corporate
megaevents, I'm still reminded that as a geeky sports-obsessed kid, I used to love IT every time the Olympics came around. Ideally, it's easy to see the appeal of such an event -- to reward athletic achievements
inclusively and comprehensively, expose the viewing public to still frames of
an ever changing world and its inhabitants, and to highlight excellence in one of the only facets of life where it can be objectively measured.
Too bad it degenerates into a UN-styled version of a
midnight parking lot dick-measuring contest.
This year’s Olympics were billed as China’s
coming out party, the belated release of decades of collective humiliation and
shame, manifesting itself in the most intricate Opening Ceremony in Olympic history.
What did they give us? A spectacle, no doubt,
but one with distinct mid 20th-Century overtones to it. Militaristic
nationalism rising to inflate the collective ego and threaten competing egos in
the vicinity. Triumph of the Will aesthetics and layer upon layer of airbrushed
symbolism. (Oh, and a little girl who was not cute enough to protect the "national interest".)
That doesn’t really impress us. In the 21st
century, what the hell does the ability to control and mobilise a vast array of
people prove? What, is China planning to invade Mongolia? Russia? (The Party functionaries are probably too busy working out how to stay in power to bother with useless, costly exercises like war.)
You know what would’ve been impressive? If
they used the Olympics as an opportunity to embrace technological development
and innovation, and shown us a glimpse of a bright, interconnected future, one where China is at the forefront of thought and development.
Imagine if they had set up a state-of-the-art online interface, allied to a great website (launched on 08/08/08) loaded with data, providing access worldwide, with
streaming feeds of every event, available to be picked and chosen by the
individual anywhere in the globe, with clear guides for times and locations. (These feeds could’ve also been interspersed
with tourism ads and short pieces about Chinese history and culture, or something along those lines.)
But no, they’re still too busy trying to censor Wikipedia, so a working model for free access and coverage is just too much to ask at this point. All we get instead is the typical jingoistic coverage of local providers. In New Zealand (thanks to the worthless cockmonkeys at TV One) that meant ignoring every single men’s
basketball game (including the US v China group match, arguably the most
watched sports event in history) up to the gold medal game, and then only showing 40% of
that final, on delay.
And you know what? That's cool. It’s not a dig on New Zealand
as such. I know every country does it, every time. And they probably do it
because that's what the populace demands. And that, right there, is where the problem lies.
The fact that we’re still treating the nation-state as some irreducible unit of identity. That we still have these pesky,
annoying lines drawn on the dirt generations ago serving to define
us, and control us, and keep us docile and atomised. (Self-determination may be the rallying cry, but who defines the self?) That conception of the
world has little to do with me, or this blog, and anyone involved with. It’s backward looking and willfully ignorant.
I don’t give a shit about how Kiwi athletes do. (Or American athletes, or
Chinese athletes, or athletes from Burkina Faso, for that matter. Flags, uniforms and anthems are
mere branding tools, no more or less legitimate than the logos and team songs
of the New York Yankees, Red Star Belgrade, or the
Kolkata Knight Riders.)
I care about great
athletes, and terrible athletes, and interesting athletes. Because I'm a sports
I don’t, however, take any pride in their accomplishments -- I wouldn't feel entitled to, having done nothing to assist them -- and I don’t feel like they represent me in any way.
no “we” in sports following. We didn’t come 4th or 7th
or 89th in the medal tally. We didn't exceed pre-Games expectations. We didn’t beat the Russians in gymnastics.
We are merely gawkers at the sight of someone else’s excellence.
If we wish to celebrate that excellence, our praises should be targeted at the individuals, at the teams, and at the coaches. Not at ourselves or the symbols of our imagined communities.
[As for the one-day series between India and Sri Lanka, that was ignored for
much simpler reasons… it’s a rerun. Those same teams played just last month, in the same format, and Sri Lanka won. Case closed. Much like Gareth Keenan, we don't do sloppy seconds.]
You ever seen a bear coming out of hibernation in the spring? It looks sprightly, and eager, and wicked skinny, with flaps of loose skin hanging down like old labia from his every quarters.
I was hoping to come out like that at the end of the winter -- yet another miserable, blustery one for the Kiwi books -- fresh and ready for new sights and new adventures; a springtime of body and mind. I didn't feel like being bothered before that. Sometimes, though, noises outside the den rock your sleep and force you to begrudgingly get up and check out the commotion.
Noises like this Guest Column on cricinfo, after the conclusion of South Africa's Test series against England...
I suppose I could count as a fierce Smith critic, since I have attackedhimnumeroustimes for his many sins. So is Houwing right? Is this the end of the road? Is there nothing left to do than kneel at the Capt'n's feet and repentantly accept his highly load?
Um, how about... no?
I understand that journalists, commentators, and those in the loop all love Graeme Smith. They can barely hide their chubbies under their pants half the time. And it makes sense. He's jovial and gregarious. He jokes with them. Gives them good quote. Makes them feel like they belong. (He's even got the hot blonde girlfriend with no reservation about parading her hotness around in public). I get all that. If you wanted to have a cricketer over for a barbeque, Smith'll probably be the one.
But what exactly am I supposed to "salute" the guy for? For his team winning a series against a mediocre, has-been English squad? His 2nd-ranked team (which apparently also houses a better all-rounder than Garry Sobers) beating the 5th-ranked team, a team whose spearhead for the series was James Anderson, and who at one stage shared the new ball with Darren fuckin' Pattinson?! Get serious.
Oh that's right, it's because South Africa's first victory in hallowed English soil 43 years, right? That's why it's such an event. Brave King Graeme, conquering territory uncharted since 1965...
Well, not quite. Twenty-five of those years were covered by apartheid, so it doesn't seem fair to include them as part of the "legacy of loss" which Smith apparently inherited. (By that logic, we could also claim that South Africa went undefeated for a quarter of a century, and have suffered one of the most vicious continued declines, comparable to that of the West Indies, for almost two decades since.)
Even after readmission in 1992, though, it's not as if South Africa have performed that badly while touring England. They drew twice (in 1994 and 2003), and lost only once (1998) by a one game margin. Are these unbearable crosses to bear? Hardly. If Smith wants to impress, he can try beating the Aussies or the Sri Lankans on their turf. Then I'll listen.
But okay, fine, I guess England is somehow relevant in the grand scheme of things because, um... it's old. (And that oldness tradition, after being unabatedly pumped into cricketers' heads since childhood, can start to screw with their minds, cause them to feel an added level of pressure and make them a tad more likely to fail when playing against said old foe.)
So basically Smith & co. managed to not lose a series they should've been favoured to win from the start. Congratulations, boys, you didn't choke for once. Want a parade?
As for Smith himself, I'll credit him for his innings at Edgbaston. I have no problem with that. To score an unbeaten century in the fourth innings while chasing 280 is an impressive feat under any conditions, and I'll be glad to applaud anyone for their batting prowess in a situation like that. Great knock.
But that's a mere batting feat, and the credit it deserves is purely on terms of batsmanship, of the same kind as Ashwell Prince's two very Chanderpaulesque centuries and Neil McKenzie's 500-ball extravaganza to guarantee the draw at Lord's. It doesn't deserve any greater praise because it comes from Smith, or from whoever happens to be the captain.
[N.B. The idea of a "captain's innings", incidentally, is another one of those cricket clichés that is hollow to the point of meaninglessness. Isn't every innings played by a captain, by definition, a "captain's knock"? If it isn't, then what quality does it possess that differentiates it from a regular good knock? Is there a certain kind of good innings played by a captain that does not qualify for "captain's innings" status? Why does a quality innings that just so happens to be played by a captain apply to a rarefied level of achievement?]
APPLICATION FOR THE POSITION OF: Coach of the New Zealand Cricket Team (Black Caps)
It wouldn't be an Outside the Line
entry if it wasn’t slightly too verbose, somewhat beside the point, and
delivered on the nick of time, right? Well, we’re here to please. As the
fourth- or fifth- most prominent New Zealand-based cricket blog, it feels
almost like a duty to present at least a token application for the position. Thanks to JRod for creating the groundswell of support and interest in this nominating process.
So why Outside the Line? It seems like an
odd choice, doesn’t it? Even though I’ve lived in New Zealand for the better
part of four years now, I don’t think I’ve written more than a handful of posts
about NZ cricket in that time. I remember there was one about Stephen
Fleming’s retirement, and ode or two to Scott Styris and Brendon McC, some
disparaging remarks about the Black Caps’ faceless middle order, but little beyond
(I don’t think I’ve even mentioned John
Bracewell’s name once. Meanwhile, “Shooter McGavin” comes up at least three times in
And that, right there, is precisely what makes OTL
supremely qualified for the gig. It’s that understanding of the realities on
the ground; the pragmatic air of indifference; and the ultimate acceptance of
the utter irrelevance and meaninglessness of the gig itself.
Seriously, what can a new coach possibly do to
improve Kiwi cricket? Will a new coach bring Shane Bond back and give him
another 2-3 years in his prime? Will a new coach grant Kyle Mills an extra 10
kph of pace? Will a new coach find a way to bend the space-time continuum so
that Chris Cairns’ son would be old enough to fill in the allrounder spot solely reserved
for members of his family?
Let’s face it: it’s not bad coaching that has
kept New Zealand from achieving any great honours in cricket… it’s bad
Take a look around this little country sometime -- by my count, it seems there are about 67 people in the entire South Island, and
I’m sure at least 33 of those are out in the rain this very moment, practicing
rugby line-outs on a muddy council pitch.
(A quick Wiki search tells me that New Zealand
ranks 122nd in population and 204th in population density
in the world, nestled somewhere between Ireland and Lebanon in the former
rankings and Paraguay and Sudan in the latter.)
There is just no way a country like that can
expect to compete with behemoths like India, especially in a sport like cricket
that magnifies slight differences in talent and infrastructure. The fact that
New Zealand has managed to do so damn well thus far should already be a reason
to gasp in awe and celebrate. They are a team full of well-disciplined
overachievers who should be encouraged to just keep on doing whatever it is
they’ve been doing so far. ***
So as far as matters of performance on the
field, OTL wouldn’t propose any real changes. The only tweaks we could
suggest are more conceptual than anything else.
For instance, more of this is good…
In fact, anything that accentuates the rivalry with
Australia is a positive, since New Zealand will always come out as the
emotional folk favourite. The plucky upstart with the sense of humour and the
Pacific Island influence, battling the big, bloodless bully with all the riches
from across the Tasman.
The beige and brown combo of the uniform definitely works for
retro comedy purposes, but I think I like the opportunities black provides for
forming a team identity. Studies show that teams dressed in black regularly
face an unconscious officiating bias in American football and hockey, leading to
more fouls and penalties for aggressive behaviour being called against them during the game.
Maybe New Zealand should see that as an
opportunity… and come back as a bad-ass, anti-hero team, of the Oakland Raiders in the 1970s
mold. Behave badly, break norms, disrupt, get suspended, banned – what’s Jesse
Ryder up to these days, anyway? – and, you know, get people on their toes. Do the Haka
before taking the field. Roast wild pigs in a hangi pit just outside the boundary
ropes. Let the Mongrel Mob handle security at the grounds. Hand out free
Chappell brother effigies to burn joyously under the crisp summer night.
In fact, that might well be priority no. 1…
Make sure no one, EVER, forgets the Underarm
Incident. It should be brought up at all possible times, even when it has
nothing to do with the conversation. (“Say, what horrible weather we are having
today, gentle sir.” “Verily, my good man, but not nearly as black as Greg
Chappell’s soul.” “Mmm, quite.”Or something like that… I was never much good at
Oh, and since it’s worked out pretty well for
Zimbabwe so far… guess who else has a vote at the ICC that’s up for sale to the
highest bidder? That’s right, New Zealand is ready to be wooed again, and she can
prove very, ahem, “accommodating” of the winning bloc of nations at the ICC, if you catch our drift. Will it be the Asian bloc? The white bloc? See, all this talk of blocs is
getting her all hot and flustered already…
For any further ideas on management, we'll just draw from those who know what they're doing...