Shine on

It’s a good time for cricket. Here in Wales, in GB and Ireland generally, it’s a good time. At my own club we have both alarmingly good activity and back-up for the kids and the seniors playing every week. Good people – and the ECB talks unashamedly loftily and ambitiously about producing better sportsmen and humans as well as better cricketers – with coaching which is typically helpful, fair, instructive, well-judged. Some of us, by current coaching protocols talk too much, but in general I am pleased to report strong numbers of boys and girls committing to the sport and a universally great attitude. (My own possee are brilliantly, refreshingly up for it and are supported superbly by parents or guardians.) Consequently, it’s a pleasure to be involved.

But where has this swell feeling come from? How much of it is due to the gathering momentum provided by successful England sides? Has the near-sensational TV coverage of recent times – where the poetic/dynamic/mesmeric nature of the game is literally being seen more clearly than ever before – had an energising effect? Does it matter why stuff’s going so well… and being rewarded by bums as it were, in pads? Possibly not.

Yet clearly having pretty close to the best women’s side in the world and now the male equivalent is at some level inspiring. Winning draws attention, attention can be good – especially if you have great role models/characters/guys or gals fans rate. Regrettably, even with an outstanding record over the last couple of years, our women stars are traceable only to the very few who follow further/deeper than the occasional media coverage deems worthy. A brilliant team remained sadly and predictably relatively faceless – even when Aussies were getting relentlessly tonked out of sight. For the blokes, it’s different.

And this may be inexcusable, but I would nevertheless like to make some comment on The Best Cricket Team in the World.

(I leave a para’ entirely out of smugness; for emphasis, in the unlikely hope that an Australian will ever read this blog).

Firstly, my pet theory. At the top level cricket is now a game for athletes; guys and gals who throw themselves around the place, who can sprint/dive/convincingly high five, or sport fashionable haircuts and go to hip nightclubs rather than the village pub. Or as well as the village pub. Occasionally. After important series have been won. None of this was achievable by Mike Gatting/Colin Cowdrey/generations, actually, of cricketers until about 2000. When it apparently became important to train for the thing.

Now, wonderfully, a kind of gnarly litheness is pretty much non-negotiable – Strauss being arguably the least gymnastic of a side full of tall, lean, cool(ish), good-looking, finely –honed sportsmen. And ludicrous as it might sound I am absolutely clear that this dramatic gearing-up in terms of dynamism, the dive around like a loony factor, has been essential to drawing in and keeping young hipsters involved. (Is it spooky but appropriate that I have associated cricket (of all things!) with ‘hipness’ twice now in two paragraphs?) See! Cooke is tall, dark and Englishly cool; Pietersen tall, near smouldering and transvaally gifted and cool; Swann tall, chopsy and mercurially sharp; Anderson creamy, athletic vanilla. Because they can all react like a bird-chasing cat and they love to dive round the place. Like kids.

Beyond this, I can tell you from personal experience that the system for developing coaches in UK cricket is particularly good – possibly the world leader? – and that the clobber/the kit/the facilities whilst inevitably variable, are generally adequate or substantially better. So it is a good time.

I find it kindof reassuring that in an age when the web of distractions/opportunities/pressures provided by the weapons of capitalism might either suffocate or entrance many kids back to the death-womb of their bedrooms (to ‘play’ with the latest weapons of capitalism), that increasing numbers of boy and girls are chucking a cricket ball about. A cricket ball, a proper one. That lovely aesthetic shiny red thing with a seam.

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