Stiff upper lip, old boy
There’s nothing we Brits like better than a good old moan. Our current general election (which I am assured will mercifully reach a conclusion this Thursday) has once again turned out to be nothing more than a licence for us to indulge ourselves in our favourite national pastime. Everything is awful, the country is in a mess, there’s nothing on telly, we’re all going to hell in a handcart and so on.
It was not all that surprising, therefore, that on Monday evening one of England’s several cricket captains was seen on our television screens complaining in the rain, thus bringing together the two salient features of British life.* It did not matter that his chaps had batted in an impressive and entirely un-British manner or that they still only had to be beat Ireland to go through. He had a chance to moan and he seized it.
Now, I do have a smidgen more sympathy for Collingwood, P this time around than I did last summer. If you recall, back in June, England won the toss against the West Indies on a day on which rain was as inevitable as a Ray Price sledge. But rather than batting second, the reluctant skipper chose instead to bat first and moan later. At least this time he could argue that it was not his fault that he ended up in the field trying to defend a modest total against a team with all their wickets intact.
But hey, them’s the rules. Of all the methods that human ingenuity has thus far been able to invent, the jolly old Duckworth-Lewis is to the fore. There may be a case for a little tinkering with it here or there. But it is unfortunate that we only hear these impassioned pleas for mathematical recalibration of the D and L just minutes after defeat has arrived via that very method. If, Mr Collingwood, you have any suggestions for improvement, I’m sure the ICC will be delighted to read your proposals. Meanwhile, belt up and get on with it.
This also serves as a timely reminder of what the game would be like if the players were in control: one long, tedious squabble punctuated by whingeing. Nobody likes to lose, of course. I don’t like losing. I didn’t like losing when I was five years old and I made good and sure that everyone around me knew about it. But you get used to it. It is odd, then, when so many of the general public can adapt themselves to such an inevitable phenomenon, that sportsmen, who after all spend a good proportion of their lives losing, remain as five-year-olds where defeat is concerned.
The England captain would do well to remember another British tradition - not, perhaps as enduring as our predilection for moaning nor as dangerous as our cooking, but important nonetheless. It is the tradition of the stiff upper lip, a tradition preserved to this day in an annex of the British Museum wherein are displayed the pickled upper lips of Wellington, Marlborough, Churchill and many other notables. So play up and play the game, Collingwood, and in the meantime, I have sent you a parcel containing a can of easy-spray facial starch and a biography of Douglas Jardine.
* (It is also a little known fact that the song “Singing in the Rain” was originally an English folk dirge, sung by bitter old men as they trudged along the banks of the River Tees. It was known locally as “Complainin’ in the Rain”. Sadly the American version, for all its many qualities, does not accurately convey the misery and pessimism of the original).
Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England