England June 8, 2010

Patriotism, and Englishmen who sledge

Why does Jimmy Anderson groan like a pensioner and sledge like a librarian?

If looks could kill, Jimmy Anderson's glare would struggle to make a baby bawl © Getty Images

So not a Bang, then but a whimper. At times during the England versus Bangladesh double-header (two matches, while it may paper over a crack in the Future Tours Programme, does not a series make) the viewers felt they were watching something rather beautiful in the making, that the glorious day on which the Bangladeshis would silence those dreary naysayers and silence them good and proper was imminent.

But it wasn’t to be. Now I long ago mislaid my patriotism, so am probably not best placed to hold forth on this subject, but like Kieron Pollard with his one big shot, I will plough on regardless. I think there is a frontier in the mind, a wall of the imagination. On this side are those of an English persuasion who had a sneaky desire to see the Tigers win and for whom an England win would be a ho-hum affair. Let’s call them the civilised folk.

I’m not too sure what happens on the other side of the wall; I’ve not been over there for some time, but from what I can make out it involves the vigorous waving of flags, the frequent application of water-based paints to one’s face (and frankly with my complexion, the last thing I need is extra whitening) and the replacement of each of cricket’s delicious complexities with a crude weighing up of whether England are winning (which is good) or losing (which is bad).

Those of us on this side of the one-eyed wall for example, would have enjoyed the drama of the ominous clouds and the imminence of swing-bowling doom on Sunday morning, but only in the same way we might thrill at the gathering storm in King Lear. Anderson and chums were the deliverers of the inevitable cruel thrusts but amid the carnage, it was the Bangladeshis we were secretly rooting for.

And there’s another problem. James Anderson. I’m not particularly well-disposed to him. It isn’t his fault. And I’m sure he won’t be losing any sleep over it. But yet I can’t get past it. My therapist says it is a healthy loathing for Lancastrians but she is from Leeds so I’m not sure that she is an objective voice on the matter. I suspect it is simply because Jimmy just looks utterly miserable most of the time.

Even on Sunday, with a cloudy backdrop, an entire stadium full of clammy Manchester air for him to breath and a long and tempting menu of batsmen who couldn’t play the swinging ball laid out in front of him, he grumbled, moaned and slouched, lumbering back to his mark with all the joie de vivre of an old-age pensioner with a dodgy hip on his way to the post office.

He is also the world’s worst sledger. His technique appears to involve a certain amount of muttering and what I imagine he thinks is a steely glare but which carries all the intimidating menace of a librarian raising their eyebrow at on overdue return. I don’t know who told these English chaps that they could sledge; apparently even Ian Bell was dishing out the trash talk earlier in the game. Yes, I know. Ian Bell.

Anyway, England won; Strauss is back, green and pleasant land, etc. etc. But perhaps Bangladesh may have their revenge in the fifty over format, particularly if England reverts to type after their Caribbean triumph. Previous successes have been followed by a long spell of nestling on the eiderdown of complacency to which the thoughts of most English cricket folk are always turning. Shakib may yet have his day.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on June 11, 2010, 22:40 GMT

    As ever, thank you all for taking the time to comment.

    Ryan, as Harbhajan once explained, such simian epithets are to be considered a great compliment, so I thank you, though I'm not sure my barber will enjoy it quite so much, since he takes great pride in his monkey-shaving service.

    Steve, watching Swann bowl is like reading DH Lawrence? Surely not, he's much better than that.

    Richard, the piece was not about sledging, so I'm not entirely sure why I should have referred to other examples of the noble art, though those you mentioned were indeed fine. I'm sorry that you did not enjoy the piece.

  • testli5504537 on June 9, 2010, 5:56 GMT

    This is funny. I was rooting for Bangladesh also.

  • testli5504537 on June 8, 2010, 21:51 GMT

    Hey The Sherminator's sledging these days? Good on him.

  • testli5504537 on June 8, 2010, 20:27 GMT

    Really Andrew? Really? Shouldn't you have titled this article "my lack of patriotism, and my not very cutting, or well thought out, or even amusing but slightly depressing attempt to sledge one of England's finest."?

    You had so much potential when you started this article. For God's sake man, you have written an article on sledging and only quoted your therapist.

    What about Ian Healy's infamous sledge when Ranatunga called for a runner "You don't get a runner for being an overweight, unfit, fat ****

    Even the legendary WG Grace was a sledger. When given out LBW he refused to walk and told the umpire, " They came to watch me bat, not you bowl."

    Anti- Patriotism is not big and it's not cleaver.

    I know you will forgive my lack of punctuation, grammar, content etc. as I forgive yours.

  • testli5504537 on June 8, 2010, 16:01 GMT

    Sometimes I feel sorry for Ian Bell, he probably doesn't know what to do to stop the mickey taking, maybe scoring his runs at around 55 since his ashes return but still people write him off. Though he should probably leave the 'trash-talking' to the more terrifying members of the test side, I think Eoin Morgan pulls off the 'silent psycho' persona pretty well.

  • testli5504537 on June 8, 2010, 15:52 GMT

    The other side of the fence is populated by people whose blood runs ruby red, presuming your side have the same problem with their blood as you say you have with your complexion. It was nice watching Tamim have a dash: bit like watching a film ('movie' to your side of the fence) but watching Swanny bowl was like reading D H Lawrence.

  • testli5504537 on June 8, 2010, 15:37 GMT

    I think the Bell was just waiting for opponents who were shorter than him.

  • testli5504537 on June 8, 2010, 15:16 GMT

    There is scant enjoyment in watching England humiliate weaker opponents. It might be something to do with the law of diminishing returns - all the back-slapping, hugging, high fiving and smiling when Swann gets the last man caught off a slog produces the opposite effect in those of us who are watching. As for Jimmy Anderson, he grew in stature in the first test when his late in the day ferocity actually turned the game England's way after the new wonder Finn looked knackered and couldn't raise the energy. But I agree, he should return his books on time or pay his fine quietly.

  • testli5504537 on June 8, 2010, 13:48 GMT

    Sorry Andrew, not a very pleasing article.

    I was firmly rooting for England to thump Bandladesh and was at no point smearing paint on my face or snarling at the Bangladesh batsmen - if we're playing such a poor test nation (despite their percieved improvements) we might as well thrash them.

    If you think there is a lack of 'complexity' in that arguement, prehaps the follwing can change your mind:

    Following on at Lords, Iqbal blazed a brilliant century off 102 balls. 102 balls. If he had just taken his time, not to mention trying to stay in, a draw would have been the probable outcome. Great innings, wrong time. You do not put on spinners on the 8th over Day 1 of a test - even if the wicket is playing like a bed of pick-up-sticks. When the ball is swinging, do not swipe at every ball on the off-side If Ian Bell, IAN BELL, is sledging you - remind him that he still wets the bed.

    For these reasons and many more, England rightly thumped them. No patriotism, just cricket.

  • testli5504537 on June 8, 2010, 13:44 GMT

    Well to tell you the truth, i would sledge all day against Bangladesh, you read the bias comments by the Bangladesh supporters they are shockers, whinge and whine about umpiring decisions and hate the English cricket team with a passion, i am Australian and really enjoyed seeing there noses rubbed in it, and the worlds best sledger was Shane WARNE ask Paul Collingwood he will tell you a couple of stories, so really who worries about it and feel sorry for the opposition no way

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