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