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Saturday 24th July We didn’t really learn anything about Pakistan during this mini-series. Two captains, a big defeat and an unnecessarily nervy win. Same old, same old. Instead I spent most of my time observing the Australians, a breed of cricketer I find fascinating. Why don’t they give up? Every other nation on earth would have gone through the motions this morning. Where does it come from? It certainly isn’t a genetic inheritance. The English way is to give up properly and give up early, before mounting a completely futile rearguard action when all chance of victory has gone.
Australia’s captain, too, is endlessly fascinating, like a piece of abstract art. I have come up with many theories to explain the enigma that is Ricky, and my latest is that his whole public persona is a total sham, a facade. Have you ever seen Ricky smile? It is a lovely thing, a boyish grin that lights up his whole gnarly face. No one seeing that grin could fail to warm to the little fella. Yet he goes about in public wearing a mask of humourless disgruntlement, through which compliments for victorious opponents are squeezed out of the corner of his mouth, and thanks to which he comes across as pricklier than a hedgehog wearing a cactus hat. Smile, Ricky, and the world may smile with you. Or at least they might not swear at you so much.
We were also granted another seminar on Australian sporting ethics. Michael Hussey claimed a catch off Kamran Akmal. Under the rules of the game, the claiming of a catch amounts to nothing. In Aussie World, when a bloke says he caught it, the other bloke has to take the first bloke’s word. Why he should do this is not entirely clear; that’s just the way it is. On the other hand, a bloke is entitled to remain at the crease even if there is a chunk of his bat missing from where the edge was removed and everyone in the surrounding province heard the noise.
The two situations are not entirely the same and there is a thread of logic there, but it is a twisty, fragile thing that can often be mistaken for mere self-interest. Ramiz Raja thought Hussey definitely didn’t catch it. Shane Warne thought that he definitely did. Both reached and expressed their certainty on the matter within seconds, yet both also admitted that the pictures were inconclusive. Meanwhile on the radio Ian Chappell said he liked the idea of accepting a fielder’s word but he never would himself. Perhaps it would be best, after all, if we let the umpires decide.
Sunday 25th July T&T are the most professional outfit in the Caribbean, which, admittedly, isn’t quite as much of a compliment as it might once have been, but it was enjoyable to catch up with Dwayne Bravo, both Gangas, the indefatigable Dave Mohammed, and one Keiron Pollard, international superstar. Today the wealthier of the KPs was sporting an elaborate coiffure, into which, as an aide memoire, a helpful barber had shaved the names of all five teams he is currently employed by.
The big guy was having a great time. Towards the end of his second over he stood at the start of his run-up wearing an enormous grin. Good on him, I thought, he’s clearly enjoying his work. His captain, however, did not exhibit similar signs of amusement, perhaps having on his mind the 20 runs that had come from the preceding five balls. I suppose, given Pollard’s multiple-contract lifestyle, there will always be some who mutter about his commitment to any particular cause; even to his home island.
Happily, he was able to dispel any lingering cynicism later in the game by smashing 50 from a ridiculously small number of deliveries; a half-century that included a dilscoop, some outrageously nonchalant sixes, and at least one lost ball. More importantly, he rescued his team from what seemed like inevitable defeat. He may not be a proper cricketer, but he isn’t bad.
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Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73