December 19, 2010

The (woman's) style is the man

“Each profession begets its particular style of play,” wrote that master back-of-a-postcard essayist RC Robertson-Glasgow, in the days when cricketers had day jobs.

“Each profession begets its particular style of play,” wrote that master back-of-a-postcard essayist RC Robertson-Glasgow, in the days when cricketers had day jobs.

The village undertaker always kept wicket and spoke only when appealing. Professional gardeners, not minding monotony, bowled medium pace. The parson and the schoolmaster were invariably batsmen, careful and correct, whereas motor mechanics swung lustily and farm hands didn’t hurt easily. Caterers, meanwhile, were wont to get distracted. “One eye,” noted Robertson-Glasgow, “is always waiting for the van that brings the tea. But a wise captain does not rebuke them.”

That’s old hat and mischief now, what with academies and under-age talent squads swallowing boys up before they’ve time to consider what other than a cricketer they might like to be, much less to be it. Suppose, though, that a team of eleven, for just one week, were to embody the qualities peculiar to their wives’ and girlfriends’ professions. Hold back disbelief and imagine the woman’s style is the man. It could transform a side’s character. Might it, too, shake an Ashes series around and upside down and out of recognisable shape?

Take these past few days in Perth. A little-boy-lost left-armer named Mitchell Johnson, fiance of karate gold medallist Jessica, has belatedly made the ball kick. Up the other end is Ben Hilfenhaus, his ego-free foil, whose partner Meredith is a nurse. Supportive and unshockable, Ben craves no reward or glory himself. Paint a red cross on that kindly toiler’s forehead.

Consider, as well, the batsmen – and three in particular who have made good and merry. (And let’s dwell not on these sadly in-between days of Australia’s number four.)

At the top is Shane Watson, whose wife’s name is Lee. Lee is the velvet-smooth reader of the sports news on TV, and Shane has been beginning Australia’s innings with not a nerve, stutter or hiccup, simply a glimmer of white teeth as he caresses yet another half-volley to the fence. In the middle comes Mike Hussey, husband of primary school teacher Amy. He knows which balls to leave as assuredly as he knows his seven times table. When things get sticky Mike is Australia’s man, patient and unflappable, like he’s herding children out to the oval during a bomb scare or fire drill. His rescue helper Brad Haddin is married to Karina. She used to play touch football for Australia. And see how uncannily and inexplicably Brad, though he’s nothing pretty to look at with the bat, gives bowlers the slip.

Now is no time to be getting ahead of ourselves. Australia have a handful of wickets to capture here, and two Tests to come, ample room for captain Ricky Ponting to trip up and oversee a third Ashes defeat. He’ll have a hard time talking his way out of that one – handily, his wife Rianna is a qualified lawyer.

Christian Ryan is a writer based in Melbourne. He is the author of Golden Boy: Kim Hughes and the Bad Old Days of Australian Cricket and, most recently Australia: Story of a Cricket Country

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