March 13, 2012

From debacle to damp

How England rained on South Africa’s parade

Saturday, 10th March Vacancies in the Indian batting line-up do not occur that often, and now that Rahul has gone, the hopefuls are queuing round the block. Like casting directors for a Bollywood blockbuster, BCCI selectors have been leafing through headshots and resumes for several days, but nothing has yet caught their eye. So today this advert appeared in the Indian batting industry’s trade newspaper, The Bling and Nurdle:

A position has recently become available in our top order. The successful candidate must be good in a crisis, with strong damage limitation skills and considerable firefighting expertise. Experience of working with the elderly an advantage. Some foreign travel necessary but this will be kept to a minimum. Ability to duck essential. Apply to Mr Srinivasan, Super Kings Mansions, Cement Street, Mumbai.

Sunday, 11th March If you thought that the diabolical debacle in Dubai surely meant the end of England’s spell as head prefects at the Test Cricket Academy, you were wrong. It looks like Strauss and chums will still be hanging on to the shiny mace of supremacy come April Fools Day, thanks to an old ally.

Dampness has long been the English cricketer’s friend, and scientists at the Met Office have now found a way to harness the natural sogginess of the British Isles. With South Africa poised to beat New Zealand last week, a special cumulonimbus task force was despatched to the southern hemisphere and today it drizzled on their parade.

It will only get harder for the challengers. They think they’re coming for a pleasant stroll around the shires this summer, but they’re in for a world of rain. Millions of gallons of water have been stored in the ECB’s underground reservoir, ready to be dumped on Graeme Smith’s head if it looks like his team might be winning.

As Churchill would have put it, we shall fight them in the drizzle, we shall fight them in the showers, we shall fight them in the downpours and in the puddles; we shall never surrender, because we’ll be wearing waterproof trousers.

Tuesday, 13th March Ryan Harris has put his absence from Australia’s Caribbean holiday down to the fact that he was trying too hard in recent games. This is a timely reminder for all of us. Dabble, dip your toe in the water or languidly go through the motions, but there really is no point in trying hard. It simply isn’t worth it.

Life teaches us this lesson time and again. You try too hard to impress a certain girl but somehow end up falling head first into a duck pond or crashing your penny farthing into a fruit stall. You develop a hunched back and a squint from too much revision, yet the chap who spent his term playing gin rummy strolls to an A.

Not really trying is the way to go. The great thinkers of human civilisation, from Oscar Wilde to Baloo, are all in agreement. That’s why David Gower is one of my favourite players. It’s not that he didn’t try, I’m sure he did. But he didn’t look as though he was trying, and that is immensely encouraging to the rest of us.

So now you know what to do, Ryan. Curb your natural Australian tendency to work hard and ease back a little. Cultivate a bored expression. Saunter to deep fine leg with an air of ennui. Perhaps sip a cup of tea or have a flick through the racing pages whilst leaning on the advertising hoardings. You’ll be back in no time.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England