July 28, 2012

England v South Africa 2012

Coping with unexpected defeat

Andrew Hughes
Cricket at the Olympics opening ceremony, London, July 27, 2012
With the No. 1 ranking fast slipping out of their hands, England's players try to to audition for roles in the new reality show "How archaic is your sport?"  © Getty Images


Friday, 27th July As the entire population of Britain apart from everyone who doesn’t live in the bottom right hand corner of it goes Bronze-Age-pagan-sports-festival-with-sinister-corporate-overtones crazy, spare a thought for a group of 12 tracksuit wearers and their 74 support staff who have spent the last four days sipping disconsolately from their mulberry and valium flavoured energy drinks in the ECB’s saloon bar, whilst listening to the wistful melancholy stylings of in-house blues duo “Long” Bob Willis (monotone) and “Grumbling Geoff” Boycott (bass growl).

It hasn’t helped that this month’s latest video game release, “Hashim Amla’s Not Out (Ever) Cricket” has received glowing reviews and is steadily outselling the James Anderson-endorsed “Effective In Favourable Conditions Cricket 2011” which used to be No. 1 in the charts, but probably won’t be for much longer.

We shouldn’t be unsympathetic. Coping with unexpected defeat* is never easy and this is the fifth unexpected defeat England have had to cope with this year. At some point, the status of these defeats is going to have be downgraded from “unexpected” to “not that much of a surprise, to be honest” and, with another tour of the subcontinent to come, possibly even as far as “yep, we saw that one coming”.

Still, for the time being, we are calling these defeats unexpected and in England’s case, an unexpected defeat is in the most literal sense bad news. For several months, cricket hacks have been dining on champagne and fairy cakes aboard the Flower Bandwagon and their despatches from the front line of the England dressing room, including such headlines as “Super Strauss Saves Mankind” and “Is This The Greatest Team Ever?” and “Why Do The Nobel Committee Continue To Overlook Graeme Swann?” have tended towards the positive.

But if the wheels begin to wobble and the bandwagon veers from the motorway of success, across the roadside verge of unexpected setback, through the wooden fence of disappointment and headlong down the slope of declining Test rankings, then readers might start laughing at the hapless hacks when they bump into them in the greengrocers, or even worse, leave sarcastic comments underneath their online columns. Hell hath no fury like a sports journalist made to look foolish and the England players will need no reminding of our tabloids’ penchant for comparing professional sportsmen to root vegetables.

So the emergency defeat box has been opened and appropriately contrite clichés issued to all hands. James Anderson has promised blood, toil, sweat and tears or something very similar; Andrew Strauss has said he wants the players to take a look at themselves (although I’m not sure that KP needs more mirror time); and Ian Bell has claimed that Andy Flower wants them all to “scratch their minds”, which could be a fiendishly clever Zen riddle or just another reminder that not every cricketer can be safely entrusted with the task of talking in public.

But as the cliché says, England haven’t become a bad team overnight. This is perfectly true. It takes a lot of hard work over many months to become a bad team. At the moment, they’re just a good team who’ve come up against a better team. But who knows. A few more innings defeats and anything is possible.

* Coincidentally, Coping With Unexpected Defeat was the title of the second edition of a self-help pamphlet hastily produced by Cricket Australia in the autumn of 2005, to replace the slightly outdated 1975 original, entitled So You’re A Loser Then? Well Don’t Come Crying To Me About It. Loser.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Posted by Juan on (July 30, 2012, 9:08 GMT)

At the moment, they’re just a good team who’ve come up against a better team. But who knows. A few more innings defeats and anything is possible. <--- Love this.

Posted by Ind on (July 29, 2012, 6:30 GMT)

hahaha the James Anderson-endorsed “Effective In Favourable Conditions Cricket 2011” which used to be No. 1 in the charts, but probably won’t be for much longer.!! he is a avg bowler.

Posted by arnab on (July 29, 2012, 0:41 GMT)

thank you for taking a stab at the overzealous english media and their ridiculous statements they have brandied over the months.. "bresnan is the new botham/flintoff" anderson and swann = mcgrath and warne.. england approaching Aus invincibility.. these defeats give me warm pleasure..

Posted by Unexpected My Butt on (July 28, 2012, 23:18 GMT)

No one really knows how England got to number 1 in the first place, so being slammed by the best team in the world should be no surprise! Anderson, Pieterson and the likes are sub-standard when it comes to the giants of cricket, beating Australia these days are no major feat anymore, so the last Ashes probably gave the Poms inflated egos!

Back to reality. White wash is immanent.

Posted by Sagir Parkar on (July 28, 2012, 22:58 GMT)

Andrew you beauty !!!! as soon as i read Anderson's comments on the team's loss, i have been checking Page 2 daily for your article in response to his comments.. and you have made a fan really happy !

loved the blues duo of Long Bob Willis and Grumbly Geoff.. does the band have a spot for Boorish Botham, who is quite good at blowing trumpets.. or does he have to go solo ?

Posted by glen1 on (July 28, 2012, 19:52 GMT)

Nothing like an Englishman making fun of the English team! At the end of the day, there is no superior team, every team will come down. So, England, allow your team members to play in IPL and they'll learn to play in dust bowls and dry pitches, no point pretending to protect them. Also, why are defeats getting this mammoth; has psychology something to do with it?

Posted by James Anderson on (July 28, 2012, 16:30 GMT)


Posted by Alan Montgomery on (July 28, 2012, 16:19 GMT)

The English players are tired.Flower has wilted.SA on the other hand are hungry and some of their players are world class. A tonic and a new captain may lift the gloom.Time new blood is brought to the fore.

Posted by ish on (July 28, 2012, 15:18 GMT)


Posted by Paddy II on (July 28, 2012, 10:44 GMT)

Very good, Andrew :) I liked this a lot.

I also caught a subtle undertone of slightly bitter cynicism along with the amusement...

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Andrew Hughes
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

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