August 23, 2012

Of patriotism and green suede jackets

Andrew Hughes
Andrew Strauss reflects on his side's 51-run defeat, England v South Africa, 3rd Investec Test, Lord's, 5th day, August 20, 2012
Straussy: king for a year  © Getty Images
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Last year there were people (cricket journalists admittedly, but I've checked and they still count as people) who believed that England were one of the greatest sides in Test cricket. That's okay, though. People believe all sorts of things. R Kelly, like Icarus, believed he could fly. It's only when you act on your irrational beliefs that the problems start. For R Kelly, it was an execrable song. For Icarus, the consequences were even more unpleasant.

But in the afterglow of last summer's walkover against Team BCCI, one or two hacks committed their crazy notions to paper. There it was, set down in black and white, an ill-advised love letter we knew they would one day regret: England were one of the greatest Test sides ever. The team of Cook, Trott and Bresnan wedged into the cricket pantheon next to Bradman's Immortals, Clive Lloyd's Invincibles and Steve Waugh's Disintegrators.

So, in the light of recent and not-quite-so-recent events, we are now presented with a conundrum. On the one hand, England's current lot are one of the greatest teams ever. On the other, they've lost five of their last 11 matches. As Mr Spock would tell you, logically one of these can't be true. Perhaps it's the second one. Maybe they haven't really lost five Tests this year? Hang on, I'll check. Yep. Turns out it was six.

Is it cruel to remind people of their past follies? Quite possibly, but on the other hand, does it do them any good to let them get away with it? I once bought a green suede jacket and then, to compound the problem, I wore it. The hilarity this provoked served as a sartorial wake-up call. Had people just coughed politely and said nothing, I would have persisted in my folly. I might even have bought the matching shoes.

We need better from our scribblers. Middle-aged sports journalists should not be cavorting around in short skirts spelling out Andrew Strauss' name one letter at a time while waving metaphorical pom poms. If I want to partake of patriotic eyewash, I can easily unmute the television when Ian Botham starts commentating. From journalists I want the facts, the juicy scoops, and above all, some sober, objective analysis.

So to help them out, here's some sober, objective analysis. Feel free to cut and paste, chaps. England climbed to the top of the rankings by beating the following:

Australia 2009: Ordinary collection of has-beens, maybes and Mitchell Johnson
Australia 2011: As Australia 2009, only worse
Pakistan: The most shambolic overseas venture since the Sex Pistols' 1978 US tour
Bangladesh: It's Bangladesh
Sri Lanka: No Murali. No Vaas. No Malinga.
West Indies: Seriously?
India: 4-0 win ever so slightly undermined when India lost to Australia (see above).

And this doesn't include losing a series in the Caribbean in 2009, being completely outplayed in three out of four Tests in South Africa, and collapsing to big defeats against inferior opponents with a series still alive in Perth 2010, Headingley 2009, Kingston 2009 and The Oval 2010. So: England, a good team, not a great team, who got lucky with the fixture list and enjoyed a pleasant interlude at the top of the heap.

Lesson learned, chaps, we hope. Patriotism isn't just the last refuge of the scoundrel; like a green suede jacket it can also make you look extremely silly.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Keywords: Cricket writing

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Posted by abbas on (August 25, 2012, 9:59 GMT)

the 3-0 drubbing at the hands of pakistan does not deserve any mention?

Posted by Faizan on (August 24, 2012, 4:43 GMT)

Awesome... especially this part.."If I want to partake of patriotic eyewash, I can easily unmute the television when Ian Botham starts commentating. From journalists I want the facts, the juicy scoops, and above all, some sober, objective analysis"..

Posted by Morne Smit on (August 24, 2012, 4:30 GMT)

Well in a word "NEVER" will they ever be in same bracket as Bradmans, Lloyds or Waughe's teams! Simple mathematics made by ECB created the illusion the English have enjoyed for a year. In 6 years they have played 69 tests to 51 of SA. The reality is playing many tests at home against lesser competition to increase points ratio on the rankings system. Fortunately they played a coachless, post WC hungover India on green pitches. A slain Ozzie side crumbling from within since first defeat at home in '08/09 vs SA. A well orchestrated 2 year period when everything went their way. Unfortunately they played Pakistan who themselves are struggling in every arena and thanks to English ability to play abroad now are ranked 4. Reality check 3-0 come Nov for India.

Posted by mattyt on (August 24, 2012, 3:43 GMT)

typical english pessimism...well written though, and loved Steve Waugh's 'Disintegrators'

Posted by neil on (August 24, 2012, 2:55 GMT)

My goodness, indeed, a single sober Englishman.

Posted by neil on (August 24, 2012, 2:54 GMT)

My goodness, indeed, a single sober Englishman.

Posted by Dave on (August 24, 2012, 1:46 GMT)

Come on Andrew - Name and shame 'em! Which of your colleagues on this website thought England were #1? And went into exhaustive detail about Bell's perfect technique or Anderson's mastery of swing? I bet this year's Wisden doesn't even mention South Africa.

Posted by rohith on (August 23, 2012, 23:09 GMT)

Well told but then I should say this is the best england team in years. The team of 05 dint do much after their triumph and before that it was as said got lucky with fixtures a bit. So this team is better than that and is the best england team in 20 years but then thats all what they are how India were also the best indian team ever but then not comparable to the aussies of 90s-00s or the great WI or the invincibles! This article doesnt look like a page 2 article!

Posted by Ujjwal Ingolikar on (August 23, 2012, 22:23 GMT)

Nice article! Just goes to show, how good a team the Aussies were for a major part of the last decade. With top 4-5 teams evenly matched, while others just almost making up the league, I dont thing we would have a team in near future which would dominate the world of cricket.

Posted by Jonathan on (August 23, 2012, 21:26 GMT)

Great analysis to which I concur. Green suede jackets may come in to fashion a bit more now that blue has been shown up to not be the best...

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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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