January 11, 2014

Forgive Adelaide Strikers? Maybe. Forget? Never

Will the city of Adelaide ever recover from this shock?

"Hey, where's my complimentary hamper of full tosses and long hops?" © Getty Images

Sometimes sorry isn't quite enough. Sometimes a collective failure of character is so appalling, so hand-over-open-mouth shocking, that a quick mea culpa won't cut it. Do I have anything particular in mind, you may be wondering, or is this one of those long and rambling opening paragraphs in which the author begins talking about something that turns out to be completely beside the point, in order to pad out the word count?

Well, yes, I do have something in mind. I invite you to wander at your leisure into the BBL annexe of ESPNcricinfo Towers and to open the scorecard for a match that took place on Thursday, January 9, 2014 in the fabled city of Melbourne.

You may wish to prepare yourself beforehand, perhaps with a few deep breaths or a fortifying brandy, and if you are driving a high speed train freighted with containers full of a deadly infectious disease over a rickety canyon bridge in a snowstorm, I suggest you let your co-driver take over for a few minutes.

The game in question was between the Strikers of Adelaide and the Stars of Melbourne. Having won the toss Adelaide chose to embarrass themselves sooner rather than later, and batted - after a fashion. You will notice that their scorecard has a stark simplicity, consisting of a neat column of single figures spoiled only by the efforts of Klinger and Richardson. The Greek-born allrounder, Extras, who scored 7, has surely done enough to warrant his moving up the order. Between them, Strikers managed 90 runs in 120 balls.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Now the men involved may be full of remorse and may even be considering what sort of apology might atone for their sins, but frankly, I'm not sure there could be an apology big enough. It would need to be a week-long apology festival, complete with a big sorry cake, a sombre sorry march through downtown Adelaide, and Phil Hughes going door to door reciting a poem of his own composition, entitled "Sorry We Were So Rubbish".

Still, those of us feeling hurt, let down, bruised or vengeful should reflect that we've only got ourselves to blame. Before choosing an item in a supermarket you should always read the label, and it's the same when you choose a cricket team.

The BBL has a roster of evocatively titled franchises. There are Hurricanes, Stars and Renegades. Sydney Thunder may in reality herald nothing more than a light drizzle, but that's a proper moniker, a team that the Viking god Thor would be happy to name-check on his Twitter profile. Heat and Scorchers are a bit vague, but they do at least imply some kind of connection with the radiation from a gigantic thermonuclear space entity, which is relatively impressive.

But Strikers? To strike means "to hit forcibly and deliberately with a weapon or other implement". That sounds like a cricket kind of name. You will note, however, that the definition of the verb "to strike" does not imply that anything good will result from the strike, or that the strike will be particularly accurate, well-timed or competent.

There was much forcible and deliberate hitting on Thursday, but it didn't serve to agitate the runs column on the scoreboard, it merely facilitated the procession of 11 young men from pavilion to wicket as though they were contestants on a talent show given 30 seconds to impress a bored row of judges with their outrageous antics.

As ever, Alex Hales - who is in danger of becoming a poor man's Luke Wright - was the first to leave. Ludeman followed, but having been promoted up the order he was new to the whole business of throwing his wicket away needlessly, and rather embarrassingly took 11 balls of eyes-closed swishing to get out. Phil "Duckpond" Hughes showed him how it was done, then Reardon had his toes crushed by Malinga, Shakib Al Hasan caught a nasty dose of panic and fled the scene, while Neser and Holland offered as much resistance as a sedated elderly koala trying to cling onto its last eucalyptus leaf.

Melbourne Stars deserve enormous credit for keeping a straight face while knocking off the runs and that was that. In T20 there is always another game and Strikers might hope that in a few days this whole unfortunate business will be forgotten.

But for some the hurt will take longer to heal. The 11 sets of family members who had to endure the humiliation of being associated with that ineptitude, the poor orphans now wandering the streets of Adelaide wearing tear-stained turquoise shirts, whose last trip before their orphanage closed down was to the MCG to see their heroes, and certain unnamed members of the general public who put money on Adelaide to wink: we might, one day be able to forgive, but we won't forget, Phil Hughes, we won't forget.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here