Posts Tagged ‘2010 FIFA World Cup’
I find amusement in overlaying national footballing stereotypes onto cricket teams. Thus the Dutch were pioneers of ‘total cricket’ in 1970s in which batters and bowlers were interchangeable and in so doing created the concept of the ‘all-rounder’. After a long period of underachievement, the Dutch have recently favoured a more prosaic, belligerent style executed by borderline psychotics in the middle order called Nigel. England have been warned to strap on their chest pads in preparation.
In actuality the Netherlands side have no chance of following their footballing compatriots up the road to the World Cup final. To do so they would require eleven Doeschate in the team. Sadly they only have ten Doeschate.
England will attempt to kick their vexatious habit of only being able to perform to the same level of whichever opposition pitches up that day. Judging by speed at which they shuffled to victory against Canada on Wednesday, they’re still wearing their patches.
England by 5 wickets.
I think we were all surprised to wake up the other day to see Kevin Pietersen stick his face above the parapet and allow Canuck emigres to hurl shiny white balls at it. Partly because previously Pietersen has proved resistant to a posting any higher than the No.4, preferring to lurk cravenly in the cosier surroundings of the middle order. And partly because it represents a shift from the meticulous scheming that has become the modus operandi for the Flower-Strauss management axis.
What should be added is that Eoin Morgan‘s shattered finger shook the kaleidoscope, and now the batting plans are now in flux. Besides, eleventh-hour selectorial shambles are almost a tradition in England World Cup campaigns. It creates a feeling so familiar and warm you could toast your teacakes on it.
Early signs indicate tentatively that the gamble may pay off. And apart from anything else it neatly merges the KP dilemma and the opener dilemma into one slightly bigger uber-dilemma. It’s one less dilemma to worry about.
Here’s Kevin Pietersen looking a little morose during an interview at the Oval this week. I suppose I’d feel little distrait if I only had four snatched days with my family between tours, and one of them was spent helping promote a team he will hardly play for. Surrey haven’t even been able to muster the necessary crockery resources to serve his biscuit on a plate. Kevin Pietersen doesn’t eat his cookies straight from the table. It’s not even something luxurious like a Boaster. No wonder he wants to retire.
Before most major sporting tournaments I like to whet the appetite by glancing back over some of the action of yesteryear. But having visited the buffet bar of Cricket World Cup memories, I’ve decided I’m not that hungry.
Admittedly my recollections of the early competitions are sketchy, being that I was -4 when the inaugural World Cup took place. The participants were mainly robust-looking men with big collars and bigger hair whose primary ambition was to exit the field of play in order to avoid the frequent invasions of onrushing Rasta men and bell-bottomed youths. Who in turn were inevitably chased by harrassed coppers who looked like they’d spilt over from the set of Z Cars.
The 1992 jamboree probably has most to commend it with its modish pastel pyjamas and Jonty Rhodes‘ demented stump obliteration against Pakistan. But the most enduring incident was the result of a suspect pre-Duckworth Lewis rain calculation which left South Africa needing 22 off the last ball to beat England. They didn’t make it. They should have run quicker.
1996 was a largely forgettable tournament save for the emergence of a Sri Lankan side led by Arjuna Ranatuga, who pioneered the enterprising tactic of irritating his opponents into submission. My most lurid recollection is of English opener Neil Smith violently chundering by the wicket in Peshawar against the UAE. I like to think of that small technicolour puddle as a powerfully iconoclastic statement against the ongoing failure of English limited over cricket.
From that point on the dispiriting Australian procession began and may continue in the coming weeks. Sky Sports have been showing highlights packages of all tournaments, while pointedly excluding the last World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007. I don’t blame them. It’s a story no-one needs to be told.
Largely I leave the making of military comparisons in sport to jingoistic American Ryder Cup captains, but when I think of the English dressing room I can’t help imagine an army hospital, full of shattered bodies and high with the rancid smell of decay. Their whites stiff with dirt and gore, returning from the front line of a battle they’ve no need or desire to fight. The war in Australia was won at Christmas, the subsequent smaller squabbles have only served to strain and fracture the squad. How many of Eoin Morgan‘s fingers have to be flown home in a splint before questions are raised of ECB command?
Apologies for all this. But when you’re propounding palpable truisms like there is too much international cricket being played, sometimes you have to dress it up in ludicrous war metaphors.
It is actually quite comforting watching England flounder in the current series against Australia, like putting on a old pair of slippers or drinking a cup of hot Ribena. It seems that all our optimism for the World Cup may be based on their recent gains in the other two formats of the game. It may just be that our most successful operatives are better suited to cricket’s extremes rather than the middle ground.
Take Michael Yardy for instance, a keystone of the triumphant Twenty20 campaign in the Caribbean last year. In the abridged version, his skill is to zip off his four-over allocation before the batsmen have taken their guard. In the longer form of limited overs cricket, at around the fifth or sixth over the opposition notice that he is bowling at them and begin to make the necessary preparations.
Conversely Matt Prior is a cricketer with some superior statistics at test level, where he seems to play with that thumping one-day beat. But put him in a blue shirt and his batting becomes oddly and ineffectually frenetic, like a man trying to stave off a tiger attack with a stick of celery. His surprise promotion has also freshened up a rather musty debate about the transience of the opening combination. Steve Davies had previously performed steadily, stymied only by the obvious weakness of looking like a frightened owlet about to chunder up a worm.
Of course Andy Flower has made a few queriable decisions that have turned out to be providential. And I’m just sitting here in my pants with a laptop across my knee.
Maurice Edu of Rangers and the United States has the solemn honour of being the first participant to be stuck into my South Africa 2010 Panini World Cup sticker album. As a man in his thirties, the excitement that this generates should have dissipated years ago but it’s an enduring addiction that has lasted since the April before Mexico ’86, the month that Maurice Edu was born.
The breaking news from Panini world is that the traditional format of the album has been ditched in favour of a more democratic layout which affords each nation two pages to exhibit their nascent squads. Of course this is more sensible but I can’t help feel a little disappointed, having found great comfort in Panini’s robust and lasting persistence in a wonky structure that relegated three nations to a single page, forcing pairs of players to cosy up on the one sticker. I often dreamt of the day that a team from the shadowy margins of the album – an Angola or a Saudi Arabia or a Jamaica – would go forward and win the trophy. That will not happen now.
I have bought a Panini album every tournament since Mexico, apart from 1990 when I naively plumped for a rival album produced by Orbis, seduced as I was by its Lever arch housing and file dividers. I boycotted the album extravaganza completely in 1994, labouring under the pretence that I was too cool for this puerile frippery and listened to acid jazz instead.
Sticking is a very simple pleasure. I normally buy a dozen packs opening them all at once, turning them face down and sorting them into numerical order for ease of use. And then stick each one in with surgical precision, sometimes putting on a pair of reading glasses that I don’t need. I don’t think I’m alone in wallowing in the scientific approach and misplaced pride in my stickerwork:
Of course the inherent tragedy of being an overannuated sticker collector is a paucity of potential swapsie providers. It’s not like I can go to school. There is a primary school at the end of my road so I could loiter around the gates scoping suitable swapsie swapees. But there are rules against that kind of thing.