Brilliant, did we need to wait until now to zero in on such basic concepts? This is not why I retired. I do not believe there is a more miserably vicarious sporting experience than that made available to the English cricket fan when being thrashed by Australia in Australia. There is a set of circumstances that make the misery unique and I speak as a sports fan who has, over the years, experienced considerable misery in one way or another.
Maybe we had become a little complacent but it’s not so long ago (2006/7) that we were being thrashed 5 – 0 in OZ with Freddie Flintoft as captain. Incidentally I’d just like to say at this point that I knew when Australia appointed that rotund bastard Darren Lehman as ‘manager’ or whatever he is, it was bad news – for us. We in Yorkshire know a thing or two about him. So yes, we won the Ashes in 2005 but before that we had years and years of Warne, McGrath, Langer, Hayden, Ponting etc. etc. stretching back to Lillee and Thompson, the Waughs etc. etc. So we’re not talking high level complacency here and certainly not actual arrogance the sort of which the English cricket team were accused last summer by the Aussies.
Such a short time ago. How ridiculous that we’re even playing this bloody series now to make room for the bloody world cup. This rankles. But back to my main theme. Most of us who have followed English cricket have no room for arrogance. We know the whole thing is too damned fragile to assume any vaguely permanent state of gloating.
I’m proud of my Wisden collection (see picture). My goal is to have every Wisden since 1948, the year that I was born. I’m missing one or two but otherwise I’ve got a reasonably full set and let me say there’s more misery in those pages than joy when it comes to the Ashes. So there never was any question of complacency. Hope and expectation yes, arrogance, no. I’ll wait for my 2014 Wisden to see what went wrong this tour.
The Ashes in Australia to me represents unique misery for a number of reasons. The first of which is that unless you listen through the night, you wake up to the news. It being winter here it’s already cold and miserable and it’s not in Australia. That’s the context for those little snippets of misery from the radio news – England collapse, England struggle, England’s batsmen in disarray, Australia thrash sorry England (the last one on BBC sport website), Australia on top in the second test, Australia bowl England out for under 200, and on and on. There is no worse way to start the day and the blight lasts throughout the day and the days that follow.
Second, it goes on for ever, days, weeks, months even. You end up thinking please God let it be over. Let’s just lose and get on with life. The one dayers, the 20/20 games, they come and go, it’s easy to get over losses in these formats but test cricket just goes on and on and when you’re being beaten, nay humiliated by the Aussies, I submit there is no greater sporting pain.
Third, well it’s Australia. In football we hate losing to the Germans, in Rugby to the Welsh or possible the French. In cricket we never used to mind being thrashed by the West Indies, even today we can cope with being beaten by India say. But the Aussies, Oh, Jesus. I think it’s something to do with how much they hate us, how much they want to beat us and I suppose that’s a colonial thing. But, damn it all, it’s not my generation’s fault that we had an empire and weren’t very nice to a lot of people. I actually used to support Scotland if they were playing in a football World Cup (yes, they actually used to before they became totally crap) but then I found out how much they hated us and after that I didn’t feel the same way.
And the final irony, as they’re stuffing us, is that they’re not even that good. So what does that say about us?? I really, really thought that when Warne, McGrath and the rest retired that they were irreplaceable and the joke is they are. The current side is ordinary but oh, the irony of being taken apart by Mitchell Johnson, perhaps the Barmy Army should have been nicer to him than the ‘he bowls to the left, he bowls to the right, his bowling’s shite’ ditty. Funny at the time, arrogant even but now the joke’s on us. That bloody Dennis Lillee had to interfere, didn’t he do enough to us when he was playing and suddenly Johnson can do no wrong. He’s not that good I tell you. Bloody hell, I could get runs off him.
Oh dear, now I’ve gone too far, I’m talking bollocks and that shows just how upsetting this whole thing is. I wrote in my last sporting blog about the foolishness of letting sport upset you but I’m very, very upset indeed. As you can probably tell. I didn’t retire and get Sky TV to experience this degree of pain. I haven’t watched a ball of the two games so far. If a ‘highlight’ ha, comes on the news I switch over. I protect myself by burying my head in the sand, so deep in the sand that if I went an inch further I would emerge in Australia and that would be self-defeating. This is the adult? equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears, humming and shouting, ‘can’t hear you’. No, I’m not proud of this.
It is often said by people who retire that now they will have more time to follow / watch their favourite team. Oh dear, once again retirement falls short of my expectations.