Tag Archives: England

C.L.R.—Unsurprisingly—Is Still Right

“[Learie] Constantine’s leg-glance from outside the off-stump to long-leg was a classical stroke. It was not due to his marvelous West Indian eyes and marvelous West Indian wrists. It was due, if you must have it, to his marvelous West Indian brains.” — C.L.R. James

“West Indies are short of brains but have IPL history in their ranks.” ­— Mark Nicholas

In 2016, to be a fan of West Indies cricket, you must be masochistic, nostalgic, or some sickening combination of the two. Between (re)watching YouTube clips of Malcolm Marshall eviscerating off-side stumps and combing through ‘60s-era match reports from Queens’ Park Oval, the cotemporary West Indies supporter is treated to innings defeats, false dawns, and reports of payment disputes. It becomes a depressing rhythm of sorts.

That’s what makes 2016—and today especially—so otherworldly: The West Indies are, beyond all reasonable expectations, making positive headlines. Three major tournaments have begotten three West Indian champions. From the U-19 side to the underappreciated T20 women to the men’s victory hours ago, 2016 is already the most successful West Indian cricketing year in decades—hyperbole be damned.

However, these successes have brought out a strange yet sadly predictable negativity from certain corners of the cricketing world. The U-19’s Maknad has been discussed and dissected in harsher terms than Michael Clarke’s threat to break another human’s bone. The T20 men have been pilloried for having outsized personalities and hitting too many sixes. Even the T20 women have been criticized for their celebrations. The question is, why?

Race is everywhere in sport, no matter how color blind you claim to be. We like to think that sport is a safe sphere untouched by the politics of the world, but this is foolish—the same realities and dynamics that exist beyond the boundary exist within it as well. A colleague at work made an interesting observation recently: In the public sphere, while vehement racists are nearly extinct, subtle racism is still endemic. This is true of both sport writing and commentary. When discussing black athletes, there exists a quasi-coded racialized language. Many have written about this fact. Black athletes, frequently, are typecast as arrogant, brash, and naturally gifted. Words such as “canny” or “intelligent” are infrequently used descriptors when compared to their white counterparts.

Do I think Mark Nicholas and others who have voiced similar ideas are racist? No. But I think they’re being intellectually lazy by falling back on these tropes. I am guilty of this as well. In life and sport, many of us are.

You don’t become as good at cricket as the West Indies are without intelligence. See: the final. After dropping to eleven for three, Marlon Samuels crafted a cagey innings that would have been at home in any Test match. He took calculated risks while relieving the pressure on his beleaguered side, slowly dragging the West Indies within striking distance of England’s total. But the overs were running out. As I watched, I thought that, while Samuels’ effort was valiant, it was too little, too late. I was a fool; it was calculated to set the stage for a stunning checkmate.

As Carlos Brathwaite launched the final of his four sixes into the Eden Gardens stands, I gaped in awe. We all did. Yet, to the West Indies—while thrilling—it was far from a surprise: It was all part of the plan. Cool and calculated.

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Filed under Match Review, T20, West Indies

The Death Knell That Wasn’t: County Cricket’s Temporary Clemency

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Flickr/Paul Henderson

2015 was supposed to be the final year we would witness an unbastardized county cricket campaign. A franchise T20 competition beckoned. The first-class season was to be slashed. County cricket, as those who loved the competition recognized it, was to be put to death.

And yet, despite the grim future these developments heralded—after county cricket’s obituary had been penned—the unbelievable happened: nothing.

The momentum within English cricket to fundamentally alter the county season seemed to have finally reached the point of no return. For years, there have been various instances of both rumored and aborted structural changes, yet—blissfully unaware—the 16 match first-class season has managed to survive scare after scare. This year, however, the County Championship was to finally meet its maker in the form of a limited-over reaper—specifically, an eight-team 20-over competition modeled after the IPL, BBL, and CPL.

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Fear and Loathing in the T20 Blast

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Flicker/wolliwoo

Perhaps no competition in the cricketing world engenders more scorn than the T20 Blast. Despite soaring attendance, it is derided as tinpot—many times, justifiably so. When Chris Gayle—one of cricket’s biggest stars—made a brief cameo appearance in the Blast, one would expect that the competition’s administrators would have done anything possible to ensure the proceedings would be televised. In this case, you would be mistaken.

Unsurprisingly, given the circumstances, Gayle put on one of his greatest performances. Yet, beyond a scoresheet, the only evidence we have to show for it is several minutes of handycam footage that has more in common with the Zapruder film than any televised cricket broadcast. It would be embarrassing—but English cricket administrators commit similar blunders with such shocking regularity that, at this point, all one can do is shrug.

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Filed under County Cricket 2015, Match Review, T20

The Denouement Approaches: England Eye Ashes Glory at Trent Bridge

Flickr/ry_wlhg

Flickr/ry_wlhg

In a series thus far defined by the unpredictable, it’s only fitting that—despite suffering a humiliating loss in Edgbaston—Australia enter the fourth Test as favorites. To someone following the series from afar, knowing England are up two matches to one—and on home soil to boot—such odds may seem baffling. Yet, for those who have been following ball by ball, such an off-kilter prediction seems based in the purest of logic. The sole predictable trait of this Ashes series has been its sheer erraticism: A crushing defeat or stunning victory in one match has offered little to no insight into the following Test’s outcome. If Nietzsche killed god, than these Ashes have laid the myth of sporting momentum in its grave. In short, every possible outcome is in play at Trent Bridge—which is exactly why this has been such a magnificent series.

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Onward to Edgbaston: The Ashes Third Test Preview

As the Ashes moves on to the third Test there is certainly no lack of headlines and talking points.  Although the players got an extra day of rest following Australia’s thoroughly dominating victory at Lord’s, the same cannot be said for the media who have written or talked about every way to fix English cricket since Sunday.  To be honest, most didn’t wait that long and some merely never stopped since the World Cup.

For all the stories, many of them non-stories, the Ashes carnival picked up its tent stakes and moved north this week from London to Birmingham with the series not over and done, but actually level at one all.  Sure, there is no denying that England were absolutely walloped at Lord’s. They couldn’t bowl and when they went to bat, well they couldn’t do much of that either.  Australia from the top to the bottom defeated the hosts in every facet of the great game.  And now it is merely history. Edgbaston awaits and gives both teams the opportunity to take a firm grasp on securing the urn.
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Live By the Pitch; Die By the Pitch: Australia Seizes Control of the Second Test

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Thus far, in this edition of the Ashes, groundskeepers have seemingly gotten more press than any individual batsman or bowler. Much was made of the first pitch in Cardiff—and while it eventually proved to be a surface conducive to entertaining cricket—the claim that England is intentionally preparing slow, flat wickets will only gain steam after Lord’s proved to be even more lifeless than Sophia Gardens.

England, however, were not the beneficiary of the deadened pitch. In a day that saw only a single wicket fall, Australia—who had won the toss and chose to bat first—suffocated any chance of a victory for the home side after a mere three sessions. By evening, the tourists were 337-1, with the loss of David Warner’s wicket attributable to the batsman’s foolish bravado rather than any menace from England’s attack. For Alastair Cook and company, it was, as they say, a bad toss to lose.

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Filed under Match Review, Test, The Ashes, Uncategorized

Yorkshire Put England Ahead By a Nose

As the old cliché goes: strong Yorkshire, strong England. But on the opening day of the 2015 Ashes, those in attendance at Sophia Gardens were reminded that every tired maxim contains at least a kernel of truth. After a shaky opening that saw England fall to 43 for three after just 14 overs, Yorkshire’s own Gary Ballance and Joe Root stabilized the home side and led a spirited fightback on a slow, plodding pitch, putting England ahead of Australia going into the second day.

Leading up to a series such as the Ashes, simplistic, often misleading narratives abound. However, in the opening session, the match followed the media-industrial complex’s script to a T. Alastair Cook, Adam Lyth, and Ian Bell—all considered enigmas to varying degrees—combined for a meager sum of just 27 runs. English supporters, at first replete with optimism after their side’s swashbuckling performance in the ODI series against New Zealand, grew nervous. For England, the match needed saving.

Cue Yorkshire.

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Filed under Match Review, Test, The Ashes