Archive for March, 2009

Dwayne Bravo is officially omnipresent.

March 27, 2009
Dwayne Bravo lands after a brief flight around the ground.

Dwayne Bravo lands after a brief flight around the ground.

“Dwayne Bravo was everywhere.” – Ian Ward, Sky Sports

The sleepy-eyed Ian Ward tells us that Dwayne Bravo is everywhere. What are we to make of this? What else but a big truth cake, laced with meaning hidden from Ward’s sincerely hooded eyes. For Bravo is a deity, a mighty Ogoun-like figure for the West Indies. God of fire, war and metal (symbolised by his earrings); reinvented and incarnated as a young and fiery talisman. A Christ-like inspiration for a country that had strayed from the mown and rollered track.

Not only is Bravo everywhere, but he is also omnipotent and benevolent. He can bat and bowl with equal dynamism and brilliance and he’s got the biggest smile since Mr. Tickle met the Cheshire cat*.

Not for nothing do the people of Trinidad and Tobago endlessly chant the mantra: “Let’s go Bravo, let’s go!” This is the best chant in the world, and that’s official too.

* Mr. Tickle finds cats quite funny.

Welcome to Netherland!

March 26, 2009

Joseph O’Neill’s most recent novel, Netherland, contains a vision of New York hosting the Cricket World Cup which coincides with the announcement of plans for an American Premier League.

The novel itself is in the tradition of the ‘American novel’, though it has been updated and reconfigured. Hans, the protagonist whose viewpoint we share, is a foreigner in a city of foreigners. The visionary, overwhelming Chuck Ramkissoon is from lowly origins in Trinidad. The cast of characters in the Chelsea Hotel spans from the Gothic (the transvestite angel, Mehmet Taspinar) to the mundane (a pair of rich schoolgirls). Where they meet (New York) is at once a meeting point and a point of departure.

People are looking for something that means something. A solid idea. Hans finds this in cricket. Through it he meets Chuck. Chuck has plenty of ideas, among them his master plan for a cricket stadium in New York, to become the focus of America’s re-re-awakening to cricket.

How strange that this American tournament should be in the offing. Due to take place on the very island that O’Neill plays his cricket now, and on which Hans does so in the book. Chuck’s dream may yet become a reality, and questions about whether cricket could ever take on in a country such as America may be answered. It is a subject that O’Neill addresses in an interview with Travis Elborough:

TE: Reading the book for the second time, I couldn’t help feeling that Chuck’s scheme to build a cricket stadium in America actually seemed less far-fetched than it had at first seemed to me. How plausible do you think it really is, though?

JO: I think there will certainly be someone who succeeds in installing a cricket stadium in the United States. But Chuck’s ambition to get a significant number of Americans to play cricket is surely a non-starter. Unless, of course, this current immigrant generation, which is from South Asia, seeds the game well in the United States. And then it could well become like lacrosse or rugby, a minority pastime, but nevertheless one that is played to a high level.”

I very much hope that this hypothesis is about to be put to the test. With many games being relocated to the Middle East, it is surely a shrewd move to provide a rival venue in an accessible, politically stable, high-security (excuse the term) city. I would much rather this were in the middle of a city such as New York than in the middle of a desert. Cricket should involve people, and, as Netherland hints at, New York represents an enormous, hitherto-untapped market for a sport that is definitely on the up. Here, think Twenty20 and the Indian fervour. If I were Jay Mir, the president and CEO of American Sports And Entertainment Group Inc, I would get Mr. O’Neill on board for this initiative. He has thought about this subject enough to write a bestseller on the topic, and a good one at that!

Green gold.

March 20, 2009
All mine.

All mine.

Somewhere in South Africa is a mine. A mine chock-full of jaws and forearms and guts. From here, a crew of immortal dwarves constantly hew body parts until they have enough to make a human being. At this stage they augment the body with superhuman attribites such as onboard Hawk-Eye and laser-guided missile launchers. Ordinary human traits, such as weakness, are simply left out. English ones, such as the spontaneous tendency to completely break down under even the smallest feather of pressure,  are not even known to the ‘demi’-gods. Finally, when the jaw has been dusted with tough little bristles and stuck on with chewing gum, and the eyes have been drop-forged from steel, a South African cricketer is born.

They come out from the mine, not blinking in the sunlight – they automatically adjust to any atmospheric conditions – and then they amble to the nearest cricket team and join it.

Because supply exceeds demand (the SafferBot has a 37-year guarantee) they are stockpiled in domestic leagues, where they generate faintly ridiculous figures and amass cast-iron credentials in preparation for their true purpose. To play and win at cricket for South Africa.

What makes the attack on the Sri Lankan team bus so shocking?

March 20, 2009

“Our initial reaction was to worry that one of the Sri Lankan cricketers had been killed, as if their lives were somehow more important than the lives of the policemen who were escorting them. Such is the way of thinking after something like this.”

King Cricket March 3rd, 2009

This perception seems to be quite true, but why? Why is the outbreak of such abrupt violence in the world of sport more shocking but also more interesting than politically related violence?

Sport has a place alongside the political concerns of the ‘real world’. It allows people to invest massive emotion into something – a football team or national side, for example – without worrying about the implications. Sport offers a safe place to invest hopes and dreams. It has an elaborately constructed history of rules and rivalries that mirrors that of international relations. The crucial difference is that sport is not troubled by ethics (though it does have its own internal code of sportsmanship).

Mitchell and Webb show exactly why sport can mean everything and nothing at the same time, by reducing it ‘ad absurdum’. The sketch is funny because it’s completely accurate, but it’s not an indictment. All sports are repeating patterns which offer some kind of story to those who care enough and want to find it out. The sports journalist Simon Barnes, of the Times, describes himself as a storyteller in The Meaning of Sport.

But sport doesn’t have to mean anything at all. It’s voluntary; something to opt in and out of as you please. So when that dynamic works the other way round, when genuine tragedy and violence intrude upon this sporting Shangri-La, we feel that a violation has taken place. For all its bluster, sport is a passive thing, unlike the implicit and causal involvement of politics with current events. Sport acts outwardly only when its actions are unequivocally good; charity work, or the development of inner city areas for the Olympics, for example. It does this because it can afford to; being a luxury itself. Moments when athletes have been seriously endangered, or worse, represent an almost unthinkable reversal of this dynamic and as a consequence, they outgrow our usual (and well-used) terms for tragedy. They become somehow morbidly fascinating. Think of the Munich air disaster in 1958, for example, or the Superga Tragedy in 1949.

Obviously, this is not to say that they are comparatively ‘worse’ than similar events outside the world of sport. I am only trying to suggest why the conflict between violence and sport, whether intended or accidental, has a unique kind of impact. One thing, unfortunately, seems certain. Aggressors such as those who attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team will be aware of the effect it has had. Sport, like everything else, is not sacred.

This is a ticklish topic. Please give constructive criticism or opinion.

Larger-than-Life Cricketers

March 16, 2009
Shane Warne takes a sharp catch midway through his bowling action.

Shane Warne takes a sharp catch midway through his bowling action.

Shane Warne

Proof that God is omniscient. He knew that if he shaved his beard off and inhabited the body of a tub-thumping Aussie beach bum, then no-one would recognise him. Well… it almost worked. Drop Warney for being overweight? Only if you were actually carrying him.

Virender Sehwag

Born the son of Mr. and Mrs. Ball, he has resented the shape it made him ever since, and is determined to take it out on all balls everywhere all the time. Conveniently enough, this kind of behaviour is actually encouraged at the top of the Indian batting order.

Inzy stairs his nemesis in the face.

Inzy stairs his nemesis in the face.

Inzimam Ul-Haq

The Sultan of Multan. He ran about as well as six AT-AT walkers sellotaped together, so he made the ball do the running for him. “Why don’t you run to that man at the back of the crowd and check that he can catch?” he would say.

Ryder of the Valkyries.

Jesse Ryder

A top order, crease-inhabiting hay-maker who likes to kick things off with a certain ‘B. Mac’. Described by Adam Parore as “too fat” to play for New Zealand. Is he? Yes. But they let him, despite repeated and alcoholic misbehaviour, and they reap the rewards. Shares his first name with the boy from ‘Free Willy’, but that’s Ryder’s only connection to the film, which also stars a seven-tonne, sleek-skinned, black and white whale.

Is it a bird, is it a Dwayne?

Is it a bird, is it a Dwayne?

Dwayne Leverock

More stones than a cairn and an unlikely hero of the 2007 World Cup. The celebration after his famous catch (above) was even better. He is one of Bermuda’s better players, averaging just over 30 with the ball in ODI’s. He was the Bermuda Sun Sports Personality of 2007, apparently, no doubt fighting off stiff competition for the island’s champion head-steadier.