And so the torture begins again…
We now live in an marvelous age when the rugby season merges into the cricket season. They can play cricket on Eden Park the same week of a Super 14 match (the Super 14 is like a rugby version of the English premiership football championship, but without the hooligans or flamboyant, one-name, showponies who drop to the grass at the thought an opposing player may brush their shin lightly with a wayward ankle).
To all our Northern Hemisphere counterparts who perhaps think cricket is a small chirpy insect with a tendency to bounce tall bushes in a single hop, I am talking about the game. I say it’s a game because you can’t really call cricket a sport because when one is “playing”, one tends to spend most of one’s time waiting around for something to happen. Like a wicket, a run, or that most cricketing of intervals – the tea break. Indeed, they stop the game to have afternoon tea. Good plan that. So knackered after an afternoon standing around waiting for nothing to happen. Better have a sit down and a cuppa.
The same can be said for watching the game – although even more so. You can wait and wait and wait and wait and wait. Then you bend down to pick a toenail or scratch yourself and the moment is gone. Thankfully if you are watching the game you have the benefit of an action replay to help you come to grips with what you missed. If you are playing and you miss something, you might have to wait for a match report, or wipe the blood from your shattered nose.
For a gentle game such as cricket, there are an awful number of ways one can be severely injured. Being hit in the conkers is one (either by a ball, or someone wafting a bat). Smashed in the face by a ball even. I heard that an Indian player tripped over whilst running and was impaled on an upturned stump. Thankfully, however, most of the time cricket is a walk in the park – or rather, a stand in the park. Thanks to long periods of inactivity back when I was playing, my nose was consistently free of any mucusy build-up whatsoever.
Unlike the New Zealand rugby team (a featured extra during my last column) who are consistently winners (except at those important occasions when it counts), the New Zealand cricket team are inconsistent winners – some might dub them perennial losers. There was a brief moment of glory in the early to mid-1980s when the likes of Sir Richard “Paddles” Hadlee, Lance “Master Blaster” Cairns and Geoffrey “Gin” Howarth were the mainstay of our team. I remember several of my teen summers spent on the couch watching as we thrashed the likes of Sri Lanka who were then dubbed ‘minnows’ – today’s Scotland. The New Zealand team would turn up with all these fantastic players and beat all sorts of great teams, including Australia, who were the laughing stock of the cricketing world. Greg Matthews and David Hooks were no match for our thundery might. Hadlee would thunder into bowl off 6 paces at the start of the game. The crowd would be banging their cast-iron Double Brown cans together and chanting, and every so often there would be a wicket off the first ball. Fantastiko!!
Those were the halceon years of New Zealand cricket. Years when you could spend days in front of the box waiting for that split-second moment of excitement. Back in the day when the unbiased commentary of Dunedin in-pat Billy (coach of Geoff Howarth) Ibudulla rang true from the booth. Picture Geoff Howarth walking out to bat in one test; “Oh I think that Geoff Howarth is looking very good,” Geoff Howarth continues to stroll amongst the sunshine of the day looking slightly bemused possibly due to the Seagar’s – but, according to the strict libel laws of this country, perhaps not. “I predict,” continues Billy, “that Geoff Howarth will be in for a big, big score today.” Geoff Howarth hits the crease, ready to face the first delivery, “I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes out today there and knocks up a ton.” Geoff Howarth eventually out for a skillfully and masterfully acquired 3. The commentary arse-lick session was made all the more hilarious by Mr. Ibudulla’s thick Otago accent.
As I watch the New Zealand cricket team at this time of my life the buzz has gone. No longer are we called New Zealand, or the Kiwis. We are now known as the Black C(r)aps. A team full of great names? When you look at the Fultons, the Marshalls and the Cummings of this world, as you watch them on the pitch giving it their all for the country, you can’t help thinking to yourself, “you know…. I would rather have my john thomas and jatz crackers pinched in an unfortunate bicycling accident than watch this abortion.” I remember when I first heard the term underwhelming – it was used to describe the Black Caps. Those good old Black Caps – useless ’til the bitter end.
We’ll see at the end of the summer how things go. I’m picking shite. But at least we’re playing Bangladesh this year… and England. So there might be the odd win peppered in amongst the failures.
Bring on the rugby season.
PS: having said all that they’re not doing too badly against the Saffies overnight…
In addition to my previous PS, the mighty Black Craps have capitulated to a record loss in South Africa. What a bunch of losers.