The Fragility of Acclaim

If ever there was a cricket tour which symbolized the fragility of widespread acclaim in the modern media world where shades of gray only exist to be shunned, it has been England's tour of the United Arab Emirates.

One minute England are 'World Number One', and supposedly the best cricket team on the planet, the next they're spinning to repeated defeats at the hands of their age-old nemesis, Asian bowlers who can really turn the ball. Maybe they weren't so good after all, as Barney Ronay discusses in this work of genius.

One minute Ian Bell is a player who is finally fulfilling all his time-honoured promise, gorging himself on the Indian bowling in the secure surroundings of Trent Bridge and The Oval, the next he's back to looking like a little boy lost, a weak swimmer in the shark-infested waters of Planet Doosra. Maybe he wasn't so good after all.

One minute Kevin Pietersen is cementing his reputation as a minor genius, even if he can't make runs in one-day cricket, the next he's an arrogant Saffer brought to ground by his hubristic reluctance to admit he has a problem playing left-arm spinners. Maybe he wasn't so good after all.

And then there's Stuart Broad. One minute a juvenile hot-head who spends too much time appealing without reference to the umpire and calling for reviews even when he's as out as they come. Not to mention banging the ball in half way down the pitch in a doomed attempt to be some sort of 'enforcer'. The next, well, a terrific bowler, and one who, with his fundamentally orthodox and powerful batting and innate competitive instinct, could go on to bestride the world game in a way few English players have.

Whisper it, really whisper it, but some of Broad's bowling on the dusty tracks of the Arab winter carried echoes of McGrath at his best.

For him, the acclaim may last a little longer.


coffeesnob said...

the bell-shaped problem.

there's an inveterate tendency among 'fans' to over-estimate the aesthetic element (grace and style) in sport over straightforward efficacy (scoring/winning). because little (ian) bell-end has a correct technique and looks withal an accomplished batsmen he must, the thinking goes, be the real deal. it's dodgy reasoning. runs (and run-rates) are more important than technique.

in any case there aren't that many mark waughs or david gowers in the game at any one time (players who combine grace and high achievement). two of the south africans—trott & pietersen—don't look as correct as bell, but they contribute a lot more.

Brian Carpenter said...

I agree.

But with the players you name there's something else at work. Trott and Pietersen are South Africans playing under a flag of convenience, so people in this country will always like Bell more.

He's a good English lad and one who comes across as a bit vulnerable.

People like that. The old English love of the 'underdog'.

coffeesnob said...

bell has always put me in mind of private pike from "dad's army".

when bell trips out to bat one doesn't have that "uh-oh" feeling that sangakarra or laxman elicit—that sense that these fellows could dismantle the bowling and take the test away from you.

also it never helped that, until recently, the 'higher-ups' kept pitching bell in at no.3: the place reserved for the best batsmen in the history of the game. didn't do him any favours there.

Brian Carpenter said...

As far as Bell goes I've always been a believer, but the recent series probably indicated again that he's not the mentally toughest out there.

Cook's improvement as an ODI player bears out what you were saying previously. People will query his strike rate, or his supposed lack of style, or whatever is fashionable that week, but he dismisses it all and just makes runs. In the end, it's what batting is all about.

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