As a self-confessed Kiwi fan (I said it on Cricinfo, it’s now set in stone) I should be deliriously, breathlessly happy today. And I am, kind of. Even though the people that arrange these things had decided, in their infinite wisdom, that neither I nor just about anyone else outside the Tasman should be able to actually watch the Chappell-Hadlee series being contested (well, legally, anyway) I followed the 1st ODI via dodgy streaming video and ball-by-ball internet coverage right down to Scott Styris’s very last bludgeoned six. I went crazy with ALL CAPS! and profanity on Twitter when New Zealand won. I was more delighted than I can express that Australia had been beaten – and for the second time in a row! – thus wrecking their winning streak that oh-by-the-way happened largely against the West Indies. (Yeah, the side that were bowled out for 79 in the course of losing to Zimbabwe a few days ago. Those guys.)
It was glorious.
And then, because I love photography, and I wanted some visual connection to this fantastic match, I went to Getty and Daylife and Photosport NZ to check out their shots from Napier. As they usually do, they had some wonderful stuff: Martin Guptill flinging his bat in the last of the fading golden light; Ross Taylor joyously embracing the man who had given him a hard-fought win in his first match as captain; Mike Hussey captured mid-dive, catching out Peter Ingram; and Shane Bond.
(Ok, so that last one wasn’t from the match. But still: so pretty!)
Aaaaand then there was this.
Ok. So part of me is aware that cricket, despite being a game of boundless complexity requiring mental fortitude and no small amount of intelligence both to play and to appreciate, is still a sport. And the fact remains that, like all sports, a certain percentage of the fine athletes who play it will be, for lack of a better term, jocks.
So much claptrap has been written about ‘mental disintegration’ that it makes me tired to even think about it, let alone consider rehashing it here, but the impression I get is that the words and in-your-face confrontations are meant to be part of a finely-tuned mind game meant to unsettle and intimidate the opposition. Fine. I could maybe see this when, say, Allan Donald used to work on batsmen with fiery bowling interspersed with choice epithets as the gears turned and he tried to out-think and out-play them. That was a battle you could see unfold – even if he did cross the line, as he did on that one memorable occasion with Rahul Dravid, I could understand what he was up to.
With Mitchell Johnson (and, last time, Shaun Tait), and the dozens more like them that seem to be springing up like weeds all over? I have no idea.
This is not mental tactics. This is moronic chest-thumping by immature little boys trapped in the bodies of grown men who are meant to be professional sportsmen. What’s it meant to accomplish, boys? Are you hoping that the batsmen will be so distracted by laughing incredulously at your childish tomfoolery that they’ll make a mistake and get themselves out? That they’ll stop hitting your bowling for boundaries because you snarl at them in a manner that you fondly imagine to be menacing?
I find this so incredibly tiresome. You’re not 21 any more, fools. Grow the hell up and start behaving like adults, for the love of all that is holy. If I’m going to see a battle on a cricket field, I want it to be a real one, not two man-children engaging in a metaphorical dick-swinging contest to see who can demonstrate the most ludicrous display of idiot machismo.
Besides, face facts, boys, you’re not exactly hurling verbal grenades there, on account of you’re really not the sharpest knives in the drawer. I can just imagine the Johnson-Styris exchange now:
MJ: “You f**ker, you think you can just hit me for four like that whenever you want?”
SS: “Well, I just did, twice, so yes, actually.”
MJ: “F**K you! I’ll show you…you…you f**ker!”
SS: “Please, feel free. What have you been waiting for, by the way?”
MJ: “SHUT UP! DON’T YOU DARE F**ING HIT ME FOR FOUR AGAIN!”
SS: “No. Oh – wait, OK. I’ll just hit you for six then, shall I?”
MJ: “ARGH! THAT’S IT! I’m going to HEADBUTT you now, like this rhino I saw once on the Discovery Channel! Because I am an animal! I am a fighter! I am all raw, naked aggression! I will teach you to disrespect me and my crappy-ass wayward bowling that is still FAST which is all that matters! I will TAKE YOU DOW-” *clonk* “–OWWW! Son of a BITCH!”
SS: “Yep, that’s a helmet. I’ve been wearing it all evening. Hadn’t you noticed?”
Yeah. That’s some powerful stuff, right there. Indomitable spirit of man and the fighter eternal, and all that.
I should point out that I don’t think Scott Styris was nearly as blameless as this little imaginary dialogue makes him out to be. Engaging with the immature idiot makes you a bit of an idiot, too, Scott.