Waiting on the gentlemen

I’m a fan of bowlers. Spinners especially. In the batsman-dominated and batsman-friendly modern game, I’m usually one of those people that seethes over flat decks and run-glut games and gets disproportionately excited when a spinner notches up some great figures. Good economy rates racked up by slow bowlers make me extremely happy, which is something I’m almost certain I can’t say about most other women I know. I do have a healthy admiration for quality fast and seam bowling – I could watch Shane Bond all day every day if it weren’t for the fact that it would kill him very quickly, and he, Chris Martin and Iain O’Brien were three of the main reasons I became a Kiwi fan – but spin is the ultimate fascination.

I also quite like Graeme Swann. He’s an excellent bowler, he’s refreshingly witty and straight-spoken unlike a lot of his anodyne contemporaries, and he’s usually an amusing Tweeter. Got to love a man who can make you laugh and bowls smart finger-spin.  (Daniel Vettori bowls extremely smart finger spin, and is far foxier than Graeme Swann to boot, but isn’t nearly as funny. Except when he makes unwise choices regarding his hair, but that doesn’t really count. Oh well.)

Earlier today, Graeme Swann, bowler of offspin, became the first Englishman in over 50 years to take a 10-wicket haul in a Test match, and the first to ever do so in the subcontinent. It’s a tremendous achievement, and one that he fully deserves – his talent and performance for England over the past little while leaves no doubt about that. But Swann – so affable, so popular – managed to tarnish his own achievement at the eighth wicket, when he finally got rid of Junaid Siddique to end the staunch rearguard resistance Siddique and Mushfiqur Rahim had mounted for close to 70 overs.

Yeah, he gave him a send-off. Complete with bellowed ‘Fuck off!’ and fist-pumping. Real classy, Graeme.

Let’s review a few things, shall we? First, you’re 31, Junaid is 22. HE’S A CHILD. He also plays for Bangladesh, the team you might remember as the one that always almost makes it but doesn’t quite, except for that one time against Australia that I still think about when my mood is scraping the floor and I need cheering up. Also, it’s not Junaid’s fault that you have an uninspiring and ludicrously overcautious captain, or that you and your fellow bowlers couldn’t get him or the other plucky kid battling to save a Test for his country, Mushfiqur Rahim, out earlier. The whole thing seemed to represent England’s general mood, which was sheer disbelief and something almost like righteous indignation that Bangladesh were proving so hard to dislodge, very much, “Oi! I know WE’RE crap, but you’re supposed to be MORE crap! What the fuck d’you think you’re doing, screwing with the script?!” Sorry, boys, that’s not how it bloody well works.

All these factors aside, Junaid played brilliantly, as did Mushfiqur, and they deserved to be shown some respect. England have been guilty of this several times on this tour, starting off with Paul Collingwood’s dickish crack about wooden golf clubs, and elsewhere today when Stuart Broad, having got Abdur Razzak out lbw, didn’t bother to make anything remotely approximating an appeal, not even turning around to so much as look at the umpire for confirmation. I’ve heard comments defending Swann by stating that his gesture was actually a backhanded compliment to Junaid, showing how important his wicket was, and Broad by calling his move merely overconfident, and those comments aren’t without merit, but what it looked like was disrespectful, juvenile and arrogant, particularly in light of the fact that England’s performance has actually been fairly flat for much of this Test.

I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth repeating: there seems to be an epidemic of this kind of shitty classlessness infecting international cricket, and God how I hate it. New Zealand v Australia has already given us a massive dose, and the stage seems to be set for more of the same with Michael Clarke’s return for the Tests after his personal problems with his now ex-fiancée. Chris Martin proved once more why I adore him so by stating earlier today that in his opinion, the crowds will run wild with this, but the New Zealand players shouldn’t. They won the ICC Spirit of Cricket award last year, and this is a golden opportunity for them to prove that it’s not just BS, and that it is still possible to play hard and be uncompromising while still being gentlemen by not bringing up a man’s private heartache in an attempt to fuck with his head on the field.

Please, New Zealand, as a fan, I’m asking you nicely: don’t do it. Please. It’s not worth it. To Daniel Vettori: I get the feeling that you overlook Tim Southee’s tendency to be a douche (he certainly was against Bangladesh) because he is a young, spirited and talented player, but you’ve got to impress on him how important this is.  Because it really, really is.

I’ll be watching, and hoping. Please don’t fuck this up, New Zealand.

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  1. #1 by Ian on 16/03/2010 - 4:02 pm

    Completely agree. Didn’t see the Swann incident but don’t like what I’ve heard.

    I’m also a NZ fan by association of marriage and have said in the past that England are to Test cricket what NZ are to one dayers. No real world class players but they still overachieve.

  2. #2 by David Bird on 16/03/2010 - 4:08 pm

    Great and lovely article. I will say, of Stuart Broad’s lack of appealing, that in itself it is isn’t disrespectful of Bangladesh. It’s just his own (very) bad habit. He does it in county matches and tests vs. the Aussies. He’s just a bit of a prick really. But I actually like him, I don’t think he’s super arrogant, just full of misplaced and misread enthusiasm and passion, not entirely unlike Andre Nel. (Both often misunderstood, that is.)

  3. #3 by Shiraz on 16/03/2010 - 10:05 pm

    I am not sure you gona get your wish. The AUS team has a way of bringing out the worst in people. In fact let them have it. If they dish it out (and you know they will) than they should get some back as well and that means I am not being a gentleman so be it :).

  4. #4 by Jon on 17/03/2010 - 1:34 am

    I entirely agree with your sentiments – I’m an Aussie who doesn’t really barrack for Australia except when we’re playing South Africa, because of their arrogance and rudeness.

    But.

    Many elite (and many of the rest, if they’re competitive) sportspeople ARE dicks. If cricketers didn’t display their dickishness in the past it was because of social mores, not a lack of dickishness.

    If you’d been to an Australian rural high school, you’ know that there are plenty of sportspeople who were certainly not children at the age of 15, and whose main driver in life was to get one-up on any perceived opponent, by any means. Having the opponent know that they’d been beaten read ’emasculated’) is an important part of it. I can’t believe that it’s really very different in any other country.

  5. #5 by Suhas on 17/03/2010 - 10:33 am

    @Jon: Fair point, but there’s a clear distinction between dickishness of the spontaneous kind (which is pretty much the norm in any high school, agreed) and the calculated kind. We see much more of the latter on the cricket field these days, and the Aussies aren’t alone in this regard. Also, the boorishness seems to come out mostly after the offending party has been on the receiving end of the cricketing exchange. Not a great way of dealing with life’s disappointments, is it?

    On the subject of NZ and their supposed spirit: I think one of the reasons Shane Bond remains so highly regarded is that he hardly ever resorts to verbal intimidation of any kind to make things work for him (at least, not to my memory). This is a guy who comes from a police background, and that envirnoment has its fair share of trash-talk and testicular aggression.

  6. #6 by Shiraz on 17/03/2010 - 11:19 am

    Hey reina maybe this will help

    “It wasn’t anything malicious and I apologise unreservedly because I know I did swear and it’s not something I condone. I feel a bit ashamed for doing it”

    Graeme Swann regrets the send-off he gave Junaid Siddique after dismissing him in the second innings in Chittagong

    • #7 by reina on 17/03/2010 - 6:32 pm

      I did see that this morning,and was really pleased he said it. Will write a new post soon.

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