The Friday Rant - 10.01.2014
If you a cricket fan and you support England then like me you have been through the ringer over the last few months. Holy frigging cow, what the hell happened ? By nature I am an early riser and as per usual on these UK winter/Australia summer Ashes tours I was looking forward to being able to switch on Sky Sports and catch a little bit of Ashes heaven each morning they were on - heaven of course being England sticking it to the Aussies like we have almost become used to.....................
So somebody please tell me what happened ? 5 bloody nil !!!! Give me a slap, wake me up and tell me that I have been living in some kind of strange parallel universe when back in the real world we didn't really go down 5-0 and in fact we won the thing. We win 3-0 last summer and now we are thrashed 5-0. Hell, the word thrashed simply doesn't do justice to how we were systematically dissected, torn apart, ripped up and spat out like some invasive weed species that by mistake decided to head Down Under and partake of a five Test match series against Australia. Winter ruined as every Ashes morning I would wince as I turned the TV on, dreading what I might find yet hoping that somebody was having me on. England cricket team, just what the sodding bejesus went on ?
I love cricket with a passion. I grew up playing it. Ian Botham was my childhood hero and I used to be in awe of the West Indian bowlers like Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, Joel Garner and the rest. I have little interest in Twenty20 and one day cricket doesn't really do it for me either. Test cricket is real cricket for me, and if you are an England supporter then you know all about the ups and downs one must face. But we came good again. We beat the Aussies at their own game and we learnt how to win, win big, and win again and again. We have got some world class players who time and time again have done what they were born to do. We stood astride the world.
But do all good/great teams naturally come to an end ? Look at the Australian cricket team we beat in that famous 2005 series. OK, so they then did us 5-0 on the return leg back in Australia, but not long after and that (truly) great Aussie team was coming to an end and then look what happened - we were on the rise, we got a taste for beating them, and we learnt how to keep on at it, the odd series/Test match aside of course. I subscribe to The Times on the iPad, and a couple of months ago they released the special supplement that was originally written right after we won the 2003 rugby World Cup - as a 10th anniversary kind of thing - and it was interesting to note how many times it was said in that supplement how England were going to go on to become an even better rugby team.
They didn't though, indeed I don't need to remind any rugby fans how many torrid years we have suffered since that mighty event. The 2003 World Cup win was that particular team's crowning achievement, albeit one could argue that they actually peaked a while beforehand. A (truly) great team came to a natural end for whatever reasons. I am not sure I feel comfortable calling the current England cricket side a truly "great" team, even though they did win three Ashes series on the trot etc., but whatever the case they have been consistently pretty damn awesome on and off for a while now. And we have got used to it. We had our noses rubbed in the dirt for so many years by Australia especially that payback tasted even sweeter than usual. We had forgotten what it was like to really compete and here we were stomping all over them.
The warning signs were there last summer though, and perhaps even further back on that New Zealand tour. You're never going to have an 11 man team where every single player is on top of their game at exactly the same time, but strength in depth of course allows for this. Cook fails in one innings say but Bell produces a big score. Anderson isn't quite hitting his stride but Broad is in the groove completely. And so on. We might have beaten Australia 3-0 last summer, but any of you who follow this magnificent game must surely agree that it was somewhat closer than the scoreline says. Back to back Ashes series sounds awesome for spectators but I think it worked against as as the Aussies really got a handle on what to do when we headed back down there. And wow did they do a number on us.
I accept completely that we were done for pace when it came to the resurgent Mitchell Johnson. All credit to the bloke, but yes, I want to grab his handlebar moustache and rip it right off his grinning face. There were some scared English batsmen out there. Our bowlers could hardly fire properly with no big scores to work with. Trott sadly goes home early with what I imagine is depression. Swann retires in the middle of the series. Nearly all our batsmen are out of nick and desperately searching for form in the pressure cooker of international sport. The three tall "quicks" that were part of the squad aren't very quick at all, hell, Finn can't even get a game at the moment. Talk about almost a perfect combination of every sodding thing going badly wrong. OK, so the one shining light was Ben Stokes, and I just hope he can carry on developing under the spotlight that now shines on him. It was the cricket tour from hell and there are any number of reasons for it going so badly.
But I have a theory that I would like to air. I reckon it's got something to do with being English. We've got plenty of talent and we seem to have some good systems in place. Just occasionally we climb to the top of the world in international sport, but then I think that our Englishness comes into play. We learn how to put our collective feet on the oppositions' jugulars and for a while we like doing it, but then our English nature makes us a bit embarrassed about being the best. Not the done thing, we're English. We can be the best for a bit, but it's rather vulgar to want to breathe such rarified air for too long my good chap. Run along now and we'll (subconsciously) give somebody else a chance. Perhaps it really is our nature to be that little bit reserved, that little bit embarrassed about being the best at something for too long in case we're being too forward. Build 'em up and knock 'em down, along those lines.
A winter's hell of cricket, unless you are an Aussie that is. I just can't believe how badly we were beaten. Most of the time we weren't remotely at the races. But we will rise again. Flower and Cook will do what they need to do and we will return. We have the players, we have the talent and we have the drive. Let's pretend it never happened though !! Let's bury our heads in the sand for a bit and do all we can to banish those ugly memories from our brains. 5 horrible, ugly nil. Another period of time when the Aussies can quite rightly rub our English noses in the dirt. Please help me..........