Friday, 14 August 2015

Column 27, 2015 – Earning the fruitbowl

Printed in The Cricket Paper, issue 130, Friday August 14, 2015.
[Full text below]

A few months back, Andy rescued a spectacularly kitsch fruit bowl from the dump. He bought it, for a pound, washed it (I hope), filled it with fruit and brought it to the game for some light refreshments while we batted.

It was so unlovable, we took something of a shine to it, and it’s now taken up permanent residence as our man of the match award. It seemed fittingly silly.

So whoever stars with runs, wickets, catches or whatever, even in a losing cause, has to take this ludicrous fruit bowl home and explain it to their family.

The reason I bring this up now is that the other week, we were so awful, so utterly devoid of merit, that we were forced to award the bowl to our top scorer.


We shook our heads at our own ineptitude, baffled at how every single one of us could be that simultaneously dreadful, lamenting aloud how you don’t see that level of abject collective failure in proper cricket.

Except of course we just did. Our scorebook that day was remarkably similar to Australia’s titanic collapse at Trent Bridge. We were all out for 59. Only one of us staggered into double figures, as opposed to their two. Our extras did one better than theirs though: we managed 15. And we lasted 25.2 overs, 6.5 more than them.

Even though we wanted to, and might as well have done, we couldn’t just get changed and go home, any more than Australia could.

There are always examples of stunning wins from unlikely positions, of victory snatched from the jaws of defeat. Early this season we defended 88. Somebody somewhere in one of the leagues defended forty-something. There are Test examples too: Headingly 81 (obviously), and Laxman and Dravid’s 376 run fifth wicket stand following-on against Australia in Calcutta to secure a wildly unlikely win.

And that’s the point, isn’t it? Unlikely. We celebrate these rare examples precisely because they’re so unusual.

99% of the time, if you get yourself into that bad a position, you’re going to lose, and you deserve to. One of the great old clichés cricket has in such bounty is that though you can’t win a game in the first hour, you can lose it.

But you have to work yourself up into believing that it’s not a lost cause. You have to absorb that psychological hammerblow of building your own mountain to climb, and construct the preposterous self-delusion that you can still win it. The fantasy of false hope.

There’s something a little bit soul crushing about communally pretending you believe you have a hope in hell pursuing a lost cause. An unspoken mutual confidence mirage, wilfully deceiving each other with chirpy optimism. “Where there’s tea there’s hope, eh lads?” All hope is lost. “Come on boys, we’re in this!” We’re really not.

We’ve all been there. So well batted, Aussie extras. There’s a fruit bowl here with your name on it.

- ends 494 words -

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