After another lengthy interruption caused by a cock-up on the broadband front, let me try to rerail my train of thought and remember (without the benefit of hindsight) what I was going to say on Wednesday.
So, what was Ian Bell’s View From The Middle, going forward into the Second Test? The edited highlights were these …
“absolutely gutted … the dressing room really hurt afterwards … bit of a shake-up … we’re going to have to work very hard if we want to keep winning Test Matches … have to try to stay level and not to dwell on it … the key is to have time in the middle … have to raise our game … must not get too carried away with thinking about what happened there … stick together through good times and bad times … enjoy the challenge … chance to bounce back quickly …”
Meanwhile, in an interview in the Metro, Alastair Cook took a similar view (“England moving swiftly on : We have put Dubai to bed“)
“We discussed what we needed to do and we put it to bed … learned from mistakes … all about thinking how we can win this game … always managed to bounce back … characters in the side who do like those sort of challenges … runs are just around the corner …”
But, of course, flagging this up is churlish stuff on my part – shooting ducks and duck-makers in a barrel. If you had a twelve year old whose side had just lost heavily and unexpectedly, this is exactly what you’d be telling them. And it’s not as though the feeble column with a cricketer’s name attached is a new phenomenon.
This is from Bruce Hamilton’s novel Pro, set in the 1920s. Jim Revill (a sort of Sutcliffe-Woolley figure) is explaining where his money comes from –
“And those articles in the Gazette – there’s a lot of money in them”
“Do you really write them?”
“Not on your life. They let me have the proofs though, and if there’s anything too damn silly I cross it out.”
What irks me is not so much the thought that the newspapers are palming off some PR fluff as an insight into the minds of Test cricketers as the suspicion that this watery stew of management theory and self-helpisms really is all that Cook, Bell et al. have in their heads and that to be successful, to be, indeed, the Number One Side in the World™, that is necessarily so.
The deep thinkers (the Smiths, Roebucks and Jameses) can think themselves to the edges of international cricket and then think themselves back out again, the happy animals are sailing off unsteadily into the sunset on their pedaloes, but those who sincerely believe that whatever achieves results is right will inherit the earth (or at least the No. 1 spot in the ICC rankings).
But then again, perhaps it was ever more-or-less thus, and that the reason the players of the past are – to those of us who rely on the written and spoken word for our knowledge of Test cricket – more vivid and three-dimensional than those of the present is that the Woolleys and Rhodeses exist and persist as the creations of writers who really could write, and newspapers that preferred to give space to their writing over the unmediated thoughts of the players. Rhodes had Neville Cardus to write his lines for him, poor Bell has to write his own (though he could, I suppose, just let his bat do the talking).
Mind you there is one player who can elevate self-help speak to an almost mystical level. This is Kevin Pietersen, from an interview in this week’s Sport magazine –
“We don’t look backwards and we don’t look forwards, because that’s got nothing to do with what’s happening right now – and I think that’s what Andy Flower and Strauss have brought to the party … what’s magnificent about this squad is the longevity of its happiness. Off the field, all our doors are open throughout the hotel, the boys are in and out of each other’s rooms playing FIFA, playing cards and talking nonsense …”
Allowing a little hindsight to creep in, though, I wonder whether, now that Dubai seems to have leapt back out of bed – leaving poor Geoffrey Boycott homeless – the longevity of Andrew Strauss’s happiness is likely to be increased by having Kevin Pietersen, locked into his beatific vision of the eternal now, wandering in and out of his room, talking nonsense.
We shall have to see.