Sport is a passion for many. As art, music, cooking and reading is for some, so too is sport an integral part of what provides a happy existence for others. It’s entwined in our fabric – the dye in a tapestry, the plot in a novel, the seasoning of a dish. Without it, for some, the world about them lacks colour, imagination, flavour. Things are just not quite right, dulled down.
There are a number of passions to which I retreat for necessary distraction: reading, writing, history and film are a small selection. Sport though, is clearly my preferred retreat. The problem with this is that it is a limitingly select group of sports that has caught my interest. If we’re being very basic about it, it’s Aussie Rules footy in winter, and cricket in summer. I enjoy watching some tennis, perhaps some golf and the athletics events at the Olympics, but pretty much I get my kicks out of footy and cricket.
So what happens when the cricket is disinteresting? I’m lost, bored. My Old Man would be horrified to see me use that word. I can hear his voice in my head, “If you’re bored I’ll give you something to do.” I suppose it’s not classic boredom. I’m not bored in the traditional sense; I have plenty to do and my life is very much full of activities - most of which I very much enjoy - as per the natures of the season and my wife. Still, what I feel is something vaguely reminiscent of boredom.
The source of this frustration is simple. The West Indies cricket side is an abomination. Growing up in Australia in the ‘80s, you could not help but idolise the Windies. I don’t have a memory of more racist times in this country, but surely the Windies had a great deal to do with more recent generations, definitely my generation, not feeling superior to people of dark skin. How can you feel superior to someone whose abilities and achievements you aspire to? How could you watch that assortment of swaggering, brilliant black men dismantle our team of shaky white men and not truly acknowledge which was superior?
If I had many readers, I could say that many would scoff at my proclamation that recent generations don’t feel black people to be inferior to white people, especially considering the bizarre and confusing Adam Goodes booing situation. That, however, is my experience. From what I’ve seen, people of all kinds have been treated and thought of equally. Racism clearly exists, I’ve been called a “fucking wog” myself, but I firmly believe it to be a minority viewpoint, and sport has to have a great deal to do with this.
Perhaps I’m naïve, there are worse traits to have. What I saw through sport in my childhood told me that everyone loved the Windies; we were in awe of them. Despite looking more like David Boon, I wanted to be Viv Richards – well, some weird amalgamation of Viv and Dean Jones. He was as cool as they came and everyone loved him.
Brian Lara was my favourite bastman to watch. In an article a couple of years ago where I listed my Test Cricket Exciting XI, I wrote this of him: “a backlift and follow through that dazzled the eye. He was like tightly wound, coiled, electrified silk set to explode on the ball in an extraordinary display of dazzling power.”
He was the most naturally gifted bastman you could imagine, and determinedly set his mind to batting for as long as he could, while plundering as many runs as possible in that time. He was so talented, but good as well. Talent is one thing. Many have talent, but there is a difference between being talented and being a successful Test batsman, and Lara was by any measure successful.
How the hell have we gone from Viv, Lara, Curtly Ambrose, and co from those dominant teams, to the bunch of hacks that are currently stinking up my summer? My sons are going to grow up thinking of the West Indies as a collection of second rate cricketers that get rolled in two and a half days, and then only because we declared well before we needed to. That they could grow up having that as their experience of the West Indies cricket team is beyond a shame. It is so very sad.
The general consensus seems to be that it is the inevitable product of circumstance that has led them to this state. It’s to do with a combination of the team itself not being a national side, but rather a cobbled together assortment of islands of no particular affiliation other than their cricket side, the dominance of basketball in the region, and a lack of money in the cricket, certainly by comparison to the aforementioned sport.
People like to play sport for a number of reasons. A strong pull is the aspiration to represent their country. Stronger still is the desire to make truckloads of money. The West Indies would seem to be a region that its inhabitants long to depart. A place lacking in wealth and safety, but an abundance in tall black men that might be genetically predisposed to being good at basketball, a sport that can counteract the previously mentioned lack of wealth.
Vale West Indies cricket, I fear it long dead. Whatever cash the ICC has available to it to put into cricket to revive the dying body, had to happen long ago. What we are seeing this summer is an animated carcass. It’s a scene from Weekend At Bernie’s and, like said movie, is sadly not at all funny.
I was at work on Friday, which was Day 2 of the Test, and I forgot that it was on. It was about 1:30pm and I was up in the lunch room and was amazed to find the cricket on the TV. How could the cricket be on and me not rushing up to watch it? Why hadn’t I done so the previous day? It’s been a poor summer, with the New Zealand series offering similarly negative fair.
All the talking points were about negatives: the poor quality of players; the DRS; pitch preparation; dull draws; and one-sided contests; selections; fielding. I found myself not interested in the Test summer, but constantly reminding myself that I love Test cricket. I love Test cricket. I love Test cricket. I love Test cricket. It would have been good if they’d scheduled some of it.
And so, without that distraction, I’m reading the news. Hatred for Muslims, wasted money, a disgustingly behaved Catholic Church. I don’t want to know this stuff. Where is the see saw of close combatants providing real life drama through skill and determination? Where are the heroes for my kids to latch onto, both from home and abroad? The villains of my summer should be an arrogant fast bowler, a boorish batsman, or a chirpy wicketkeeper, not the dishonourable George Pell.
Where’s my Test cricket in all its glory? Where is my distraction?