I have to admit that I am kind of sick of writing about the Ashes.
England are relentlessly grinding down Australia…again; on their way to another comprehensive win…again. And there just isn’t much for me to say about that. It’s effective cricket, but it is also boring cricket.
Last summer, South Africa were good enough to overturn England’s style and use it against them (witness Amla’s bone crushing 311* at the Oval), and their bowling attack was superior enough to not allow England’s batting to lull them to sleep.
But Australia is not South Africa. And so you get what we have got here this summer. England sneaking into Australia’s bedroom at night, and slowly but surely suffocating them with their own pillow – and the game and the series along with them.
In football, this is called “parking the bus”. Setting up shop defensively, putting 10 men behind the ball, staying organized, working hard, and hoping to grab one on the counter. It’s effective – very effective even (see Chelsea in the Mourinho era) – but it is also boring. And while we can’t expect all teams to play like 1970s era Brazil or early 2000s Arsenal, you do hope for a little flair, a little attack, a little style now and again.
England’s cricketers, however, give us none of those things.
Don’t get me wrong, they are fine cricketers, very good at what they do. But they are a machine keeping time. A metronome. Ticking along over after over. They have none of the swagger and fun and flash we see in Indian cricket, South African cricket, Pakistani cricket. But at the same time, what they are doing is very effective. And they are winning.
And cricket is not a game that too often rewards style over substance like, say, basketball or football. It is a game that rewards pressure, consistency, and rigidness. Unlike other sports, where there is room for magic, cricket is highly organized – six balls per over, 90 overs per day – and so therefore rewards efficient, well organized, detail oriented play.
Play like we are seeing from England this summer.
“Efficient, well organized, and detail oriented.” I guess what I am trying to say is that England would make for a very good legal secretary.
All of this sounds like I am giving England a bum rap – that I am calling their style “anti-cricket” the way Arsene Wenger decried, say, Bolton for playing “anti-football”. But I am not. This is my way of congratulating them. They went out this summer with a job to do and they have done it. I love seeing personality and flair on the cricket pitch, but I can also appreciate well organized and efficient cricket – because in a lot of ways, that is how the game is meant to be played.