Sport, like everything, is all just a matter of perspective. Some people look at Jimmy Anderson and see a relentless bowling machine; while others see an artist, a creative genius at the peak of his powers. Some people watch Ian Bell bowl and see beauty and flair and style; others see a skilled professional who is seeing the ball really, really well all of a sudden.
It’s all a matter of perspective, of perception.
And in the end, depending on our mood, our background, our allegiance, or just about anything, we see what we want to see.
We see what we want to see.
I know of a couple of sportswriters who watch games with the sound on mute, so their perceptions are not colored by the commentary team. I am not sure how common it is, but in a lot of ways it make sense to me. Commentators see what they want to see, just like we do, and therefore their perspective has a huge affect on us.
We have all, for instance, at one time or another, gone to a game live and in person only to go home and read the recap and think “was this guy watching the same game?”
And so while you might look at this England team and see artists and poets and flair, I look at them and see a pressure cooker that sucks the life out of other teams. This is not a bad thing, mind you, and it does not mean that England are actually boring or devoid of personality, that is just simply how I perceive them. I see what I want to see. And I see slow suffocation, I see pressure cooker, I see relentless professionalism.
Until today, of course.
Today was different.
Today was something special.
Stuart Broad rolled up his sleeves and went to battle, decimating Australia and winning the Ashes for his country. He didn’t go out there after tea to pile on pressure, he went out there to slit throats. I apologize for the violent imagery. But that’s what I saw today at Chester le-Street.
He was not a metronome. He was not a machine. He was a human athlete: flawed, artful, menacing, and brilliant. Over-flowing with contagious personality.
There is room in Test cricket for every thing. Blocking, slogging, efficiency, and swagger. Pressure, suffocation, wide open spaces, and solitude. Machinery, poetry, and humanity. All of it. Every last ounce of everything possible in cricket. And Test cricket is at its best when it delivers all of the above – and we got just such a match this week in Durham.
Yesterday I was grumpy and bored and frustrated with cricket, with England, with the Ashes. Today I was alive and awake and in the mood. It is all perception, it is all perspective. I see what I want to see. And today I saw magic. I saw the opposite of rigidness. And it was just grand.
And I will admit that my turnaround was not entirely an internal conversion, not even close – the comment on yesterday’s post, plus a couple @s on Twitter, gave me sincere pause – I decided I needed to step back and see the game differently, see England differently – so that’s what I did. And the comments and the @s are why I do this, why I write about cricket, why I write period. I put my perceptions into the ether in the hope that people will react to them – whether it be to challenge me, or agree with me, or whatever – just react. For those reactions to our perspectives are how we learn about everything that is important to us: sports, politics, religion, each other, and ourselves.
Congrats to England. Well played all around.