Stop Blowing Holes in My Zeitgeist


Is Captain Jack Sparrow the very model of a modern major England cricketer?

It ain’t corporate unless it has a mission statement, a strap line and a slick promotional video.

When the two waves of 45 sixteen year old cricketers and their parents  assembled for a short ‘induction’ before starting their Talent Testing at the National Cricket Performance Centre last weekend (reported here) the first thing ‘up’ was the ubiquitous DVD.  Cue music.

Something unmitigatedly English such as Lark Ascending?  Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto, famously hummed by Mike Brearley to drown out the chin music that was all around him in the ‘70s?  A little Lily Allen, curtesy of cricket’s fashionable convert?  Or something from Muse, Live At Old Trafford?

No, the Zeitgeist of England Cricket was denoted by the swashbuckling theme of the Black Pearl, with Muttiah Muralitharan standing in as Jack Sparrow, Shane Warne as  Will Turner, Andrew Strauss as Captain James Norrington, oh, and Andy Flower as an unexpectedly perfect ringer for Hector Barbossa.

With this rousing music as background, readers must imagine the fast cut action shots of splintered masts stumps, smashed cannon balls, flying fish catches, elation and victory, treasure and triumph. 

The euphoria is interspersed with clips of the England captain obviously far from comfortable with the emphasis he is encouraged to place on ‘fighting spirit’.  Flower, brooding and taciturn, revelling in the part of a boatswain who, if you as much as blinked in action, will as soon as look at you send you down the gang plank.  And a young cricketer not many years older than those watching scripted in the role of cabin boy.

The Cheeseland spirit of individualism and market orientation with which this video tried to capture the attention and adherence of its audience was Ad Faberly summed up in the strap line: OWN THE MOMENT.

Concerned followers of Third Man will be relieved to know that the assembled talent did not appear to be taken in.  Probably they knew better than their elders that the facetious Captain Jack “Stop Blowing Holes in My Ship” Sparrow was ‘without doubt the worst pirate (the garrison camander) had ever seen’. 

Proof that it was only a film: pirates being made up

Almost certainly they were too sophisticated to buy this uncool pitch.  They have been through so many trials and tribulations by this time that they don’t need to be told that, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.  They know who funks it or finds an injury when the track is flat.  They know who they’d rather have down the other end when the ball’s lifting from a length and a helmeted short leg’s breathing down their back.

It may come therefore as a great relief to realise that these talented young people who navigate the oceans of an electronic globe with Facebook friends amounting to several hundred and walls stuffed with notes and snaps would rather SHARE than own the moment.

Sparrow sporting IPL12 clothing

Others may argue that those who think that ‘the moment’ is collectively attained and part of a long series of moments that make up a deep and multifaceted experience are not destined to become world class cricketers.  But to portray Steve Waugh or Mathew Hayden, Satchin Tendulka or Brian Lara as ruthless individualists is to caricature them.  Their extraordinary will power and their abilities were at the service of their team and they expressed their talent for more than their own benefit. 

Cricket it not a zero-sum game.  Ask Flintoff and Lee.  And you don’t have to believe it is to get the best out of yourself.  Quite the reverse.  Though it is very C20th to say this.

Or it could be that Third Man is doing everyone a disservice.  Those behind the video and the narrative may know perfectly well that a pirate’s life was notoriously one where a strict hierarchy and defined roles of high grid and high group were mediated by a strong commitment to democracy, collective decision making, team work and sharing. 

Unlike in the Royal Navy of the time, a pirate captain received little more than twice the share of prize money destined for the lowliest crew member. He was elected, accountable and sackable.  He was consultative and kept his office for only as as long as he kept the confidence of his crew.  No doubt as such he was a fine cricketer too.

Alternative (England) Sea Songs: 


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