Tag Archives: Chris Rogers

Cricketing Cults and Stress Fractures

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For England, preparing to take the field in Mumbai, two down with two to play, the six letters that should be uppermost in their consideration  S – T – R – E – S – S or, strictly speaking, how to avoid being stricken with stress.

Eddie Jones recently had some words of wisdom on the subject. If you know what you are doing there IS no stress. In other words, disabling stress comes when not knowing what to do forces its way into a sportsperson’s consciousness.

So, if you have a plan and, crucially, if you believe in the plan and have no doubts or feelings of insecurity about the plan that you are being asked to follow or have chosen to adopt, you will bat or bowl without stress.

The trouble comes when you play in two (or more) minds. The ‘should I, shouldn’t I?’ dilemma of being true to ‘my game’, true to my understanding of myself and … and playing in a way that is ultimately inauthentic, alien and pushed on you by outside forces.

In his blog A Sportsman’s Transition the entry on 2/12/2016 for 1/10/15 Alex Gidman  describes the modern dressing room: “We have developed a culture in cricket where we sit in a room with a load of coaches who tell us what we have done wrong. Ok they have stats, footage, whatever but unless you can figure out why things have gone well or badly yourself then it’s irrelevant what the coach says. You have to figure it out what changes are needed and why, the coaches are there to assist you and help but not to be relied on.”

And In ‘Setting the Scene’ – Chapter 1 of ‘Bucking the Trend,’, Chris Rogers, describes how the former Cricket Australia executive Marianne Roux sat the Australians down and said ‘for every negative thought you’ve got to tell yourself to have five positive thoughts’.

One can almost hear the internal monologue of the perspicacious Roger’s, no shrinking violet he, saying to himself, “Well I can’t say that’s ever fucking worked for me.”

Can one picture an England Lion in the full England dressing room reacting to such advice in any other way than with strict compliance? “Yes, yes!”

Rogers explains his own perspective on such advice, “Oddly enough, doubts and insecurities have actually been quite a powerful force driving me as a cricketer. Some players are able to back themselves in, but my own doubts about my ability to pull off certain shots led me to a very pragmatic game, where I worked out the most reliable ways of surviving and scoring without taking undue risks. You often hear about the use of positive thoughts to generate good results, but I’m a big believer in finding a way to channel negative thoughts.”

Rogers continues, “You spend so much of your time questioning yourself and competing against others that you need to find a way to use those doubts. To block them out successfully means kidding yourself, and how long can that last? Instead I find it best to know and own those doubts, and use them to sculpt a technique within my own limitations. By thinking my way through it, I’ve been able to find ways of succeeding where others have not …” before going for the jugular of the modern meme that is the perhaps greatest force for inauthenticity in modern batting, “There is, perhaps, something for others to learn from that, in an age where we constantly hear so much batting bravado talk, which can lead either to rapid scoring or rapid collapsing.”  TM’s italics.

Putting the pursuit of the brand before the authentic expression of personal capabilities is the reason that England has crippled (not a nice word but here, surely, justified) so many young batting talents in recent years? And it is why, in this Test series, stress has stalked the nets and dressing rooms and thrust itself on to the field of play, bringing calamity and dissonance in its wake.

The England managers have only themselves to blame. They have created a cult. It has initiation ceremonies, rites de passage, through which novitiates must pass. Inside is security and access to magical knowledge and privileges beyond the ken of outsiders.  There is a priesthood and leaders, whose authority must never be challenged. They have access to huge wealth and entitlements that can be withdrawn in a moment. Leaders come and go, but the orthodoxy reforms around new leaders. There is apparent equality yet power is held by the few. Novices are taken in at a young age and indoctrinated. Few if any are recruited later in life. There is perfect freedom within, provided the orthodoxy is never challenged.

Cults have a way of ending in mass suicides when reality becomes inescapable and the dissonance too great to bear. But before then, we can change coaches, replace captains and welcome a new cap or two.

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Hurting – Or About that Second Test

Rogers

Some of you will know that Third Man keeps a lightweight aluminium extendable ladder under a bush in the garden of the dilapidated house at the bottom of Cavendish Avenue, by which he generally gains access to Dark’s Cricket Ground*.

Even at 6 am on Day One of the Second Test, England v Australia, there were a fair few members lining the Avenue and forming an orderly queue. No-one notices an old cricketer with a window-cleaner-look-about-him carrying a ladder and so, in a trice, the ladder was unearthed, hoisted against the wall and drawn up behind Third Man as he dropped into the ground and headed for Mick’s warm kitchen for a well deserved cuppa.

“What’s this about an email Mick?” Third Man asked.

“Not true Third Man. But one of those dodgy young ECB types did sidle up the other day. You can imagine the earful I gave him.”

“Some ripe old Hambledonian stuff, I take it, Mick.”

“It’s a good track TM – not quite as good as last year’s for India. But a cricketers’ track.”

“What’s that noise Mick. Is it the hover covers coming off?”

“No, it’s Mark Nicholas using the Misses’ hair dryer.”

True to his word, there was a fair green tinge on Mick’s masterpiece. TM regretted failing to bring so much as a brolly or a MacIntosh, but it was no Massey day. The wind stiffened the flags and whirled about a bit down at pitch level.

He made his way into the Pavilion and up the flights of stairs to Dressing Room 7**. A few of the old hands were already there, dozing mostly. There was full agreement; bat, bat, bat. “Difficult, but do-able,” said Timmy O’Brien, and no-one, not even the Doctor, argues with Timmy.

*     *     *   *

The advantage of being at a match is that there is no mediation. It is the watcher and the game. No bad thing. You move around during the day, but basically, your only equipment is the vantage point. No hype. No cod-piece narrative. Anyone who voluntarily dons a small radio ear-piece is taking a drug that they do not need.

Dark’s is perhaps the only venue that can afford for there not to be a ‘day five’ with its income of booze and grub. If there are slow plodding tracks in this series it is because of the tendering system and the number of grounds now competing ruinously for the chance to host internationals. The rule of thumb is bid what you can make in four days and hope for a fifth.

But this Test can be different. Wealth is independence. Third Man for his visit to the village of St John’s Wood had not packed a fifth shirt.

Where do all these memes come from? Hear this, Clarke called it “a very good pitch”. More than likely Chris Rogers had had a word with Mick over the practice days and that assessment by the captain was correct. It is difficult to exaggerate the degree of respect and affection everyone has around here for young Rogers.

Anderson’s second over, the third of the day, seems key.

Ball 1 fullish length, a hint of shape, no more than that. Ball 2 down leg. Doesn’t count in any self-assessment. Ball 3. Middle and off and played to mid-off. Ball 4 Rogers across and clips to square leg. Ball 5. Length outside off, Warner tries to leave but is late. Ball 5. Pitched up, Warner drives straight for 3.

Anderson makes his assessment. His decision shapes the match. From fifty yards, TM senses the lever pivot and Planet Cricket shifts its orbit. Gradually but relentlessly the length is brought back. The Bowlers’ Club follow his lead. The decision consigns England to ten hours in the field.

In sport, in cricket, you either hurt or are hurt. Time is either slow or quick.

Anderson surrenders the initiative seized in Cardiff where England inflicted the pain. In the afternoon he will bowl with a 8-1 field.

How does Rogers see it?

In his first over he has shown intent. Driving and edging over third slip but then following it up with 4 through the covers. “In front of square”. “Through the covers.” “Hitting the Duke where it is going”. “Late and with the swing”. Boof’s license, Rogers’ extensive English experience. This is the key: wait and play with the swing and not against the swing. It is exactly what the Australians (barring Rogers) didn’t do in the First Test.

The effect of this one shot in the dressing room is game changing, perhaps series changing.

Another one’s doing the hurting. This time the other one’s being hurt.

*Those who played on this ground 180 years ago, know that it was Mr Ward and dear ol’ Dark who saved the ground for all of you to enjoy today. It is a travesty that it is called Lord’s when Lord wanted to sell it for development. Ward stepped in and bought. Dark ran it. It was his baby. He dedicated his life to this ‘theatre’ for the game.

** They converted the lovely Dressing Room 6 sometime ago, but the old ghosts that haunt this building have managed to hide the existence of Dressing Room 7. It is filled by them most of the time – smoking and scraping the marks of the ball off their old bats with razor blades. There’s a welcoming smell of linseed oil and horse liniment. If you tell the Club’s Chief Executive cum Secretary about its existence, you’ll be cursed for life.

*** Image thanks to Aakash Chopra whose piece on Rogers is well worth a read. TM wishes he could enlarge the image but WordPress system changes seem to prevent it.

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