The object of cricket is to beat the opposition. There are many ways that playing or watching cricket can be enjoyable or entertaining, but, especially at the highest and most competitive level, winning the encounter is 99% of it.
But victory’s capacity to instil joy decays at break-neck speed. So, when Andy Flower took the England side out into the middle of a deserted SCG – exercising the visceral and territorial rights of the victor – he will have reminded them that success is a transitory experience best savoured in the ‘now’.
In urging the side to relish their combined achievements, Flower and Strauss will already have begun the process of fostering the sense of ‘us’ against an unjust world that will fortify the side for the next contest and the next after that.
Douglas Jardine did just that when he was given the job of leading England back to Australia in 1932. He never forgot and never allowed his side to forget the treatment that Percy Chapman’s 1928/29 side received during their triumphant series when the players’ combined and individual merits were belittled.
Hammond with a Test match aggregate of 905 runs was dubbed a ‘one stroke player’ and Larwood, whose pace had already exposed weaknesses in the Australian batting, was dismissed as no match for Gregory.
The reaction of the crowds had been directly hostile. During that Sydney Test fights broke out on the Hill, the barracking never relented, especially of wicket keeper Duckworth after he was involved in a controversial decision.
Some say that Bodyline resulted from a determination to remove the threat of Bradman, but it was much more than that. It was a psychological ploy to bolster Jardine’s concept of Total Cricket.
Today the slurs are subtler but no less unworthy. “England aren’t a brilliant team – just good at what they do. Where’s the entertainment in that?”
As one Australian blogger summed it up, “What makes them good is not necessarily what gets you excited about cricket. If they’re your team, you don’t care how they win, but for the rest of us, Australians and everyone else, this was a long series, filled with well drilled quick singles and bowling units combining.”
Smeared as unprofessionally inept in 2006/7, today they are scoffed at for being too professional.
Because cricket is monetised more sophisticatedly than ever before, the cash value of prominent England players is chalked up for all to see at the IPL auction mart.
The worth of showman Pietersen is downgraded from £800k to £400k. Western pin-up Broad is sold for just £250K. Anderson who was arguably the man of the series has no value, nor do the equally effective T20 cricketers Prior, Bresnan and Swann (though all may have misjudged their reserve pricing tactics and should question the expertise of their agents.)
Albion Resurgent will never be a popular show, but watching skilful swing bowling, secure fielding, adept batsmanship and life affirming teamwork was a great pleasure. Different tests now await England, but it is heartening to hope that the reaction of their opponents can make even a victor stronger.