Something rock 'n' roll about English cricket's dynamic duo
TIPPING POINT:Having batted in all of two cricket matches, I can reveal that a hurling grip doesn’t do the job. And neither does a hurling attitude. That’s the one where a hearty flower of Gaeldom saunters to the crease confident that, despite his novice status, some wannabe West Brit called Jonathan lobbing a glorified sliotar at him will be a piece of pee compared to minding the square during a Minor B riot in Minane Bridge.
Your hero was just that tiresomely predictable on both outings, determined to show a bunch of Dublin Yaws real hand-eye co-ordination, and hoicking agriculturally at the ball with a forward foot shuffle that resulted in a collision with the bowler half-way down the wicket.
Guess what: neither innings was lengthy. The Jonathans knew what they were doing. They insisted on making the ball go crooked: perfidious Anglos. And there wasn’t even the option of turning round and clocking the umpire: he was at the other end, with a sweater thrown jauntily over his shoulder.
The trudge back to the shed – sorry, pavilion – was ignominious and not helped by everyone being so damned nice, pleasant, and well, English about it all. It was like taking a bath in Hugh Grant. My inner culchie rebelled and fled for the mountains, dismissing the game as rubbish, while realising the real problem was I was rubbish at it.
Not that that caused any sleeplessness: declaring even a mild curiosity interest in cricket can still be tricky in this country. Yes, the Irish team got a lot of headlines in last year’s World Cup, and everyone went “yay” when they beat England. But for the vast majority the game remains a mystery – one they are determined to leave mysterious.
It’s the one garrison game that hasn’t really caught on here, its very Englishness – all that village green and thunk of the willow stuff – making it too loaded for a country still stridently establishing an identity on the basis of what it isn’t.
But there’s no getting away from how just a little appreciation of cricket’s intricacies can burrow into the mind like a treacherous MacMurrough-like tick. And as with all sport, watching the very best brings its own appeal.
Even Ireland’s green-greenies might twig what is happening within the England team right now if they paid attention. An already good side is verging towards greatness thanks in large part to a pair of temperamentally diverse talents that are merging well enough to make the rest of the cricket world quake. And in the process provide a classic personality contrast.
Kevin Pietersen has a profile that has managed to percolate into even the most defiantly anti-cricket circles. Tattooed and toned, with the almost obligatory ear-ring and pop-star wife, he is what passes for sporting rock ’n’roll these days.