Ashes Poetry - cricket

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David Fine, Ashes poet in residence in Australia 2006-7

England vs Australia.
Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne, Sydney 2006-2007

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Monday, January 01, 2007

Bowling Plan-Gate

Everyone has blown hot and cold about the England’s bowling plans, not to say bowling going astray at the MCG last week.

Ian Botham blew hot, probably because he was angry about the England performance.

Angus Frasier blew cold, more important things in the world, probably because he was resigned to England’s performance.

Matthew Hoggard, the different player of the day wheeled out to face the media, made a joke about it, which would have been my reaction, certainly in public.

Their loss displays a great deal of slap-dashery. Why was it in the back pocket of a back room staff member? How did it fall out? How come its loss wasn’t noticed? I know exactly where my ticket, credit cards, wallet, door keys are all the time, and I’m meant to be an absent-minded wuss of a poet.

Its laxadasical loss contrasts sharply with the prescriptive nature of the object lost. (Spot the Irony Time)

The piece of paper is not a bowling plan. It is a list of potential weaknesses of Australian batsmen. A bowling plan is how to get a side out in the least amount of time and runs. If England thought they’d lost their bowling plan with that piece of paper, it is evidence of not understanding the difference between tactics, plans and strategy.

Apparently these sheets of paper are laminated and pinned up in the dressing room (they come colour-coded too) I was surprised by this. You won’t be surprised that as a poet I do not have an alphabet, definitions or rhymes, forms of metre pinned up in my wardrobe, or indeed study. It denies any sense of prior assimulation of thought to think things through on the pitch – hence the formulaic dispositions in the field. To cut to the chase, England are being encouraged to play like a bunch of robots. It brings to mind the Don Revie era of England soccer management, where players were given inch thick dossiers on the individual opponents. Both Revie and Duncan Fletcher were/are cautious not to say suspicious men, especially of players with talent to attempt and achieve the unexpected.

The dossier/bowling plan approach indicates an excessively defensive mind set. It sets the opposition’s qualities above your own. Each weakness in the ‘bowling plan’ is fairly common knowledge. I’m just a fan, and thought ‘Nothing new there’ I’d also have thought it would already be in the minds of the England cricket team. By placing them in the dressing room you deny the bowlers their strengths. ‘Don’t care what their weaknesses are, if I bowl it on or just outside offstump on a length, and move it a fraction….’ In other words, it’s an approach which denies self-belief and confidence. You can understand why Rod Marsh and Troy Cooley, both recent members of the England set-up have been critical of its current effects.

Regardless of individual players performances you can also see why England have lost four matches on the reel against a team fifteen months agao they came back from one-nil down to beat 2-1, nearly 3-1. Would this England team have managed to hold its nerve to win Edgbaston and Trent Bridge 2005?

What of the fifth and final test at the MCG? Is it a chance of token redemption or are final rites inevitable? Will it be a sly Tuffer’s post-coital gasper, or a fag-end of the most one-sided Ashes Series since Warwick Big Ship Armstrong Mcgrathed John Won't Hit Today Douglas's England side 5-0 in 1921-2

Showers are forecast, which might help lead to a draw. McGrath and Warne will be playing their last games, McGrath on his home pitch, perhaps Langer too. They will want to end on a high.

Signs aren’t good. Not least the England team going round Sydney Harbour to enjoy the fireworks in a luxury cruiser called the Morpheus. In classical times he was god of the underworld in whose arms you fell asleep to die.

Whether or not England fall asleep to lose, manage to salvage a draw or wake up to a New Year’s win, I hope they do one thing. At the end of the last day’s play they walk across and share the series with their supporters.