"Get up, get on up, get up, get on up, stay on the scene, like a six machine".
Cricket's Twenty20 world cup took off yesterday when Chris Gayle came to play. Having been AWOL during the first part of the English "summer", the big West Indian captain absolutely destroyed the Aussies by blasting six sixes, though I may have lost count, and another six fours during his match-winning innings of 88. The Caribbean Gayle force simply blew away the opposition.
Leaving aside the question of whether "throw ball hit" should be considered a real sport or rather an updated version of "It's a Knockout" with David "Bumble" Lloyd acting as the Stuart Hall de nos jours, this big-hitting display was in stark contrast to England's feeble efforts during their humiliating defeat to the Netherlands on Friday, when our boys managed the grand total of no sixes. That's right, in a game where the crowd is there for the big hits (and/or the dancing girls), we managed to clear the ropes precisely zero times. How can we have nobody with the strength to hit a single six against a bunch of pie throwers ? No Six, We're British. Cue headlines of Clogs vs Clots, Orange Crush, Pass the Dutchie, etc.
How can this be ? Granted, the team's talisman, Kevin Pietersen was again out injured, having pulled a muscle lifting his cheque from the IPL, where he did actually manage to swagger onto the pitch for a few minutes, but against a team boasting only two full-time professionals, we should not have missed the South African import that much. In the words of Janet Jackson, "what have you done for me lately" ?
Oncer again, the curse of the international tournament hits an England team. Some would ascribe the ineptitude to complacency, but I think it's a bit subtler than that. The English psyche is such that we cannot bear to be seen to be making an effort or trying too hard. We would rather expend the bare minimum and win "professionally". Why not show some personal pride and give it a lash ? Even Scotland, that well-known cricketing nation, did better than us in their exhilarating thrash against New Zealand, albeit lead by a couple of players with the very Scottish names of Kyle Coetzer and Navdeep Poonia.
Any team lead by Paul "Colly" Collingwood is unlikely to have this drive. Having resigned/bottled the one day captaincy last year, do we really expect great things from him this time round ? My mind drifts to Warnie's special sledge for Colly, as he referred to him as "Paul Collingwood, MBE" after he received the gong following the 2005 Ashes victory, essentially for being a drinks waiter (12th man). Not quite as good as Warnie's "Sherminator" nickname for the dreadfully timid Ian Bell, given his uncanny resemblance to the geeky, red haired virgin from the movie "American Pie".
The tournament itself got off to a shaky start, as the rain came down (really ? in a British summer ?), forcing the cancellation of the opening ceremony, which was clean bowled for a duck. In fact, they decided to do away with the bit that some might find interesting (Alesha Dixon flashing her greatest hits), while retaining the tedious speeches - and the national anthems.
Not that I care too much whether England recover from their awful start, but at least pick some players with the cojones (or even Dutch courage) to go for it.