It occurred to me that I really ought to let the North American continent know the nature of that which I blather on about so much. Just why does cricket exemplify manliness to such a great extent?
Here’s some footage of Brian Close in 1976 facing the bowling of Michael Holding of the West Indies. It was in the days before helmets, arm guards, thigh pads, and chest guards. This was maybe the most vicious spell of bowling the world had seen, and what does Close do when the ball hits him? Chews his gum. At no point would showing the bowler his pain have helped his plight, for the bowler would have thrived on seeing the batsman’s anguish. The balls that hit Close were pretty nasty, but more impressive is Close’s technique at getting out of the way of the ones that didn’t hit him. At least two in this over were likely to have killed him, but the slow motion shows just how closely he watched the ball.
Arguably, the technique of contemporary batsmen has declined because of the advent of the helmet. This ball ended up giving Australian captain Ricky Ponting a nasty scar, but without the face grille it would have demolished his cheek bone.
Next, a famous encounter between England’s Michael Atherton and South Africa’s Allan Donald. One youtube user described this sequence as ‘unstoppable force against immovable object’, which to me seems quite apt. If any of you find yourself wanting for interpersonal psychology in sport, have a look at these two staring each other down and fill your boots. Also note the way Athers keeps his wrists down and his bat out of the way. His body control was pretty exquisite.
In case you were wondering, cricket balls are significantly harder than baseballs and, in all these instances, are being delivered at something around 90 miles per hour. In Holding’s case it was probably faster.
And then there’s the fact that cricketers catch that hard ball without the need of big bucket-like gloves. Take a look:
And what happens when something goes awry and a guy does get hurt? Shoaib Akhtar did his best to take Brian Lara’s head off, but he was pretty horrified to nearly succeed. See how competitiveness immediately transfigures into concern. Cricket is tough, but it is played in the right spirit.
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