March 13, 2011

Sporting Courage

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.


  1. Oh, just in case anyone wondered, the commentator on the last video was the bowler in the first. Interesting, I think...

  2. Doctor, I have two questions. First, why does that one fellow look like a Protestant looks at a Catholic, suggesting it is not merely murder he plans, but hell? Second, in light of that, why should anyone - but and idiot - be surprised or horrified that they might destroy someone when they intended to destroy said one?

  3. It's all a mind game. The one is trying to bring about the downfall of the other through fear. The stakes were particularly high since the batsman in question was the England captain. It's a battle of wits, but they're perfectly good mates off the field.

  4. I know absolutely zilch about cricket, other then it takes a really long time. Now, from my brief understanding, isn't the thrower (bowler?) trying to knock the wickets (right word?) off the three sticks behind the batter? Sort of equivalent to a strike in baseball? It appears to me that Brian Close in the first video is standing directly in front of those. What is the guy suppose to throw at in that case?

  5. I can only refer you to the following, since the only way to answer your question would be to go to a pub for a very long time.

  6. There is something to be said for trying to scare your adversaries on the playing field, especially when you really have a chance of sending them to their maker. Glad to hear their fine-feathered off the field, nevertheless...

  7. I have no problem with the "pub for a very long time".

  8. Saw this

    Recalled this post and thought you might be interested.

  9. That's terrific, thanks. Been hearing one or two rumblings about American cricket of late. Maybe there's hope yet!


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