Monday, 14 April 2014

Column 6, 2014 – Embracing the inner Eeyore

Printed in The Cricket Paper issue 78, Friday April 11, 2014. [Full text below]

The general demeanour of the English cricket fan is one of weary pessimism.

Our default setting is put-upon gloom. Struggling through, staggering on regardless, stoically accepting our lot.

Much of this, for anyone past their mid-twenties, is due to just how spectacularly depressing England were to follow for most of the latter part of the twentieth century.

Whether we were being routinely humbled in the Ashes, or almost literally murdered by the West Indies in their pomp, the English cricket fan knew what to expect, and came to accept it. Almost to enjoy it.

There is a certain I-told-you-so satisfaction to be had in keeping desperate vigil over yet another spineless collapse. We became a nation of cricketing Eeyores, wallowing in our own self perpetuating misery.

A lot of it is also down to the weather. The home of cricket (by which I mean England, though by dint of being in it, Lord’s is far from immune) is cursed with such dreadful conditions for the game, that it’s only sensible to expect the worst.

For devotees of a pursuit that becomes miserable in light mizzle, and impossible in anything heavier, it’s only self defence to be predisposed to pessimism in a climate which excels at both.

The first day of the 2014 first class season last weekend took place under slate grey skies and persistent drizzle. At Trent Bridge play got underway under lights, and at Hove under both lights and umbrellas. It was delayed for rain at The Oval, and just down the road from me at The Rose Bowl, Hampshire abandoned the morning for an early lunch, before abandoning the day mid afternoon at 30-3.

Recently, 30-3 has been another cause for pessimism.

The scoreline became a recurring theme through last summer’s home Ashes series, and many of us embraced our inner Eeyore despite the flattering 3-1 win, resigned to the early signs of a return to the status quo.

Because in recent years, England have been really rather good. Winning more often than losing, and even occasionally clinging on for unlikely draws.

But were we ever really comfortable with it? It’s often said that English teams – all sport, not just cricket – don’t like being favourites. We prefer scrapping from a position of weakness, ideally one of our own making. Much though in these T20 days we may rail against it, we are not a naturally brash people, given to the strutting arrogance of the sure winner. The plucky underdog is much more us.

So in many ways England’s return to their bad old ways over this winter of discontent feels like a kind of homecoming.

The most surprising thing about being pummelled by the Dutch as a parting gift after crashing out of a World Cup at the earliest opportunity was just how few of us found it the least bit surprising. We were, once again, pessimistic enough to expect it.

How’ve you been, Eeyore? We missed you.

- ends 491 words -

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