Friday, 19 June 2015

Column 19, 2015 – Full throttle

Printed in The Cricket Paper, issue 122, Friday June 19, 2015.
[Full text below]

Traction control is designed to help you not crash. It regulates power, minutely applies brakes and adjusts suspension to individual wheels, increasing grip and reducing skid risk.

It’s actually quite difficult to lose control of a modern car. It creates a false sense of confidence. I drove through town with a flat tyre the other day. It handled so smoothly I didn’t even notice. It masks problems.

Turn traction control off, however, and you have a very different beast. A drunken, lumbering, overweight behemoth with all the cornering prowess of an oil tanker.

But a car designed to function without all that nonsense in the first place – now that’s a different proposition altogether. No power steering, no ABS, no traction control. Just raw, stripped engineering. You can feel the tarmac through your fingers on the wheel and the seat of your pants. A beautifully balanced chassis and a honed engine perched directly over the drive wheels, right behind your head. There’s an elegance, excitement and sense of eager purpose to it that traction control can never give you. But if you lose it, you’ll lose it big time.

That’s a long set up.

I hope it’s worth it.

Attempting to play hard, aggressive, foot-to-the-floor, fast and furious cricket in a luxury family estate with the traction control off is asking for trouble. The England we saw at the World Cup was just not equipped for that kind of ride. They were still driving like they had a boot full of shopping and the kids’ bikes on the roof.

The engine – let’s keep this metaphor revving into the red zone – of that side is the same as this new one: Morgan, Root, Buttler. But it’s built on an all-new chassis with state-of-the-art running gear. And boy, does it go.

This shiny new vehicle, besides being a metaphor, is a mindset. It’s an attitude, a sense of belief, a statement of intent. And it has worked wonders in very short order.

In their first four outings, they scored over 400 for the first time, very nearly chased down 400 for the first time, made their third consecutive score of 300+ for the first time, and then their fourth, chasing 350 with six overs remaining. It’s the fastest scoring ODI series ever.

Previously, England’s approach to batting in one day cricket was not unlike our efforts in club cricket: play yourself in, keep wickets in hand, go hard when you’ve got a platform. Us mere mortals have to play that way.

But we’re an ageing hatchback to their race-tuned track cars. They can go, and keep going, at full throttle.

Occasionally of course, they’ll spin off the track. This has already happened to an extent: that record-breaking 300 was universally regarded as disappointing. Imagine that six months ago.

300 being a bit disappointing is a remarkable place to suddenly find ourselves. It’s going to be a fun ride. Buckle up.

- ends 487 words -

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