It’s a state of affairs you would scarcely have imagined a generation or two ago. England’s rugby team are in disgrace. England’s football team are in the doldrums. But England’s cricketers – flawless and heroic – are world champions.
If you grew up, like I did, in the 1980s, you naturally assumed that our cricket side would forever be little more than a joke. The England XI were a byword for incompetence and under-achievement – a metaphor for national decline and decay.
Meanwhile, the footballers seared themselves into the national consciousness with epic semi-final near-misses in 1990 and 1996. And the rugby players – defeating Australia, of all nations, in the final – lifted the world cup.
Now the wheel has turned. Fabio Capello’s team were humiliated in South Africa and are now stuttering their way, limply, through the Euro qualifiers. Martin Johnson’s egg-chasers had a nightmare in the world cup – useless on the pitch, and embarrassing off it. But Andy Flower’s boys aren’t merely on a superb and sustained winning streak – they’re ultra-professional, immaculately behaved, and peerless role models.
But before we get too self-satisfied and smug, as cricket followers, it’s worth remembering how fickle both the press and public can be. You’re only ever as good as your last result.
England’s cricketers have done so ridiculously well over the last two years that, inevitably, a reverse or disappointment will soon occur. That’s the nature of sport. And sooner or later, someone will get into a pedalo, drunk, and make a fool of themselves. When this happens, the headline writers will forget about all the success, and talk instead about arrogance and complacency.
In the 1990s – perhaps the darkest decade in recent memory – our cricket team were never quite as bad as people made out. We beat South Africa, drew twice with a strong West Indies, and reached a world cup final.
In the same way, the rugby side didn’t really play quite as dreadfully in New Zealand as the pundits say. The off-pitch misadventures – talking to a girl in a nightclub, jumping off a ferry – would have been entirely overlooked had the results been better.
In football, although England could only struggle to a draw with Montenegro, they’ve still qualified for Euro 2012. Assuming they get through the group stage, they’d only need to win three matches to actually win the entire tournament – and if they did, I doubt you’d see anything about cricket in the papers for months.
For now, let’s enjoy our cricketers’ spell in the limelight, as indisputably England’s finest national sports side. But I think we’d all prefer it not to last too long. Cricket people – especially in England – feel uncomfortable about acclaim and status. It doesn’t seem quite right. We’d much rather be in the slipstream, plodding along, and leaving the hyperbole and hysteria to the kind of sports who wear it much more naturally.
Good to see you haven’t subscribed to the theory that the ECB (and it’s teams) no longer represent Wales. Us very same Welsh who are more than a little proud of our egg-chasers at the moment.
A very good point (although judging by the e-mail address I suspect this correspondent is not actually from Wales). The England cricket team of course also represent Wales, and in fairness the ECB obviously think so too, going by how many Ashes tests they’ve awarded to Cardiff. But my point was about the sportsmen who represent England.
First time poster here, and no relation to the first commentator above despite what you English might consider to be near identical names!
For the most part The Full Toss is thoroughly excellent: your team of writers are absolutely superb, particularly Mr James Morgan whom I assume comes from the Principality?
However, I am becoming increasingly frustrated that you insist on labelling the England & Wales Cricket Board as the “ECB”, abbreviating Wales out of the picture in a move that amounts to nationalism/fascism Anne Robinson would be proud of!
This may appear a small thing, but we are proud people: pround of the many great cricketers we have produced such as Robert Croft, Alan Jones and Tony Lewis.
Please stop ignoring Wales!
HI Rhys – thanks for your very kind comments. Point taken. Personally, I very much think of ‘England’ as representing both nations. It’s the ECB themselves who chose the acronym – we are only calling them by their official title. But overall we’ll see what we can do to redress the balance!
Hold on a minute, Jonty. I’m all in favour of respecting differences of opinion, but I’m damned if I’m going to start referring to the ECB as the E&WCB! What a mouthful.
And what next? Will the Welsh request that we refer to the team as “England and Wales”, the “United Kingdom” or – god forbid – the “European Union”!!!?
150 years of cricketing history ignored for the sake of Welsh appeasment and nonsensical political correctness!
Technically under the 1707 Acts of Union (with Scotland) and 1800 (with Ireland) Wales is considered to be a PART OF ENGLAND. It’s not a nation, it’s a PRINCIPALITY, as Mr Ap Thomas mentions in his own post, which is the reason neither the flag of St David or the Welsh Dragon are represented in the Union Flag!