Monday, August 29, 2005

C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre!

Back in the Dark Ages before Channel Nine and stump-vision, Western Australia had a bad day at the office. Their captain, leading the team onto the field
to defend the awe-inspiring target of 83, said something on the lines of "Let's try and get as many wickets as possible". Upon which his young tearaway fast bowler glared at him and asked "What's wrong with f***ing winning?"
His name, of course, was Dennis Keith Lillee. He took 8 wickets that day. Western Australia won.

The Aussies.
You can hate them, you can bay for their blood, but by God you can't write them off.

Today, when Farmer Giles finally tapped that last ball through mid-wicket and Vaughan did a Saurav Ganguly leap, I actually felt sorry for the Aussies. For Warne, for Lee. Amazingly enough, even for Ponting.
Here is a team of heroes who are perilously close to their sell-by date, a team that's been written off even though they swept the first match of the series, a bunch of all-but-has-beens who were supposed to lie down and die, and they came so close to pulling off the impossible.

Louis L'Amour had this story about a Clinch Mountain Sackett who, every Saturday night, went over into town to fight the only man bigger than him. Every Saturday night, week after week, this man would whup him good. And every Saturday night, week after week, the Sackett would be back for more.
Till the other man just got so tired of the whole damn boiling, he upped and he packed his saddlebags and he rode out of town. That Sackett, you see, he didn't know he was losing, he just kept coming.

The Aussie teams over the last two decades (at least after that wuss Kim Hughes) have had this magnificent stupidity. They have never known when they were beaten.
Today, whenever the camera closed in on Hollywood or on Ponting, their eyes were measuring, probing, seeking. They were not the eyes of men on the brink of defeat. They were the eyes of men who were thinking 'This can be done, now here's how we do it ..."

Think about it. When all the openers had to do was play out the overs today, when any runs on the board would have been a bonus, when the Poms had more than five sessions of play to get 129 runs, Brett Lee kept steaming in. Until he knocked over that first wicket. And then another ...
Even before that, this overweight, philandering, self-indulgent bozo with the Popeye forearms had come on to bowl. And taken a wicket with his first ball.. A wicket-maiden, yet. Ohhhh, fanciful script.
Wait. First ball of his second over, he takes another wicket. Naaahh, nobody would believe that.

Welcome back to the arena, boys.
You want a piece of us? Come get it.
If I ever do become a hard-bitten son-of-a-bitch, mate, THIS is the kind of sumbitch I want to be.)

In Richard Adams' Watership Down, there's a rabbit called General Woundwort who unexpectedly comes across a dog. As the other rabbits scatter, Woundwort can be heard screaming "Come back, you fools, dogs can be beaten!"
It can be done. Hell, we've SEEN a rabbit beat a dog, one glorious afternoon at the Eden Gardens just over four years ago. It can be done, if only you believe.
The greatness of this Aussie team is that they always believe. And for a couple of hours today, they made us all, every last Aussie-bashing exulting man-jack of us, quiten down and wonder...
When you've suddenly been knocked on your back at 57 for 4, 129 looks like a bloody high hill to climb.
They made us all believe.

This Aussie team may be in decline, but Dylan Thomas would have recognised their spirit.
"Do not go gentle into that good night
Rage, rage against the dying of the light!"

We can hate them, we can exult in their come-uppance, but by God we can't write them off.


km said...

Your post makes me want to break things and scream at the top of my lungs. That, however, my wife assures me, will get me into trouble with law enforcement.



J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Phor hwaai, Sorr? Ip not minding, pliss to essplen?


Jay said...

I feel like I'm in the twilight zone; I just read that same exact sentence (your title) in a very different context just moments ago...I think this incongruity has just caused an eardrum to burst.

Progga said...

What is it about cricket that preys on men's minds? I have gone through umpteen sessions of being forced to sit and watch long matches over the course of my existence... and with tenets like "progs, don't move... if anyone moves from where they're sitting, we'll lose the match"... And just got an earful about the Ashes from N in the city today... shotti! Football (European, that is) is far more exciting!
On a completely different note... Watership Down? An all-time favourite, and I know surprisingly few people who have read it. This is why I love you so, JAP!

Priya said...

Couldn't resist a post. Have gone through exact predicament as Progga. Also days when N decided to stay back and see the match at chhotomama's house, sitting on that same sofa as the first match of the World Cup that India luckily won! Of course, it didn't work in the finals!! How I laughed. I too love European Football. Yes, a far more beautiful and exciting game indeed.
But this time, I'm actually loving watching the Ashes. For once, am enjoying cheering with the Brits for Vaughan and his men. And they proved it worth it. Australia'r to onek din holo...good to see them at least on the losing side..Bangladesh, now's coming full circle for them. But no,not writing them off, definitely not. Just feeling good!

nothing said...

Before I comment on the post proper, I must second Proggadi on Watership Down. Among the loveliest I've read, at times giving the "Wind in the Willows" a Run, for it's money.
Now to the post. I've always believed that it's a man's game, rather than a gentleman's. Not a ruffin's game like football is, but a man's game none the less. Played with a lot of courage, and a lot of viciousness, albeit in the mind. A game of chess, played not with wodden dolls, but human souls. Which is why, for as long as I can remember, I have supported Australia- without exception. This has at times led to rather unfortunate consequences, such as nearly getting lynched when I was the only one shouting "Go, Warnie" in an Eden Gardens maddened with bloodlust, set afire by a marauding Azharuddin. They play the game the way it ought to be played; No quarter given, none expected. Gamesmanship, did I hear someone say? Shall we go back to 1932, and a certain Mr. Jardine, esq., who most definitely wasn't Australian. Yes, Australian culture might on the whole need to be prefixed with "-agri", but they turn the game into a symphony of sweat and glory. Which is why this is not come-uppance, but gotterdammerung.
" Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night."

And they shall not. Amen.

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Jay, can you hear me? Where did you come across this comment on the charge of the Light Brigade?

Progga, I can appreciate that European football showcases lean Latinos and Slavs in shorts ...

(Dignified silence in the face of accusations of oporjapto oboshor shomoy)

Vibhu, you're welcome. And I'm pleased.

Orko, your very brief comment deserves a mail. But ... do you reserve the honorific apellation of sib for ladies exclusively? You could consider Kaku for me.


J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Just found that Andrew Miller of Wisden echoes (yes, echoes! My post was up before his!) my views. Right down to the "by God". (

Jay, I hope you noted that. Now to wait for Andrew's coincidence ...


shakester said...

great post, great take on the thing.
But heck ya, Ponting still looks jaded and unimaginative to me. The fire in Warne and Blee's eyes was something else, though. Really special. That's been the problem though- this team has been waking up and fighting when they have been down down down. Till now its been too little too late. Lets see about the Oval then (or the friggin Brit Oval as it is now)

Jabberwock said...

mossht ekshallent posht, saar! Watership Down reference made me wistfully wish for one of those giant carnivorous rabbits in 1970s horror movies to come and deal with the Pomeranian in my house.

Anonymous said...

I second the Jabberwock.

Very spirited post, Doc! You sound like a shook-up-with-the-cap-on bottle of soda. :D

I'm looking at the Aussies in a new light and I don't even *watch* cricket!


greatbong said...

I remember Gilly steaming into bowl to India chasing 150 odd in the heat of with exhaustion and bowling on nothing but pure aggro.....the bouncer he unleased on Sachin on a 5th day Chennai pitch is the stuff of legend.(although it was technically a no ball)

They will be back...

Progga said...

I'm wounded that you cocnfuse my appreciation of football with my appreciation of lean latinos (distinctly preferred over slavs) in shorts. Not that that isn't there too!

Priya said...

@ JAP: Hahaha, khar kheyecho dekchi! Thought you had a sense of humour, besides being an impeccable wordsmith.
What the hell, I don't even know you from Adams. Dil pe mat le yaar. It's just my khar against Kolkata, Kolkatans and government servants, in general, babu moshai. Nothing personal.

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Heh. Now Peter Roebuck also quotes Dylan Thomas, as pointed out by Kaushik.

Jai, you prolly mix your memories of Bees and Mr. Horatio Nibbles

Tom P, so START watching the Ashes.

Arnab, glad you agree.

Progga, not confuse but complement.

As for sensayuma, Priya, methinks YOU missed the point *superior look, the kind that needs a monocle


jaded said...

"You can hate them, you can bay for their blood, but by God you can't write them off."
you are damn right at that.
and agree with kaashyapeya, i have also supported the aussies for like ever since i can remember.
i have of course been called unpatriotic, white-lover and what not. but who cares- they are the best and they damned well know how to play...
they dont know, dont understand fear and they wont ever.
man, are they stubbornly narcissistically(?) obsessed with winning.. and long live the might aussies.

Aishwarya said...

I loved Watership Down as a child (wait, old do I have to be before I can sound nostalgic about childhood favourites?).. I've supported the Aussie team for a few years now, and I felt the same way you did.
They're old, they're not as formidible as they used to be, but they'll go down fighting if go down they must.

(Such a relief to read some mother was doing war whoops when England won)

Point 5 said...

I am a very big Aussie fan, and ur post echoes my sentiments perfectly.

Here is a trivia...In the 20 narrowest finishes in Test History, the Aussies feature 14 times....

Post 1995 no team has been able to beat the Aussies convincingly in tests...and most of the Aussies loses have actually been in dead rubber games !

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

mon dieu! so much fuss over cricket? c'est la vie

(sorry just wanted to show off my rudimentary french! au revoir)

Teleute said...

ei toh... cricket-bishoyok post. everything went whoosh! over my head.

*nods, and goes away*

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Jaded, Aishwarya, Point 5 - you're welcome. Re: beating the Aussies convincingly, I take it you mean victory by a large margin. That has not happened, but to my mind there WAS a convincing series that ended in Chennai in 2001 ...

Shoe Fiend, oui, donc le beaucoup d'affairement par-dessus le cricket. Habiter avec ... (my French ran out!)

Teleute, not to worry, things went whoosh over some of the batsmen's heads too. Go Harmison!


Anonymous said...

as usual sculpted so well JAP!!
keep to read ur comments as always and doubly so if its on cricket;-)

thorswheels said...

Magnificent post. The prolific commentary vindicates the fact that cricket still tugs at Indian heartstrings as madly as it used to. The game has become a socio-cultural phenomenon in the country... like marathon or throwing discs was to the pagan Greeks.

M (tread softly upon) said...

never had a chance to thank you for linking me. So, thank you!

Point 5 said...

I wouldn't go as far as to call the 2001 series ending in Chennai a very convincing defeat for the aussies. The Aussies hammered India in Mumbai, and though India clawed their way back magnificiently in the remaining 2 matches....must say they were very closely contested.

I was in the Chindambaram stadium, when Bhaji stole 2 runs of Mcgrath to win the was an amazing day of cricket

udayan said...

Ha! And I thought I was the only one who felt bad after Giles scored the winning runs. Warne and Lee definitely did not deserve to lose. Maybe in Oval we will see a different team. Can't believe what has happened to Gilchrist, though. Is the England bowling really that good?

Thanks for linking me. The Anjan Dutta connection escaped me, when I decided on the url (after getting rejected a thousand times).

Ronjona .... ami ar ashbo na ... he he he.

Prahalathan said...

The Aussies can't always expected to be World beaters...
India Can't be expected to beat anyone...
If it happens, Its a Bonus!
I pity those who spends hours together in front of their television sits and watching india .... loose....
But Winning and lossing is part of Sports... If someone wins someone has to loose.

Nice Blog....

Anonymous said...

Did you know you are a Googlewhack?