Monday, October 29, 2007

English losers

The way the English can laugh at themselves is perhaps one of the most distinguishing characteristics of that nation. However, I am not so sure how they’ll take it if someone else were to laugh at them. Well, they’ve opened themselves up, so I suppose one can at least comment on their shortcomings.

Yesterday (October 28, 2007), The Times sponsored a debate: Are we a nation of sporting losers? Interesting, how they focus on their downside – may be because they have more examples of that than of the other variety. And a few days before the event, on October 23, 2007, Times Online put together a list of Top 50 great British losers. The concept of a “great loser” may not be quite easy to understand in some nations and cultures, but it should be no trouble at all for some.

Any way, let me delve into the list and examine the cricket entries, of which I assumed there would be plenty. Surprisingly, there weren’t. May be England’s performances in other sports have been even more “loserly” than on the 22-yard strip. So what are the cricket entries that sneaked through, as it were?

The English cricket team of 2006-07 that visited Australia to return the Ashes came in at No. 34. May be they would have come in higher in the list if they had not blotted their copy books by winning the one-day tournament that followed.

Mike Atherton made his entry two places above, at No. 32. Now that sounds a bit harsh. Set aside the dirt-in-the-pocket incident, the not-so-glowing captaincy record and the absence of a century in one-day internationals (something even Nasser Hussain managed, much to the surprise of many and chagrin of some), Iron Mike was not quite such a loser, at least in comparison with some of his contemporaries. (I don’t really need to name them, do I?) May be Athers should have dressed better, and shaved every playing day.

The England cricket team of 1992 takes 29th place in this august list. Now this is a bit harsh really. This is a team that reached the final of the limited overs World Cup. Sure they lost to a scrappy Pakistani outfit in the final, but the team just lost to Zimbabwe (a rout, to be honest) and New Zealand (who triumphed against all comers until that fateful semi-final against Pakistan) en route to the final. The English media is unforgiving, I tell you.

Graham Gooch achieves 27th place by virtue, I reckon, of his girth and for being the first moustachioed English cricketer in decades. Well, how else will you explain the entry of England’s most prolific test batsman in a losers list? Of course, the list has qualified Gooch as an entry only for his performance in the period 1990-95, but in that period, the poor soul averaged upwards of 50 (a full eight more than his career average of 42.58). Apparently, Gooch’s entry is because “he could not persuade his countrymen to be more like him.” Well, if that were the reasoning, a few other names come to mind just as easily.

And that, believe it or not, sums up the cricket entries in the list: just four out of 50. Surely, the rest of English sport is worse off. A list of 50 losers for England (or for any other cricketing nation, for that matter) just in cricket could be interesting. The challenge would be in getting the sequencing right.

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