Thursday, September 13, 2007


Why we Love to Depress Ricky Ponting

Whilst never being all that good at it- apart from being a dab hand at table tennis- I have always loved sport. And last night provided a cornucopia of delight for those of us so often starved of sustenance in the British Isles. I joined the scores of drinkers in my local noisily cheering on the soccer team's 3-0 destruction of the Ruskies, adding a cheer for Scotland's win when it was signalled on the giant screen, not forgetting the famous Welsh victory over Slovakia 5-2.

But the sweetest moment of the evening had occurred earlier when astonishingly, the down and out Zimbabwe cricketers beat the mighty Australians in their 20/20 world cup encounter in Capetown. Seeing Ponting's face as furious as it seems to be in my picture, for some reason induces a feeling of great calm and happiness, like a mega-hit of serotonin in the centre of the brain. Why should this be? It all goes back decades to one's earliest sporting memories when Compton, May and Dexter were the heroes and the titanic struggles were always with the former colonials who swaggered across the oceans to remind us that in this area- not to mention many others- they had a natural superiority. And history proves them right of course.

I recall an Ashes match at Old Trafford in the nineties when we had them four wickets down while one up in the series. Then Steve Waugh strolled to the crease and proceeded calmly to establish that infuriating Antipodean supremacy. We lost that match and later the series. Awful. That is why the battered, cynical, much abused, little group of us in the cricketing tribe erupted with a joy that still brims within when we so, so narrowly shaded the Ashes in 2005. Ditto our misery when we were so dismissively crushed last winter in the return leg and then bombed at the one day world cup in the Caribbean.

Supporting the underdog is a British trait and no dog was further down than 100-1 Zimbabwe against the green capped Galacticos. The Aussies managed only 138 in their 20 overs, restricted by good bowling and tremendous fielding. Then the tiniest power in world cricket took to the field and, though they lost early wickets, the low total was always within sight. The 21 year old keeper, Taylor, playing the match of his life, with his Dad in the crowd, chipped away with singles and the occasional biffed boundary and unbelievably, with a crashing four, the deficit was wiped out and David had triumphed over the unchallenged Goliath force in world cricket.

I now have two fears: first that the awful Mugabwe will claim some indentity with the victory to help validate his vile regime; and that this scarlet dressed pyjama crew will do the same to us when they play us in the same group. And when we play the Australians? Don't ask.

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