A lot has been made of England’s transformation since their beleaguered 2015 World Cup campaign Down Under.
Back then, their 50-over tournament came to a fitting culmination as England scraped a win in a rain-ridden dead rubber against minnows Afghanistan. In effect, their revival started as all good English revivals do – drowning in a beer-swilled haze of good intentions.
Just days following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union last year, the Financial Times ran the ominous headline: “The UK has no trade negotiators”.
After decades of being part of one big – for some, too big – club, the UK now found itself on the other side of the table, only this time without the negotiators.
Social media entered into the public domain amidst a frenzy of expectation that a direct line between us, the public, and the sports stars, actors, world leaders and general elite, was now a reality.
Sport, by its very nature, is a partisan affair.
Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch, required reading for any sports fan, reassures us that the transformation from upstanding member of society into fanatic irrational mob is a common occurrence – that we are not alone.
“Can you just rock and roll that?”
The advent of the decision review system has undoubtedly enhanced international cricket, not least by introducing us to this now trademark phrase. Its distinctiveness lies not only in the ease with which the words slide off the tongue but in the irony that the sport of cricket, burdened by a stiff and traditional stereotype, should ever be associated with such a dramatic turn of phrase.
“We want you to comment on the pregnancy thing with female cricketers.”
“I think it’s a fabricated gender issue.”
“It was a bit over the top wasn’t it?”
On a lazy day in February only last year, the rumours became fact. A Women’s Big Bash League, in some shape or form, would be staged the following season.
The announcement’s timing was discrete, jammed into one of the few rest days during the month-long Cricket World Cup that was unfolding across the country.
In February this year, Hillary Clinton was odds on for a clean run to the White House, Brexit was the name of a breakfast cereal and Leicester’s claim to fame remained a long-deceased monarch buried under a few rusting Ford Fiestas.
Australia, the dominant force in global cricket for the past couple of decades, had also just reclaimed the number one Test spot. Normal service hadn’t resumed – it had hardly faltered.
One of the delights of sport, and one with such longevity and steeped in such history and tradition as Test cricket, is in watching the peaks and troughs of various teams throughout the years, decades, centuries even.
The dominant West Indian side of the 1980s and early 90s, who soon fell away to the Australian superstars of the early noughties, who in turn succumbed to a resurgent South Africa, bouncing back after years in apartheid wilderness.
“I am here because I worked harder than anyone else.”
Perhaps it’s because I never quite reached the top. Perhaps I’m just cynical. Perhaps I’m wrong. Whatever the reason, this expression, of unequivocally attributing one’s success to unparalleled hard work, has always been a bête noire.