Maybe slow is good?

The retirement of Charlotte Edwards does have that ‘end of an era’ feel. And there’s an interesting consensus around that change, as folks recognise the need to fit the boom/dive-tastic times.

That whole thing of us sprinting or going headlong into the cricket future, wearing Beats and Nikes, interests me. Who owns this notion that we’re supple and down wiv da kids, in an athletic, sexually-charged kindofaway? Or maybe more precisely how come that idea suddenly owns us so completely? Men, women, all having to be lithe and sassy and bright and quicksilver and strong: how did that become how now is? Because it did.

In the sense that

a) I love fielding, myself

b) I get that cricket needs to feel and be exciting

c) there’s something seductive about a changing universe and more movement within it

I can see why we’re going this way. But this doesn’t sit well with some of the finest coaches and Properest Cricket People I know. Forgive the postmodern mix of metaphors but they speak of Edwards’ removal as a further nick in the buttresses; as though we’re condemning or easing something away into a slower, duller, dodgy-kneesier past… and there’s something wrong or offensive about that.

Charlotte Edwards might be a symbol, then, for The Construction That Is our memory of cricket. Something in her brilliant, foursquare Englishness, together with that whiff of both grittiness and patience smacks suddenly – maybe jarringly? – of yesterday.

So we didn’t need to be in the room with the former England skipper and her newish coach to know that Robinson will have said something about the need to quicken things, to pass the baton to a new generation of athletes more comfortable with absolutely legging it, or flinging themselves, or clearing the front foot and smashing it. Or we know he inferred all that.

Watch the BBC interview (in which Edwards’ anger and hurt are palpable – as is her dignity in the moment) and the subtext is that through her shock a brutal acquiescence was bulldozed. That Way (your way) no longer fits; change (this change) must come. And you know this ain’t personal.

It may not be personal but I’m guessing it feels that way to Lottie… and to those who inhabit what I’m going to lazily call the traditionalist wing of the #cricketfamily. They sense repercussions or reverberations here which bother their yaknow, buttresses.

But let’s applaud the skipper in.  Her feats and achievements will be heavily recorded in the media in the next few hours – more heavily, in fact than any previous captain of the England Women’s cricket team – because Edwards has been outstanding and because (despite malingering #everydaysexism?) the profile of the game has never been higher.

The reluctantly retiring captain had persisted through the ages, being a fixture from the times of dark obscurity – when (looking at at the papers, the telly) it seemed barely anybody cared – into the era of women professionals and the #WSL. Lottie’s been England’s other queen, similarly immovable until now, a quiet permanence as the colours got noisier all around.

Coach Robinson’s aspiration for a particular kind of change is a function of the times, then. He wants a new level of dynamism as well as a younger leader. The tide of Contemporary Positivism is carrying all before it – we get that. But maybe out of respect for Edward’s place in the iconography and possibly because these things interest me, I’d like to air some of the counter-arguments to this flood towards high-octane norms.

Maybe it’s great that cricket can be a bastion against quickness? Maybe the world needs someone to shush it the **** up now and then? Maybe we need to be ver-ry careful we don’t go excluding guile and craft, when we’re rushing about the place. Maybe *philosophically* it’s cricket that’s the antidote to i-phones and t’internet and cards that you swipe and earpieces you wear when you’re out shopping or walking the dog! Maybe slow and patient and thoughtful and tactical are good – precious and good?

One of cricket’s great strengths is surely this defiantly uncool capacity to build gorgeously-painfully slowly. Unlike nearly everything else.If it has a nature, it is not characteristically about instants – or instant gratification. On times it may even be viable to have a kip whilst you’re watching… and not miss anything that matters. That may be unique and that may be good.

Many of us love the idea that martians are watching, mystified but rapt as earth-beings (who typically buzz frenetically about) occasionally do this thing where they take five days to fail to conclude anything very much… then call it a Test! We hope they are doing martian A-Levels in What The Hell’s All That About and How Can It Fit With Everything Else?

Of course I’m bending arguments here, cross-relating absurdly – being perverse. Particularly as I’m going now to confess that broadly I think cricket benefits from what we’ll simply term greater athleticism. But the point may be that the development towards increased or (I like the word) heightened dynamism might yet prove to be a trend falling in line with very immediate perceptions of what seems relevant… or saleable. And that therefore genuinely profound understandings or skills or expressions of the game might be being under-appreciated in this hyperactive now.

It may be offensive to Charlotte Edwards to be cartoonised within this beery hypothesis – if so I apologise. She is a great of the women’s game and my intention is more to respect her than use her as makeweight in some crusty mither about (eeeeh) Modern Times.

Clearly the Kent and Southern Vipers captain thinks she still has plenty to offer – even if the England selectors think Edward’s running and her run-rate pulse too low now, for the international challenge. She may yet, through a surge of imperious form that would surprise nobody, make the most satisfying statement around all this. She may say that class is permanent and it defies the clamour. Indeed, I personally hope this captain, this icon, this monarch does – and in doing so sends a reminder.


2 thoughts on “Maybe slow is good?

  1. One of the great things about cricket when I was growing up was that it wasn’t all about quickness. If you despised football and didn’t want to get your head kicked in as part of a scrum, then cricket was there. If you had timing with the bat, some skills behind the stumps, perhaps the ability to spin the ball and confound players, you could get in there.

    Cricket isn’t like that now. The bat technology means that even rubbish teams on rubbish wickets can crack scores that were barely imaginable. The days when bowlers could bowl long spells have been replaced with the T2- short spell theory that says 4 decent bowlers over 40 overs is not as cool as using a load of part-time bits and pieces bowlers to fill in. Commentators go on about how cricket is so much better by focusing on sixes hit and the ability to run around a field; I’m waiting for the day on Sky when someone dares to pipe up about how rubbish wicketkeepers are now and how bowlers are able to bowl six different balls an over but have a near inability to pitch six on the same spot in a over McGrath-style.

    My era of cricket is over. I’m 38, my era is retiring. Our knees are shot. So instead of harping on about the new cricket coming through, I’ve simply decided to move onto something else. I don’t like T20 cricket, modern bats turn idiots into world beaters, the standard of bowling is as poor now as it has been during my lifetime, and we’ll end up with city franchises and counties effectively being forced into closing down by a bunch of well-connected middle men who look after the money. I’ll stick with memories, grainy VHS uploads on Youtube, and the 2005 Ashes boxset.


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