Friday, January 7, 2011

Layer 416 . . . The Ashes, Test Match Cricket, Night Owls, Digital Lives, Tiredness, Energy, The Winter of our Disconnect, and the Gift of Time


'And gentlemen in England now a-bed shall think themselves accursed they were not here'.

So here I am pouring a glass of best malt whisky and breaking open a box of chocolate brazils - by way of middle of the night celebrations. It's all over now. An Ashes victory by three games to one - all three victories by an innings and plenty.

I've never been a massive sports fan, and could never understand the nutters who stay up all night listening to Test Match Special during Ashes series Down Under. So how come I've recently spent hours in the middle of the night following the Over By Over reports on the Guardian website whilst listening to TMS on the Radio 5 site? What's been so special about this team and this series?

I spent some time yesterday looking forward to a good night's sleep tonight - following  the swift removal of the remaining three Aussie wickets before midnight London time. First of all, however, there were the previous day's highlights to enjoy on ITV4 between 10.00 and 11.00 pm. Extremely enjoyable. Now for the main course - the final climax and the final celebrations . . .

Imagine the wretched feeling then - waking up at well past midnight, and realising that I'd fallen asleep and missed it all! The moment of victory! The excitement and the joy! The post-match comments and plaudits! What an idiot!

Except . . . wait! This is amazing! It's been raining in Sydney and play's been held up! Plus - the tail enders have been hanging around and are still in there, still holding on. Thank heavens for those much derided Aussies - Smith, Siddle, Hilfenhaus and Beer.

Then down they went, one after the other - Siddle caught by Anderson, after slogging into the outfield; Hilfenhaus caught behind; Beer getting his stumps smashed down by Tremlett - the perfect ending to a winter-long saga.

Truly a moment to savour. And I wasn't joking in the last blog when I said that Australia is fortunate to have been well and truly beaten by a clearly superior side, and not just pipped by a bunch of equally ordinary players. The Aussie commentators have rightly been able to concentrate on the brilliance of the English, making only passing references to the defeated Australians, relatively speaking.

Most of the English team were interviewed afterwards. How different, and how pleasant, they are - compared to the England footballers. The horrors of Rooney, Gerrard, Terry, Ferdinand et al. (Walcott is the exception - and he wasn't picked for the World Cup Finals. Remember Rooney cursing the English fans as he left the pitch following a diabolical and shambolic performance by both him and the team?) I could go on, as usual, about the importance of intelligence, but I won't.

Swann spoke intelligently about the dangers of hubris, the need to stay grounded, and so on. Strauss made a lighthearted comment about being personally responsible for the victory thanks to  passing on batting tips to Cook. (An antidote to the crass Pietersen comment about how it was him wot won it?)

I felt sorry for Trott - out for a duck in the Test in which his side scored a record total for a single innings by an England team in Australia, with no further opportunities in the series to redeem himself. Collingwood was also a slightly sad figure.

Interestingly Pietersen wasn't on the interview parade. Has he been advised to keep his stupid big mouth shut? Or has he finally worked that one out for himself?

So is cricket the new rock n roll? Er - no. But those of us who are currently enjoying the brilliance of this particular team would seem to have a lot to look forward to. Victory in the World Cup next year - the 50 overs one-day form of the game - would be the perfect follow-up to two consecutive Ashes victories, and the World 20-20 victory in South Africa last year.

Test match cricket may be a minority sport these days, enjoyed mainly by the likes of night owls, retired colonels and the Barmy Army, but it surely deserves better than to have its highlights broadcast at 10.00pm on ITV4 - a TV channel whose rubbish programmes are not even listed in proper newspapers.

The people who run the game should be held responsible for it becoming a minority sport, thanks to selling the broadcast rights to Sky Sports - a minority channel watched only by a few hundred thousand hard-core sports nuts.

Access is vital. I feel sorry for the kids of today, who have no chance of spending lazy summer days with their families watching enthralling Test matches (and Test series) unfold on open-access terrestial television. Maybe the majority of them would do so whilst multi-tasking on Nintendo thumb-twiddlers, and whilst updating Facebook pages on laptops and smartphones, but so what? Some of us also multi-task by making cups of tea, glancing at newspapers and pouring tots of whisky. This is the beauty of Test Match cricket - it's part of your daily life, whether on radio or TV, and not a substitute for it. Day or night.


This week's Book of the Week on Radio 4 has been one of the best. A necessary, original and important book.

The Winter of Our Disconnect

By Susan Maushart. How one mother imposed techno-silence on three angry teenagers for six months

"There were lots of reasons why we pulled the plug on our electronic media ... or, I should say, why I did, because heaven knows my children would have sooner volunteered to go without food, water or hair products. At ages 14, 15 and 18, my daughters and my son don't use media. They inhabit media. And they do so exactly as fish inhabit a pond. Gracefully. Unblinkingly. And utterly without consciousness or curiosity as to how they got there.

They don't remember a time before email, or instant messaging, or Google. Even the media of their own childhood - VHS and dial-up, Nintendo 64 and "cordful" phones - they regard as relics, as quaint as inkwells.

They collectively refer to civilisation pre-high-definition flatscreen as "the black and white days".

The most arresting points made by today's extract from the book were about the tiredness brought on by relentless and excessive digital multi-tasking on the part of teenagers (and others), and how much better we become as people when we're not tired and have plenty of mental and physical energy. The point was also well made that time without access to digital media is potentially time available for reflection and meditation, which are also vital for living well.

It's a question of balance . . .

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave a comment