England won a thrilling first test at Lords on Monday and usually I’d be dead chuffed but I slumped as I saw New Zealand just about not make it over the line. For you see in this Test series I’m rooting for the Black Caps and not the English and it is isn’t an abnormality and I’ll tell you why.
When Andrew Strauss banged on about ‘brand of cricket’ upon his hire, he hit the nail on the head for me. In all sports I root for various things but the way a person or team plays a sport is a big part of it and that includes personality. In this instance there can be little doubt that New Zealand play a brand of cricket that people the whole world over can get behind. Brendon McCullum can grabbed New Zealand cricket and dragged it forward with an all-out attacking approach and it is great to see. A team that stand as a unit and all buy into what their captain is doing. At the World Cup there was one team you wanted to watch and that was New Zealand because you knew what you were getting – a thrill a minute. He is the only man who when he comes into bat, you stop whatever you are doing to watch and his team follow his example.
Speaking yesterday the New Zealand captain opined about England, ‘What is their style that they want to be known for as a team, heading forward? Was their last performance how they want to play the game, or was it more of a case of maybe stumbling on it?‘ and he’s spot on. So much talk about a revival of English cricket based on this one win but there was a reason for it – when you get drawn into a slug match with New Zealand then the only way you can ever win is it to toe-to-toe with them. Dour plodding cricket that can win you matches but doesn’t win you friends. Lets be honest here as well, England won the first Test but they did so by always bowling in the favourable conditions and in cricket and at Lords – that is a big slice of luck to fall into.
All teams win teams in different ways, Chelsea were one of the most beautiful sides to watch for half a season and then they became pragmatic and less exciting. Still they kept winning. You play to your strengths and to the players that you have available at the time. If England’s best players aren’t attacking gung-ho players then they can’t play like that and win repeatedly. That just isn’t going to happen. The second Test gets under way in just under an hour and a half )weather permitting) at the time of writing and I’ll be fascinated to see if England revert back to type or whether McCullum’s swashbuckling approach will drag them out of their shell. The Ashes are only what, six/seven weeks away and England need to know what their identity is going into a series against the best team in the world.
My stance doesn’t just stop at cricket, for example I was all over the shop watching Goran Ivanisevic beating Tim Henman at Wimbledon in 2001. Goran’s approach and personality was fun to root for and Tim – as nice as he may be – just isn’t someone you can root for based on anything but his nationality. In Formula 1 I always rooted for Senna, then Barrichello and now I quietly root for Alonso and the Ferrari’s and now Vettel has left Red Bull I feel as though I can root for him a bit. I liked Mark Webber when he was the underdog in that team as well. Nothing against Lewis or Jenson but I’ve just never found them that likeable (although I think Jenson was more to do with the fact ITV slobbered all over him when they had the rights – he is clearly a pretty likeable chap now we actually hear about him and not just how amazing he is via James Allen).
In golf I don’t automatically support our players (unless it is the Ryder Cup of course) but if Lefty or the Big Easy are in the mix on Sunday in a major then it is very likely that I’ll be rooting for them. Lefty because of the way he plays and the Big Easy because he is a great player who didn’t get the credit he deserved in his pomp. It is also wel known that I root for old players who were past greats to have on big run at a big title again. Look at when both Ian Woosnam and Tom Watson led The Open going into Sunday, I was pulling for them both to win.
In general though this comes back to a wider issue. Just because I was born here doesn’t mean I feel I should idly support fellow teams and players from these islands. I may be British but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a mind of my own. Many believe that we as a nation need to be more British than we currently are and get back to British values instead of becoming a multicultural society. To those people I shake my head in despair. We are one nation but more importantly we are but one race in a universe full of different ones. We should stand side-by-side and learn from and grow with each other. we are more the same than we are different, so why are some people so intent on forcing divisions and cultural differences when in fact we as a race have far more important issues to deal with than the sense of nationality? That my friends is a question to which I do not have the answer.
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