Thursday, 22 February 2007

Banging beer-cans and chanting Hadlee's name

Richard Boock was mightily impressed by the crowds at Eden Park and Seddon Park. For him they took him back to a youth full of towelling sunhats, stubbies, clashing beer cans and chanting Richard Hadlee's name. And the atmosphere for the last two matches of the Chappell-Hadlee series really was electric. Perhaps the best seen in this country since the 1992 World Cup. It is just a pity then, that those matches marked the end of the New Zealand season and not the beginning of it. While we have the World Cup in the West Indies to look forward to, watching the television at 8am on a Tuesday morning won't be quite be the same thing as watching a match at the Basin on a Friday night.

Like Boocky, Jonathan Millmow is today focused on the reactions of the crowds and of the people at home. He specifically recalls 1992 and tells a few stories about reactions - the saddest being the New Zealand team returning after a night out celebrating to find the bewildered and demoralised Michael Hussey in the hotel bar, still dressed in his one day outfit.

One of the highlights of both articles is the way the authors demonstrate the same giddiness and excitement as the fans in their writing. The fact that a grumpy old pessimist like Richard Boock is still as excited as a pre-schooler full of sugar and food-colouring two days after the fact shows the effect the Chappell-Hadlee series had on those who follow New Zealand cricket.

Across the Tasman, the recriminations rumble on. Glenn McGrath is as cocky as usual, but the Sydney Morning Herald also reports that Michael Hussey is beginning to realise a few truths about his side - in particular about his bowlers:

"The guys were pretty keen to do well and someone like Mitchell Johnson, who played two of the games, he wouldn't be jaded, he hasn't played much cricket at all this summer.

I don't think that's a reason.

...that's the really disappointing thing, we had them 4-40 and for them to be able to chase down 350 is pretty disappointing.

It was an excellent start ... [but] we couldn't maintain it."

This is about as much insight as the Sydney Morning Herald is willing to share. The much braver Australian goes a lot deeper. An editorial in that paper firmly announces that the "Humiliated attack can't win cup". This clearly isn't quite enough because a second opinion piece is also in the paper to tell us why the "NZ debacle [is] relevant to [the] World Cup". Elsewhere Geoff Lawson outlines exactly what is wrong with those shame-faced bowlers and Prime Minister John Howard stops being George Bush's lapdog just long enough to show he is just as inept at judging cricket as he is at international relations.

The Herald Sun is just as judgemental as the Australian, but is perhaps a little more focused on ways to rebuild. It identifies areas for debate which it believes the Australian side should look to address.

There is often a huge contrast between reporting of cricket in New Zealand and reporting of cricket in Australia. It is relief to find that when we are in the ascendent we do not resort to belittling the opposition, and that the Australian press can be just as vicious and blame-throwing as our own when their side does poorly.


Suhas said...

A question for Mike (and others who followed NZ cricket in the 80s): What was the press like back then, when New Zealand actually dominated Australia for most of the decade? Just curious. Were the kiwi reporters as condescending as the Aussie ones are sometimes made out to be? Or did they refuse to belittle the opposition? And how was the Aussie press, at a time when their national side was in the doldrums?

Mike said...

To be honest - I don't have much of an idea. I remember the 1985/6 and 1987/8 sides which toured Australia being belittled by the same Channel 9 commentators working today - but I didn't read the papers back then so I can't tell you what the written press was like