The positive: the slightly early finish meant I made it to the Brooklyn community ANZAC Day event in Wellington. Diversity arrives in numbers -- wrapped up warm, and early, if you want a seat on plastic chairs dotted around the school playground.
The United Nations of kids from the local schools lead the singing of the anthem, with World War Two Veteran and Brooklyn RSA President Tom Parker belting out the Te Reo version. The local American-born Rabbi gives the address and lauds “the honest bloke within”, and the Salvation Army bugler gives every inch of his breath to the Last Post as the kids perched on the playground equipment are hushed up.
On the way home the kids on Pembroke Rd continue their timeless test. There is a bat, one pad, a ball and a very flash looking pair of wicket-keeping gloves. I could have sworn I heard the owner of said gloves saying “c’mon lads, four and five now.”
But me, despite the healthy dose of national identity, I am sad and tired. The ANZAC story is one of heroic failure. Was getting to the semis heroic? Meritorious, yes, about as far as we should have got, probably, but losing the way they did, not heroic.
It was a bad omen when the New World had run out of Alison Holst sausage rolls on Tuesday night. A pulled stomach muscle (I mean who knew there was muscle in there?) and an injured finger later and the sporting gods had given their nudge and wink. Not this time, you little battlers. The Black Caps had to be very good to win -- and they were very, very ordinary.
The Sri Lankans were excellent. Take a look at the pitch maps that flashed up for Malinga and Vaas, barely a ball outside the handkerchief of a good length. It would take a double sized tarpaulin to fit in Bond, Oram and Franklin’s efforts. Jayawardena played the perfect captain’s innings, Flem’s last effort was a blur, with all the foot movement of Michael Laws.
The Aussie v Sri Lanka final should be a cracker. But this has been a World Cup of should have beens. The Caribbean should have been the host of cricket’s greatest ever party, the Super Eight should have been a down to the wire shoot-out among the world’s best teams and the whole event should have been all about the cricket. Bob Woolmer -- lest we forget.
But in the spirit of the Anzacs its time to pay our respects, and to look to a better future.
Respect: To those who won’t play another World Cup, and many of whom won’t play much more international cricket at all- Brian Lara, Glenn McGrath, Inzamann Ul-Haq, Shaun Pollock, possibly Tendaulkar, Jayasuriya, Kallis. Remarkable talents, awesome feats. Not all on show in this drawn out tourney, but careers of class.
Respect also to Flem at the end of this time at the helm. He brought organisation and invention, elegance and well constructed sentences. We are now a better team than England, the West Indies, and South Africa. We are not in the same league as Australia or Sri Lanka. That’s how it turned out.
And looking ahead. I hope there is still a place for Flem, but it is hard work for all involved when the leader is on the backbench. I like the idea of his focus being on the tests - he could go on for years.
For the one day team under Dan Vettori there is much to be done. The leadership group -- Dan, Oram, McCallum, Styris along with Taylor, Fulton, Patel, Franklin -- need to lead the next wave. Braces won’t be there I predict -- it will be Wrighty in the first instance, and maybe his form of Kiwi phlegmaticism will work. First job, we need to identify a crop of young bowlers out there and teach them to bowl at the death.
Hamish will provide a final wrap of the tournament after the final, but from the rest of the Aye Calypso team, many thanks for your comments, feedback and interest. Thanks Russell for giving us the forum, and putting up with the late posts and computer illiteracy of some contributors.
We have had a lot of fun tapping into our collective love, our partners say tragic obsession, for the game. If nothing else I hope you have all learned that you are not alone. At 9.36am on Wednesday, with Patel having belted a boundary down the ground, and Franklin showing the technique that will make him a mainstay of the middle order in years to come, my friend Phil texted me, with one word- ‘believe’. And you know, just for a minute, I did. See you next time.
Grant Robertson (for Alex Gilks)