Friday, 9 February 2007

A cricket fanfare for the common man

Well, it's been a while since the last cricket blog...the Ashes were so traumatic, I couldn't talk about England v Australia till last week, when we beat them in an ODI (one day international), after a start to the triangular tournament (3 teams, 3 matches twixt each [3 possible] team combination, best of 3 final - very trinitarian) that was reminiscent of the first day slaughter at the Gabbatoir. We lost to Australia twice, beat New Zealand once, then lost to them once - badly enough so the Kiwis got a bonus point. It looked like the boys would be home early to rest up for the World Cup next month. Then I stepped into a Salvador Dali painting...

First, we beat Australia. By enough to get the bonus point. Australia took it out on the Kiwis. THEN we beat the Kiwis by 14 runs. And we were in the final after having been in last place the entire tournament. We've just won the first game of the best-of-three final - against the best team in the world. Most of that is due to the superb fielding and smart batting of the man in the England shirt in the bottom picture: Paul Collingwood.

As Rach said in one of her blog entries, Colly makes being ginger sexy. Leaving aside his playing, there's a warmth, openness and intelligence to his face that makes him very attractive. He is a brilliant fielder (probably the best in the world), a decent bowler and a good batsman. Never flamboyant like KP and Flintoff, he constructs his innings using his strengths - singles and twos gained by intelligent choices - where to place the ball and when to run between the stumps. Performances like this win matches and "Man of the Match" awards. Colly is an excellent role model for the world today: he proves that humility, teamwork, hard work, going all out and playing to your strengths rather than trying to be someone else, is how big things happen. Substance, not style, is what counts.

Add to that his happy, easy temperament - aside from the occasional flare and unwise sledging - and you've got a definite dish.

Now, I've always liked Colly. But in the last few weeks, an Aussie (quelle horreur!) has been sneaking up the list of favourites. Even more embarrassingly, it's an Aussie I took the piss out of by using rhyming words (his own lyrics, mind you, so fair enough) like Indy, Hindi and bindi. Desperately wanting to unearth a Crocodile Dundee caricature, I looked him up...and my heart melted.

Brett Lee is a peroxide blond Aussie, true. He was the second option for man of the match yesterday, taking 3 wickets for 41. He has a ready smile, and if he *ever* hits a batsman with one of his 95 mph balls, he's the first one over to put a hand on their shoulder. Like Colly, he's a hard worker with a sunny disposition and a ready, open smile. Unlike Colly, he's at home in a tailored suit. When he's not playing cricket, he can be found working at Barclays Menswear pinning suits to customers and promoting his own clothing line. He fell into "gentlemen's outfitting" six months after getting his CA jacket fitted at Barclays, when the owner rang him up out of the blue and offered him a job. On his first day, he was cornered by a haranguing, fussy businessman who wanted a single-breasted suit with a notch lapel. Lee was flabbergasted; happy sadist that I am, I cried with laughter reading about it.

Lee had the sense to admit he didn't know and called his boss over. His boss, grinning broadly, introduced Lee to his best friend. Brett had been well and truly stitched up. In his words from 13 November's "Australian":

"I love [the menswear business]. I think if someone gives you an opportunity in life you should always stick with them, and I made myself a promise that I would stick by Richie the whole way. He didn't teach me only about suits, he taught me about life and how to deal with people.

"It's just a great reality check. I remember after the South African Test series I flew in at 11.30pm on a Sunday night and on Monday morning at 9am I was in there working. And after about an hour this South African came in and starts looking at me. 'Weren't you bowling last night (Saturday) in Jo'burg?' he says.

"I said, 'yeah mate, but it's back to the real world now.'

"But he couldn't believe it. 'Don't you need a rest?' he asks.

"I said 'no, this is what I like to do. It gets my mind away from cricket and puts some balance in my life'.

"I was talking to him in Afrikaans. He said, 'I can't believe this', but that gave me another edge to make the sale. I love the challenge of making a sale and look at a customer in much the same way as I look at a batsman when I'm preparing to bowl. You study him walking through the door, size him up and work on his weakness and try to take his wicket and make the sale."

Love him - not only for the sense of balance, genuine sweetness, humour and cheekiness that emanate from him, but also because he understands, in the words of ZZ Top:

Clean shirt, new shoes - and I don't know where I am goin' to.
Silk suit, black tie: I don't need a reason why.
They come runnin' just as fast as they can:
Cos every girl's crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man.
Spot on, Brett. Give us a bloke with a heart of gold in a sharp suit, and even tough
girls like me melt like ice cream on a summer day in Lahore. Substance over style,
every time, but substance AND style, well... With a Timex deal (
Gold watch, diamond
ring, I ain't missing a single thing
), the accessories are sorted(see picture above Colly).

Cufflinks, stick pin: when I step out, I'm gonna do you in.

You already have. We'll all come running just as fast as we can...

Cos every girl's crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man.

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