Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Life Under The Pump

In that cheesy, sobby, magnificent old movie The Shawshank Redemption, there's a scene in which Morgan Freeman's character, world-weary, repentant killer Red, finally understands the protagonist Andy's love of rock-polishing. 'Geology's like everything,' he says in that celestial voice, 'it's just pressure and time'.

Whether Sachin makes that 100th hundred on Saturday, or if Murali takes a wicket with his last ball [or whether there's a real Hollywood ending, and both things happen], the CWC 2011 has been all about pressure and time.

Geoffrey Boycott was lambasted for his comments on the withdrawal of England's Michael Yardy with depression. The condemnation was merited if self-righteous, but Boycott, who was offering an opinion on radio immediately after hearing the news, was clumsy rather than thoughtless. Indeed, he went through something similar himself after the death of his mother and his sacking by Yorkshire, which made his thoughts worthy of further examination. His initial reaction was to look to Yardy's on-field performances as a cause. That's inevitable, given Boycott's own obsessive personality, but it doesn't make the point entirely invalid. Humans are humans, and it is always a difficult moment when one comes up against the limits of their ability, especially when that ability has done so much to define their self-image.

What's more fascinating is whether a team can have a collective psyche, and if so, whether that psyche can dominate the individual within it. How else do you explain South Africa? And how do they explain themselves? The application of pressure made the unit fold again. Can something as intangible as the past really play a part?

Time has proved one of the best defences against pressure, or at least experience has, and experience is really time by another name. In different ways, Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar have resisted it. Experience gives you options, offers perspective. They have provided the most enduring memories of the tournament - fitting given the time and pressure they've embraced and withstood.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yardy is also 30 which is a time that many start taking stock. I think Boycott has been a little, though not a lot, unfairly treated. You can't tell me that Yardy's performance in the World Cup and in Aus to some extent has not fed into his troubles.

Sid Smith said...

Agreed about Yardy/Boycott, tho I got shot down for it within my family. We've no idea whether the team-speak about 'depression' might not simply signify 'He's sad because he's not good enough - and anyway we've already dropped him.'

RS Radio said...

Your point about a collective psyche is interesting. It is easy to explain how a group of players who have choked once are predisposed to choke again.

How on earth do you explain the way in which an entirely new generation of South Africans appear to have inherited the fragility?

Tim Newman said...

On a similar note, how will the All Blacks cope with the pressure in the upcoming Rugby Union world cup? I can't think of a time when a team has been under so much pressure to make good on what ought to be a mere formality. At home as well. Richie McGaw must be hoping he doesn't meet the French in the semis and they start flinging the ball about in their own half...

Anonymous said...

Very interesting point about the collective psyche. Repeat choking of similar patterns; I have read lately an interesting article about it on http://coupobox.co.uk