Monday, 11 April 2011

Michael Clarke and the New Hyperbole

It has always been one of the pleasures of cricket that it is a sport with a written literary history. It is a game with a cerebral, emotional and aesthetic hinterland; it has depth and soul. It eschews hype, partly because it unwinds slowly. Its greatest and most resonant deeds take time. This is important because it gives the game a context, a frame into which everything can fit.

It's not as simple as the distinction between an explosive, short-duration sport and a lengthier, more complex one. Boxing and football fall into the former category and yet one has a noble literary lineage and the other has The Sun. The relentless hyping of football has been to its detriment; the game lacks a language with which to describe itself properly. Within its narrow paradigms, the players and commentators flounder. None seem capable of uttering a useful thought. They communicate in bursts of hysterical cliches which narrow their worldview. In a place with no nuance, everything happens at fever pitch.

Cricket's most reductive form, T20, attracts hype, but it's ringfenced by the rest of the game, from the meanderings of county cricket to the ferocity and indelible greatness of Tests.

It's probably appropriate that Australia's much-hyped 'modern' captain, Michael Clarke, hit the slippery slope when he described Shane Watson's slogathon as 'probably the best innings I've ever seen'. Not seen a lot of cricket then, Michael?

Watson's skill can't be denied, and yet, thuddingly, it lacks any context, coming in a meaningless ODI against a weak attack, a few days after a limited overs tournament of genuine grandeur was settled by an innings of substance from MS Dhoni. Cricinfo had it exactly right when they aligned Watson's knock with Jason Gillespie's double-hundred against the same opposition. Watson's deed is only diminished by Clarke's offhand hype.

Clarke, as he well knows, has probably seen scores of better innings. This one was an inevitable product of the new age and it will be repeated soon enough, something that truly great innings can never be.

9 comments:

Rohan said...

I've heard better hyperbole, though. For instance, the best innings that Warne has seen is not by Lara, Tendulkar or Inzamam, but by Yousuf Pathan in the IPL.

Tony said...

Did Shane Warne describe an innings by one of his IPL colleagues as the best he had ever seen? There's a lot of "best I've ever seen" going around these days.

crownish said...

Michael Clarke has played better innings than that.

Lou said...

He put in the 'probably'. It's one of his favourite words and you'll be hearing a lot of it with him as skipper. Nothing is ever exact with him.

Warney's hyperbole of Pathan was 'one of the best' hyperbolic statements ever.

John Halliwell said...

Heat of the moment? Swept away by euphoria? About right? Plain daft? I'll go with plain daft. At Old Trafford in 2005, Clarke witnessed, close-up, a magnificent 166 by Vaughan and then the wonderful match-saving 156 by Ponting; two innings which were, surely, infinitely greater than that by Watson, and against magnificent bowling attacks. Having said that, I'd love to hear Clarke's reasoning behind the statement.

Brian Carpenter said...

I couldn't agree more with most of this, OB, but it isn't true to say that football only has The Sun. There's 'Fever Pitch, 'The Football Man, 'The Soccer Syndrome' and 'All Played Out' to name just four good, and, in the case of the first three, great works of sports literature.

suresh said...

why is that everyone want to read between the lines or catch the speaker by his words, just after the match..probably if we ask clarke now, he may not say so, there will be many more innings that he will remember..but by comparing this innings to gillespie's innings is utter crap...no other batsman has hit more sixes in an innings than watson's this innings..so please give due respect to the batsman...and clarke was carried away watching the innings...its the same like when sachin said dhoni is the best indian captain because when dhoni was the captain of the final match india won the match..if harbhajan was the captain for just that final match and if india won sachin would have said harbhajan is the best indian captain..
so please dont carried away..sit and enjoy cricket...

Anonymous said...

To all the folks criticizing Warne's comment re Pathan's innings, Pathan faced better bowlers than the pop-gun attack of Bangladesh!

pandimi said...

Clarke could not complete the statement ''probably the best innings I've ever seen by Shane under my leadership".