Howzat for a game!

Exactly five years ago yesterday Big Friendly and I left the house grumpy and depressed. It was about 1230 and we had to leave the Proteas, who were being taken to the cleaners by Australia at Wanderers, to go to Tandi’s birthday picnic at Deer Park Cafe. BF and I were sulky and woes. It was a foregone conclusion that the Proteas had lost. Sies. We got home later that arvie and turned on the box. I remember calling Big Friendly and saying, “Look, they’ve got the required rate and the current run rate figures mixed up!” But they hadn’t. It was right. The Proteas were right there, in the game. I remember my brother phoning. He had decided to go to Wanderers for the second half. I remember the crowd screaming so loudly I couldn’t hear a single word he said. The famous 438 game. And we had missed the whole middle section.

Yesterday Big Friendly and I stopped listening to radio 2000 when India were 197 for 1. We had watched the first 20 or so overs, when the Indian batsmen had taken the SA bowlers and fielders to the cleaners. Suffice it to say I was woes. We listened on the radio as the commentators predicted a score of 400, doubling what India had done in the first 30 overs. It felt like a lost cause for sure. We got out of the car at Silvermine; a picnic for Tandi and Nova’s birthday. We nagged everyone who came after us for an update. It got worse before it got slightly better and then everyone had arrived and there was no news for a while.

Imagine our unbelievable surprise when we got into the car and found out that the Indians had not even seen through their 50 overs. They had tumbled to 296 all out! There was a glimmer of hope. Only Smith was predictably out.

What followed was the slow, grinding agony, adding to the misery of me feeling the effects of a cold. I lay on the couch complaining bitterly about Amla and Kallis and how damn slow they were. I felt hopeless when AB needed Hashim to run for him. I was desperate when Botha was out first ball after a 6. And then, Peterson came and won the game. He won the game. I was so confused about why Dhoni didn’t let Harbhajan bowl the last over, but I didn’t care. I was literally on the edge of my seat, looking through my hands, swinging wildly between hope and horror, just like the massive crowd, only wanting different results.

That game took years off my life. If I think about it though, I wouldn’t like to have spent those lost years feeling like I did yesterday. It was all too much. This cricket! Yo!

Improv and the Proteas, and why I think they need TheatreSports

I was having a chinwag with Brett from TheatreSports on Monday night. He is the most passionate, dedicated and positive Proteas supporter, and we were discussing the game on Sunday between England and SA. Brett managed to put a positive spin on the shocking situation, saying that Sunday’s game was a good time for the Proteas to be shocked out of any complacency, and to make sure they rallied, took it seriously and got properly prepared for the competition. He still believes that a South Africa India final is on the cards. The thing about Brett is his commitment and faith.

When I was reminded of what a loyal and enthusiastic and believing fan Brett is I had a complete flash of what was wrong with the Proteas in general, and with the captain Graeme Smith in particular, and I want to help!

You see, for almost twenty years I have been teaching and imparting the rules and philosophy of improvisation. Aside from saying yes to every offer, the essence of teamwork is developed and practiced. A wonderful space is created which allows for the taking of risks secure in the knowledge that there are other people out there (your team) to support you and even save you and make you look brilliant. And mostly, its about commitment and trust. It’s real trust, free of blame, inspired by the knowledge that the parts that make up the team are brilliant and that the whole is even greater than the parts.

The reason why this improv stuff would be fantastic for a sports team is that so much of the game scenario is similar to improv. When a game starts there is no way to predict an outcome, or even what will happen next. Cricket or TheatreSports; it’s the same. Everyone has practiced the rules and their skills, and each member of the team knows what they need to do; but they don’t know the ‘how’ of any game. Without a failsafe plan A, a contingency plan B, and an emergency plan C, improvisation becomes the best way of doing things! It’s about quickly assessing the situation, having all the trust, taking risks, being supportive, having total commitment and positivity. It is what prevents a team from becoming negative, defensive and afraid. It is the difference between responsibility and response ability.

It is also the best way for everybody to love what they do, and share that love with their fellow players and the spectators. It allows for moments of unplanned brilliance. It opens the door to the art of possibility. It creates a team who fundamentally, truly believe that they can win.

I am not seeing that with Graeme and his team. It feels like they are an old fashioned collection of men, with old rules of engagement, old fears, old names hanging like albatrosses around necks (Brett warned me not to say the ch..er word), and lacking in the brilliant vision of winning. And it makes me nervous. Then I look for someone or something to blame. Then I’m in the downward spiral of the negative, alienating and fearful. I believe that is the worst place to be if you want to shine. For me, I see them breathing sighs of disbelief relief when they somehow manage to win, and acceptance when they lose. It should be the complete opposite. They should feel like they were always meant to win, and should be entirely disbelieving when they lose; as if it were almost totally impossible to consider.

If anyone has a contact to the cricket team let me know. When they get back I want to teach the boys to improvise.

All the bits and pieces

Friday night’s FUNdraiser for Natalie’s Circle of Love was a success! Thank you to the fab TheatreSports team (who were hilarious), the sellers, co-ordinators, actioners, families, friends, the Baxter, and everyone who made it a funny, warm, delicious way to support a good cause. For more on Natalie’s story and progress you can follow or comment on the website.

Other good stuff this weekend included spending time with my delicious sister-in-law, going to Muizenberg beach, making interesting fishcakes, chilling out, maxing, relaxing.

But not everything about the weekend was good. Now I need to be brave for what needs to be discussed; the Proteas and their CWC campaign. Nobody could believe what happened yesterday; losing to England by six runs! I would like to give my completely laywoman’s opinion. My opinion. Graeme Smith makes me nervous. A good leader/captain should be able to be crystal clear in separating his/her own performance and the needs of the team. Graeme can’t. He doesn’t think things through deeply enough. Why, when having committed to the incredibly brave idea of opening with spin, did he not follow through with it later? Why? Why do I get nervous when Graeme is at the crease? I hold my breath, and only breathe out when the inevitable happens and he goes out. (I even do this when he does well!) What about the field? Lately I have had the feeling that the bowlers are out there on their own, and have to win or lose the game themselves. This seems weird when the Proteas have been known as a great fielding side, but with bad field placing, too much is given away. I know that I am whinging, but yesterday’s game was so hard to swallow (choke, choke). The Proteas had it in the bag! It was a sure-fire thing. How did they manage to lose it? (Do I need to get suspicious about match fixing?) For cricket’s sake! England lost to Ireland in the week!

Nothing has changed. I am still 100% behind the team. I am just 100% more nervous.

Most Unimpressive Proteas

I am properly grumpy. I went to Newlands for the second innings of the third ODI yesterday and it felt like the Proteas were like me; all they did was arrive at the venue, not a thing more.

Really, on our way to the car last night R and I were in deep discussion. R suggested that had the Proteas won we would have felt different but I disagreed. It would have felt like an unjustified win. They deserved the loss. There is no other way to describe their performance but shockingly terrible. The Indian team didn’t have to do anything spectacular; the players just had to stick around and play a few good shots.

Now for all those ‘Proteas through thick and thin’ supporters out there, let me say at the outset that there were fabulous moments. One or two great balls bowled, one or two great catches, one or two saving moments; but theses took place in a sea of total disaster. I am going to list all the problems here in no particular order.

1. The fielding. Sorry, but do the Poepteas not actually have a fielding coach? The fielding this whole season has been a little less than mediocre, but last night’s fielding performance was a case study of how not to field. Dropped catches, misjudging the ball, bad running, bad calling, no accurate throwing, and a generally an air of indifference and apathy. Sies. Also, there was an abundance of that hand pointing motion that is my all time worst. The one where the ball sails past the fielder, who doesn’t move to get it but who gestures to the man on the boundary in a ‘it’s got your name written on it’ way. I cannot begin to explain how that ‘it’s not my responsibility’ action makes me see red! In fact, I think that in any game where there are more than three of those hand pointings, we are done for. Last night being a case in point (excuse the awful pun).

2. The captaincy. I am not denying Graeme Smith‘s skill as a batsman (when all of his fingers are fixed) but the guy has very little feeling for leading an ODI. Let him play his natural game and get someone (whose name is Hasheeeeeeeeeeem) to captain the side, gee up the boys, position the field, choose the bowlers and everything else that Graeme is just not managing as a captain. There. I’ve said it. His choice of field, bowlers, and energy and attitude on the field was beyond poor.

3. Teamwork. Pathetic. No support, encouragement, working together. The bowlers were on their own. They were totally unsupported. I would have lost it completely. As far as I was concerned Tsotsobe and Amla were the only two out there earning their salaries. It’s not good enough by a mile.

4. Attitude. This team literally gave up. No fighting spirit, no back against the wall comeback, no energy at all. The players attitude stank. There was no passion, no enthusiasm, no explosion of commitment. It was a dreary little affair. I would have forgiven them their loss if they had actually tried a little harder.

5. Lack of accountability. Sorry, but losing is somebody’s fault, problem, challenge. It’s not like the Proteas gave their best and were totally out classed on the field. They didn’t take responsibility for the game.

6. Spin bowlers. Will somebody please explain to somebody else in charge, and to Graeme Smith, that SA needs a proper spin bowler? Somebody good, like Harbhajan Singh. It’s not rocket science.

I was upset last night that I had made the effort to go and support my team. I (well my friend actually) paid good money to see them perform, which means that they need to do more than just arrive at the ground. Not cricket.

Cricket opinion? Just Shoosh!

It’s no secret. I don’t like cricket; I love it. But I do not love cricket analysis, commentary and writing. For a while I would read the M&G’s cricket writer (I think it was Tom Eaton) on a Friday, just to get a sense of what would definitely not happen on the weekend. He had the most uncanny ability to mis-predict by a few thousand kilometers. He was almost 100% wrong in everything he ever wrote.

I read gems about how the Proteas had a 97% probability of winning against India at Kingsmead because blah blah blah and India have never blah blah blah and and what’s more Jacques Kallis blah blah another double century blah blah blah. It made me nervous. Too much talking about how the Proteas were a shoe in. And they lost. Yep. They did.

But, in today’s Cape Times Zaahier Adams makes a three course meal and a christmas cracker of hilarious cricket writing. He writes, “Now, heading into the series decider at Newlands, which starts on Sunday, the Proteas are suddenly under pressure to maintain their proud record of not having lost (I kid you not) a post-isolation home Test series (here it comes) other than to Australia (four times) and England (once).” The italics in the above are my comments. So, Zaahier; I just want to get things absolutely straight. The Proteas have actually lost five post-isolation home Test series. And just to make sure we are talking the same language here; this is not a proud record of never having lost a post-isolation home Test series.

It’s not only the writer of the article who is talking kak. He quotes Proteas coach, Corrie van Zyl, as saying, “The Proteas pride themselves on their ability to bounce back, fight back when they are up against the wall.” Bounce back? Fight back? Up against the wall? In a series in which both teams have won one game? Come on! This is just nonsense; trite, non-speak.

And the caption under Graeme ‘Fingers’ Smith’s picture is exactly like the commentator’s curse. It reads “Graeme Smith can be expected to step up to the plate in the deciding Test against India.” Why? Why can we expect that? Hope, yes. Secretly pray, yes. Shout at the TV, umpires, beg that he can withstand a Sreesanth sledge, and hold your breath while he bats, but not expect. No.

I am not going to read anything cricket any more. It makes me gek. And I am delighted that I will be able to sit in the stands and not have to listen to the commentators get it so totally wrong either.

It’s just not cricket

I am sitting in front of the TV with my lappie. Graeme Smith has just retired hurt after having his finger smashed by a ball travelling at about 140km an hour. The Proteas had their tail wagged again and when I got up at six to see what was happening I couldn’t believe Australia had managed to get 445. It really is very exciting and nerve wracking; McKenzie is making me nervous, the pitch seems to be changing and the new Aussie bowlers seem aggressive and difficult to read.

And it’s only 07h35 in the morning. Last night we were at a friend’s house for a braai and I said something about the cricket. I was amazed at how few people were following it until they explained; they don’t have DSTV. I know I have complained about it before, but I just can’t get over what a problem this is. Normal Mnet is also only putting out a package of highlights, making the whole game accessible to a really small select few. I am sorry. This is just wrong.