Sunday, March 11, 2007

The ego and cricket

There‘s an interesting blog on Gentleman‘s Game No More on pressure. The article trots out the old Keith Miller quote, who piloted Hurricanes during the Second World War:

"Pressure? I'll tell you what pressure is. Pressure is a Messerschmitt up your arse. Playing cricket is not."

Mephistopheles concludes that "pressure" is an over-used word in modern cricket, and suggests that it is not applicable in the context of a sporting event. There are two reasons why this is wrong.

Firstly, the key word here is the pronoun "I". Our characters are partly formed by our past. Major or traumatic events are significant in affecting our current proclivities. Miller is alluding to a subjective episode that correlates tightly with particular circumstances in his life experience.

Yet, fortunately, the present cricketing generation has not fought in a war. Our point of reference for our concepts and language come from the notable instances from our rather less turbulent history. We deploy a vocabulary that seems, in our view, most relevant to the situation before us. As, thankfully, we all have not experienced such peril, we apply words that others (say, soldiers) who have may not feel suitable. However, surely language does not fit the extremes of the human emotions, but the middle ground. Or, more accurately, it matches with the usage of the current generation of the English-speaking community. Moreover, is this not simply too high a benchmark for our language? It is not the cricketers that must struggle to formulate an applicable phrase - but the fighter pilots.

Secondly, the nature of modern cricket has changed. I have noted elsewhere that "intensity" is just as much a part of the international game as bats and stumps. For better or for worse, this is a fact of life. Indeed, it also reflects the changing focus of society. We are no longer are stirred by national prestige, as sport is now the chief channel for our emotional energies and passions. This is surely an improvement. But also, it irresistibly heightens the role for sport in language as well as society. Consequently, cricket has become professional. Sponsorship deals are worth millions. Players give 110%. They give their all to the team; those who fail to fully commitment lose. Careers, the lives of men, hang in the balance. Like businessman and stockbrokers, they feel pressure because their future, and the team's future, is uncertain.

Moreover, as we are social animals, the pressure is felt because of the over-spilling anticipation of the millions of fans, the expectation of the coach and the demands of the press. This additional dimension adds to the excitement and to the enjoyment of the game.


Mephistopheles said...

Nice post,Atheist.

My post was about an expression of sentiment rather than being factual. I don't know if that makes sense.

Of course there is pressure. I don't deny that. But, it sometimes get annoying as hell when the questions are all about pressure (esp. in the Indian media):
How much pressure?
can you measure it in Kilo Pascals?
can you cut with a knife? What size knife? so on and so forth...

Your post is spot on about pressure but I just wish the media did not make such a big song and dance about it. That's not going to happen, therefore, my post ridiculing pressure. As the old maxim goes: If you can't beat them, make fun of them.

The Atheist said...

Well, I suppose like many mental conditions, we cannot be as precise when comparing them as, say, batting averages. This ambiguity itself creates a broader margin for discussion, as it is not tethered in hard reality, but in fuzzy emotions. Allowing the press to pontificate about nonsense in a totally unconstrained manner.

I can’t for the life of me think why the press do go on about it so much: there is so much actual cricket to report on at the moment. Perhaps this an Indian thing? The Indian team are packed with so much talent that does not achieve its potential, and perhaps fingering pressure is a means of finding a reason for this failure?

I do empathise with your frustration. But at least I got a post out of it!