Thursday, January 04, 2007

ashes RIP

Barring a miracle overnight, Australia will have completed a 5-0 whitewash of England by breakfast in the cricket. Amazing team, motivated by revenge and desire, and packed with great players. Most of my series forecasts have turned out to be wrong, so wrong that if you want to remember what they were you'll have to search my archives yourself! Top run scorer, wicket taker, scoreline, all wrong.

The only silver lining is that 4 of the Aussie team have retired - Damien Martyn a couple of weeks ago, and now opener Justin Langer and the best ever pace bowler in the world (McGrath) and the best ever spin bowler (Warne). With a few more destined to go before the next series (Gilchrist, possibly Hayden), England will have the more experienced lineup in 2009 when the Aussies next come over here. Whether we'll have the better team is debatable, we seem to have gone backwards since the Ashes victory in 2005.

Attaining high standards is one thing, sustaining them is another. We can hit a peak by pushing ourselves to our limits, but the pushing takes so much out of us that we can never hit the peak again, and nothing afterwards ever reaches the same standard. Or we can aim for something just below the 'bust a gut and everything else' level, but something we know that we can sustain. And now I'm not just talking about sport. Mission, prayer, spiritual disciplines, worship, community work, campaigning, compassion, leadership, work etc. Off the path to one side is destructive excellence (where we go too far beyond our limits) and off the path to the other side is sustained mediocrity (where we do what we know we can keep up in the long run, but end up settling for average).

Back to cricket: England were sustained mediocrity in the 1990s. None of their senior batsmen, apart from Gooch in the early 90's and Graham Thorpe, averaged over 40. If your top 6 batsmen average just over 200 runs per innings between them, you are in serious trouble. The ashes was bust a gut excellence: several of the team have sustained physical or mental injury since then, and of the players who've done well since then, 3 are the new ones (Cook, Collingwood, Panesar), plus Bell (who underperformed in the Ashes series), Pieterson and Hoggard. Worryingly, we now have only one good, consistent, injury free pace bowler.

There, that's better, back to reading the English Church Census results and drinking coffee.

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