Friday, July 30, 2010

Watson. Has he a soul? Is he one of us?

Christian Ryan wrote an intriguing article not all that long ago on the character of Shane Watson. Ryan investigated the general antipathy felt toward Watson throughout this nation concluding that while a magnificent player, the man's character is undone by an overarching concern with the self rather than team. From what i've read a similar claim could be made for Bradman but this is not the time to become embroiled in historical smearing.

Readers of Trumper may have noticed that I advocate, at least tacitly, a moral universe of cause and effect. He who reveals himself to be a imp will surely be smited in such fashion. As this has clearly not been the case with Watson I would like to present a more radical accusation than Ryan. The only way I can accept Watson within my principled structure is to witness that he has subverted the system. What I charge Shane Watson with is no less than having sold his soul to the devil. In support of my argument I will investigate the history of the satanic pact and Watson's own Mephistophelian career. I will then discuss the consequences of this awful fact.

Possession is an age old concept. To go off only the New Testament the idea makes an early appearance with the demon Legion. Jesus transmutes the host from a leper to a drift of swine which casts itself into the sea. Devils have been a recurrent curse for the past two millenia, most militantly in the middle ages where they seemed to have had a foothold here, there, and everywhere. Our iniquitous race was punished accordingly though by those whom new best. The first record of a demonic pact for worldy gain though is the sixth century cleric Theophilus of Adano. The ambitious chap gave his soul for a bishopric and was saved from damnation only through the intervention of the Virgin Mary. Faust is the more widely known deal maker. The sometime alchemist, poet, lover, and musician has inspired works from among others Marlowe, Goethe and Mann. My own personal favourite is Stravinsky's chamber work Histoire du Soldat as well as the allusions paid by the composer in his opera The Rake's Progress. Faust is not merely a literary figure though and several eminent personages over the years have been quite seriously accused of making deals for this and that among them Paganini, Liszt, and Robert Johnson.

Closer to home for me as a boy was the uneasy relationship balanced between my own spiritual walk and Enya. I, an upright and devoted young Christian, felt an unnatural pull and reverance in my love for the beautiful music of the Irish singer. These fey, slightly pagan themed songs with arching reverbed lines of multiple layered voices and mystical synthesizers were surely the work of the occult and no doubt sowed the seeds of my spiritual decline. Reviewing the matter now, there was surely all sorts of devilry going on which Maire Brennan got wise to and ousted her young cousin from Clannad. Enya must then have contracted some sort of deal with the helper Nicky Ryan, made some wonderful music, sold 70 million records and now lives in a castle. Watch the full video for I Want Tomorrow and you will see that Enya is clearly possessed by Satan.


Having proved that one can actually enter into agreement with the devil for personal gain I must prove that Watson has actually done so.

Watson's career abounds with the two characteristics that make Satan's favourite breeding grounds- innate talent and hard work. (Do not think that the Devil delights in sloth. Only read Paradise Lost to realise what a diligent chap he is). So determined was the young S.R.W. as to emigrate to Tasmania at a tender age. As the state's all-rounder so emphatic was his opening statement that he brought himself to national notice and replaced no lesser personage than Steve Waugh in the ODI team. Into the test team he made his way and failed to distinguish himself both in the versatile duty of a number six as well with untroubling medium pacers. Before even facing the ignominy of being dropped, Watson underwent the harder fate of debilitating injury. What was so dreadful about this period of extended injury was how tantalisingly close poor Watson came to making his way back in lionised circumstances. For the great comeback series of the 2007 Ashes our fellow was primed to be the great Australian answer to the marauding horde, set to return and triumph over our humiliation. Poor Watson went and lost his hamstring on the eve of the event publicly weeping like a babe.

Having skimmed over the circumstances let us imagine now the relationship between Satan and Watson at this time. Lucifer must have kept a keen eye on young Watson and his early success and perhaps it was a malignant trick to cut down the fellow early on and plague his body. I doubt there were firm plans as yet, this was merely keeping pans in the fire. Coming back to his young prospect though Satan must have felt now was a good moment for a visit. 'Shane,' said Satan, 'How would you like me to aid you at this propitious moment?' I imagine to this kind offer Watson, at this stage still a fairly personable chap must have said, 'No thank you. I'm doing quite fine by myself' To which Satan must have made some facetious remarks and told our man that his lovely opportunity would be ruined.

Poor old Shane. How lost and sad and frustrated he must have felt. How much time must he have spent wandering about the wilderness?


So then the next move was the great temptation to take advantage of this frustration. I do not think that the devil is in with Merv Hughes and David Boon therefore I believe he used his servant John Buchanan.


The dropping of Phil Hughes in such nasty and unwarranted circumstances screams foul play. Surely there was voodoo involved and JB performed some sort of necromancy in the situation. What more foul than this? A visitation to the fragile Watson, promises of rejuvanation... I doubt Watson actively encouraged his temptor but he might have neglected to forbid such action. And so was it carried forth. Watson had his gains but was not yet aware of the price. Our man was allowed his initial success priding himself on his admirable skills and unaware of any outside aid. Still malignance was apparent and Watson's comment on the unfortunate Hughes, 'He's had his chance, now its mine', displays an ungracious character.

Then as the Australian summer commenced came Satan with the bill. Watson cocksure and haughty must have scorned his ally claiming the absence of any pact. How subtle are the ways of the Devil though? Rather than bringing down his prey in a picque of fury and exercise of power, Watson was allowed to taste the trace of success without its full fruit, Satan pinching his wicket ever and ever in the late nineties. There are many evidences of Shane's dreadful character. At the last WACA test I watched as he he testily had a fan removed for casting some trite sledge in his direction. You have your stories as I have mine. One we all share as it is the most heinous. His awful behaviour in the Boxing Day Test. Katich clearly disliked Watson and there was no communication between the pair. But when our man was run out he appealled to the umpire to have Katich be judged out. This is surely the lowest of his behaviour and if my hypothesis has any truth the most obvious display of Watson's guilt and frustration.

At some point Watson gave in and is now a fully fledged worshipper of Satan no longer in possession of his soul. I imagine that evening stumps was called with Watson on 99 must have been a long one with the temptor seated at the edge of the bed. His dismissal the next morning still short of the stupid target must have been the final straw for Shane and the lad caved. How else may we explain why such an ugly character has had this unheralded success in unfamiliar circumstance of opener and bowler, particularly this latest offering of six wickets at Headingley.


So possibly Watson is a Satanist. More probable is that he is a very bad egg and I have been talking a lot of rot. Anyway what holds the future? Marcus North is surely gone. I believe there are several possible changes then:

-Steve Smith replaces North and Hauritz returns as major spinner.

-Watson slips back to the middle order so as to be able to bowl for more extended periods. Hughes returns as opener.

-Watson remains as opener. North is replaced by another such as Callum Ferguson, George Bailey, or perhaps even Usman Khawaja.

As I write this I am sitting here watching England make small work of Pakistan so it is unlikely there will be any changes there for the Ashes.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Latecomer

I must apologise. Several matters of interest have occurred and I have failed to comment upon them. Such a neat and absorbing one day series between England and Australia. Assertive and unfazed England domineered Australia into defeat with a thrilling third match decider. Andy Flower seemed a genius and the English ascendent. Then they crumpled and were routed in the remaining dead rubbers. A key aspect of England's success lay with their wealth of (effectively) all-rounders- Michael Yardy, Luke Wright, Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann, Stuart Broad. They gave great depth to the squad with assured bowling and the extra impetus in batting for several of the victories. Eoin Morgan is the great hero of the series though and one hopes that perhaps he can pinch Bell's spot in the test team. That might make for an interesting Ashes. I have doubts about England's bowling though. Swann is fantastic, though his twitter is a bit self-assured for my liking. Anderson is class but has been indifferent of late. Finn could be good but it would be nice for him to get a bit more experience under the belt. Broad is a concern and I am not convinced that he is a skilled enough bowler to perform in the Australian summer. This is a bit a vague foreboding at present and I am sure I will write more at a later date, particularly as these concerns will be aired in the English test series against Pakistan.


Fascinating that Australia reached out to Shaun Tait for deliverance. What an odd career the chap has had, mistrusted in his homeland for his unique boganism and spectacular self-destruction. He is brutal and debilitating on song but is so often erratic and useless. Australia have also embraced the concept of a handful of all-rounders and Steven Smith's probable test debut against Pakistan will be intriguing.


What distresses me is that the MCC is pushing for day-night test matches. No doubt this is due to the fact that the crowds were hardly milling for the Bangladesh series. Personally I hate the concept and associate test match cricket with five long days in the unrelenting sun. I like to imagine when I walk home that I have earnt the sweat that cakes the brow and obfusticates my clothes rather than face the reality that I have been scoffing pork pies and boiled eggs all day long. I feel that if you can't take a few days off work a year to watch the test match then what worth are you as a cricket fan. I cherish this week and don't want my enjoyment tarnished by the hoi polloi turning up like cretins in the darkness. In 1958 the American serialist composer Milton Babbit published an article titled 'Who Cares if You Listen?'. Speaking of his esoteric, modernist music Babbit claimed that the interaction of an audience is not essential to its function as art. I would like to maintain a similar elitism in test match cricket for players shall continue to contest for its glory and the faithful will continue to congregate at the shrine. The limited overs formats can bear the other nonsense.

This is beside the point though. The percieved epicentre of blue-blooded and snobbish cricketing conservatism, whose views I have been echoing, is leading the charge of "messing" with the sport. Such a charge is usually left for the BCCI, the boorish nouveau riche upstart of the cricket community. It proves that there is dissension in world cricket and I think the derailed presidential career of John Howard highlights this.

There has been much vitriol in this country over the matter and, perhaps along with nostalgic sympathy for Rudd, we have embraced the eventually maligned leader who was unceremoniously ousted from office as obviously a perfectly wonderful cricket administrator. Howard was seen as a figure to give the conflicted sport the boundaries it needs and his rejection was recieved as the worst sort of politicking. Zimbabwe oppossed Howard because Mugabe is corrupt and a thug to the bargain who has invested his nation with a similar attitude. Rather than stand on principle South Africa joins her for the sake of African unity. This presents Howard as a martyr from unscrupulous claims of victimisation begat by self-blinkered oafs. This is not the only criticism levelled at Howard though and several articles have accussed Howard of racist policies toward refugees as well as Australian aboriginals. Also Sri Lanka's opposition is very credible for what on earth was the prime minister doing commenting upon a bowling action. Speaking out of turn in attempt to appeal to the masses is a dicey business and Howard should have known better. What I have been searching for though is why the BCCI finally opposed Howard though and used their muscle to pressure Pakistan and Bangladesh to the bind as well. Were India merely appeasing these malcontents for greater allegiance or did they have legitimate concerns or even fears about Howard?


The ICC presidency is little more than a figurehead and even were he to be elected there is presumably little Howard could have done to effect any change. As they contribute three quarters of the body's revenue the BCCI rules the roost and with the deep dissension within India over the problems facing cricket it is unlikely any accord will be reached soon. Chief among these is the relationship between twenty over cricket and the other formats. This results in an excess of the sport which is leaving fans disinterested and running players into the ground. India has perhaps suffered most in this regard. The great stars of the IPL, absolutely brilliant performers including Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Murali Vijay, and Pragyan Ojha, failed miserably as a fifty over team and lost twice to Zimbabwe in the triangular series. With the increasing importance of domestic twenty over leagues there promises to be an almost year round continuance of the sport and the ICC needs to negotiate these new developments rather than allowing them to make their own slipshod way. It also needs to decide whether its focus is upon consolidation or expansion. Audiences will dwindle if their teams are contesting inferior sides.
Indian cricket administration has problems. There is rooted traditionalism steeped in Ranji cricket and the national sports minister has questioned the existence of the twenty over format. Yet it runs rampant even with Lalit Modhi falling into a mire of corruption. I am not scared of this but I wish the MCC would just be a bit more staid in the midst. And Howard is nothing, what has happened is merely symptomatic.