The Return of the Duck – A Contrast in FortunesEddie Sanders |
Lucky Eddie has finally left me in peace to watch a few hours of cricket. He’s getting on a bit in years now, and a couple of small shandies is about all it takes to render him non compost menthol. It’s been a while since we have spoken, but that’s not entirely my fault. He is obsessed – OBSESSED, I tell you, with football, and every week he drags me and The Memsahib all over England to watch Derby County, a team who, I understand, are managed by an umbrella salesman by the name of Wally.
Anyway, it’s World Cup time again – those six months or so when bookmakers over here gather in billions of pounds from gullible fools wagering small fortunes on an English victory in the one tournament that continues to elude them. Fourth favourites they were the last time I looked – something like 8-1. Now assuming those are the odds that Mr Power is offering for a single win that’s perhaps not too bad – after all, they do have upcoming games against Afghanistan and Scotland – but I somehow think that it is to win the whole thing.
Two days into the tournament, it looked to some as though a pattern was beginning to emerge – one that Lucky Eddie described as a “sure fire winner”. He is rather impulsive, and once his mind is made up, there’s no stopping him. “Trust me”, he said, before he turned in for the night. “We’ll make a fortune.” Apparently he had noticed that the team batting first score over 300 every time, then the team batting second get nowhere near. And so it was that he lumped everything he had on the (and I quote) “Mighty West Indies to thrash Ireland”.
Let’s leave that there for a moment to sink in, shall we? If I were a betting duck, which I’m not, I would put some bread on LE buying a few razor blades later, when he discovers that he’s not quite as rich as he thought he would be, and his planned trip over to Clontarf, Dublin, in three months time to see “England put the Irish in their place for once and for all” might suffer for lack of drinking money.
The contrast between England and Ireland could hardly be greater. England, or ‘Surrey’ as they used to be known, are deadly serious and can call on talent from England, Wales, South Africa, India, Australia, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Italy, New Zealand, Antarctica and Ireland. The Irish, on the other hand, are in it ‘for the craic’, and are now reduced to selecting their side from players who drink in the three pubs that England haven’t found yet.
A clever tactic that England have recently taken to employing in order to further stymie the Irish is that of selecting every club cricketer seen with a glass in his hand for one or two token ODIs against Denmark or Iceland, then discarding them, never to be seen again until a few years later when they turn up in the Irish side again under an assumed name. For instance, Ed Joyce. He is, we are assured, definitely the same person as the Edmund Christopher Joyce who once played for England. Not a chance.
Up to 2006, and since 2010, Ed was a brilliant batsman. The sorry shell of a man who swapped the rugged mountains of the Emerald Isle for the marbled halls of Lords cannot be the same person, surely? If my theory is correct, expect Ireland to unearth a fast bowler going by the name of Royd Bankin in a couple of years time. I would put money on Mowin Organ making a triumphant return to form too, but not for a few years yet. England have only half destroyed his doppelgänger as a cricketer so far.
Coaching is another area of stark contrast. England’s head coach is none other than Peter Moores, who is the answer to the riddle “If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well, but if you want to do one badly, twice, who’s your man?”. Now Peter is a thoroughly nice chap, but he’d be a better coach if you took his teeth out and put seats in. Ireland, on the other hand, have no coaching at all – everything is completely natural and Phil Simmons is merely employed as a drinks waiter. In fact, Brett Lee has recently employed the entire Irish cricket team to be HIS drinking coach.
Is it no surprise therefore, given all of the above indisputable and absolute truths, that in their opening games, England were beaten before they started and Ireland couldn’t lose? Even before Chris Woakes had decided, in best WG Grace style, that the crowd had come to see Aaron Finch and not him and duly let him off on the grounds that he didn’t want to disappoint thousands, England were doomed. Contrast that horrible drop with the sheer awesomeness and exuberance of the Irish fielding against the Windies. To them, every moment on the cricket field is a moment to be enjoyed.
It’s the English players, you see – their hearts are no longer in it. They know that a couple of years of dreadful form, dropped catches, wides and ignominious dismissals will see them out of the England side. This will then give them time to check ancestry.com and discover an Irish grandmother, or even an old photograph of themselves clutching a bag of Tayto crisps. A swift phone call to Dublin and they will be able to enjoy life again.
Incidentally, in contrast with LE’s ‘bad luck’ with the bookies, I have decided to have a go on the National Lottery. If I win, I’m going to buy his silly football team. All I need is those three numbers!