Filling the basin

Sportzfreak and the Beige One have blogged on Fill The Basin, Sunday afternoon’s benefit match for viictims of the Canterbury earthquake. Here’s my thoughts:

How much fun was it? Cricket is the perfect sport for This Kind Of Thing, not too much physical exertion for the oldies, and lots of space in between the action for farking about. Plus Adam Parore got hit with a bouncer while being a cock. That was a highlight.

Some of these guys could still be playing for the Black Caps. The Greatbach / Astle partnership in particular was as smooth and brutal as a gang fight in a butter factory. That said, the years haven’t been kind to Gavin Larsen’s bowling. Nor Sir Richard’s, who doesn’t play a lot these days, unlike Ewan Chatfield, who still turns out for his club “if they haven’t got enough players.” Bless. Tana Umaga, though, that guy could play for the Black Caps *now*. As could bloody Marc Ellis.

You there! This is what your hair looks like!
Subtle Rexona product placement.

Our PM smiled and waved a bat at Shane Warne’s friendly bowling, but good god; as a nation, we need to improve our banter. Ben Hurley struggled manfully to lift the standard, but John Key – is “Liz says Hi” the best you can do? It’s hardly “I can smell the uranium on your breath” is it? It doesn’t even makeĀ sense. Warne showed us how it was done with an offhand and off color crack about the TradeMe prize winner’s wife – the crowd went quiet as they tried to work it out. Warne’s a great sport, we couldn’t have asked for a better heavily botox-ed pantomime villain for this event. He needs to bowl his underarms a bit straighter though.

The whole day, complete with the perfect venue and rugby and Hobbit luminaries, was a raging success, not to mention a tribute to Stephen Fleming’s mana, determination and political and organisational skill. Surely there’s a role for him somewhere in the national setup in the near future?

One grumble – the TAB made their beachhead in the nation’s living rooms even bigger with their guy Mark Stafford doing much of the TV interviewing. He may be able to ask softball questions OK, but do you want or accept Goldstein or the Marlboro Man doing the same? I don’t, and I don’t see the difference.

Captain Flematic

Stephen Fleming loped over the boundary rope for New Zealand for the last time on Tuesday, having secured his test average of 40, and going out as undoubtedly our most successful captain ever, but leaving the sporting public torn. Depending on who you talk to he’s either going too early or he should have gone years ago. So which is it? The knockers may want to look away now…

Fleming famously asked Richard Boock to write his biography, after Boock spent the previous year waging a campaign against Fleming’s captaincy in the Herald as bizzare as it was savage. This was a typically pagmatic move. The book contains plenty of turmoil under its dreadfully cheesy cover, from Glenn Turner’s iron rule prompting Paroroe and Cairns’ hissy fit rebellions, the human ego Chris Cairns being in the dressing room generally, the Sri Lankan bombing and NZC’s disgraceful insistence the tour go ahead, and Dion Nash, Matthew Bell and Flem being hung out to dry for smoking grass in South Africa when others were involved. It’ll be interesting to read his side of the Bracewell era if he publishes another.

He was an atypical New Zealand batsman – graceful, not bludgeoning, preferring to guide the ball to the cover or straight boundary than slogging to cow corner. As the Napier radio commentators never tired of saying, it was typical that in his last test he passed 50 twice but missed out on 100s. I would have liked to see him ride it out for a few more years in the test team without the armband and rack up some big scores, and slyly digging at the opposition as a senior pro. He did this in Hamilton to great effect, hinting the Black Caps were the only team playing cricket going into the final day, helping pile pressure on England like a collector’s pin through a bug. We’ll miss his catching alright, and I was dying to see where his endorsements would head next, having flogged heat pumps like they were a new religion backed by country and western singers, and wandering Cuba Mall dressed as a giant deodorant can accosting passers-by. It could have only got better.

I was at the Oval in 1999 the day we clinched a test series win in England, it sparked the most productive period of his captaincy, taking in the the ICC trophy win, culminating in summer of 2001, when he toyed with Australia in Australia, knocking them out of their own Tri-Series, and so nearly winning a test series, which would have been the crowning glory.

Fleming was a thinking, pragmatic captain (Cricket with Balls went so far as to describe him as Noam Chomsky-like) and got the best out of the resources he had – this is New Zealand cricket after all, we don’t have a county championship to make professionals like England, or teams of potential Bradmans queueing up for their shot like Australia. Fleming was too intelligent, too sure of himself, too graceful in his strokeplay, too willing to say what he thought, and probably too handsome for yer average Kiwi to fully accept. He wasn’t the ‘gee, shucks’ humble bloke we love so much, and he copped it for that. If he’d been born in Sydney or Perth, the Aussies would have loved him.

Links on Flem
Fleming and Macca take to Shane Warne in 2001
The famous Richardson interview
THAT century v South Africa in 2003