Honest Arthur

12 01 2010

It is unusual that the average England supporter feels anything more generous than a grudging respect and often strong antipathy for cricket and rugby teams from the southern hemisphere. When asked why this should be the case, mentions of arrogance, accusations of gamesmanship, irritating supporters and a lack of objectivity on their part usually feature high on the list.

The real reason for this automatic dislike of all things southern (although it is rarely admitted)  is simply that these teams are just very hard to beat. In rugby particularly, bar 3 years under Clive Woodward, the southern hemisphere has reigned supreme. In cricket it is much the same with South Africa and Australia regularly beating English sides (although the two Ashes victories and England’s away win in SA in 2005 are exceptions). New Zealand cricketers though are the southern hemisphere’s most liked team mainly because of their ability to lose to England both home and away. Nevertheless, even the kiwis have an inner steel which is distinctly southern in its effect of making them difficult to beat.

An honest South African coach - who'd of thought it?!

Sport is a highly emotive thing, and this emotion is rarely logical. It is therefore interesting and certainly unusual that a warm glow of respect for Mickey Arthur, SA’s coach, has washed through me this morning upon reading a report in the Telegraph on an interview he has given. The honesty and humour which shines through his comments is light years away from that of his counterpart for the Bok’s rugby team, Pieter De Villiers, whose interviews are usually an extended exercise in obfuscation. South African’s aside, the level of straight talking demonstrated by Arthur is unusual in world sport and should provide a template for coaches everywhere.

With South Africa 1-0 down with one to play it is plainly obvious to any seasoned observer that the South African’s will be asking the Wanderer’s groundsman, Chris Scott, to prepare a result pitch. With the Protea’s strength being seam bowling, Arthur has asked for as much grass as possible to be left on the pitch (meaning a wicket on which the ball should move around and make it easier for the bowlers). Every home side in test cricket regularly colludes with ground staff on pitch preparation  but few admit it and the honesty is invigorating.

With the series becoming increasingly bad tempered, the tone of these comments are particularly welcome. With so much pride at stake it is only natural that tempers fray. It is important that comments such as AB de Villiers unnecessary ones regarding ball tampering during the last test are kept to a minimum and that the game is played in the right spirit.

Granted I and other sports commentators would have less to write about, but wouldn’t the world be a much warmer and friendlier place if this honesty was the norm?!

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