Fan frantic as Black Caps snatch defeat in death bowl
When it comes to an appraisal of the Twenty20 World Cup, a couple of unanswered questions come to mind.
First, did Jesse Ryder hole up in a pub somewhere and watch, entertaining fellow barflies with florid demonstrations of would-be slog-sweeps for six, all the time muttering under his breath, "I used to be New Zealand cricket"?
Second, does Daniel Vettori have the patience to challenge for the Most Injured Player gong, the highest award our summer code has to offer, held almost continuously since Shane Bond's retirement by Jacob Oram?
As pressing and pertinent as these puzzles might be, I think there's a far more basic query to ponder. It is something that has bothered me ever since I crawled into that metaphorical armchair and started to emotionally invest in outcomes where I was an observer and not a participant.
The question is this: does it hurt more to lose as a fan or as a player? Could there be a worse feeling than that experienced first hand by Tim Southee, a self-declared "death bowling" specialist who with a single ball guaranteed our exit, overstepping with the first delivery of the eliminator over against eventual winners West Indies and was promptly hit for maximum runs.
As disappointing as Southee and his team-mates must be in his own performance, I am prepared to argue that I took the losing result harder than he. It's a story that requires a little telling.
For many more years than I care to divulge, I was free to watch each televised sporting event that took my fancy. I also listened via radio to cricketing humiliations the world over, having to accommodate my tastes to no bedmate or lover.
With little regard to the lateness of the hour or the work responsibilities of the next day, I indulged every whim.
Now, the rules have changed.
Like many a red-blooded heterosexual man, I am blessed with a significant other who could not be more indifferent to such things.
The young lady's attitude to the national game is best demonstrated by her decision to formally dine last year at the precise moment of the Rugby World Cup final, suffering some boorish questioning of her patriotism when she refused to give either the anthem or haka even a flicker of recognition.
This type of behaviour might make for a certain frisson in the relationship, but I am all for points of difference, especially when her favoured recreational pursuit involves the removal of clothing to period music. When you go out with a burlesque dancer, it would be asking too much that she like sport as well.
Quite reasonably then, nocturnal enjoyment of cricket is not on the social agenda. There could be few ghastlier propositions for a non-fan than exposure to hours of droning radio monologues and anecdotes, interspersed with repetitive sponsors' announcements.
A portion of the latter involves middle-aged men complaining about erectile dysfunction, presumably an unfortunate by-product of excessive cricket commentary combined with reflection on Black Caps results that tend towards the pathetic.
It came as a surprise, then, when the young lady consented out of the blue to let me listen to the must-win game against the West Indies.
It was spontaneously given consent, more a one-time only opportunity than a precedent setting event.
Not quite believing my luck, I settled into the task at hand, tuning in at 10pm, hoping for an against-the-odds Black Caps reversal of form.
It is a matter of sad historical record what happened next.
Although I cannot claim to have remained awake for the match's entire duration, I was certainly riveted during its closing stages as New Zealand performed its standard party trick of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Untroubled by the need to improve the relative run rate, our batsmen meandered in the chasing of a modest total, enjoying their second tie of the tournament. Then Southee worked his special magic and three sleepless hours retrospectively seemed misspent.
Does the bowler really feel worse than I do about this? Southee's still on salary and gets to play another day.
In Twenty20, more than most games, you're as good or as bad as your last performance.
I, however, will likely never get the domestic equivalent of a leave pass again.
- © Fairfax NZ News