The Hockey/Cricket Synergy

Creating a Hockey Mythology

                            At first glance this headline may seem to be some sort of reaffirmation of the British colonial version of the history of Hockey. And lets face it, that is a big part of the history of the game. And that in some parts forms the basis of this editorial.


                            Of course there are the obvious comparisons. All that hand eye stuff, eleven a side, and even someone with pads on stopping the ball. In countries that come under the combined Hockey/cricket banner there are many who excelled at both. Think Ric and Jonty. You just have to say the first name and followers of the respective sports will know whom I mean. And I admit I am a life long fan of both games.


                            It is no surprise that while Hockey has well and truly surpassed cricket in terms of global relevance it is worrying that that the sport holds far less currency and prestige in the global sporting landscape than you would think it would. As a sport we are a huge global voice. We are also a vastly more disperse voice. How many languages does the Hockey family cover?


                            But back to the cricket. And what do they have we don’t. We believe its mythology. What makes this difference most glaring is that shared portion of our colonial history. Given both sports developed in a major way at around the same period in both time and place why is it cricket tells it story so well and Hockey, frankly, so poorly? And as usual there are several mitigating factors.

                             Essentially all the arguments fall back to either statistics or the art of lying a bit to tell a true story. Maybe not lies as such, but certainly exadurations.  Let’s face it, cricket is king of the stats game. A well-notated cricket score sheet tells the story of the game. Hockey has no way to compete with that. That’s not to say stats don’t have a place in our sport, just that they can’t tell the same story to the depth they can in cricket. You will never be able to find a statistical equivalent to Donald Bradman in Hockey, those metrics don’t exist.


                             But we can learn a lesson. Because the real legend of Brahman is neither in his numbers, nor the way he went about procuring them. And it is not in Bradman's skills at the piano, or on the squash court that Hockey can learn a lesson, nor in the headlines he created, it is the stories that cricket has created around him. The best example I can cite that truly exemplifies the ideal we are promoting is a story written by Bill ‘Tiger’ O’Rielly about his first encounter with Bradman. It occupies an entire chapter in his autobiography 'Tiger'. It is so much more than just a description of someone playing cricket that it borders on non-fiction in its literary meanderings.


They would go on to compete together and against each other both on and off the field for years to come. ‘Tiger’ was about the only person in Australia that would publicly criticize him. And what credentials did Bill have to criticize the great man. Bill took 144 test wickets at 22.59 at just under 2 runs an over. There was a world war placed very inconveniently in there. In first class cricket he averaged 16.6 for 774 wickets. Compare that to Shane Warne, 708 wickets at 25.01 in tests at 2.65 runs an over, 1319 wickets at 26.11 in first class cricket.


Hockey can take nothing from those figures, but it can take something from Tigers words. Facts are great for analysis, but culture comes from the stories we tell.

                                                     The Reverse Stick       Thursday June 22 2017

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