Tag Archives: English Cricket

Operation Grandma: Sharp practice, or merely a mensch?

“Oh, I am so sorry,” I comforted my friend on the telephone on Sunday evening, after she informed me that her nonagenarian grandmother had recently passed away.

“Was it sudden?” I enquire, with sensitivity and interest (they say women like those).

“What? Your family had only just bought her a brand new 42 inch LCD TV?”

Grandma’s passing had, clearly, not been anticipated.

“They paid over 4,000 shekels for it, but only want two and a half?”

I sit up.

“When can I come and see it?”

My very own Mivtza Savta (Operation Grandma) was underway . . .

And Savta’s Sharp LC-42SH7E – or, to be completely accurate, LC-42SH7EBK (it is the black model) – is already enjoying pride of place in my living room (with the trusted Sony CRT [see I love my old TV] which accompanied me on aliya way back in January 1996 having been semi-retired to my bedroom).

Do I feel bad? No.

Was it wrong of me to have negotiated the price down even further, to 2,000 shekels? Perhaps.

Then again, I had been thinking in terms of a 50 inch and, thoughtfully, chose not to trouble the bereaving family with the fact – gleaned from hastily conducted Internet research – that the LC-42SH7EBK doesn’t exactly distinguish itself on AV review forums.

Moreover, I had both the respect and decency not to enquire whether Savta was one of those old dears who would have the telly on in the background from dawn till teeth-out time without so much as five minutes on standby (and what could that do to a Liquid Crystal Display?!)

So, far from being a shameless opportunist – like those so-and-sos who could hardly wait until the end of my grandfather’s shiva to enquire about his house – I have done the grieving family a real favour, and might even be a genuine contender for my very own Mensch of the Month award.

The Ashes series “Down Under” gets underway in a couple of weeks’ time, and I am having a private satellite dish installed just to enable me to watch that greatest of sporting rivalries from the comfort of my Melchett couch (while also using the opportunity to finally rid myself of the curse that is HOT). And when Andrew Strauss takes guard for the first ball, or Jimmy Anderson (pictured) charges across my living room wall to deliver it, I will spare a loving, appreciative thought for Savta . . . zichrona livracha.

Ashes to Ashes . . .


England’s Ashes Turning to Dust

I have no idea how many readers of melchett mike have the slightest interest in cricket, that most noble and fascinating of all sports, but the events of the past few days have given me little choice but to indulge my frustrations.

This time last week, England were one good Test match away from winning back the Ashes from Australia, and holding the little urn (left) for only the second time in twenty years. A victory in the 4th Test at Headingley, the venue most suited to “English-style” bowlers, would have put England two-nil up in the series with only one Test to play.

But, in spite of having lost their best batsman Kevin Pietersen to injury, and with talismanic all-rounder Andrew Flintoff a serious doubt, England’s spineless selectors infuriatingly stuck with the same underperforming batsmen. In fact, England were only one-nil up in the series because the Aussies had fallen way below their usual high standards. But, with the Ashes there for the taking, the English selectors bottled it.

And, surprise surprise, England were bowled out for a pitiful 102 in their first innings and, this afternoon, for 263 in their second. Australia, who scored 445 in the only innings they required, won by an innings and 80 runs. So, the series is tied at one-all, and it is now all down to the 5th and final Test at the Oval on Thursday week. As the holders, the Aussies only require a draw to retain the Ashes.

Ravi Bopara: couldn't play with himself

Bopara: couldn't play with himself

Current openers Andrew Strauss and Alistair Cook are probably the best England have. Following them, however, comes Ravi Bopara (right), who has now scored a measly 105 runs in the first four Tests. Quite frankly, he looks like he couldn’t play with himself. Ian Bell, at number four, appears terrified every time he walks down the pavilion steps, while Paul Collingwood, although a tough competitor, is not quite a Test number five. In their combined six visits to the crease during this 4th Test, the gormless trio amassed the grand total of 16 (yes, that’s sixteen) runs. With wicketkeeper Matt Prior – who has batted commendably above himself – having to come in as high as six, it completes a most depressing picture for England cricket fans.

Derek RandallEven if this isn’t England’s worst-ever top order, I certainly can’t recall a poorer one. Perhaps I have unreasonable expectations, having grown up spoilt with the riches of English batting talent: Geoffrey Boycott, Graham Gooch, David Gower, Mike Gatting, Allan Lamb and Ian Botham (even though they rarely all “fired” together). And, in reserve, you had my all-time hero, the mercurial Derek Randall (above left), Graeme Fowler, Chris Broad, Tim Robinson, . . .

The Key to regaining the Ashes?

The Key to regaining the Ashes?

Geoff Miller, England’s insipid head of selectors, is as totally uninspiring in the role as he was in that of spinning all-rounder (in 34 Tests between 1976 and 1984). The central contracts system, too, has a lot to answer for, encouraging perseverance with continual failures, such as Bopara and (to a lesser extent) Bell, rather than giving a chance to in-form county players. Okay, everyone knows I am a Kent fan, but the gutsy Rob Key (above right) – who had scored 123, 270 not out, 25 and 110 not out in his four previous visits to the crease (and with a respectable average of 31 in 15 Tests) – should have been given the nod for this 4th Test.

Anyhow, it is no use looking back. But, if England are to have any chance of regaining the Ashes, Key or 39-year old Mark Ramprakash – averaging over 90 in this year’s County Championship, and who would be playing on his home ground – must be selected for the Oval (I would play them both).

I am praying for a miracle, because, with the Aussies’ tails now up, a minor one at least is what it is gonna take.

What we Israelis can learn from the Islanders (Caribbean Trip, Week 2)

“When da plane full, dare nut enough room fer all de bags.”

We landed in Barbados, on Friday evening, only to discover that my suitcase (as well as numerous others) hadn’t made the flight from Antigua. “Lost Baggage” staff at the Liat Airlines counter merely shrugged their shoulders. I shouldn’t have assumed that my case would be on the next flight (there are several a day), either. “It should get ere in a coupla days.” When I queried as to what I was supposed to wear in the interim, they just chuckled. “Clothes cheap on da island.” And I would be entitled to 50 Bajan [=25 US] Dollars to cover the cost (of a pair of flip flops, perhaps). Anyway, they had absolutely no idea why I was getting so worked up.

I was pulling my hair out, too – during the lunch break of the Antigua Test (which, incidentally, was great) – having to queue twenty minutes for a sandwich . . . when, on entering the shop, I was third in line. And, when I finally was served, the Subway employee, with excrutiating slowness, arranged the tomatoes, cucumbers, and olives, etc, as if she was planning to enter her yeasty work of art to the Tate Modern (Damien and Tracey, that’s my idea!)

As I have now learned, however, trying to tell a Caribbean Islander that you are in a hurry is about as effective as informing an Israeli that you respond better to politeness. The stereotype of the Islanders – portrayed memorably in a British TV ad for Malibu rum (“Imagine if we Caribbeans took life as seriously as the rest of the world”) – is remarkably accurate. One informed me, yesterday, that the supermarket was a “five to ten minute walk” away. It took me no more than a minute and a half.

Enjoying the important thing in life (last Tuesday)

Enjoying the important thing in life (last Tuesday)

It has taken me over a week to adapt, but I am starting to appreciate the huge benefits of such a laid-back approach to life. These people just don’t get stressed about anything. They don’t care how much you earn, paid for your house, or tip, about your relationship with your God (and which of His commandments you choose to observe), or whether you are right, left, straight, gay, or a little bit of both. They exhibit a wonderful simplicity and seamlessness, not seeming to give a toss (excuse the puns) about much other than cricket . . . and, even then, not in the aggressive, jingoistic way that the English, for example, ‘enjoy’ their sport.

I tried to imagine a similar scenario to the airport one involving Israelis (somewhat tragically, I am often informed that my behavior is getting me extremely close to becoming a ‘real’ one) . . . The testosterone-challenged (too much) males of the species would have referred Liat staff to the private parts of their mothers (“Koos ima shelachem”), whilst their hysterical female mating partners would have been feigning to pass out and begging their men to calm down, all the while fanning themselves with a copy of Yediot (the closest Israeli equivalent of the British Sun ‘newspaper’ . . . but without the tits [if you exclude Bibi and Katzav]).

In another week and a half, I will be back in Tel Aviv, with fellow Israelis breathing down my neck as I withdraw cash from the ATM, attempting to push in front of me in every imaginable excuse for a queue, and generally being aggressive and discourteous. I am currently involved in a building project, and hearing how my partners address our architects and other hired professionals, during our weekly meetings, makes even this lawyer shudder.

So, what is it about Israelis?

We think too much. We question too much. We agonise too much. We say too much (often when it doesn’t concern us). We kvetch (complain) too much. We argue too much. We are over-cynical. And we are certainly too competitive and covetous. Woody Allen sums it up best, when he says that “Jews are just like everyone else . . . only more so.” And I would take that one step further: “Israelis are just like Jews . . . only more so.”

My (almost anti-Semitic sounding) view is that there are just too many Jews squeezed into so tiny a land mass. It often feels as if you are living amongst several million Sigmund Freuds, Alan Sugars, and Woody Allens (with several thousand Bernie Madoffs thrown in for bad measure). And, sometimes, the sense of suffocation causes me to fantasise about taking my leave, not just from Israel, but from Jewish life in general (whilst, at the same time, recognising that I probably wouldn’t last too long in such self-imposed exile).

True, the safety issues that Israelis have to contend with are rather more existential than those relating to bowlers’ run-ups. We can’t, however, perpetually use the matzav (security “situation”) to excuse our behavior, much of which is caused, not by our lovely Arab neighbours, but by our own greed, jealousy of, and lack of respect and tolerance for, our fellow compatriots and coreligionists (not to mention others).

I love my Land, and Israelis have many qualities, not least of which are a candour and straightforwardness not exhibited by my other compatriots, the British. At last week’s Test, England cricket supporters unfailingly greeted every outspoken utterance of flamboyant, exuberant West Indies fans with sycophantic laughter, which – amongst themselves (and on their own “patch”) – would undoubtedly, instead, have taken the form of racial slurs and epithets. But, there I am, being cynical again.

We angst-ridden Israelis (and Jews), with some justification, are always worried about what might happen tomorrow. And we are so busy competing and achieving, that we have forgotten (if we ever really knew) how – like the Caribbean Islanders – to “live the now” . . . and just be.

Fiasco Cricket (Caribbean Trip, Week 1)

Just got back from a day of beer and beach cricket, at Antigua’s Runaway Bay, that helped us to forget the fiasco – rather than renowned Caribbean “calpyso” – cricket  of yesterday . . . the shortest match in Test cricket’s 132-year history.

The second Test, between West Indies and England, at the new Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, was abandoned after a mere 14 minutes and 1.4 overs (for Americans, that’s ten pitches). The staggering incompetence of the Antiguan cricket authorities, in not preparing a suitable outfield, was best summed up (as many things are) by Sir Geoffrey Boycott: “They can’t even organise beach cricket, let alone Test cricket – they’d probably arrange it for when the tide is coming in.” The words “piss up” and “brewery” also come to mind. Though, I suppose it was Friday the thirteenth.

Naomi or Sol?Chatting up footballer Emile Heskey’s cousin (right) in the pub afterwards was only small consolation . . . especially since, as my kind friend John pointed out, she was more Sol Campbell than Naomi.

I spent the entire ten hour flight from Tel Aviv to New York, on Monday, engaged in a titanic struggle for control of the arm-rest with the “Monkey” (the generic name I assign to certain types [the majority] of Israeli men) sitting next to me. And, as in the recent conflict in Gaza, no clear victor emerged. Now, I admit to having a problem with many of the locals in Israel. I have an even bigger problem, however, with those who have left (including “Monkey” and, it seemed, the majority of Monday’s flight). Israel’s human exports – unlike those of its fruit – are, on the whole, not the choicest. Moreover, while it is complete prejudice, being a diehard Zionist, I just don’t like Israelis who leave Israel. And, whenever I used to hear them in London, I always had a strong urge to tell them to “go home”.

In Central ParkNew York City is a wonderful place. It is not the most beautiful city on earth. Nor are its restaurants or nightlife the best. And the city’s residents won’t win any awards for being the most charming or interesting. It does possess, however, a certain indefinable magic, quite unlike any other city I have been to, and some day I hope to spend more time there.

I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art – where I was somewhat disturbed at being far more preoccupied with our sultry WASPish tour guide than any of the works of the Great Masters she was attempting to illuminate (male nature . . . or philistinism?!) – and also Ground Zero.

Pictorial memorial to 9/11 victimsOver seven years since 9/11 (and six since my last visit to the site), you know what I thought when I saw the photos of, and memorials to, all those innocent and brave civilians and firefighters? I thought “You murdering fucking Muslim bastards” (no asterisk this time). Apologies for nothing more profound . . . but that is what I thought. And, since that horrible, horrible day, the bastards have only become more radical. (Before the “PC brigade” start accusing me of racism, they would do well to remind themselves of the hijackers’ religion, and the name in which they carried out their demonic acts.)

Anyway, thankfully for me and the eight thousand-strong Barmy Army (travelling England cricket supporters), the Test match has been rescheduled for tomorrow, at the old Antigua Recreation Ground. I only hope it goes ahead this time. Otherwise, we will have to spend even more time on Antigua’s  white sandy beaches, playing cricket and drinking beer . . . and who would want that?!

Spineless Cricketers: Murderous Muslims Your Problem Too

England’s cricketers are well-known for their spinelessness on the field. Now they have gained the same reputation for their actions off it.

After getting drubbed five-nil by their Indian hosts in the recent one-day series, the Englishmen returned home early from their tour, following last week’s terror attack on Mumbai. What wonderful guests! They are now apparently awaiting the conclusions of a security report before deciding whether to return for the scheduled two Test matches.

Do England’s cricketers, and their management, really need reminding that it was only three years ago that bombs were going off on London‘s Underground and buses? Islamic terrorism is not a problem affecting only India. The Englishmen should have shown solidarity with their hosts, rather than acting as if what happened had nothing to do with them.

The cancer of Islamic extremism is not going to go away any time soon. It will affect the lives of the children and grandchildren of Kevin Pietersen, England’s cricket captain, no less than those of our own. This cowardly retreat sends out all the wrong messages, not in cricketing terms, but in human ones.

Australia’s cricketers continued with their Ashes tour, in the summer of 2005, after 52 people – as a proportion of the UK population, a far higher number than last week’s fatalities – had been murdered, by four British Muslims, on London’s transport system.

I don’t put this difference down to some brave streak in the Australian national character, but rather to the patronising attitude towards “the Subcontinent”. If such a terror attack had occurred during a tour of Australia or New Zealand, the Englishmen would still be out there. And, if it had happened during an Aussie tour of India, they would have acted no differently than the Poms.

The discomfort of the white “Anglo” on “the Subcontinent” was perhaps best illustrated by English cricket great, Ian Botham, who, after returning home early from a 1984 tour of Pakistan, said it was “the kind of place to send your mother-in-law for a month, all expenses paid”.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be at all surprised by the actions of professional sportsmen, the prime motivation of whom, these days, would appear to be the next fat pay cheque.

It would be so wonderful however if, just for once, they showed the public – the ones who, ultimately, pay their obscene salaries – that they are not completely disconnected from the rest of us mere mortals. England’s cricketers, by staying put and doing what they are being paid so (ridiculously) well to do, would then have been sending a message to the Godless murderers that they, like us, will not cower in the face of Evil.

But, following the spineless retreat of the England cricketers in their hosts’ hours of need, many Indians – even cricket fans – might not welcome them back. And Israelis – knowing better than most the value of moral support at such times (and, also, more than their fair share of tour cancellations) – would understand them.