Wisden, that weighty journal that overlooks cricket with something of a paternal air, can occasionally surprise, and we applaud an article by Lawrence Booth, who searched the English media’s coverage of the game after the last Ashes series to uncover the most overused clichés.
So what can we expect this summer? The entire article is worth a read but what caught our eye was the lack of imagination among scribes when it came to describing individual players.
As Booth writes:
What became obvious during the Ashes was how certain players kept attracting certain adjectives. A search for “metronomic” threw up 13 usages, of which 12 applied to Glenn McGrath’s bowling, and four were followed by “accuracy”.
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And while McGrath spent all summer tick-tocking away, Shane Warne was transporting everyone to a land where time seemed not to exist. Of the 15 instances of “mesmeric” in the national papers, ten were applied to him. And when he was not putting opposition batsmen in a trance, he was being “ebullient” against their bowlers. …
Other tags revealed deeper truths. Justin Langer scooped up eight of the 16 instances of “nuggety”, and of the six other batsmen to be similarly attributed, four – Andrew Strauss, Allan Border, Hugh Morris and Ed Joyce – were or had been left-handers. Had Graham Thorpe played, then the nugget references would probably have doubled.
We can take Booth’s case further, without even trying. It’s practically against the law to write about opener Matthew Hayden without using the words “powerful Queenslander” and we’d add “dogged” or possibly “courageous” to Langer’s “nuggety”. Damien Martyn is “graceful” with “superb timing” and Michael Clarke might still squeak in as a “precocious talent”. If not, we’ll call him “impetuous”.
Of the Australian fast bowlers, Stuart Clark is “McGrath-like”, while Brett Lee is most likely to be qualified as a “tearaway” fast bowler and Mitchell Johnson promises to “add variety to the Australian attack”. Stuart MacGill? “In Warne’s shadow”. Adam Gilchrist? “Incomparable”.
Who have we missed?
Send your thoughts on the most appropriate cliché for Australian or English Test players to [email protected]