Monday, December 16, 2013

Zenith

Most commonly it's only possible to say that something has reached its zenith post fact. You need to see it on the way down before it's reasonable to say that it has peaked. In fact, until something begins to decline one could argue that it can't have peaked. Sandwiches are probably as widespread and popular as they're ever going to be, but they haven't reached their zenith, they have plateaued. They have been at the same popularity for a long time, and it's hard to imagine that sandwiches will fall out of favour or achieve sacred significance without a major shift in global attitudes. Sometimes, though, decline is built into the system and it's possible to know you're in a golden age as it's happening, just waiting for it all to come to an end.

The boundaries are a little fuzzy, but from roughly 1998 to 2008, Australia was the best cricket team in the world. For most of that period we weren't the best by totalling up wins and losses and realising that one team was a few percentage points in front of the others; we were the best in the sense that nobody could beat us. Most teams couldn't even come close. From 1999-2001 Australia set the all time record for consecutive test match wins (16), then drew a few matches, won a few, even lost a series before matching the record again from 2005-2008. For comparison the next highest in the record books is eleven. During the same period we won three consecutive one day World Cups, the second one without losing a game, the third one without even a close match.

I knew at the time that it wouldn't last, couldn't last, but ten years is a long time to maintain the idea that decline is inevitable when all the evidence is to the contrary. A good player would retire and a player as good or even better would come in to replace him. We lost The Ashes to England, everyone assumed the era of Australia was over, and we then proceeded to beat them 5-0 when they toured Australia, something that hadn't been done since the 1920s.

People would say at various times during this unprecedented period of winning "I wish we'd lose a few games, it's boring knowing we're going to win". These were the same people, unsurprisingly, howling for blood when Australia lost several series in a row two or three years ago. Constant winning only seems boring in the middle of it. What people really want is the something that feels like a contest while it's happening, but with the secret knowledge that victory is inevitable. Once that assurance of victory goes away and you realise that you're be watching a five day game that will probably end in a loss, oh how you yearn for the "boredom" of excellence

During that same period other teams had players that were as good or better, but only one or two at a time, never eleven at once. So I know that I'll see Australia produce players just as good, but it's disappointing to think I'll never see a team as good as the one I spent ten years watching. After a few years of mediocrity, Australia is once again competitive, but not in a fashion that suggests long term success or short term excellence. I think most cricket fans recognise that Australian cricket has seen its zenith and while it won't be continual decline from here on out, there will always be part of me thinking "eh, I've seen better".

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.