The Wednesday Three

This morning: the world is alive with the sound of cricket. Sri Lanka v Pakistan at Pallekele. Scotland v Canada at Ayr. West Indies v New Zealand at Basseterre. Ireland v Afghanistan at Dublin. England Women v India Women at Wormsley. Plus three County Championship Division One matches, two County Championship Division matches, and two Clydesdale Bank 40 matches.

That’s a lot of great cricket.

Five internationals matches. Three continents. Two formats. And two sexes.

Today, the game feels very global. These are the good days.

*

Mark Boucher retired, but you already knew that.

The incident, the subsequent announcement, and the outpouring of emotion that followed, all reminded me of former Minnesota Twin Kirby Puckett. He was hit in the jaw in the fall of 1995 and sat out of the rest of the season. In the spring of 1996, he woke up with blurred vision and was diagnosed with glaucoma, forcing his retirement from the game just a few months later. He was only 36 and had many good years ahead of him.

Unfortunately for Kirby, who was at the time a legitimate hero to an entire generation of baseball fans in Minnesota, his life took a dark turn after baseball. There were divorces and restraining orders and accusations of assault and false imprisonment. He withdrew from the public eye, from the game he loved.

In 2006, he suffered a massive stroke at his home in Arizona, and passed away the next day at the age of 45.

I don’t forgive Mr. Puckett for his off field transgressions, but his story is a cautionary tale of regret, sadness, and decay. It makes you ask yourself: how would I react if the one thing I loved more than anything was taken away from me? It’s a question only the best of us have to answer…the artists, the athletes, the geniuses. But it’s still worth the contemplation, I think.

Of course, Mark Boucher’s story is much different. He was already very close to retirement before the incident earlier this week. And he surely will have opportunities to work for Cricket South Africa if he chooses to do so, and I am sure he will have a long, fruitful life now that his international duties are over.

His story just reminded of Puckett’s, before the downfall.

*

England finished off of a 4-0 ODI whitewash of Australia yesterday.

2012 is a very important year for England. This is the year they can prove themselves the best team in the world, in all formats. But so far, it has been a mixed bag.

In tests, year to date, they have won three, lost four, and drawn one. In ODIs, they have won ten, lost none, and drawn none: a perfect record so far.

This is the exact opposite of what I had expected out of England in 2012. And, of course, they are peaking in the ODI format three years out from the next ODI World Cup, and their test form is sagging right before two of the biggest series of the year: South Africa and India.

And speaking of which: the first test between England and South Africa starts in just eight days. Very much looking forward to it.

*

One note about the South African tour of England: it really is a proper tour. Sure they play England in three tests, five ODIs, and three T20s, but they also play Somerset, Kent, Worcestershire, Derbyshire, and Gloucestershire. Which is just great for the counties, and it should raise the level of South Africa’s game, as well.

And while those T20s at the end of the tour look like throwaways, they are both countries’ final tune ups before the World T20 Cup in Sri Lanka. Very important matches, indeed.

*

That’s your lot. More tomorrow.

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