Cricket’s Soul

Today Andy Murray became the first Brit to win the Gentlemen’s singles title at Wimbledon since 1936. It was a thrilling match, I must say, from start to finish. Both players ran each other positively ragged. And if it had gone the full five sets I don’t think either player would have ever walked again.

But my favorite part of the entire match was the final game of the match, for two reasons:

1. Djokovicz was down a break, down 40-love, and facing three Championship points. All in front of a decidedly partisan home crowd at Centre Court, with the whole of Great Britain supporting his opponent.

And so most of us would have been okay with him being a bit lazy, rolling over, and just letting Murray have his moment. But he didn’t. He fought back again and again, stretching the game out to its breaking point, before finally losing.

All hope of winning was lost, but he showed a spirit and a fight back that I think we can appreciate. It gave me a very deep respect for the player.

And with the Ashes set to start on Wednesday, I do hope we get the same sort of fight from the 11 men from England and the 11 men from Australia. It will be easy, during the third Test, in the hot sun, or facing another rain delay, to not give 100% of yourself to the game. For the sake of the series, let us all hope the cricketers remember Novak’s spirit this afternoon in London.

2. For the final game of the match, the ESPN commentary team did not utter a single word. They just let the match breathe. It was perfect And something that our friendly cricket commentators could learn from. There are times, of course, when they keep quiet, but most of the time they simply drone on and on and until every space in the match is filled with white noise. And those spaces, those moments of quiet and reflection, of a player leaning on his bat in the sun, as the new bowler marks his run, as the crowd murmurs a long, those are the moments that give cricket its soul.

Now, as someone new to the game, I must say that I learn a great deal from the better commentary teams, but goodness me just shut the hell up once in a while.

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Anyway, congrats to Andy Murray. Very well played and well deserved. I find it silly that it matters so much to people where an athlete is born, but I think I might need to stop fighting that battle sooner rather than later.

Murray was born in Scotland, but he trains in Miami, and his coach is from the Czech Republic. Like all modern athletes, Murray is very much a global brand, a multi-national corporation. He has supporters the world over. Should it really matter so much that he was born in Scotland?

And when the pro-English nationalism works itself into a fervor again starting Wednesday, I hope the home fans remember that Kevin Pietersen and Jonathon Trott are South African, and that it is perfectly okay to stand proudly behind athletes that hail from a different side of a line in the sand than you do.

Okay, I’ll stop. Congrats to Andy, and congrats to Britain. Enjoy this, soak it all in.

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