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10

Part 16: Charisma - Just a Dark Horse?

by Aye Calypso 3

After another clinical, efficient display against less than stellar opposition, the Black Caps are rightly feeling satisfied with themselves. But a dark cloud hangs over the team. Apparently they lack charisma. No, not the need for an Olympic medal winning horse roaming the outfield, but that indefinable magic that gives cricket journos something to write about.

In the Guardian, the word is out:

somehow there is efficiency without charisma. Shane Bond excepted, the best fast bowler in the tournament. They conform to the sort of old stereotype that still dogs German football teams. Perhaps it is the uniform, as bible-black as Dylan Thomas's Llareggub at night, which lends a puritanical air.

It would be fair to say Thomas' fictional Welsh mining town (spell it out backwards) may not mean a lot to our lads, but we get the message. Dour, stoic, boring.

Should we be up in arms at this insult directed at our growing, but fragile sense of nationhood? Or is he right, are our cricketers a bunch of emotionally retarded automatons?

At first blush it seems wrong. The lads celebrate wickets with gusto. Lots of mistimed white boy high-fives and bottom touching/slapping. They have gone to, and over, the boundary as often as the other big names in the tournament. Brendon McCallum has been awarded the chattiest wicket-keeper award. They are multicultural, short and tall.

What do these people want? Was it charismatic when Chris Cairns had long hair? Or when the lads ensured that the smoke in South Africa wasn't just coming from the BBQ? Is it charismatic to lose, but have batsman walloping holes in the dressing room wall live on TV. (a la Ken Rutherford in South Africa)

But then maybe they are right. It is in fact our national psyche that is on show. The Black Caps are doing a good Kiwi thing. They are getting on with it. They have planned, prepared, and are executing. They are all-rounders, all as good as each other (save for Bond of course). They are as comfortable working in the office as they are doing DIY on the weekend.

There is no Brett Lee, putting out albums and still in the face of a batsman, or Freddy Flintoff, paddle boating, or Murali wide-eyed, all flailing limbs.

What there is, is Dan Vettori looking unco, but oh so effective; there is Scott Styris, last pick at school dance, but showing the finest of form. And then there is Flem - cool under pressure, movie star looks, but so far limiting his cinematic roles to ventilation systems and real estate.

I don't think the South Africans are greatly different from us in this regard, but no one accuses them of lacking charisma. I guess its because they wear green. In reality what is happening is that we are a small country, not in the same timezone as Europeans, and they had not really thought about us doing well. To try to explain it they go for some 1950s stereotype of New Zealanders.

One thing is for sure - whatever happens I will take winning over charisma any day of the week. But we could consider a CD of sing-a-long hits. Mark Gillespie does Ten Guitars? They will no doubt be queuing up for that in Mumbai.

Grant Robertson

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