This is the first time I have used the word "ooze" in a publication. I loved it. A pair of "o's", then before you get the chance for a rest the "z" comes in. The "e" is like a post-coital cigarette.
Ooze. There it goes again. The first two letters remind me of the start to Jimmy Franklin's test career. The "z" a tribute to the somnolescent nature of most of the World Cup so far. The last letter indicates what the songwriter of the tournament theme
Song "The game of love and unity" must have been on.
Ooze. Works well with words like "confidence", "talent" and "charm". Works badly with "discharge".
Ross Taylor oozes talent. Ross Taylor will win us the World Cup. Maybe not this one, but one day he will have it in his paw like a happy magpie with a shiny thing. Shane Bond also oozes, talent mostly, but sometimes like a Porsche with a wee problem underneath.
Other players ooze - Ponting (confidence), Bracken (class), Sangakkara (charm), Murali (talent). It is hard to see these four not deciding the Cup. But please note Graeme Smith doesn't "ooze". He is "unctuous". That is completely different.
We can all spot talent oozing. We see Sangakkara wafting a ball through covers, or Kallis playing so late it seemed like he didn't know the ball was coming. Or Bondy arcing a ball into off stump, or Murali dropping yet another doosra on a length. Or Michael Clarke fielding like a swallow. That's class. We can see it oozing.
However there are players who do not ooze. They are the rugged individuals. The blokes in the team who had to train that little bit harder, spend the extra half hour in the bashed up nets at Karori Park. Run three more times around the block. The guys who play ugly because that's the only way they can. The guys who play with a whiff of borrowed pads, and meat pies for lunch. Mark Gillespie I'm talking about you. And you Andrew Hall. Step on up Messrs Styris (as a bowler, at least), Nixon, Peterson, McMillan, Hogg, Strauss. Club cricketers who have risen above their station through slightly better timing, slightly faster twitch muscle. I wouldn't be surprised to find any of you playing against my team, the Chargers, at Mangere Central Park any second Saturday.
People will say - what about Macca's ability to scythe a ball over the boundary. Yup, timing's good, bat's heavy. His eye is fabulous. But every club team has a large bully who comes in at 5 or 6, just when you think you have them by the Velcro, and biff bang pow. Every team also has a keeper who spends the whole time saying annoying things until you want to smack him not the ball (Nixon). Every team has a pot-bellied medium pace bowler who spits and bellows, whose action suggests he is faster than he is (Hall, Styris). Every team has a spinner who tries off-spin, gets smacked around the park, then changes to leg-spin (Peterson).
The semi-finals have been written onto the dance card. We are waltzing with the boys in blue. Various melanges of green and yellow shake it in the other semi. And while I will be watching for those moments of talent - a lofted drive from Hayden, or a Gibbs special, or McCullum changing direction to clutch a catch, I will also be watching for the guys who don't ooze. The World Cup is, actually, in their hands, not the elite. It is whether their grit wins the day. It is whether their innocuous ball gets a wicket. It is whether their hoik over square leg angles too high. It is whether these characters ride the averages or are found out, like Inzamam found out the bowling of Watson, Harris and Larsen, Eden Park, March 1992.