Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The times they are a-changing

The England cricket team seems to be in the midst of a vain search for itself at the moment. Things are changing and, being a team made up of people who grasp onto control like an owl grasps a mouse, it has not gone well, because change really can’t be controlled—no matter how much we like to think it can.

Just a couple of years ago, England cricket was on top of the world, with a number one ranking, top 10 batsmen and bowlers, and a seemingly unending pipeline of talented replacements ready to fill in when necessary.

Then something hit England like a 150 kph cricket ball. No, it wasn’t Mitchell Johnson. It was time. Although time was riding on Johnson’s shoulders with each run up in the last Ashes series, he was only the messenger.

With time, cricketers age. The heat takes a toll it once did not. The eyes dim. The muscles react a tad less quickly. Thinking grows foggy after long periods of play. Mins are easily distracted. Meanwhile, other cricketers—other teams—are aging into their prime. Where there was once weakness new strength is developed. And it seemed to happen overnight.

My little girl is changing so much and so fast that it is dizzying. She went from a size 8 to a size 11 shoe in a couple of months. Just a couple of months ago she was a five-year-old dancer to old movie musicals, a Barbie and Candyland expert unparalleled, and the little girl who still held my hand in the parking lot every time. She would step gingerly into the swimming pool, and hang onto a teacher or the edge. We could sit together at the library and color for long stretches. Now she’s nearly six, hardly ever watches old movies, prefers playing running games like “Where’s My Chicken,” and, instead of reaching for my hand in the parking lot, accepts mine when offered. She no longer likes to be read to at bedtime. We usually don't color any more at the library. She jumps into the deep end of the swimming pool—with relish.

The problem is that she is in an in-between pale. She has advanced in many ways beyond the things she knows, but cannot yet quite do the things she wants to be ready for. And England finds itself in a similar place, I believe. An in-between place.

Things change. We cannot control that. What we can control is our reaction to that change. Perhaps Alistair Cook could release his clutching and increasingly brittle grip long enough to realize he might need a break from Test cricket to get himself back in order, and that there is no shame in that. The shame would be to continue on as he is and ruining his career. Perhaps the England selectors and management could recognize that they are suffering from what we in the States call “too many chiefs and not enough Indians.” It’s crude, but what it means is that there are too many people in charge, trying to stay in charge because they think that’s what is needed, trying to control too many small things and harming good players in the process.

As my own daughter changes, I cannot control how she changes. I can influence. But I cannot control. I can control my own reaction, and, like the England team, that is not always a success. As her personality develops, and she acts more and more like me, that can lead to frustrations and arguments because if there’s one thing none of us likes to see reflected back at us it is a true image of how we really are.

The Loudon Wainwright III song “Daughter” has been going through my mind recently, and is in my earphones as I write this.

“That’s my daughter in the water,” he writes. “I lost every time I fought her. I lost every time.” I feel his pain.

But the thing is, I’m not losing an argument to my daughter, nor is he. We are losing an argument with change. She’s going to grow up. She’s going to change. I just have to be there for her whatever that means.

The same thing goes for England players and management. You can’t argue with change. You just have to be there in the middle of it. Instead of fighting it, work with it to your own betterment. Take some time to adjust your game and approach to the changing cricket landscape around you, and the changing physical and emotional landscape within.

Even when things change, my bet is you’ll still love the game.

Even when things change, I’ll still love my daughter.

That’s my daughter in the water. … Who’d have ever thought?

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