I noticed a tweet this week from Indian cricket icon Sanjay Manjrekar, in which he lamented the short shelf-life of great individual sporting achievements in the modern era.
His contention – and it’s a good one – is that the sheer amount of cricket, in all its forms, means we “get over performances quickly.” We have little time to saviour a wonderful sporting moment, in other words, because often the very next day there’s a new match, possibly in a different format, that we’re expected to ‘care’ about.
I vividly remember several wonderful moments from years past. I was at the famous game at the SCG in 1996, when Michael Bevan hit Roger Harper down the ground for four off the last ball, sealing an unlikely victory. The year prior, I remember watching Ricky Ponting hit a glorious 90 on his test debut, only to be cruelly robbed by a shit LBW on 96.*
Since then, individual achievements have become even more absurd. Aaron Finch smashed a world record 156 in a T20 last year – ridiculous, really – and he apparently does this all the time now. James Faulkner won an ODI for Australia off his own bat against England earlier this year, smashing 69 off 41 balls. I watched this game on TV – with absolutely zero emotional investment.
And recently, Rohit Sharma hit his second ODI double-hundred, which sent Twitter into meltdown for about 48 hours.
In the digital age, 48 hours is probably about the longest amount of time that a shocking/absurd/magical sporting event can capture our attention for. It’s almost the same for actual news, if we want to be honest, but that has more to do with the dual decline of journalism and society in general.
Don Bradman’s test career stretched 20 years – including an enforced hiatus due to World War II – and the guy only played 52 tests. But I bet that many old men and women who lived to see Bradman would remember most, if not all, of his innings.
Fast forward to today, and picture Bradman gingerly backing up for an ODI, only to pull a hammy in the early stages of his innings. Picture Bradman being told he couldn’t play in the T20 side unless he “upped his run rate.” Picture the insecure Bradman scrolling through his Twitter account or Googling himself to read negative comments about his ‘boring’ style of batting. Picture Bradman being dropped for Glenn Maxwell at 3 in the test side.
Bradman would probably hit runs in the modern era, but we wouldn’t be as impressed by him. Granted, we are not longing for a national saviour in that we were during the interwar period. His test centuries would be ‘respected’, sure, but as we quickly turn our attention to the next inconsequential T20 fixture and strange modern phenomena like bat speed and slower-ball bouncers, the impact would surely be less.
Frighteningly, our memory and appreciation for truly exceptional sporting achievements is waning. Relentless consumerism has left us immune to excellence, as we ourselves become less impressive as a species with each passing generation.
By Dave Edwards
* The 90s truly was an amazing time for sport. Can’t emphasise this enough.