It helps that he played in the New Zealand cricket team when they lost the 1992 semi-final and went on to coach India, writes Georgie Wright, daughter of John.
My dad has taught me a fair few things over my 25 years. He instilled the importance of pursuing the best possible outcome, and that it’s perfectly acceptable to return to Ikea five times in a month for the perfect flatpack shelves. He showed me that you have to muck in, which in my case involved fencing, or tailing lambs so they don’t get maggot-infested arses. He taught me that there’s no point buying fancy new things when there’s a perfectly acceptable alternative in the back cupboard, although forcing me into neon green Looney Tune snow pants before neon was cool was not my preferred learning method. He also played in the New Zealand cricket team when they lost the 1992 semi-final against Pakistan, and now I need him to teach me how to get over the nation’s latest crushing loss.
When your dad has captained New Zealand and coached India, it’s fairly hard to avoid cricket, despite my many early attempts otherwise. Mind you, I learned about his achievements from everyone but him. As a keen guitar player, he’s generally more happy chatting to me about his songwriting, or sending me links to the best YouTube fingerpicking tutorials.
But after teetering on the cusp of a severe aneurysm alongside the rest of New Zealand on Sunday, I realised that if there was ever a time to call on Dad’s cricketing prowess, it was now. So I rang him up for some fatherly advice about how to get over the blow of defeat, the bitter aftertaste, and my English colleagues putting a “Runners Up” sash on my chair.
Hi, Dad. How are you?
I’m all right. I need some help after that cricket match. What were you thinking watching it?
Well, at a certain stage, I thought and hoped that New Zealand was going to win. And then the events of that last over, and the chances of that ball hitting Stokes’ bat and running away to the boundary… I hate to think what the odds would be of that ever happening again.
I’ve never seen it in cricket at such a crucial stage of the game. It made such a difference. But the thing about those overthrows is that if it hadn’t gone to the boundary, most players, even in that situation, would not run. Because that’s just the way it is. But since that ball went to the boundary, it’s an automatic addition to the score. It was just a freak thing. So then you think: oh hell, George, there’s a million things that go through your mind watching it.
I’m not an expert at the ins and outs of the rules around that – or I wasn’t, until it happened and I consumed everything about it – but that was brutal.
Well, the whole thing really is that sometimes in sport, and life, things aren’t fair. Sometimes you meet or watch a person, and the quality of the person or performance – you just hope that everything works out. That it’s fair. That they get the rub of the green, because the way they approach the game, or life in general, is admirable in every way you look at it. And if ever a side deserved to win a World Cup by the way that they battled and fought, that was a team that did.
Did you expect that result?
Right throughout the tournament, even before they got to the final, they’d won the support of the world’s cricketing followers. So for the result to work out how it did, it was one of those things by a complete freak incident, and one or two other issues that took place, you just felt robbed. The wrong team won. And of course you balance it, being a Kiwi. But there must be a lot of people – probably not in England – who feel that way. And that was the reality, really.
Kane and his whole team, that whole party, won so much admiration and respect for the way they played and behaved in that match. But they’d already done that before they got to the game. I think the feeling of being robbed pervaded not just New Zealand cricket fans, but also those following the underdogs. Because that’s what New Zealand was.
How do you mentally deal with something like that? That sort of shit luck?
Time. It’s going to take a bit of time. For any of the team that have stayed and are reading the newspapers in England, it must be particularly gruelling.
How awful is the feeling of losing something like that?
It’s a pretty empty thing. It’s a sense of loss. You can go over and over and over it, and nothing changes. The trick is to get on with life.
Any tips for getting over it?
Everyone’s different. Everyone has their own way of dealing with disappointment. It’s a long tournament and being that close, nearly winning. Time is a great healer. But these sorts of things you don’t forget.
I don’t understand how everyone keeps a stony face. I was running around shrieking like a rat with its tail chopped off.
You’ve got to be emotionally in control. You’re concentrating on doing a job. Sometimes it helps to be emotional, but sometimes it doesn’t. The trick with sport is you’ve got to be totally in the game, and in the now. You’ve got to be able to have your concentration, and then be able to let your instincts take over. To do that properly, to allow your instincts to take over and make the right decision, you’ve got to have a clear head and be concentrating on what you’re trying to achieve. But less thought is better. And that’s why you’ve got to be emotionally in control. But in high-pressure situations, that’s where it gets difficult. When you get too many thoughts.
That’s what I find astounding, is how you’d deal with that pressure. The mind game!
You just have to keep level headed, calm. In victory or defeat. If you can meet triumph and disaster – and treat those imposters just the same. That’s Rudyard Kipling’s poem, If. Go read it.
Ah yes, you’ve talked about that one a lot. *Googles*
“If you can make one heap of all your winning / And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss / And lose, and start again at your beginnings / And never breathe a word about your loss.”
That’s really what sport is about. Sometimes it’s not fair. And people who do that, well, as the poem says, “You’ll be a man, my son!”
Or woman, my daughter!
Of course. And that’s really what the New Zealand cricket team displayed. There’s great pride in that.
So how do I get over this sweeping loss?
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Just be thankful you’ve seen an incredible cricketing and sporting performance. And keep supporting them. They deserve it.
Oh no. There’s a cat out in the garden.
OK, I’ll leave you to sort that out.