When I was kid (last week), I loved westerns. It was the days before "The Wild Bunch" and "Soldier Blue" bought explicit gore to the genre and belief could be suspended to such an extent that John Wayne could fire a hand gun from the hip as he fell from his horse and hit an unknown ambusher half a mile away hidden above him on rocky crag. I still replay the scene from "The Searchers", word for word at every family bbq, when Wayne is asked if he has found the missing child after an indian attack (Chocise not Kapil Dev). "Don't ever ask me," he says, barely restraining the tears of rage. "What do I have to do? Draw you a picture?"
There were the goodies, who wore the white hats and the baddies, who wore the black. Was it merely a case of defining right and wrong in such stark contrasts that audiences could make no moral mistake? Actually, no. It was immensely more practical than that. Westerns were seen as action movies. Their budget was cheap so they used performers who were cheap and in the 1930's and 40's, none were cheaper than the stunt men, so westerns were full of saloon brawls, gun fights with falls from roofs and horse chases. Directors, needing the audience to keep track of the action, dressed protagonists and antagonists in distinctive hats and given that the film medium was black and white, hats with the opposite ends of the contrast scale were the answer.
None of which has much to do with cricket except for the contrast shown by the following four men of the game.
White Hat: Adam Gilchrist. No more tearful farewells for Gilly. We shed those tears a few years back when he said goodbye to first class and Test cricket but his contribution to the IPL has been as big as any overseas player. The money has been good and Gilchrist's comments after announcing his retirement in India made it clear he'd like to keep his big ears open for a further contract as a coach. Like Mark Taylor, Gilchrist has been a Teflon man in Australian cricket. Even with all of the decay in behaviour around him through years playing with Shane Warne and Ricky Ponting, the controversies around Andrew Symonds and the turbulent series against India in Australia, Gilchrist stood apart because he is a decent chap. He is just the sort who should stand on the table and lead the men in "Under the Southern Cross we stand ..." Ride off into the sunset cowboy.
White hat: Craig McDermott. The Clint Eastwood of this mob, McDermott made the transition from being an injury prone fast bowler good enough to only have Warne, McGrath, Lillee and Lee ahead of him in the all time wicket taking list for Australia. The Pale Rider rode into town after England had taken the place by force, trashed it and rode out with all the spoils. The slow talking Ipswich boy took our fast bowlers aside, whether new or old and taught them the old ways of keeping the ball up to the bat and allowing it to swing. It can't have been rocket science if the Poms could do it and the rewards have come in the short twelve months Billy the Kid held the bowler's reigns. Hilfenhaus has gone from a no wicket trundler to being rated in the world's top ten. Siddle is our most consistent performer and Pattinson, Cummins, Starc and Copeland have all made their debut. With so many notches on the butt of his smoking gun he has saddled up and ridden back from where he came, having been change and leaving the people of the town(team) empowered. After all "... when things look bad and it looks like you're not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean. 'Cause if you lose your head and you give up then you neither live nor win. That's just the way it is." Ride off into the sunset cowboy.
In the words of Bruce Willis, yippie-kai-yay, time to cowboy the **** up.