Bozen – Social intercourse is a significant part of international business relationships – the ability to ‘get on’ with your foreign counterpart is essential to a smooth and ongoing operation. When it comes to doing business with England a command of weather terminology is more than useful and a knowledge of the Royal Family does no harm at all, but what can really make the difference and cement a life-long love affair is an intimate understanding of cricket.
Cricket? One might rightly ask what benefits an acquaintance with this game can bring. Surely a mention or two of the latest football gossip will suffice if a bit of a light chat is required before getting down to the more worldly matters of sales and margins and targets? I am afraid not, for the real essence of British life and the way of going about things in a correct and sustainable manner is summed up in the philosophy borne from the game comprising of a red leather ball, a piece of willow, and two sides of eleven players dressed in white frantically striving to have the better of the opposition. If it is true that wars were won on the playing fields of Eton (meaning that young men learned all about discipline, courage, and respect for leadership by taking part in games in English public schools) then cricket also has had a marked effect on the way British people think and behave – not to leave out how business should be done.
As valuable as an appreciation of cricket is it can also be devastating to make some of the elementary errors of getting the game mixed up with hockey or croquet (see photo) or polo, or worse of all horrors would be to proudly state that cricket resembles baseball. Such ignorance will surely see any budding business deals doomed to failure - ‘I can’t possibly have dealings with those people who confuse the simplicity of the American pursuit with the gentlemanly art of cricket’ is a thought which would commonly come to mind of an offended Englishman. And one should not think that this is another example of a typically insular English interpretation of things (‘now the goddamned Brits are even thinking of leaving the EU’ is a cry already in common parlance after the recent elections) for cricket is as widespread as is the very sky above us – Australia, Bangladesh, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies are the leading exponents of ‘the fair game’. Securing a decent familiarity with the game would therefore seem a sound investment.
that this is another example of a typically insular English interpretation of things (‘now the goddamned Brits are even thinking of leaving the EU’ is a cry already in common parlance after the recent elections) for cricket is as widespread as is the very sky above us – Australia, Bangladesh, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies are the leading exponents of ‘the fair game’, - and so securing a decent familiarity with the game would seem a sound investment.
Some aspects of the game have probably creeped across the borders. Many will have heard that an international ‘Test Match’ between two countries can last for five days and even no result be achieved after such an eternity, or even more comically the match has to be abandoned on the final afternoon of the final day due to rain, leaving all the players troop off and enjoy a beer or two together, well deserved indeed after seven or eight hours a day of combat on the cricket field. Indeed in one Test Match in 1939 when there were no constraints of time imposed on a match between South Africa and England play went on into the tenth day, only to be abandoned after tea on that day as the English team had to leave to catch their ship back across the seas. Here we strike at one of the great attributes of cricket – everything matters dearly but at the end of the day nothing really matters at all. In this sense cricket is something of a microcosm of life where endeavour and principle are the bastions of society and personal glory is a pleasant but non determining consequence. ‘He always played the game’ means that a player approached the contest in the most ethical of ways, respecting the laws of the game (yes ‘laws’ and not ‘rules’ are what govern the code of cricket), and respecting opponents and teammates alike, and more importantly nurturing a passion for the moral codes the game expounds. ‘It’s just not cricket’ is an exclamation oft’ heard when a person or persons have not adopted or respected a moral norm in their behaviour – as in business relations for example. ‘You have my word, sir’ and ‘a gentleman’s agreement’ fall into the same category of understanding, often in international relations too.
Times have been many when cricket has been at the forefront of political clashes, memorably in 1932 when the English cricket team playing in Australia created uproar by adopting very aggressive strategies to intimidate and indeed cause physical harm to the Australian players. The matter ended up in Parliament in both countries and could have caused diplomatic sanctions to have been imposed – no light consequence resulting from a friendly game of cricket. Likewise in the nineteen sixties when apartheid in South Africa was at its height disputes as to whether South Africa should have been allowed to compete in international sports were most vigorously heard in the cricket arena. Even in countries in conflict such as India and Pakistan the game still to this day is followed with a reverence which goes beyond religion. One cannot really contemplate doing business in India without knowing who Tendulkar is. ‘The Little Master’ as he is known retired in 2014 after parading his immense talent across the international scene for more than 20 years – the greatest player of his generation by far.
And the greatest player of all time? Well, Doctor W.G. Grace would lay claim to that. Still known in the world of cricket just by his initials ‘W.G.’ he was a product of the Victorian age – a giant of a man who is considered the father of the modern game and when he died in 1915 his death caused almost as much public concern as that of Winston Churchill’s’ some 50 years later.
Certainly much of the love for cricket has to do with characters and statistics. Writing on cricket focuses not only on the technical attributes of a player but very much on their merits and defects in a material sense. Perhaps it is because cricket games can last so long that there is much to comment on and much to write about and it is recognised that cricket writings have been some of the most evocative and poetic of our times. Neville Cardus is considered the greatest cricket writer of all time and a description of his on a fine player or on an intriguing game can often be a crit of mankind such is the emotion he conveys.
Another fascinating feature of cricket is that it has a vocabulary all of its own and reference to fielding positions on the field of play as ‘silly point’ ‘fine leg’ ‘extra cover’ are not easily understood by the uninformed spectator. Even the most fluent non-native speaker of English will be left speechless when talk turns to ‘a glorious sweep shot’ or a ‘googly just going over the stumps’. By the way, include Americans as non-native speakers of English for purposes of cricket – the talk is very much ‘a Commonwealth thing’. Certainly there is no more pleasant a thing for many a British person than to spend a lazy weekend afternoon watching the meanderings of a game on a village green – often falling asleep for half hour or so but not missing too much action such is the sedate nature of the game at times.
At present expectations are high in England for the coming ‘Ashes’ which means no more than that the Australians are visiting England this summer and the two teams will dispute five matches over five days each to see who will hold ‘The Ashes’ for the next year or two. Some explanation of this term will come in useful. The term originated in a satirical obituary published in a British newspaper, The Sporting Times immediately after Australia‘s 1882 victory in London, their first Test win on English soil. The obituary stated that English cricket had died, and the body would be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia. Ever since, the rivalry between the two nations has been fierce and this summer will be no different.
Although there are now shorter forms of the game appealing to the more frenzied demand for instant action and instant results it remains the long international form of the game which represents the pinnacle of any player’s career. Technical skill, flair, astute leadership, teamwork, energy and ambition, and all this with a sense of goodwill and common sense are the attributes of the game which easily transfer to the world of business. If, as this article claims, a knowledge of cricket is more than beneficial as an effective business tool in establishing relationships and cordial exchange how can one go about upskilling in this sense? Well, that’s a totally different game to go about as it is one of those areas of life which one needs to be born into so as to have a full and comprehensive education. But there is no need to despair for there might be a solution in sight – simply by taking three months holiday from July and spend the vacation in England following ‘The Ashes’. May the best team win. The author: Geoff Barclay spends much time in South Tyrol for business and pleasure and his ‚Brain International Ltd‘ assists individuals, companies and organisations in their internationalisation process - via market entry and business development support and a range of services embracing training, translations, and language immersion abroad – all intended to better equip the interested party looking to expand horizons.
to cement: festigen, zementieren
to suffice: genügen
to go about sth.: etw. angehen
frantically: wie wild, wahnsinnig
to have the better of sb.: jdn. ausstechen
Eton College: Schule in Windsor (GB)
doomed to failure: zum Scheitern veruteilt
pursuit: Beschäftigung, Verfolgungsjagd
to creep: kriechen
to troop off: gemeinsam abtreten
to nurture: nähren
to lay claim to sth.: auf etw. Anspruch erheben
meanderings: das Mäanderförmige
sedate: gelassen, geruhsam
pinnacle: Gipfel, Inbegriff
upskilling: Ausbau einer Kompetenz