I wrote a slightly scathing piece about Jade for the cricket365 website. Unhelpfully, they prefaced it with RANT, which doesn’t really capture the spirit of absurdism in which it was written. Still.
The also edited out the bridging gag from the opening paragraph to the main, um, ‘argument’. Still.
We also decided that a couple of paragraphs were too close to the bone. I have not omitted them from the below. In fact, I have highlighted them.
* * *
I’m rather hoping that Jade Dernbach, in future years, is going to make me somewhere north of £10,000 on the TV quiz show Pointless, when, in the final round, having selected Sport from the four possible categories, I’m lucky enough to land the question ‘Name anyone who played over 50 games of cricket for England in the 21st Century’. But until that day, Jade shall remain, as ever, pointless.*
You saw that coming didn’t you? Well, funnily enough…
Oh, you’ve seen that one coming as well, haven’t you? Drat. That was my go-to option. My stock ball.
Anyway, Dernbach. Pointless. Pointless and predictable. Yes? Yes. In fact, paradoxically, he has become so predictably liqourice allsorts that any non-lobotomised batsman only need sit in and wait for the tricksy stuff, nurdling the now (oxymoronically) surprise stock ball. See, the slower ball is obviously effective through contrast – if you bowled it every ball it would get what the experts know as twatted – but when the stock ball is so unfailingly wayward, you’re forced to go to the shiny thing (that you’ve invested hours and hours in at nets) more and more, until it eventually becomes dull and frayed. There’s only so many times you can jump out of a wardrobe screaming RAAAAAAAARRRRRGH!! before people start locking their wardrobes, whether you’re in them or not. And there’s a lesson in that. I think.
Anyway, Dernbach. I think Jonathan Liew, writing in The Telegraph last summer, nailed him: “Essentially, Dernbach is the equivalent of those football freestylers who can bounce a ball between their buttocks, but are likely to be rather less useful defending a corner in the dying minutes … He is the sort of cricketer who emerges when you start to confuse the bag of tricks with the game itself.”
They said his economy rate was too high for 50-over cricket – a fair assumption given that it’s the highest in the history of the game – but that he’d be ok for T20, where the odd nerveless dot ball here or there can decide things. Maybe.
But cricket’s not my only, or even main problem with him. No, there’s a good deal of irrationality sluicing around my noggin that doubtless blinds me to these obvious cricket merits (such as the fact that he holds a bat like Joe Pesci digging holes in the Nevada desert).
And no, I don’t mean the fact that he has the most feminine name in international cricket outside of Samantha de Saram. Not at all. I’m all for loosening up the cultural moorings, going batshit with names. I positively welcome the time when we can field cricketers called Frangipane Delgado, Poo Nectarine, Whelk Robinson, Kendall Lendl, Bongo Slideranger, Stonk van Peebles or Admiral Sir Toxteth Cadmium – just so long as, y’know, they’re making runs and taking wickets. Chipping in.
It’s not the body art, either – although we do seem to have gone in two generations from ‘I drink therefore I am’ to ‘I ink…’; from assiduously damaging your internal organs with ill-conceived acts of machismo to putting pictures of shit and stuff on our one and only sheath of pristine skin. (While we’re at it, I can think of a few England supporters who’d like to plunge needles into Dernbach.)
No, the tattoodles are all fine and dandy – although, now that you mention it, he may well be the first bowler whose ‘tell’ is the lower-arm colour you see coming over: one hue for the regular ball, another for the slowy. (I’m not entirely sure he’s got a 7 for 1 in him, mind, should some Smith or Dean Jones protest that he’s being distracted and ask the umpire for him to cover his arms up…)
It could be the fact that his eyes appear a touch too close together, although I probably could only get away with drawing links between facial morphology and character if I were Geoffrey Chaucer. “Whom be he off eyes-a-gether somefolk ye shalln’t entrust wiff d’eath bowlinge duties”, it says in The Pie-Thrower’s Tale.
It’s not even the fact that he plays his domestic teed-wenny for the Surrey Stockbrokers, about which I have written to change.org, avaaz, and SumOfUs.org petitioning them to make it a capital crime. No joy yet. Will keep you posted.
No, the problem with Jade – which does rather have the ring of a folktronica album about it, or some pastel-hued indie film set in Nebraska about a boy who takes a shotgun to his tormentors – is one of tone. It’s not the ink, it’s the goddam stink.
He just doesn’t know when to zip it, how to scale his celebrations. This is a man who [checks spelling] Vithushan Ehantharajah observed take a fourth day wicket in a Championship bore draw at Lord’s and run toward the Compton Stand with a finger to his lips in a shush gesture. This is a man who orders a crate of Dom Perignon when he gets a pointless answer on Pointless.
And you just know he’s going to have Emirati swiper with nowt to lose dragging on with 43 per over required, then give it the full Ernie McCracken, berkishly sending him off (in fact, many feel he should be playing for Berkshire now) and bringing embarrassment upon the nation.
Tone, lad. Walking back to his mark and making sure his effing hair is in the right place? Hipster bullshit. And that spat with David Willey at the T20 Finals? The bowler’s holding the bowler’s willy. Nonsense.
And then the stoush with Cameron White – giving Jade freedom of the city of Northampton, since when he’s become close friends with pea-in-a-pod David Steele – offering him on after his ego-bouncers had been pummeled hard and flat toward tour figures of 11-0-141-1. Don’t get those fuckers tattooed on yer, our kid. Schadenfreude? First you need some freude to be schaden.
He just doesn’t inspire love or affection, does he? Probably not even in his mother. For example, I bet you’ve never seen two kids playing cricket in the driveway, garage doors for slip cordon, wheelie bin as short leg, arguing over who’s going to be Jade Dernbach. “No, I bagsied Jade. Muuuuuuum!!” Exactly. And you’re not going to, either.
Nor are you going to hear anyone say, “He does a nice line in self-deprecation, does Jade”. However, you might hear someone say: “It’s pronounced Zhaaad”. That would most likely be Jade.
I have come to imagine Jade at coke-sex parties – and I really rather wouldn’t – screaming “Yeah, baby, c’mon; let’s fucking go” as Prince’s ‘Erotic City’ (his T20 walk-on music) plays in the background, wildly slapping random arse and asking whether they’d like to see his slower ball. Edifying, it is not. He has done that to me.
It’s got that bad that I’d rather England fail – admittedly, a safe enough bet – than Dernbach succeed. Mind you, such is his self-regard that he’s almost certainly going to Bangladesh not only with a bag full of decent moisturisers but also thinking Man of the Tournament is a distinct possibility.
If he does – and, let’s face it, he wouldn’t be the first South African-born quasi-Pom to do that (anyone know what happened to that other chap, by the way?) – then I guess it will at least be proper banter and shit, yeah?