Friday, March 8, 2013

“Son of”, or his own man?

Why must every successful cricketer whose father walked in the same circles years earlier be constantly compared to the "old man"? What is our engrained need for him to be referred to as the "son of"? Doesn't it show a lack of respect and knowledge of either man - that one is somehow a greater or lesser light than the other?

Ken Rutherford was a fine cricketer, though the start of his international career will long live in New Zealand Cricket infamy - to open the innings in your international debut is a formidable ask. To take guard against the might of the West Indies at the peak of their powers in a Caribbean cauldron is akin to sending a child out to do battle in a Roman coliseum, with the local masses squeezed into every space baying for your blood. At 19, it's a wonder Rutherford didn't join Jeremy Coney in one of the local hospitals, with broken bones and a spirit suffering a similar ailment.

It came as no surprise that the promising youngster was rapidly dismantled by Marshall, Garner, Holding et al., and his career stalled - a prodigious talent never ascending the heights that were expected. The young man never recovered from the Calypso assault, for that was what it was - raw aggression and unbridled intimidation.

It adds no value to repeat Rutherford’s string of single digit scores early in his career, or the length of time it took for his first test century - anyone with access to an Almanack or the Internet already knows them. Those that don't have heard them repeated ad nauseum throughout the New Zealand innings and by journalists in every medium - enough already.

Rutherford senior’s struggles, or the successes later in his career, have little or no bearing on the unparalleled success 23 year old Hamish has enjoyed on international debut. The young man admits he has shunned any fatherly advice from his "old man" until very recently. Yet pundits and punters alike, myself included, have drawn comparisons that do no justice to either man, rolling out the inferior statistics of his father as if to prove some unseen point - what exactly escapes me?

Hamish Rutherford's destructive knock is due all the praise it has received, it shouldn't require us to belittle the efforts of another Rutherford to swell its significance. Instead, the celebration should be of the record-breaking test debut of a young man many believed was elevated too early against one the world’s most complete pace attacks – how wrong we were.

Rutherford’s 171 showed the ease of an established star mixed comfortably with the excited stroke making of a young man still learning his craft, without the weight of expectation on his shoulders – he had little to lose, so poor have New Zealand’s openers fared in recent years. However, little stemmed the repeated discussions of his father, and the lowlights that were the start of what was ultimately a reasonable international career. Not a half-century on debut, or the hundred that followed early on day three. Not a 150 run opening stand with 1.97 metre Peter (Fulton) – the first by a New Zealand opening pair since 2004, though if Rutherford matches the feats of either of those two lefthanders, New Zealand will be well served at the top. Not even the myriad of records Rutherford has rewritten for a batsman on debut quelled the murmurs of Hamish bettering his father.

As he left the ground to a deserved ovation, the capacity crowd rising as one in tribute to a knock of substance and flair, how many of those watching still whispered of Ken? It is unfair to both men - unjust to further inflate the efforts of the apprentice by poking jibes at the returns of the old stoic.

The few faithful spectators who gathered at the University Oval in November 2008 to watch a scruffy left hand opener fall for a first ball duck on his entrance to first class cricket would not have foreseen his triumphant return on international debut - such stories enrich our great game.   

        Must a son be a chip off the “old block” or does he simply find his own stone to work on?


Tell me what you think – I’d love your thoughts. I’m thinking of developing a new section for bloggers on why they pen their thoughts – young or old, new or established, if you’re interested in contributing drop me a note and I’ll find you a spot on Donning the Whites. Post a comment below or tweet me @aotearoaxi.

6 comments:

  1. His own man; without doubt. Ken should now henceforth be referred to as Father of Hamish rather than Hamish being referred to as Son of Ken. We're going to see quite a bit of Hamish Rutherford I suspect, and if Martin Guptill gets back into form when fit, we suddenly have a pretty strong top six.

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    1. I'd prefer if both were left to be their own men - Ken Rutherford was a fine cricketer and that seemed to get missed by commentators and journos over the past 2 days. His introduction to test cricket was one of the hardest there has been, not that HR's was a dawdle.

      The young man will hopefully be around for some time to come, securing his spot through results not a lack of available options. I agree re Guptill but if Fulton repeats his first innings effort, there may not be a spot for him.

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  2. I'd be interested in contributing, I'm always looking for new outlets for my cricket obsession. Check out my blog for some examples of work: linesongrass.wordpress.com

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  3. Thanks, Alex. I see you're an ND fan too.

    I'd be more than happy to have a piece on blogging in the feature, if I can get it organised. I'll note down your name on my list. If you see pieces starting to be promoted, just drop me a reminder. Cheers

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    1. Ah, actually no, I'm not an ND fan. I took that photo when I was doing a short piece for a local historical society during the ND/Wellington match at Karori Park. I thought it would make a great header image so used it. There's a full collection or images somewhere on my blog. Having said that, I would pay to watch Northern play at full strength, such is their collection of past, present and future Black Caps.

      I hope supporting Wellington doesn't jeopardise our collaboration.

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  4. Karori Park? Nice.

    I'm not a big one for provincial tribalism - in a country so small, I figure it's not overly important. I've played representative cricket in the CD and ND regions, spent a good amount of time in Wellington and Christchurch and have called Auckland home for a long time - so man Kiwis are the same. Yes, I write for ND Cricket, though most of my pieces are about international cricket or general trends, the ND Spirit women's pieces aside.

    If the blogger series gets off the ground, I'll be in touch.

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