Yes, it’s another new Cricket365 series, in which Alex Bowden notes the things that have happened in cricket recently that you may or may not have seen.
If you ever make contact with an alien civilisation and you need to help them comprehend the ins and outs of all the various human emotions, I’ve got a bit of advice for you. When you get to incredulity – and I accept that it may take a while before you reach this point – and you need the aliens to know what it sounds like, play them a clip of Sky Sports’ Ian Ward at the start of the first T20 international between West Indies and England.
“David Willey’s going to open the bowling… in an Alice band,” stated Ward, quite accurately, but in a tone that also made it abundantly clear he didn’t 100 per cent believe it was happening.
David Willey opened the bowling in an Alice band and then he opened the bowling in an Alice band in the second and third matches of the series too.
It surely says something that Ward felt this detail was worth remarking upon. It’s not so much the fact that David Willey wore an Alice band as the fact that David Willey chose to wear an Alice band. Why David Willey and why an Alice band and why now? Why, why, why?
The Alice band is primarily used by continental footballers to tie their hair back, but also by British footballers as visual shorthand for, ‘Look at me. Look at how exotic I am these days.‘ Unlike other long hair control mechanisms, when worn by a British footballer the Alice band says, ‘I had a pain au raisin the other day. Not a pain au chocolat, you understand. A pain au frigging raisin.’
David Beckham wore an Alice band for a bit, foreshadowing his move to Real Madrid. Gareth Bale wore an Alice band after he’d moved to Real Madrid.
(Is David Willey going to move to Real Madrid? No he is not. For one thing, Zinedine Zidane is back and Zinedine Zidane does not have the hairline or demeanour of a man who is looking to add to the number of Alice bands in his side. For another thing, David Willey plays a different sport. David Willey plays cricket.)
No cricketer wears an Alice band if he doesn’t want attention. You don’t scrape the hair from your forehead thinking this will pass unremarked upon. You know Ian Ward’s going to say something. You want Ian Ward to say something.
The first and most obvious thing to note is that like all of England’s one-day pace bowlers, Willey is currently under threat from The Ghost of Jofra Yet To Come. This, I think, is key to understanding the Alice band.
When he first rose to prominence, David Willey was an incredibly eye-catching cricketer. He was a left-armer who didn’t just open the bowling in limited overs matches, he also opened the batting and hit the ball miles.
England don’t have much use for Willey’s batting, though. When he walks out these days, the only conversation that really happens is that people who know about county cricket go, ‘Hey, do you remember that innings he played that time?’ and people who don’t know about county cricket do the Alan Partridge ‘so what?’ shrug in reply.
His bowling’s not particularly exciting any more either. He’s a left-armer and he swings it. That’s about it.
He’s been around a while. We know David Willey. We don’t really know Jofra Archer. Not in the same way – and that’s the problem.
Willey is aware of this. Talking to ESPNCricinfo this week, he said the one-day team had got to number one largely thanks to the same group of players, who’ve been together for a while. “Whether someone should just walk in at the drop of a hat because they’re available, whether that’s the right thing, I don’t know.”
It’s pretty clear that even if Willey doesn’t ‘know’ whether this is ‘the right thing’, he most definitely has an opinion.
So, as I see it, the Alice band is for two reasons.
One, it reminds everyone that David Willey exists and encourages us to look at him with the fresh eyes we’ll be using for Jofra Archer. This means that when Willey takes 4-7 – as he did in his last game – we actually notice.
“Did you see David Willey taking 4-7 in an Alice band?” we say.
AND ANOTHER ONE!
Two in two and David Willey now has four – the Windies are crumbling again! Darren Bravo edges behind and the hosts are 24-4.
— Sky Sports Cricket (@SkyCricket) March 10, 2019
Secondly – and I can’t believe more people haven’t picked up on this – it is quite clearly a Nathan Bracken reference.
Nathan Bracken was an ostensibly nondescript left-arm swing bowler who was ranked number one in one-day internationals and was part of Australia’s World Cup winning squads in both 2003 and 2007 – and he always wore an Alice band.
No way that’s a coincidence.
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