The Hell Butterfly

To the Boys I Loved So Well

My boys. Oh, my boys. You used to fill me with such pride. Watching you play rain, sun, mud .. Whatever the conditions you always used to shine. You were so good. You used to be so great. What happened to you, my boys?

The joy on your faces to represent your country used to make me smile with you. I was proud to know you, prouder still to watch you reign over the green. Batting, bowling, fielding, simply being there. Knowing you were glad to play our country’s game for us filled me with such pride that I felt a part and parcel of it too. When I watched you, I used to feel the pride of England.

What made you change? What went wrong? Can’t you tell me?

Oh, my boys. Standing proud in helmet, pads and gloves, wielding the bat like a warrior wields his sword. Or standing equally proud, ready for the pounce in your trainers and caps, prepared to dive to the ground in defence of team and country. And always that glint in your eyes that told us all you loved what you did, and were more than happy to represent your country doing it. That furrow in your brow as you concentrated to secure the win. That torrent of sweat as you ran your heart out for that one more point.

Now, your faces show me naught but shame. That glint in your eye has become nothing but the empty echo of defeat. What happened to your fight? Where is your drive? Why did you let this happen?

Once upon a time, not so long ago in fact, I delighted myself with the knowledge I would stay up through the night to watch you play, to watch you shine. The Ashes were yours. That was what I felt in my heart and soul. I was going to watch you live, even if it meant staying up from midnight all through the night with work first thing the next day. I didn’t care: you were my boys and I wouldn’t miss you for the world. I was going to purchase your shirt, the ball, the bat. I wanted to be just like you. Standing proud on the green, a mere patch of grass to your field of emerald, but feeling the pride you evidently felt once.

The Ashes were a bust. You let us all down. Yourselves, your country … me. Oh, my boys. What happened to you? Loss after loss, that gleam in your eyes, that determination in your brow, turned sour and you gave up. It should have pushed you on, gave you the drive to do better next time. But no. You threw in the towel. You saw the black abyss of defeat ahead of you and forgot how to fight. Or maybe you still knew, but you lost the will to try. Why? What made you give in so easy?

I thought that would be it for you. I thought you had blown out your candles forever. But then around came 20/20 and I felt you had a shot. A different team, a different manager, but still my boys. My beautiful Englishmen in their shirts of vermillion. I watched you with a flutter in my heart. The trepidation of your final battle. This would make you or break you.

Oh, my boys.

You broke.

The facts fell on my mind like a flood after a drought. Too much, too fast. Your victors were the Dutch. They had not beaten you in five years. They had even lost their last game with a record low. They had almost lost their place in the tournament and still they beat you to the ground. 88 all out. We had lost to the worst team in the tournament.

I wonder if you can ever recover from this. I hope you can. I still long for that gleam to return. I want to once more see the light in your eyes that tells us you are strong, proud, and most of all, that you can win. The grass may stain your skin, but so long as that smile plays upon your lips we cannot be defeated. Even if we lose, we are not defeated so long as you retain that pride that you once knew so well.

I believe in you. I don’t know what’s happened to drag you through the brambles to his position of shame, but I believe you can come back from this. Right now you are an embarrassment. I feel ashamed to watch you play. But I remember that feeling of joy I used to get when you stepped onto the green, and I know I can feel it again.

My boys. Oh, my boys. Don’t give up. Cricket is our game. It is ours. We can bring this back.

I believe in you, England.

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