Alex Massie

Clausewitz on Cricket III

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An occasional series in which the great theorist's ideas are considered in terms of how they may be applied to cricket. Today: defence. Granted, Clausewitz takes the view that the defensive side in war generally finds itself in a stronger position than is customarily the case on the cricket field. Nonetheless, his observations on Types of Resistance are germane:

Defence is thus composed of two distinct parts, waiting and acting. By linking the former to a definite object that precedes action, we have been able to merge the two into one whole. But a defensive action - especially a large-scale one such as a campaign or war - will not in terms of time, consist of two great phases, the first of which is pure waiting and the second pure action; it will alternate between these two conditions, so that waiting may run like a continuoous thread through the whole period of defence.

[...] It would be contrary to this interpretation to discuss reaction, the scond necessary component of defence, by making a distinction between its parts, and considering the phase which, strictly speaking, consists in warding off the enemy - from the country, the theatre of operations, the position - as the only necessary part, which would be limited to what it necessary to achieve those purposes. The other phase, the possibility of a reaction that expands into the realm of actual strategic offense, would then have to be considered as being foreign to, and unconnected with, defence. Such a distinction is basically unacceptable: we must acept that the idea of retaliation is fundamental to all defence. Otherwise, no matter how much damage the first phase of reaction, if successful, may have done to the enemy, the proper balance would still be wanting in the restoration of the dynamic relationship between defence and attack.

If one were to quibble with Clausewitz it would simply be that not all defensive battles are alike. That is, when there the defense need only wait for relief - as at Centurion or Cape Town for example - then action may properly, even sensibly, be subordinated to mere waiting. Nevertheless, Clausewitz;s views upon the balance between waiting and action seem spot on when one ponders today's battle in Johannesburg and (Collingwood excepted) England's failure to follow the Count's advice and judge the right moments for mere obdurance and appropriate counter-attack helped condemn them to a defeat that was, in fact, a rout.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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