'Now's The Time' for Jackson Bird

Here's hoping Bird can blow a few English wickets away
With a name like Jackson Bird, there are so many word plays and analogies you could riff on. There’s ‘a Bird in the hand is worth two English wickets’ or ‘Jackson’s 5-for’, to name just a couple.

But my favourite, and perhaps most appropriate, references the 1940’s Jazz great, Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker.

The baggy greens have already had one supporting fast bowler linked by name to a famous jazzman. So I wonder, could Jackson Bird put a beat on England and become our next Dizzy Gillespie?

I have no idea if Jackson Bird enjoys jazz, or whether or not he has heard of the likes of Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk or indeed Charlie Parker.

If his musical interests are cut from the traditional moulds of the Australian cricket team, he will no doubt espouse the virtues of pub rock, be able to monkishly recite the lyrics to Khe Sanh and believe the Choirboys never got the recognition they fully deserved.

But metaphorically, and perhaps literally, Bird has more in common with the smooth and subtle jazz greats than howling Aussie rockers.

On a superficial level, Parker’s nickname, ‘Yardbird’, or more commonly ‘Bird’, is an obvious starting point.

And then there’s the fact that Charlie Parker played with, and for a time was mentored by, Dizzy Gillespie, a name not unfamiliar within baggy green circles.

But more importantly, Charlie Parker was a formidable and precocious talent. From the first time people saw ‘Bird’ on stage, his potential to become one of the greats was barely questioned.

Jackson Bird has himself proven a formidable and precocious talent. In just two first class seasons, Bird has taken 101 wickets at 19. Perhaps even more impressive is that in 37 innings, he has taken four or more wickets on 13 occasions.

And when Bird graduated from the dark jazz club underground of domestic cricket into the shining spotlight of nationally televised performance, he played with the precision and accuracy that bellied the nerves he must have felt.

Charlie Parker hit every note pitch perfect and on time, a rhythmic ability that saw subtle shifts in his progressions seem like monumental swings.

Jackson Bird hits the pitch at seemingly perfect points, a rhythmic ability that sees subtle shifts in his actions seem like monumental swing.

Parker was smooth and metronomic, and mesmerised those that stood before him.

Bird is smooth and metronomic, and can mesmerise batsmen that face him.

He has only played two Tests but his record of 11 wickets at 16 and the way in which he gained it, was mighty impressive. He bowled tight and hit a consistently worrying length. (Though admittedly, these results came at the expense of a somewhat overpowered Sri Lankan team.)

The 2013 Ashes tour sees Bird get the opportunity to cement his place in an Australian team crying out for stability and consistency, something he can surely offer.

One of my favourite ‘Bird’ tunes is titled ‘Now’s The Time’, and for his Australian cricketing namesake, this song rings very true.

His time is now and Bird’s bid for a Test berth begins with the coming tour match against Worcester.

If Bird delivers a typically accurate and miserly performance in his opening tour match, it will be very difficult for selectors to ignore him and his metronomic action, one that is potentially so well suited to Anglo conditions.

In this regard, he has inevitably (maybe unfortunately) been hailed as the second coming of another Australian cricket bird, the one more specifically known as ‘pigeon’; Glenn McGrath.

McGrath, along with Shane Warne, is increasingly becoming a messianic figure in Australian cricket. Players we all hope will be somehow reincarnated and return to lead our bat-wielding band into the next era of success.

But in the words of a true jazzman, Bird is his own man, man. He won’t have the same greatest of all time support that McGrath so often enjoyed at the opposite end. He will likely be better suited to a supporting role, much like Dizzy before him.

And like the great saxophonist, Australia will hope Jackson locks into a groove that seldom falls out of time, tapping a beat that resembles the fluttering hearts of English batsmen as Bird helps blow their wickets away.

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