Friends, we must take a stand. This great game has been our lifeblood for oh so many years and now is the time to return that favour. Just as cricket sustained us, so must we now sustain it in these times of hardship.
This noble game of ours is badly wounded. Battered and bleeding, it is on its knees in the dirt. And yet we are not helpless. Together we can act to protect it.
Do we walk by, ignoring cricket’s plight or do we help it to its feet and together stand against our common enemies? Do we spurn our beloved sport’s imploring hand or do we tend to its wounds, preparing it for the next battle?
Do we act? Do we act now? Of course we do. But what will be our next step? How will we crush the forces of darkness so that their despicable tendrils never again constrict the veins of hope and optimism that enrich our world?
Well, er, I’m not too sure actually. Have you got any ideas? We could have a whip-round I suppose. Would that help? How about a sponsored run?
My mate Dave’s clearing out his loft at the minute. Maybe we could take some of that stuff down to a car boot sale or summat. Most of it’s rubbish, but we might get a bob or two for some of it. There’s a load of old crockery from his nan’s. It looks horrible, but it’s probably worth something to someone.
No? Okay, maybe we should just leave it then. Shall we just leave it? Yeah. I’m sure it’ll all work itself out anyway. Anyone fancy a pint? Come on then. My shout.
We’ve got some more fist-pumping rhetoric over at Cricinfo. It’s not about spot fixing though. Thank God.
A man with a pencil moustache approaches King Cricket.
KC: Er, hello?
Man: How are you doing this fine day?
KC: I’m fine. Sorry, do I know you?
Man: No, you don’t know me. But perhaps you should.
The man raises an eyebrow and looks King Cricket up and down.
Man: I’m a terribly big fan of your work, you know.
KC: Oh yes.
Man: It’s a fantastic website. So irreverent. So droll. So recherché.
KC: You’re weird.
Man: I was wondering if perhaps you might like me to represent you, as your agent?
KC: Er, I don’t know.
Man: It would be very worth your while. I will be able to get you what you… deserve…
KC: Well, I’m always up for more work, if that’s what you mean.
Man: Excellent. I took the liberty of having the paperwork signed on your behalf already so there’s no need to worry about that.
KC: Oh, er, okay. Can you do that? Is that the way it’s supposed to work?
The man turns to leave.
KC: But I don’t even know your name.
Man: My name is not important.
A few days later, there is a knock at KC’s door. It is the man again.
KC: Er, hello.
Man: I am delighted to say that I have some work for you.
KC: Really? That’s great. Where is it?
Man: It’s not so much a question of where… as what…
KC: No, I mean what are you talking about?
The man twirls his moustache between thumb and forefinger.
Man: Are you willing to… do things?
KC: Er, maybe. What kind of things?
Man: Are you willing to write on certain topics that you might not ordinarily write about?
KC: Yeah, I should think so. I’m pretty open to new stuff.
Man: Goooood. And would you be willing to write in a certain style?
KC: Well, yeah, I like to think I’m pretty adaptable. What kind of thing specifically?
Man: Would you be willing to deliberately misplace an apostrophe in one of your articles?
KC: Get out.
Man: No-one would notice. It would be-
KC: Get out.
KC: Get out.
We just feel depressed. Cricket is joyful escapism and this kind of thing just knackers it up.
Questioning on-field events
Assuming it’s true (and having seen Mohammad Amir’s giant no-ball, we’re pretty sure it is) the real damage is in the fact that people question everything that happens in a match and you only need to question something to utterly devalue it.
We don’t believe there’s been anything more than the odd deliberate no-ball (in this Test at least) but casting a shadow over everything else is damage enough. The players responsible can say to themselves that they aren’t affecting the outcome of the match, but it’s okay for them: they know what they’re doing and what they’re not doing. We don’t.
Stealing our heroes
The other huge negative is that cricket loses some of its heroes. Even if they don’t get banned for life, they’re no longer heroes; they’re sullied.
One of the joys of this series has been watching Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir. Asif’s kind of a numbnuts and we already knew that, but Amir was untarnished. We’ve some sympathy for him because he’s 18 and he’s being shown how to be a professional cricketer by his older teammates, but even so, there’ll always be a bit of shit stuck to him from now.
One’s a balding, short-arsed, right-handed batsman. The other’s a boyish, lanky bowler who bats left-handed. Together they gave James Anderson the longest wait of his career.
Trott and Broad caused Pakistan’s bowlers no little distress as well, which was entirely unexpected given the circumstances. Mohammad Amir started the day taking four wickets for no runs and Broad arrived at the crease with England 102-7.
Number nines don’t generally score Test hundreds from that position and it was even less likely in a summer where the value of a run has inflated astronomically with every passing innings.
For the bowling side, an eighth wicket partnership like the one between Jonathan Trott and Stuart Broad is like having the shit kicked out of you by a baby panda. For hours.
Most grounds are pleased if they get even one Test match, let alone two.
Lord’s is the home of cricket
What does that even mean? People just bandy the phrase about mindlessly. It’s propaganda. We grew up with cricket and have followed it our whole adult life and never went to Lord’s until we were in our thirties. It seems cricket is thriving away from its home.
Half the cricket that is played in this country is played in Lancashire, Yorkshire and Durham. Half! That’s cricket’s heartland right there. Isn’t that the home of cricket?
Lord’s is special
For whom? The players? You don’t schedule matches for the players. There are 22 of them and several thousand spectators. Is Lord’s special for spectators? When we went it felt like pretty much every English ground we’ve been to – plastic seating and overlooked by blocks of flats. It was nice, but nothing special.
We went to Lord’s once. It was fairly normal until we went round the far side of the ground and heard a guy talking about real tennis.
Lord’s has a real tennis court.
Okay, we know we say not to mention the cricket in your match reports, but can there at least be some cricket that you avoid mentioning from now on? We’re including this one because it’s largely about food and because it contains some happy news and some good advice. Try and make a cricket reference in your comments maybe.
As it was only two days before the wedding we decided on a quiet night out at Jamie’s Italian in Guildford with my best friends, Sarah and Robin, their mums and my future mother-in-law, Wendy. I’d never been to this branch before, but as a lover of the antipasti platter of meats and cheeses thought it was a safe bet. Anything associated with the Naked Chef holds some considerable prestige in Perth where my mother-in-law lives, so I also hoped to gain some pre-wedding Brownie points. She was suitably impressed.
On the whole the food was jolly tasty, although I immediately regretted ordering the Fritto Misto and suffered considerable food envy when Wendy’s choice of lamb chops arrived. This taught me the invaluable life lesson that you should always go for the meat option rather than the deep fried mystery assortment of seafood. Mother-in-laws are wise and wily creatures.
We were quite disappointed that Jamie himself wasn’t there to cook for us, but our South African waiter Alasdair did arrange for me to get a massive tin of chopped tomatoes signed by Gareth who was working in the kitchen that night. I imagine that one day when Gareth is a famous TV personality this tin will be worth some considerable sum of money.
Later in the meal Sarah thought she had recognised our old primary school deputy head sitting nearby so she marched over there to reacquaint herself with Mrs Davies. Robin and I felt really sorry for the woman who was clearly out enjoying a quiet meal with her husband. Nonetheless we soon also marched over and cajoled her into posing for photos with us to celebrate this amusing coincidence. I’m also a primary school teacher and will no doubt be equally charming when three Pinot Grigio-swigging women come to ruin my nights out in twenty years’ time.
At the end of the evening Wendy wanted us to go to a late night bar so we could wait for the Australian, his father and best man, Shane, to return from Vauxhall. They missed their train so we left without them.
At about one o’clock in the morning the Australian rocked up proudly sporting his Virgin man-bag that he had been given by a part-time-model masquerading as an air hostess. He was also clutching a can of Fosters and was wearing the child-size cap that came in the man-bag. He looked ridiculous.
TV analysis can get a bit nit-picking and it turns us all into experts. Alastair Cook was in poor form and there had to be a reason: “His footwork’s not good. Here’s an example of that.” There’s your proof. Case closed.
Only it doesn’t exactly work like that. Technique can improve your chances of succeeding as a batsman, but flaws don’t always mean failure. A batsman can play a shot, a whole innings, or a whole career with dreadful footwork and still be pretty successful.
In Alastair Cook’s case, there was a lot of video footage of him playing duff shots. However, because he was getting out so quickly, all the footage was of the first few balls of each innings. That partly supports the view that poor technique is getting him out, but it’s also true that many of the very best batsman can bat like great fat lumps of dog toss when they first come to the crease.
Technique’s something you can’t think about when you’re batting. Thoughts are a thick gum that clogs your movements and sabotages your timing. What you’re really after is a Zen-like autopilot state.
If you were in a conversation with someone and they used the word ‘verticals‘, you wouldn’t think about hitting them in the face, would you? You’d just do it. That’s the state of mind a batsman needs.
Following on from yesterday’s post about poor Test match crowds and why it’s mostly a ticket price issue, we thought we’d make a page to try and gauge the cost of a day at the cricket.
If you go to a match this year, try and keep a rough tally and put it in the comments of this post giving the following information.
Ground: Lord’s, Old Trafford, Edgbaston etc
Match type: Test match, international Twenty20, County Championship etc
Travel: Cost per person
Ticket: Cost per person
Food: Anything you spent at the ground
Drink: What you’re willing to admit you spent at the ground
Miscellaneous: Anything else you may have bought during the day
Total: Cost per person
Ticket: £0 (member)
Ticket: £25 and £10 for child’s ticket
Total: £56 (£34 and £22 for child)
The Rose Bowl
Domestic Twenty20 (finals day)
Travel: £30 (one car)
Ticket: £55 (£45 child)
Food and drink: £70 (three people)
Total: £81.25 per person