Wednesday, 11 June 2008

When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease...

Summer has finally deigned to show its face here in the UK and the cricket season is in full swing. Ahh cricket! Another of those games that we gave the world and then they turn up on our doorstep and beat the pants off us (see also – European Football Championships). Except New Zealand.

I’ve always been a bit of a cricket devotee, I was coached for a year or so at school and subsequently played for the school team as a middle order batsman and occasional wicket-keeper. My career ended at about age 16 when sport became terribly uncool but I then reverted to watching it on TV – before it was gobbled up by Satellite Channels. I remember with real fondness all those black and white Test Matches from the 1960s which featured names such as Dexter, Graveney, Boycott, Edrich, D’Olivera, Snow and Underwood. It was a period when England would get regularly battered by the West Indies in the form of fast bowlers Hall & Griffith and then hit all round the ground by Sobers, Greenwich and the rest of them. Happy days!

Cricket is a unique sport for many reasons and each of those reasons shows why it could only have been invented by the English.

It is the only sport that is played over 5 days. This means that a potential spectator is not limited to attendance at a certain time on a certain day and has a choice of dates. It also means that someone seeing play on say, day 3 will not see the beginning nor the end of the game. This is in compliance with the English attribute that says that ‘taking part is more important than winning’. Which is why we never win anything.

It is the only sport that revolves around meals, especially Tea. This is absolutely paramount. No English sportsman likes to go without his grub and to stop for Tea at 4.00 pm is entirely civilised. Pity nobody else takes our lead on this. All sports should stop for Tea at four!

It is the only sport that incorporates the weather into strategy and tactics. We all know that the English are obsessed with the weather, so why not make it part of the sport? It’s entirely logical that play should stop when it rains or when the light is so bad no one can see the ball, but is also logical that varying degrees of cloud cover, early morning moisture, pitch condition, wind direction and all sorts of other atmospheric factors should form part of the captain’s thought processes when directing his troops. It also means that when we play in the West Indies, Australia and India when it is just hot all the time we invariably lose.

It is the only sport where a draw is declared due to insufficient duration of playing time. I know that the concept of a draw is alien for you Yanks but just take a deep breath and think how satisfying a non-result can be when both sides have given their all. It is the classic English compromise and can be followed by a nice cup of tea!

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