June 11, 2009

Australian cricket

Sport and booze are inseparable

Kanishkaa Balachandran

In the Times, Michael Atherton wonders if he is alone in thinking that there is something deeply ambivalent about cricket's - sport's - attitude to alcohol. It is almost impossible to be part of the game, either as player or spectator, and not realise how central booze is to the whole thing. Even if you don't drink you can't escape it. But wouldn't Andrew Symonds be right to be just a little confused at this moral outrage from an organisation that shows such an enthusiasm for alcohol in its commercial arrangements, and a sport that cannot rid itself of its addiction?

It is true that Symonds has, for some time, been on the kind of slippery slope that Paul McGrath (and countless others, such as Tony Adams) described in his memoir of his time as a professional footballer, when booze became not just an enabler of good times but an emasculator of everything else. At Manchester United during Ron Atkinson's time as manager in the 1980s, beer was as much a part of life as pasta is now. “Drink offered escapism,” McGrath wrote, “and in no time I became an expert at escaping everything around me.”

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Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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