September 25, 2009

The good, the bad, the hairy


Jesse does the seventies © Getty Images

Let there be no doubt, cricket is men’s work. Women may be able to bat, bowl and field as well as the lesser sex, but there is one cricket skill in which, by and large, men remain pre-eminent: the rapid production of facial hair. And one man in particular, one selfless hero, has just raised cricket’s masculinity bar a notch higher. That’s right. Jesse Ryder has grown a moustache.

At the moment, it is hard to tell which way Jesse’s ‘tache will go. It’s something of a mini-Boon, but by the time the Champions Trophy comes to an end, he may be walking around with a full Zapata under his nose. Or perhaps he might go in for the waxed Hercule Poirot, or possibly even a Salvador Dali. I’ll keep you posted.

Of course, as we all know, the moustache is the nuclear option when it comes to demonstrating one’s masculinity and it brings its own particular dangers. Admirable though it is, this extra infusion of hairy-lipped testosterone into the New Zealand squad could have repercussions. Indeed, I’ve suspected for a long time that we may be approaching a fashion black hole. Consider, if you will, Jacob Oram’s hair. At what point does deliberately messy become just plain scruffy? Before you know it, people will be sprouting sideburns, shirts will remain unfastened and we will be back in the dark, hairy, and above all ugly, seventies; a decade when even attractive cricketers looked like they’d spent their close season living in a ditch.

It was precisely in order to uphold the aesthetic purity of the modern game that I recently launched my latest campaign. I am proposing that tattoos are made illegal under Level 4 of the ICC Code of Conduct. We all know that there are only three kinds of people on whom tattoos look good: Maoris, Bronze Age tribesmen and 19th century sailors. On everyone else they look like the scribblings of someone who tried to cheat in their maths exam, failed and then forgot to wash off the evidence. It can surely be no coincidence that the two biggest troublemakers in international cricket - Andrew Flintoff and Brendon McCullum - are covered in inky dribble

If we don’t make a stand then commentators will be next, and before we know where we are, Nasser Hussain’s pitch report will end with him rolling up his trouser leg to show us something deeply personal. Someone needed to draw an imaginary line in the metaphorical sand. That person was me.

The ICC tend not to answer my emails these days, so I decided to go to the top. The modern globetrotting cricketer is a surly sort of cove and not easy to bring to heel. I needed the help of the only man they would listen to. I needed Lalit Modi.

As you might imagine, His Modiness is a tricky man to get hold of, but I find that if you grab him firmly by the BlackBerry, he eventually stops struggling. He was sympathetic to my request, but replied that he was in no position to take a firm stance on body art. To my mounting horror, he then began to slowly remove his shirt to reveal an enormous, slightly hairy, chest-size Lalit Modi portrait in ink and flesh.

I haven’t been able to sleep ever since.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England