October 2, 2009

England

A traitorous confession

Andrew Hughes


Thanks, I’ll pass © Getty Images
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I don’t like the English cricket team. There, I said it. I feel no attachment whatsoever to this particular collection of blue-clad gym-botherers. It may be traitors’ talk, but I am entirely indifferent to the outcome of Friday’s semi-final. The match itself, I am looking forward to. The result is irrelevant.

So why don’t I care?

First of all, I’m not a natural patriot. The merest sight of a St George Cross and I begin to mumble angrily into my cocoa and feel an urge to whistle the “Marseillaise” or set fire to some Morris dancers’ handkerchiefs.

Ah, you might say, once a traitor, always a traitor. You may be right.

But ‘twas not always thus. Even though I grew up watching an inept bunch of no-hopers struggle desperately every summer, I took it for granted that I wanted England to win, and I took these losers to my heart. If I were asked to name my cricket hero, I would first lecture the interrogator on the inanity of the question, and then mutter something about Mike Atherton.

My levels of Englishness peaked in 2005. Watching reruns of that Ashes series, I realise that at the time I must have been blind to the drunken morons on the terraces, oblivious to the mindless, draining partiality of that summer’s prevailing mood and to the manner in which the subtle complexities of the great game were overwhelmed by a torrent of red-and-white jingoism. Australia were the cruel tormentors, the heartless tyrants, and we were finally overthrowing them. It was a victory for justice and freedom. Cry God for Freddie, England and St George!

But something happened during the post-Ashes hangover. You know what it’s like. A big night out, you wake up feeling depressed and you can’t remember where you left your shoes. Well, for me, it was my patriotism. I know I had it at the Oval. I’m sure it was around during the Trafalgar Square parade. But it had gone. And I haven’t found it yet. This summer, as England were being embarrassed by the Netherlands at Lord’s, I joined the worldwide club of neutrals and cheered the men in orange.

How did this happen? To be honest, I don’t know. There has been any number of disillusionments, disenchantments and irritations in recent years. There was Alastair Cook’s biography, Monty Panesar’s biography, the continued selection of Steve Harmison, the Stanford debacle, the canonisation of Andrew Flintoff, the total lack of anything approaching a global perspective on the part of the English press.

Or perhaps I just became bored of looking at the same old surly, unshaven, unsmiling bunch of really quite ordinary sportsmen. I grew tired of hearing how they were all very, very talented – despite all the evidence to the contrary. I began instead to take an interest in other, frankly more exciting teams. I began to enjoy the game for its own sake, without being tensed up in a clench of patriotic desperation.

And that is what I shall be doing on Friday, with a gin and tonic to hand. You are welcome to join me at Hughes Towers, providing you leave your flags in the foyer and don’t spill your lager on the Axminster.

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Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Posted by Roger Hebb on (October 7, 2009, 4:36 GMT)

I'm an ardent fan of all english sporting teams even though I now live in India,but I must admit I'm losing it with the cricket team.Surely these can't be the best players we have,they don't seem to have any determination and certain not any consistence.They are good on their day but their days are few and far between.Obviously they must be over paid for their "skills" so maybe they should be paid on their results. I suggest some thing like this: Expenses guaranteed,plus 100 pounds a run with extra 25 per run for boundries and sixes,5000 pounds per wicket plus extra for catches,run outs and stumpings this money to go into a kitty and be shared between all the playing squad with the kitty being doubled for a win and halved for a loss.With this I'm sure more determination and consistency will be seen and will show up those who really want to play for England and those who are just happy to collect there wages, win or lose.Controversal I know but something has to be tried.

Posted by Safiya on (October 5, 2009, 14:30 GMT)

I know exactly what it feels like having surpported Pakistan all my life. hearing about how talented they are, but yet you don't get to see that 'talent'.

Posted by Pratik Rath on (October 5, 2009, 11:34 GMT)

well same here its come to point for me where i litterally force myself to watch the ODI game so i can enjoy it again. Loved Indian cricket so much but i feel Test cricket is back live in india coz we play like 3 in a year now so i really enjoy watchin india play test again. Give matches like Pak vs India Test in Chenai!! One good thing about politics here is we can still enjoy india pak test series coz we play once in 5 years now or something.

Posted by Warwicks fan on (October 3, 2009, 15:00 GMT)

I think it's because there is just too much meaningless cricket. What exactly is the Champions Trophy? What are England champions of? Nothing, is the answer. I'll follow the scores of the Tests in South Africa, but I won't care much because it's one lot of South Africans against another, with a few make-weights in the 'England' team.

Posted by MartinAmber on (October 3, 2009, 13:13 GMT)

@Rufus Parsons

It seems that you are addressing me, at least partly. May I reassure you that I was delighted that England won the Ashes, miserable during the Headingley Test, tense and ultimately triumphal during Lord's and the Oval.

It's the utter guff that went with it that did my head in. 06/07 being "forgotten"; the Flintoff business; the moronic booing of Ponting; the press turning his fair comment about time-wasting at Cardiff into something nasty; the smug certainty that 2005 was the Greatest Series (never mind Aus v WI 60/61 or 98/99, eh boys?)...

There were times when it was embarrassing to be a passionate England fan, and it had very little to do with the cricket. I'm afraid that in some ways - the absence of historical perspective and the awful jingoism - it resembled coverage of Premier League football. And that isn't a welcome development, in my book at least.

Posted by A cricket Fan on (October 3, 2009, 13:04 GMT)

Cricket is loosing its shine now a days. Too much of anything is simply boring. With too much goes the interest. The indian team is bloated bunch of individual no good doers. They always fail when it matters. It really does not make any difference whether they win or loose. No thrill anymore. There were days when days used to be bright when India used to win. It does not matter anymore. It is another day in office and win or loose are part & parcel of everday life. No patroitism or love for country shown by the cricketers. ITS BLAND CRICKET WITHOUT ANY SPIRIT.

Posted by Asif Rathod on (October 3, 2009, 12:36 GMT)

All are saying Pakistan is most unpredictable team, and I would say England is most predictable team. They can show some magic in a match or two of the big tournament, but they doesn't have that intensity which get them going for whole tournament. Frankly speaking No team has fear of English Cricket team. Everyone talks abt teams like, South Africa, Australia, Sri Lanka are big tests, but, no one cares about England. For them, match with England is one of easy encounter. English team has best domestic cricketing infrastructure amongst all other countries, but I seriously feel something is lacking somewhere, probably in selection panel. English team has lots of great talent but somehow they have failed to stamp there authority in world cricket. Who'll believe two of highest ever paid cricketers(KP and freddy in IPL)plays for Engalnd.

Posted by shortofalength on (October 3, 2009, 12:07 GMT)

Not sure what it was but I went off the Aust team when they dominated world cricket when other teams were weak. Watching them crush teams full of players who would not have been playing Test cricket 20 years ago and the jingoistic nonsense that went with it made me realise that quality have been given away for quantity...opposing teams were ritually lined up and put to the sword the ACB media machine lauding them as Gods, and sadly the Aust public slavishly falling in line to worship at the altar. I gave up trying to explain to 'fans" that Matty Hayden's average was about double it would have been if he had played in the 80s or that Gillespie would have spent his days bowling 1st change for South Aust rather than terrifying top orders that should never have been in Test cricket. Austs are particularly good at looking at things with blinkers on. The standard of cricket has been declining for 30 years,Aust has started to feel it later than most.

Posted by Jason on (October 3, 2009, 11:22 GMT)

Money and all the evils that it brings with it threatens every sport. eg. excess one days etc. If cricketing administrators dont keep the greedy cricket exploiters at bay they will kill the goose that killed the golden egg. Cricket fans dont care for much of the manufactured hype that surrounds the modern game. We just want to see good talented cricketers give it all for their country in the middle and then shake hands after the game and say "good contest." What is happening in the West Indies is exactly what we DON'T want to happen!

Posted by angshuman on (October 3, 2009, 10:08 GMT)

I agree with Indian-Cricket-Fan. As an Indian cricket fan, I know it doesn't matter a lot to the cricketers to lose - it is just some less money for them. Why should we, the fans cry for them. My phase started after the 1996 World Cup, semi-final, and I never felt the same for the Indian team again - not even after the series wins in Pakistan and England and the 20-20 WC win. But I feel sorry for the young kids.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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