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Who’s the most important person in cricket? I’ll give you a clue. It isn’t His Modiness. It isn’t Freelance Freddie, Lord Sachin or even Jowly Giles Clarke (bless him). Geoffrey Boycott thinks he’s quite important. But he isn’t.
It’s you. And me. And everyone else who spends their spare sofa time gawping at Cape Cobras versus Delhi Daredevils or sitting on a plastic seat in the drizzle, watching Leicestershire’s middle-of-the-table tussle with Glamorgan. Without us, buying our match tickets, cable subscriptions, biographies and IPL-themed underwear (Kolkata’s gold-lamé knickers look particularly alluring), there would be no cricket.
But the game’s upside down right now. Players are at the top of the tree, and then come administrators, franchise owners, television executives, coaches and commentators. We plebs are at the bottom of the heap and we have to like what we’re given. So we get major international tournament finals on a Monday, we get players hiding in the dressing room because it’s a bit wet/chilly/slippery/bee-infested, we get pay-through-the-nose match tickets, we get inane television commentary; and we get adverts, endless bloody adverts on top of exorbitant satellite subscription fees.
And if being treated as a cash machine, a sack of disposable income or an economic unit isn’t bad enough; those above us in the cricket food chain always seem to know what’s best for us. English hacks are the worst for this. Take the Natwest Series between England and Australia. No one cared about it apparently, no one was interested, it was a giant snoozefest. Really? Try telling that to the thousands upon thousands who paid £70 and upwards for a ticket and sat shivering in the stands. Apparently, we need less international one-day cricket. Why? We like it.
But we don’t count. Our job is just to appear in cutaway sequences, to make television producers’ lives easier by turning up in wacky costumes, waving badly spelt banners and sometimes setting fire to effigies. Oh and we just happen to pay for the whole thing. So why do we get treated like peasants? Because no one in the game has taken the time to understand us. Players think it’s them we love. Commentators think we need them to explain the game to us. Journalists think we’re too stupid to do what they do, and administrators think we’re too lazy to climb the greasy pole.
And the truth? Well, when it comes right down to it, I can only speak for me, I suppose. Maybe some of it will strike a chord. But I didn’t borrow a book from our village library and copy the freeze-frame pictures of Richard Hadlee’s bowling action because I wanted to BE Richard Hadlee. I didn’t spend hours every rainy summer day playing tape-ball cricket with my brother in our living room because I hoped some day to earn my county cap. I didn’t catch a bus into town to buy the Playfair annual every April because I wanted a job with the ICC, and I don’t write this paltry blog because I’m hoping to bump into Gideon Haigh at a cocktail party
Millions of us love the game for its own sake, not for what we can get out of it. It’s about time we were listened to, because we ARE cricket.
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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