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As a mere humourist, an amateur dabbler in the mysteries of cricket writing, I make it my business to study the greats. I have, for instance, catalogued every one of Gideon Haigh’s shopping lists from the autumn of 2005 onwards, and when I am particularly in need of inspiration I fetch them down from their place on my shelf next to Mike Atherton’s Notes to My Milkman 2002–2008 and pore over them for hours.
Of course, the conventional method of finding out what the best cricket minds are thinking is to read their Cricinfo columns. Last week, for instance, Peter Roebuck penned a piece that swiftly became essential reading at Hughes Towers. I printed off copies for all of the household staff and withheld their monthly remuneration until I was happy they had mastered the finer points of Mr Roebuck’s thesis.
I even had my butler recite it whilst I enjoyed my afternoon tea on the terrace. Hearing those words of reason pour forth once again, I felt all was right with the world. “Quite so!” I exclaimed as he extolled the virtues of opening up Test cricket’s borders. “Hear hear!” I declared as he railed against the ill-treatment of the “hard-pressed and often insulted spectators”. Indeed, at this point I was nodding so hard in agreement that my monocle popped out of my eye and into my Earl Grey.
Tea-splashingly good though his piece was, I couldn’t let this opportunity pass without correcting him on an important point. Specifically, in paragraph two he stated, “Test cricketers cannot be microwaved.” This is unduly defeatist. Granted, you might have to chop them up a bit first, but I'm certain that it could be done, given a sufficiently large plate and a dash of good old-fashioned determination.
But aside from this unwarranted pessimism regarding the efficacy of modern radiation-based cooking facilities, his article was bang on. Let’s jolly well get on with it and give our Irish friends their place at the (slightly rickety) top table. There are of course, one or two issues to be thrashed out beforehand, but Mr Roebuck naturally has his mind on higher things and so it is down to lesser scribblers such as me to deal with the practicalities.
Firstly, there is the problem of hue. Who? No, hue. The fact is that South Africa, Pakistan and Bangladesh have pretty much got all the greens covered. So if we are to see more of the Irish on the international stage, they need to bring a new colour to the cricket spectrum. I’m thinking of fuchsia pink with violet trim. Or failing that, I’m sure Boyd Rankin would look lovely in lavender.
Secondly, what’s their shtick? Everyone else has a thing, a cliché. Pakistan are mercurial. Sri Lanka are unorthodox. England are useless. But what about Ireland? The lucky Irish? Well, Ravi Shastri needs more to work with than that. Plucky underdogs? Not a good idea because when it comes to Test cricket, everyone hates the plucky underdog (see Bangladesh). For a long time, I pondered this problem and then, whilst I was gazing at a portrait of a smugly smiling Stuart Clark, I had a eureka moment.
Sarcasm! We have nasty teams, incompetent teams, teams with immaculate haircuts, teams who choke, teams who sulk and teams who sometimes don’t turn up. But what the modern game lacks is a truly sarcastic international outfit.
So, I want to see Niall O’Brien play a forward defensive to a Jimmy Anderson half-volley and hold the position for fully 10 seconds. I want to see the Irish fielders applauding when Ricky Ponting reaches his fifty and then continuing to applaud and perhaps even throwing in a whoop or two, long after the crowd have stopped clapping and the ground has fallen silent.
Imagine Nasser Hussain holding a microphone under William Porterfield’s nose on a Thursday morning in June:
“So, William, you must be delighted to finally be playing a Test match at Lord’s.”
“Oh yeah, sure, we’re REALLY delighted. I mean it is SUCH an honour, you’ve no idea. I am, like, literally wetting myself with excitement.”
Email the ICC. Write to the United Nations. Pray to Uncle Lalit. Do what you have to do, chums, but let’s make it happen.
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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. Providing his ransom demands continue to be met, he has promised never to write a whimsical book about village cricket. @hughandrews73