England May 13, 2010

A bit of spiritual fumigation

After a month of politics, only cricket can restore the soul

England: unconscionably heroic at the World Twenty20 © Getty Images

Hello Confectionery Stallers, and apologies for my long break from the hallowed virtual turf of Cricinfo. I have been immersed in my other life as a political comedian, attempting to mine comedy and/or sense (preferably both, but often neither) from the chaos of the British general election. With this nation now retreating from the verge of civil war, and with the prospect of the Russians taking advantage of a few days’ political uncertainty to launch a blitzkreig occupation of these shores now mercifully receding, I can turn my attention back to where it belongs and naturally resides – cricket.

My various commitments over recent weeks (the only time in my career that being a political comedian has meant that I got more work, rather than less) meant that on Monday I watched my first cricket since March. What a pleasant surprise to discover that England are currently not rubbish at a form of limited-overs cricket. Not even close. A well-balanced team, well-selected, with potential boundary-smiters throughout the batting order – something must be about to go horribly wrong.

Miraculously, despite the news of a hung parliament emerging from last week’s election, England have played their best tournament cricket for years. They have been so focused and clinical that one can only conclude they had not seen the apocalyptic newspaper agitations or cold-sweat-mongering Conservative election advert warning that an indecisive election result would lead to unstoppable and absolute national meltdown, as sure as night follows day, as sure as controversy follows umpire Daryl Harper, as sure as the words “was out for nought” follow the name “Chris Martin” in a reports of a New Zealand innings.

For Collingwood and his troops to focus on cricket when the nation they represent was on the brink of literally splintering into tiny shards of island that would float aimlessly around the North Atlantic for the rest of time can only be considered truly heroic. Either that or they patriotically steeled themselves to provide Britain as a whole with a shimmering shaft of light in the unremitting gloom of Westminster uncertainty.

(There have been the usual intermittent grumblings that the England team is not as English as would be ideal, having harvested a number of their team from various other countries. Surely, however, a national sports team has a duty to reflect the country it represents. And Britain as a whole is now an importing nation, not a manufacturing one. If anything, the make-up of the England XI is a satirical comment on the country’s industrial decline, rather than a systemic failure to produce homegrown talent and an overenthusiastic use of current ICC qualification regulations.)

So, with the election and its aftermath finally over, I can mercifully resume my Confectionary Stall duties. I have not even looked anything up on Statsguru for about six weeks – my longest “dry” period since I discovered it. It may take me some time to readjust to normal life. A month of pure, concentrated, unadulterated democracy is enough to break almost any human being, and I am in need of some spiritual fumigation. I hope cricket can provide that.

I will try to post shorter, more regular blogs. And I will also do occasional question-and-answer blogs, so if you have a query about cricket to which you would like me to invent an answer, please post a message below this. It has been good to write at you again.

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer