May 20, 2010

County cricket

A cricket cure for the hopelessly insane

Andrew Hughes


Readers will be pleased to know that both players involved in this unseemly animated display have been fined for unnecessarily exciting spectators © Getty Images
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I’d like to start today’s blog with an apology. I understand that the non-appearance of Tuesday’s Long Handle piece caused a great deal of distress, indeed panic, on the streets of London, Mumbai and Melbourne. To those of you who staged a massed protest outside the offices of Cricinfo and had to be dispersed by riot police threatening to broadcast Danny Morrison’s audio recording of Shakespeare’s love sonnets, I offer my sincere apologies.

Rest assured that almost nothing can keep me from my keyboard. A court injunction might, but so far this month I have managed not to invoke the wrath of the law (though I did have to make some last-minute changes to last week’s piece entitled “Giles Clarke and the Kennedy Assassination”.) No, it was something far more serious that prevented me from fulfilling my Cricinfo duty. I have been, friends, to the very gates of sanity and gazed beyond at a world that makes no sense.

It began on Monday morning. I woke with a piercing headache and an ominous sense of foreboding. Nothing unusual in that, except that this time I was also experiencing the most bizarre hallucinations, visions of such absurdity that they could only have been the product of a fevered and diseased mind. I could see before me, as clear as if it had actually happened, irregularly shaven men in dark blue uniforms celebrating on a cricket pitch, and an Englishman lifting a trophy. Yes, a trophy. I know.

My doctor has assured me that the hallucinations will pass, but as part of my treatment I have been ordered to stay away from overly stimulating cricket and have been prescribed a week-long course of something called, “County Championship”. So on Wednesday morning I handed in my prescription at the pharmacy, collected my deck chair, straw boater, bottle of Pimms and king-sized pillow and began my treatment.

The first side effect they warn you about is the sensation of hearing loss. After seven weeks of IPL and two more from the Caribbean, I am used to a wider range of frequencies and I spent much of the first hour of Wednesday’s play fiddling with the television until I realised that this was no technical fault: the ground really was that quiet. It was the deathliest of hushes, the kind of silence librarians dream about. Even the birds were whispering. Only if they’d marked out a pitch in the Sea of Tranquillity could a more profound silence have been obtained.

And it proved to be a strange sort of morning in the world of subsidised cricket. One of the teams (let’s call them Northchestershire) were a certain number of runs behind and needed 50 more to get a bonus point. But it seemed that the allure of a glittering point couldn’t rouse them to urgency. Twenty-seven runs accumulated in the first hour. I hadn’t been that bored since the week I spent glacier-watching in Interlaken.

The bowlers bowled, the batsmen blocked, the fielders fiddled with their facial hair and the grass continued to grow. The highlight of the morning was probably the extended footage given to the manoeuvres of a fire engine. The commentators eagerly speculated on what the vehicle might have been doing, although “transporting firemen” did not feature in their conclusions, thus raising some doubts about their judgement on other matters.

But there is no doubting the efficacy of this county stuff. As the butterflies fluttered amongst the horse chestnut flowers and Bob Willis started to complain again, I felt my eyelids droop, and long before the lunch interval I had been lulled into a deep, deep slumber, disturbed only fitfully by a recurring dream in which Nick Knight was rocking Eoin Morgan to sleep, singing a lullaby about heavy rollers. Another week of this and those Caribbean nightmares will be but a distant memory.

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Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Posted by Steve on (June 8, 2010, 14:39 GMT)

Believe it or not, there are still many of us who are able to enjoy cricket without the manufactured atmosphere of amplified 'music', disc jockeys, floodlights and dancing girls. Quiet cricket in lovely countryside in England is to many the essence of the game. Let's hope it's still available for years to come. Oh and by the way ECB, no reductions in the County Championship please, it's the only form of our sport which is actually about the game and not just money, it's the one the players still value. It's actually 'A day at the cricket' rather than 3 hours!

Posted by Dave on (June 3, 2010, 5:21 GMT)

What a load of twaddle, you should be thankful it's still there to watch

Posted by Raja on (May 24, 2010, 8:13 GMT)

Brilliant, Andrew !!! Just brilliant. I was ROFL all the way through the article. Keep going !!! Raja (from CF).

Posted by Aditya on (May 23, 2010, 16:22 GMT)

Agree with Adarsh (a.k.a the Fudds! :P) (sorry Fudds, but your writing style is toooo distinctive to miss ;)) - really good article, classic Long Handle humour.

Posted by Adarsh on (May 22, 2010, 10:03 GMT)

Hi Andrew, Great article. This is the Andrew Hughes of long back, whose sense of humour made me a fan of page 2. For some time, I thought Anand Ramachandran will beat you in humor, but there you are! Hilarious!!

Posted by McGorium on (May 22, 2010, 1:32 GMT)

@Srikanth: First off, this article is satire. Get a sense of humour.Hughes writes neither to praise England, nor bury them.Also, one would be hard-pressed to find a pun in your first sentence if one searched for it with a magnifying glass. Nevertheless, thank you for pointing out the bleeding obvious. Now for your "issues": England has never won an international event, so the surprise isn't surprising. Second, it should matter that Englishmen don't play for England. Why not call it the League of Nations?I don't mean people of English ethnicity(Strauss's isn't English but was raised thre.Or Boppara etc.) but people born and raised outside the country. It's not an issue that Manchester United is full of foreigners. Not the case for the national team. None of these SAF and Irish players would have played had they not had one parent who held an English passport despite hardly living there. Eng deserved to win, but the criticism is fair.It's within the rules of the ECB, but the fact remains

Posted by Andrew Hughes on (May 21, 2010, 14:43 GMT)

As ever, thanks for all your comments.

I refrained from commenting on England's win for a number of reasons. First, for reasons I won't go into, I didn't see the game live. Second, it is to an extent yesterday's news and has been covered extensively on Page2 and elsewhere. And thirdly, there is something a little parochial about an Englishman writing about the English team on an international website. I'd already mentioned them once in the tournament and had exhausted my supply of interesting things to say about Collingwood et al. Still, the chaps done good etc. etc.

Srikanth, I am beginning to regard you as something of a Zen master of criticism. I have memorised your latest koan and will be studying it closely. I am sure that the meaning will become apparent if I apply myself diligently. I also appreciate your update on the state of civil order in the aforementioned cities, most helpful.

Christy - I think it is dangerous for my blood pressure to write about Giles Clarke.

Posted by Christy on (May 21, 2010, 6:00 GMT)

Andrew, v wer yearning for more sarcasm on ECB, IPL, Giles Clarke et al.. U hav disappointed all of us !!

Posted by Moin on (May 21, 2010, 5:16 GMT)

Great piece.

The opening lines were too gud :)

" riot police threatening to broadcast Danny Morrison’s audio recording of Shakespeare’s love sonnets"

Posted by Srikanth on (May 21, 2010, 4:23 GMT)

First, nobody missed your Tuesday furore and no adverse reactions were witnessed in Mumbai/London/Melbourne. Life was more than normal because Page 2 was quiet obn Tuesday. ha ha ha ha ha - no pun intended. Why is that the English victory not being spoken of highly? Why is that every singe guy in Cricinfo is keen on saying that the English victory was not deserved. For the record, I am from India but , for once was more than happy to see England lift the trophy. What does race or origin matter? Does it matter that South AFricans took England to the win - so what? The ECB gave them a chance to prove themselves as cricketers, cutting above boundaries such as race/color/origin etc. Engalnd and Australia were clinical in this T20 WC and deserved to play the finals. England held their nerve in the finals and won. That does not take away any credit from them. Yet jealous people who backed the wrong horse are pouring out their anger. This article is ample proof for that.

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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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