July 18, 2010

Why cricket trumps football

The summer pastime is in danger of being engulfed by the beautiful game and its not-so-beautiful groin-injuring fans

Having locked myself in my flat for the week, cowering in a corner of my living room, hidden under a Dutch flag and hugging the remains of an orange vuvuzela whilst rocking back and forth in a foetal-like position, I find myself contemplating my life’s athletic priorities.

Over the last eight years both football and cricket have dominated my sporting life and as the respective seasons overlap one another each year, I need to decide which one takes priority. The decision is usually taken using the method perfected by American politics, i.e. the knee-jerk reaction. If I have a run of ducks, wicketless games, dropped catches and, more importantly, rubbish teas, I tend to favour the beautiful game. However, this attitude may reverse in the space of seconds, when, say, some ginger-haired midget, reeking of booze, with pupils the size of dinner plates pulsating so violently they look set to explode, crashes into me with a two-footed dropkick. As I feel his sharpened studs steadily dig into my groin I may find myself longing for the bored hours spent counting grass stems at fine leg. Every year I find myself facing this choice and this year is no exception.

Although I am 25 years old, mentally I haven’t aged since the age of 14, and physically I have accelerated to around 40. This means that like any 14-year-old I would like to, among other things, play sport all day every day. Unfortunately my body is about as resistant to injury as you would expect any 6ft 4in lump of meat at just a shade under 100kg (220 lbs) to be. Currently I am carrying a permanently swollen right ankle (football and bowling), a displaced left shoulder joint (mountain-biking - I have a lovely bit of bone sticking out of my shoulder and am banned from taking my shirt off in certain public areas), a strained knee ligament (football), and a mystery injury to my right shoulder, which for the last few weeks has prevented me from bowling (this unexpectedly occurred whilst I was giving my older brother a serious education in beach football). I imagine that the word “hypochondriac” may be balancing on the tip of your tongue right now, dying to be spat out at your computer screen, but unfortunately I guarantee the authenticity of these, which means that over the last few years I have led a very sporadic athletic life.

As mentioned, I am presently unable to bowl – not a reflection on the quality of my bowling, although I am sure some batsman, not to mention my captain, Buck, may think otherwise – and have thus reverted to keeping wicket and holding a bat for an over or two, rarely causing any massive depletion of ink in the scorer’s pen. If it weren’t for the enjoyment of wicketkeeping (definitely a lot more exciting than fielding) and post-match socialising, my cricket could be feeling the pressure of the ever-present football threat. Although quite happy to be missing the pre-season training, which generally involves something horribly masochistic like sprinting up and down dunes (about as much fun as a colonoscopy), once football season is in full swing, around two months before the end of the cricket summer, I will be sure to get itchy feet again. To keep myself faithful to our beloved summer pastime I have forced myself to conjure up the following list of the virtues of cricket over football.

It wasn’t particularly challenging. Here it is:

1. Can't play cricket in the rain / sleet / snow / hail (huge bonus for anyone who has ever played football in the Scottish winter)

2. Tea.

3. Fewer psycho ginger midgets (i.e. less trips to A&E to get football studs surgically removed from sensitive areas).

4. Missed opportunities in cricket generally met with awkward silence as opposed to volley of abuse one would receive on a football pitch.

5. Sledging is more refined in cricket (although that is pretty marginal in NE Scotland).

6. Tea.

7. Cricket is more an individual sport, so even if the team loses but personal milestones are achieved, one is still satisfied.

8. The Netherlands would definitely beat Spain in cricket.

9. No damned German octopuses predicting scorelines.

10. Tea.

I fear that my inner struggle is a microcosm of modern-day society. Football’s tentacles (only and last Paul the Octopus pun, I promise) are wrapping themselves ever tighter around our precious summer pastime. I do not want to be the Sky Sports of Aberdeenshire cricket, briefly embracing the sport in June and July before chucking it back onto the slagheap as soon as Wayne Rooney’s metatarsal creaks back into action. I feel I must make a stand, however minor, and show that cricket will not lie down without a fight. If only Buck the Colossal Captain would let me bat at No. 4.

So this is a rallying cry to protect our great summer pastime. Footballing Cricketers (or Cricketing Footballers), do not abandon your whites until the season is over. Force your respective leagues to hold off until mid-September. Only through mass action can we prevail. Equally importantly, captains of Footballing Cricketers (or… well you get the point by now), be sure to offer your stars every incentive to keep on their whites. Let them open the batting, let them clean up the tail, and be sure to give them first dibs at tea. I just hope Buck the Colossal Captain is listening. Psycho ginger midgets seem to be everywhere at the moment.