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Friday, 17th September And so it begins. Not so long ago Eoin Morgan could do no wrong. His captain was calling him a genius and so frequent and nausea-inducing were the tributes from the Sky team that I frequently found myself scrambling to hit the off button in the split second between Morgan’s name slipping David Gower’s lips and David Lloyd’s eyes starting to go all misty. I understand that, thanks to a personal intervention from Nick Knight, the Pope was considering popping down to The Oval to administer a swift canonisation today.
But no longer. Eoin Morgan has played a loose shot and lost his wicket. Cue furrowed brows in the commentary box. What was he thinking? Having seen these English love affairs before, I know the signs. That initial infatuation is starting to fade. Plans to introduce Morgan Studies to the GCSE curriculum have already been shelved and that thrilling reverse-sweep will soon be the epitome of recklessness. The next stage is a little way off, but we’ll know we’ve reached it when Mike Atherton uses the phrase: “I’m one of Morgan’s biggest fans but…” and proceeds to elucidate the 127 reasons why the Irishman should be dropped immediately.
Sunday, 19th September We have no live footage of the Spanish Armada 1588 or the Battle of Trafalgar 1805, so the Ashes 2005 will have to do. Why is this being shown again? Because it’s Sunday and we haven’t seen it for a few days. Jolly entertaining it was too, though to be honest, KP’s hair doesn’t look any better with the passing of the years. But it was proper cricket, no spot-fixing or mudslinging in sight. Just good old honest-to-goodness verbal abuse and petulance.
Monday, 20th September And so we near the traditional conclusion of a Pakistan visit to England, a tour with its own rituals, as formal as any state occasion. First there are the pleasantries at the airport, then, after a brief pause for some cricket, comes the official hurling of the first accusation, the counter-accusation, the entrance of the tabloid hacks to general booing, threats to call everything off, wild conspiracy theories and a scuffle or two before handshakes all round and a promise to do it all again in four years' time.
A week ago we had a scandal, now we have a carnival of stupidity in which every internet crackpot, every deluded administrator, rabble-rousing editor and bitter ex-cricketer have brought along their favourite hobby horses and are riding them up and down, waving this national flag or that national flag. I’m sick of it, quite frankly; sick of non-cricketing friends approaching me with a smirk, sick of the name-calling, and sick of being squeezed into a position where I must side with either the Sun or Ijaz Butt. In an ideal world they would both sue each other and lose.
So to hell with the lot of them. What the world of cricket needs now is an entirely uncontroversial series between two teams who between them uphold the best traditions of the great game and who can be relied upon to go about things in the right spirit without any unnecessary animosity. But while we’re waiting for that, grab yourself some popcorn, sit back and enjoy India v Australia VI: This Time It’s Even More Personal. Embassies on high alert? Tabloid hacks ready? Then let’s play 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. Providing his ransom demands continue to be met, he has promised never to write a whimsical book about village cricket. @hughandrews73