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Monday, 17th January An abundance of felicitations to Leicestershire County Cricket Club! For those of you who don’t give a flying Irani about Leicestershire County Cricket Club (and I fear there may be several) you should be aware that this particular sporting collective has, at a time of global financial perturbation, achieved the eyebrow-raisingly impressive feat of hauling themselves up the mouldering heap of fiscal ineptitude and planting their flag at the very summit.
Last year, in return for continuing to be Leicestershire, the ECB shovelled in their direction £1.7m with which to play at being businessmen. In homage to the classic Richard Pryor film Brewster’s Millions, the besuited denizens of the Leicestershire boardroom set about disposing of this embarrassingly enormous sum in the shortest possible time. This week they were able to announce that, against all the odds, they had attained a loss of £400,000. Quite an achievement, I think you’ll agree.
But in county cricket there can be no question of laurel-resting or of slack-bottomed complacency. How can Leicestershire exceed the raised expectations of ineptitude that will inevitably follow? It is an order of Morkelesque proportions, a Jesse Ryder of an ask. In the next few weeks, the ECB money truck will pull up outside the gates of Grace Road and deposit another, even larger mountain. But if I know these guys, squandering free money will not be enough. They will also be going for the record of failing to produce a single international cricketer for five full seasons in a row!
Good luck, chaps!
Wednesday, 19th January Matthew Prior has returned to the warm embrace of Team England, his utterly splendid average of 17.55 on Indian soil taking him straight to the top of the list of bald wicketkeepers who are available for the World Cup. But this is not the only reason why everyone’s favourite ear-drum irritator and connoisseur of the chirp has been given back his energy-drink privileges at the Club England bar.
“He’s a combative, aggressive cricketer,” says Andy Flower, “and he suits our aggressive fielding unit.”
At first and indeed upon subsequent glances, the art of interrupting a leather ball’s progress and returning it in the approximate direction of a work colleague does not appear to offer much scope for aggression. An angry snarl, for example, is often wasted in such circumstances, particularly when the snarlee is sliding across the boundary on his left buttock and is about to collide with an advertising hoarding.
But “aggressive fielding unit” is cricketese. Roughly translated, it means “bunch of loudmouths”. It makes sense, therefore, that the owner of Britain’s flappiest gums outside of the Houses of Parliament should be invited back to lead the chorus of on-field inanity that will be vital to England’s prospects of going out in the semi-finals.
Yet whilst it’s high fives and manly bottom pats all round for Matthew, for Samit Patel sadly there can be only stern looks of disapprobation and tuts of moral disapproval. You see, Mr Patel is an infidel, an unrepentant heretic in the Church of the Sanctimonious Fitness Freak and so has been cast into the bleak outer darkness, or Nottingham as it is sometimes known.
Mick Newell has suggested that Patel’s wedding in the autumn had led to a “slipping of standards”. Android Flower was even more joyless:
“It would be sad if he looked back on his career and he hasn’t done something that everyone is capable of. Everyone is capable of hard work.”
Or perhaps, just maybe he will look back on his career and say that he has thoroughly enjoyed the chance to play an utterly frivolous game in return for an ample amount of money, all the more so for having remained a balanced and happy human being with a healthy arrangement of priorities, rather than buckling under to a demand to fulfil an arbitrary standard of physical shape for the chance to serve in commandant Flower’s grim-faced boot camp for gym botherers.
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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