England October 1, 2011

That repugnant numeral 3

Why would England's cricket administrators consider fraternising with this puny number?

Wednesday, 28th September Next summer there are to be 13 one-day internationals in Britain, which is obviously a good thing. Fifty-over cricket is splendid. You get a proper day out, coloured shirts, an eclectic mix of bad ‘90s dance music on the PA system, no fussing about with floodlights and a guaranteed result. If it were up to me, I’d scatter them across the fixture list like sparkly confetti. Players don’t like them, but what else would they be doing? Shopping for sunglasses? Arranging barbeques.

Journalists say that scheduling so many one-day internationals is like flogging a dead horse. I disagree. The horse is full of beans and the occasional thwack across its hind quarters merely encourages more mileage from the beast. It is Test cricket that has been lying in the straw, not touching its hay and refusing to get up. And rather than calling in the vet, the various cricket boards are standing around, shuffling their feet, looking awkwardly at the ground and waiting for it to expire.

Because here’s the real scandal about next summer’s calendar: there will be three Tests against South Africa. That’s right. Three. De La Soul were wrong. Three is most definitely not the magic number. It is an entirely inadequate number, a number that we should look down upon and make those dismissive sniffing noises that the French are so good at. Three? Ha, I cannot even bring myself to look at you, you paltry and pathetic series of puny proportions.

Anywhere else on Planet Cricket, where Tests are played out to the accompaniment of empty seats and mass yawning, this kind of scheduling would make sense. But in England people still turn up for the five-day stuff. They actually like it. What’s more, it’s the only format we’re any good at these days. If we can’t even muster up a five-match series to decide the No. 1 Test ranking, then what hope is there?

Thursday, 29th September Put your pens down, stop licking that Lahore-addressed envelope and don’t bother sending that text to Ijaz Butt complimenting him on how distinguished his grey hair makes him look, because entries are now closed in the international competition to become Pakistan’s next coach. In fact the PCB’s whittling committee have already whittled down a list of 37 to just five, which is the most impressive and speedy piece of whittling you are likely to see outside of the World Whittling Championships.

I knew there would be a lot of interest, so I got my application in early. My credentials are impeccable. I have a great deal of experience in the field of virtual coaching (shouting advice at the television during Kochi’s IPL matches), I am prepared to do whatever Mr Butt tells me and I’ve never fallen out with Shahid Afridi. I haven’t heard back yet, which I think is a good sign. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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