England October 8, 2011

No more samosas for Samit

The allrounder has been brainwashed into the England team way of life

Thursday, 6th October England’s official Liposuction Coordinator has had his leave cancelled and crates of reduced-flavour celery drink have been delivered to a certain Nottingham residence. Yes, the game is up for county cricket’s favourite fugitive from fitness and he is at last in compliance with Flower Directive 1.01: You Must Be Able To See Your Toes At All Times (Now Give Me One Hundred Press-Ups, Fatty).

Quite right, Samit, I said to myself, whilst munching on an éclair, about time you put the effort in. And it was, of course, inevitable. You don’t mess with Team England. They’re a cross between a Neapolitan crime family and a Royal Marines boot camp; The Godfather with energy drinks. Paul Collingwood once thought he could retire a little bit. Now his career is wearing a concrete overcoat and has sunk without trace.

Still it is a little sad to hear Samit spouting Flowerspeak. Train harder. Do the work. Put the hours in. Put the work in. It sounds exhausting yet at the same time monotonous, a little too much like working for a living. Some of us cling fondly to the idea that cricket should be played by people for whom a bit of a thrash with the bat is just a pleasant diversion from an afternoon of sipping cocktails, playing canasta with the French ambassador and swimming the Hellespont.

And perhaps in years to come, we will tell our children the story of Samit the Outlaw, the rebel with a paunch who stood up for a man’s right to eat three samosas before breakfast and still call himself a professional sportsman.

Friday, 7th October There are some aspects of human civilisation I will never understand: television talent contests, line dancing, coats for dogs, the popularity of Sarah Palin. And our peculiar sport has a few unfathomable oddities of its own. Take, for example, the idea that our cricket pitches must be standardised. Has anyone ever asked the ICC why?

I’m not suggesting horticultural anarchy. On the whole it would be preferable if pitches were to continue to be based around the popular soil and grass theme, roughly level from one end to the other and devoid of craters, molehills, water features and sandpits. I accept too, that the grass must be cut from time to time and that herbaceous borders probably add little to the cricket watcher’s experience.

But beyond that, surely we must let the curators have their fun. And if they occasionally come up with a pitch that is dryer than the surface of the moon, then so be it. We don’t ask that our batsmen be of a standard height, or that spinners only bowl googlies on day five. Give the men with the mowers free rein and see how much more interesting these matches could be.

Instead, Sri Lanka Cricket has been reprimanded because the Galle surface helped to create dangerously high levels of entertainment and batsmen were required to look for their runs rather than have them brought out on a silver platter.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England