Pakistan November 2, 2011

The curse of Premier League football

The youth of Pakistan are moving away from cricket

Friday, 28th October His Buttiness has gone, but the effects of Buttism linger. Pakistan’s cricketers are currently playing a home series 1200 miles away from home and cricket fans in Pakistan haven’t been able to watch their team play live for two and half years. Thanks to Ijaz’s patented formula for administration (Crisis x Incompetence = Disaster²) who knows how many have given up on the sport altogether?

And since the globalised sports marketplace deplores a vacuum, it appears that the imaginations of Pakistani youth are being seduced by, of all things, Premier League football. Quite why anyone in Pakistan would want to watch a bunch of overrated, overpaid, whining hooligans play-acting, spitting and kicking at each other is beyond me, particularly when they can already get that on the Parliament Channel.

But it seems that the doings of Terry, Torres and Suarez are of increasing interest to the citizens of Pakistan and so now Manchester United are supplying “exclusive” content to their mobile phones. Just imagine that. As well as being able to see Wayne Rooney swearing in slow-mo on your television, you can now take the foul-mouthed moron with you on the train, to the dentist or visiting your grandmother.

Never mind inviting Imran round for tea and gossip, Mr Ashraf, your No. 1 priority should be bringing back international cricket. Do you want the next generation to grow up wearing Chelsea shirts, throwing themselves to the ground Drogba style every time the wind blows or celebrating their exam results by lifting their shirts over their heads and running around like loonies?

No, neither do I. So pull your finger out.

Sunday, 30th October What is it with the modern cricketer? They get piles of cash, a tempting selection of essential oils in the massage room and all the official tracksuits they can stuff into their suitcase. And then when they’re too old to bend down at first slip, they can retire to the commentary booth, where they will be handsomely remunerated without having to voice an original opinion for the next 30 years.

So why are they so angry all the time?

England’s mini-break to India has been the last word in grouch; a touring exhibition of grumpiness that featured more hissy fits than the opening night at the Paris Fashion Show and finally ended yesterday, with KP performing the now traditional spitting out of the dummy. And it’s not just the English. Today, Tamim Iqbal was in trouble for sledging Marlon Samuels; not a sentence I ever thought I’d have to write.

Now we all like the odd bit of misbehaviour, providing it’s good enough to one day feature in a book of cricket anecdotes. But not all the time. These days sledging and acting out isn’t the result of an entertaining and spontaneous psychotic episode, it’s a tactic, a routine part of the game. I imagine Jonathan Trott randomly swears at elderly ladies in the street, just to keep his verbal abuse reflexes honed.

And the result is so boring. Bowler follows through and glares at batsman. Batsman reminds him he hasn’t taken a wicket yet. Bowler swears at non-striker. Non-striker sticks his tongue out at bowler. Mid-off criticises non-striker’s girlfriend’s choice of curtain-fabric. Non-striker demands mid-off takes that back or he’ll be forced to tell him what he really thinks of his hairstyle. Umpire sighs. Repeat ad nauseam.

Coaches clearly believe it works. Maybe it does. Perhaps the sheer mind-numbing banality of it all eventually causes batsmen to flip and do anything to get out of there. (I find the same thing happens if I’m forced to watch two consecutive episodes of iCarly.) But is that really what we want our game to look like? Are we expecting kids to see these tantrum-throwing sledgers as heroes? Is that what cricket is about?

So I have a suggestion. Since fining the players doesn’t seem work, let’s fine the coaches. A day’s salary for every swear word, a week for every sledge that doesn’t make us laugh and 100 lines every time Craig Kieswetter opens his mouth.

That ought to do the trick.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England