December 10, 2011

The struggle of the committed cricket fan

So many games, so little time

Wednesday, 7th December The modern cricketer may think he has it hard, but he only has to stay awake for one game at a time. The cricket watcher, on the other hand, lives in a state of paranoia; unable to fully appreciate the contest they are watching for fear that they may be missing Sehwag doing something marvellous on the other channel.

Though I hate to say it, I do sometimes wonder whether there isn’t a little bit too much cricket. At the moment, I feel like a diligent guard dog who has, by rapidly turning his head this way and that, managed to keep three cats under surveillance, only to see a fourth moggy emerging from the rhododendron bushes.

For it seems that Sri Lanka are about to tour South Africa, leaving just Zimbabwe and England as the only Test nations currently without a date. The only way for the hard-pressed cricket fan to keep up with all this is to hire a personal assistant. Alec Stewart would be ideal, I reckon.

“Morning, Stewart, what’s on the agenda today?”

“The Bangladeshi players have boarded a flight to Wellington, Australia’s seventh one-day international against Papua New Guinea starts in 37 minutes, and during the interval you’re scheduled to watch the ICC board meeting on Snooze TV. And I’ve recorded highlights of the England’s team bonding trip to the tattoo parlour, warmed your sofa and arranged your snacks in alphabetical order, just as you like it.”

“Excellent work, Stewart, now if you wouldn’t mind making a start on those dishes...”

“Already done, sir, and I also took the liberty of dusting your Wisdens and folding your socks.”

Anyway, though I haven’t had time to read up on all the pre-tour gossip, I did ask Kumar the Sledging Macaw what he thought of Sri Lanka’s chances, as I cleaned out his cage. He squawked derisively at me, pecked me on the arm and then did his Tony Greig impression. A fair assessment, I think.

Thursday, 8th December I wonder if our affinity with certain cricketers depends on our age. When I was the silly side of 25, I was rooting for the Athertons, Lathwells and Ramprakashes: nervous youngsters thrust blinking into the fast lane. I had no time for doddery old Gatting or hairy Goochie or the trundling slogger masquerading as Ian Botham.

These days, as my fantasy Test career is drawing to a close (they say that one day you wake up and you just know that’s it time to fantasy retire) I identify with the old codgers, the grizzled veterans and the wily senior pros who stubbornly refuse to conform to the idea that a chap is washed up once he hits not-quite-40.

That’s why I was delighted to see Rahul Dravid get the gig as captain of Rajasthan. And there’s another reason too. Dravid hasn’t just been written off because of his age but because he doesn’t lose his wicket often. The two are usually combined: Dravid has a solid defensive technique and is nearly 39, ergo Dravid can’t play Twenty20.

But cricket is just bat versus ball. The batsman must find ways to manoeuvre the ball in scoring directions without being bowled, caught or poking himself in the eye. If you are good at the bat and ball thing (and I think we can agree that Rahul is pretty useful in that department) then the rest is just detail.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England