April 18, 2012

I can no longer suppress my secret desires

Kenny Shovel's view from the county circuit

Kenny Shovel's view from the county circuit

I am a chastened man. A mirror of truth has been held up before me and I want to make a confession.

As a county cricket fan I have been guilty of not showing enough interest in the IPL. Of treating it like just another Twenty20 tournament. Of only dipping in and out to watch games that catch my eye. Of comparing it unfavourably to the championship.

But thanks to the wisdom of Kevin Pietersen, I have come to realise I am acting out of jealously. I have come to realise the truth: that the Indian Premier League is world cricket’s Samantha Brick.

I now understand that I have been mesmerised by envy of its boundless beauty. Blinded by repressed desire as it drapes itself seductively across the start of the English domestic season. Enraged by the sight of it cavorting with moustachioed billionaire suitors.

I accept that I’ve always secretly yearned to close the curtains, switch on ITV4 and give myself to its demographic reach. I’ve longed to glimpse a pair of its breathtaking DLF maximums. Dreamt of running my hands over its curvaceous Manhattan bar charts. Blushed at the thought of its flirtatious boundary-edge player interviews.

Thank you, Kevin Pietersen, my eyes have been opened. I will never again deny the IPL’s innate beauty.

And yet, I was still more interested in last week’s Lancashire v Sussex championship game. Because I’m like that. Fickle.

There were no cheerleaders at Liverpool. No strategic time-outs. No film stars in the VIP area. Instead there was exaggerated seam movement on the first day, a hard-fought century by Mike Yardy on the second and heavy defeat for Lancashire on the third.

It was a result that underlined just how difficult it is to defend the championship title. It fact, the most surprising aspect of that game was the almost total lack of surprise caused by Lancashire’s defeat. Not even Roger Moore would have raised an eyebrow. Because when you talk to fellow supporters, Lancashire seem no more fancied at the start of this year’s championship race than they were at the start of the last.

County cricket fans might take a certain perverse pleasure in the championship’s lack of glamour but the absence of big name players at Old Trafford still sees Lancashire flying under the radar whenever favourites are being discussed. Last season’s winning combination of experienced senior pros, youthful promise and team ethos just isn’t sexy enough to catch the eye.

Of course, it’s too early to make confident predictions about the destination of this season’s title based on the games played so far. How could you? With the Duke ball in early April swinging like a German couple after their kids leave home for University and batsmen playing as if an IPL scout was watching, two thirds of the sides have already been bowled out for fewer than 150.

It is entertaining to watch but the combination of three-day finishes and temperatures that would make Captain Oates rethink stepping outside his front door is hardly ideal for counties desperately in need of money at the turnstile.

At least a combination of poor batting technique and bitterly cold weather will be popular with county cricket’s most abundant sub-species of supporter, Miserablus Maximus.

Everyone who attends games will know who I mean. They are the guy who has been a member for 35 years and has never seen anything like this before. The guy who, if he was being swept out to sea by the tide, would complain that the sound of the rescue helicopter was attracting sharks. They are the guy who sees flaws in their own team but fails to notice them replicated in virtually every other county side.

At times they can be an annoyance. Someone whose voice you eventually have to move to avoid. But should the mood take you, there’s a kind of Bukowski-like poetry to them in full-on-rant mode. Although, I can’t remember Bukowski ever writing about the 50p slices of cake sold by the supporters association being too dry. Perhaps I need to recheck my copy of Love Is a Dog from Hell?

I sometimes wonder if the IPL has similar supporters. Do the spectators who stand directly behind cheerleaders ever complain about their view being blocked? “Your pom-poms are in my direct line of sight to Billy Bowden.” Or: “Stop grinding your hips suggestively, I can’t see Daniel Vettori’s arm ball.”

Perhaps one day Kevin Pietersen will tell us. I hope we are not too jealous to listen when he does.

Kenny Shovel has never sat in a press box or charged a match programme to expenses

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on April 19, 2012, 19:09 GMT

    @ravi. Do you forget England is the inventor of T20 Cricket. They have Friends Life T20 Domestic competition. I love to watch them and they are showing here in India is Star Cricket channel.

  • testli5504537 on April 19, 2012, 18:07 GMT

    The problem is Kenny that one doesn't know which of the games that one should have been left out until after they have been played. I'm suggesting that the future lies in "ten ten ten".

    Ten overs an innings of ten balls an over with ten players a side. It might give us a commercial edge over the IPL. Just a little tinkering, but it "freshens" up the product for TV.

    I love the IPL. I love the Indians. They look like very nice people having a lot of fun and the cricket's great!

  • testli5504537 on April 19, 2012, 17:57 GMT

    Thank you Kenny.What pleasure it is to be amused by your mischievous sense of humour. Wit based soundly on wisdom.

  • testli5504537 on April 19, 2012, 16:34 GMT

    you may watch it, I actually don't, but that comes across a bit jealous and bitter to me. particularly the bit where you bring up the guy that's been a fan for 35 years. I using that as a point scoring aspect of CC over IPL is exactly what KP was alluding to, there is a jealousy that this new fangled thing isn't english. after all we brits are the worst of the worst when it comes to parochial support. we follow wimbledon and no other tennis, the EPL, the 6 nations (most of which happens within home shores) we are the last country to admit we enjoy something from abroad.

    I'm not a huge fan of the IPL but I'd watch it before I watch county dross, it's clearly the most interesting domestic tournament in cricket, the fact it's not 35 years old isn't changing that.

  • testli5504537 on April 19, 2012, 10:49 GMT

    For the sake of clarity, perhaps I should point out that I do actually enjoy watching the IPL. However it could benefit from losing about a third of the games – see also the English domestic 2020 tournament – and the relevant authorities need their heads banging together so it has a dedicated window in the calendar when the best players can be made available without affecting other international and domestic cricket. But then that last point is just common sense and something most cricket supporters would agree on, so it will almost certainly never happen.

    Oh, and no, I’m not David Hopps. Not even when I attend cosplay conventions.

  • testli5504537 on April 19, 2012, 10:40 GMT

    The best way I can describe the IPL and all 20/20 cricket is, "A simple game for simple people."

  • testli5504537 on April 19, 2012, 10:14 GMT

    Just to answer a popular misconception. I am not the author of County Cricket matters, sad to say. However, I do sometimes post it for Kenny while he is otherwise engaged checking the bowling figures for Derbyshire 2nd X1.

  • testli5504537 on April 19, 2012, 9:59 GMT

    The authentic voice of the county circuit! Great stuff!

    I've never been too attractted to a version of the game in which a team can win without having to bowl the other side out. It's like watching one-armed boxing.

  • testli5504537 on April 19, 2012, 9:44 GMT

    Very true. I watch IPL on ITV4 every so often, but only because it's the only cricket available to me on tv. It whiles away a relatively entertaining couple of hours but I don't really care about who wins.

    Give me a championship game any day of the week.

  • testli5504537 on April 19, 2012, 9:26 GMT

    Of course, we lovers of real, pure cricket agree with this. But I'm afraid we MUST accept that pure cricket is not commercially viable. T20 was conceived to address this problem, and of course has been spectacularly successful. But it isn't the same sport, as the skill and luck percentages are reversed.

    I've been watching cricket all my life. I'm well into my 50s. Make no mistake, we are losing it, because it is a professional sport which can't make ends meet. From this point of view, you could argue that T20 has actually had the OPPOSITE effect of the intention. I do believe that real cricket will revert to amateur status in my lifetime, a game played by old wild men once again on village greens. It might just possibly be all the better for that.

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