June 7, 2012

Flying cats and weather for ducks

Ever seen a flying cat

Ever seen a flying cat? You would if you’d spent much time on the internet this week, as the place has been cluttered up with links to articles and videos about the Orvillecopter. For those of you who missed the story, the Orvillecopter is a family tabby, unsurprisingly named Orville, who, after being run over by a car, has been stuffed by its owner and used as the framework for a remote controlled toy helicopter.

I mention this as the sight of a much-loved friend being transformed in an ill-advised, disrespectful manner, seemingly at odds with God’s will and anything approaching common-sense, has inexplicably made my mind drift back to the ECB’s continued attempts at restructuring county cricket. A completely unfair mental leap to have made on my part - not least as ECB payments to the counties are considerably more generous than a daily tin of Whiskas Duck & Chicken in Gravy - but it does show the kind of thing that plays on your mind when you’re shivering in the stands, wondering which of the ground staff is most likely to get hypothermia.

But then, if I’m honest, the whole start to the domestic season has been worrying me. Perhaps not as much as the thought of being sent to the taxidermist before having a miniature rotor blade attached to each of my paws and my tail converted into a radio antenna but, still, I’ve been distracted by a distinct feeling of anticlimax surrounding county cricket this year.

For a start, I can’t be the only one wondering how the hell we got to this point in the season so soon? We’ve barely limped out of May, yet we are already in the round of matches that mark the halfway point in the County Championship programme. It feels like God is fast-forwarding through the dreary bits of the early English summer so he can get to watch Wimbledon and the Olympics before he has to do the washing up.

Well, hang on, some of us want to take our time and enjoy the Championship. But this year’s sprint through monsoon season has left a nagging feeling that domestic cricket just hasn’t got going yet.

The problem, of course, is the weather, which has robbed numerous games of their natural conclusion, left older members wondering if the cold snap will trigger a winter heating allowance payment and had players in the slip cordon hurriedly checking fingernails for the signs of early onset frostbite.

Now, unless all the hot air that comes out of Lord’s is produced by burning fossil fuels I’m not sure even I could blame climate change on the ECB, but they are responsible for shoving the first half of the Championship ever deeper into the increasing unpredictability of the English spring. And this year it’s been close to a disaster.

Yes, there has still been some great cricket, fine individual performances and interesting talking points thrown up. But for spectators - you know, the poor buggers who don’t have the benefit of committee rooms and press boxes to shelter in - it’s been an especially miserable experience. Now, with the first half of the Championship drenched out of existence, we’re left with even less cricket; a maximum of 400 overs per team to be precise, during the month’s play that forms cricket’s contribution to the Cultural Olympiad: the Friends Life t20.

I quite enjoy a bit of Twenty20 cricket, although I’ve mentioned before my objections to having all the games crammed into a dedicated window that dominates the middle of summer. For me it’s the definition of too much of a good thing – it reminds me of the Simpson’s episode where Homer stays up all night eating processed cheese, then when Marge finds him in the morning he looks up from the kitchen table and says “I think I’m blind”.

But for all my reservations about the format of the competition, T20 is vital to the precarious accounts of the counties. And I know from past seasons that sitting around on a bitterly cold night in the vain hope that time can be found for a five-over smashabout doesn’t generate a carnival atmosphere or the desire to relive the experience anytime soon.

Despite my love of the County Championship, I accept that bad weather keeping the membership at home isn’t a financial threat; whereas if the next four weeks see yet more rain, then the 2012 accounts could be redder than an ex-public schoolboy’s chinos and the calls for an increase in the number of T20 games will start again.

So for the sake of the game’s finances, and for spectator sanity, can we please have some sunny weather now?

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