September 6, 2012

The importance of cricket awards shows

You've got to have them, but what do you do when a must-have nominee isn't shortlisted?

In this fractured, divided world, if there's one thing common to all cultures, besides a tendency to want to tell other human beings how to live and a preference for indoor lavatories, it is the belief in the self-evident truth that every form of human endeavour, no matter how trivial, should be entitled to its own annual awards ceremony. Preferably with a band. And champagne.

And why not? An awards bash adds a sprinkle of glitter to our mundane existence. At this very moment, Bangalore's Champion Sewerage Operative 2012 is settling down for the night with his trophy, and the woman who recently earned the title of Basingstoke and District Driving Instructor of the Year is speeding to work, nursing a slight headache and humming "We are the Champions" as she jumps another red light.

The cult of the award ceremony is everywhere. The talent shows that infest our TV schedules are nothing more than extended versions of the bit in the Oscars when an actress fresh out of rehab takes three minutes to open the golden envelope, giggles, drops the piece of card, picks it up, turns it the right way round, falls over, is helped to her feet and then finally, with the support of her co-presenter, puts us out of our agony and tells us who has won the Oscar for best flatulence-based humour.

Of course, the beauty of a sports award ceremony is that, unlike a celebrity talent show, the winners are likely to be talented. You don't get to be ICC Test Player of the Year just because you have a heart-rending back story involving a pet budgie who needs the prize money to fund his cosmetic beak surgery or because you've got a winning smile, a bubbly personality and a very short dress.

Cricket is particularly fertile ground for an awards ceremony. For example, the vote for the ICC's Team of the Year is an organic sprouting from the peculiar compost that is the cricket lover's insatiable desire to compile imaginary XIs. We've all done it. My Poets XI had Homer opening the batting on the grounds of seniority, although if the rumours about his eyesight were true, he might struggle against the new ball. And to be frank, I'm not sure that Dylan Thomas would really have been much of a fast-medium seamer, more of a slow-stagger and vomiter.

Just like in the real world (or the internet, as we call it) sometimes people disagree with the ICC choices, although their squabbles usually come to end with bow-ties, hired tuxedos and dignified applause rather than capital-letter-strewn libel threats, strings of heavily moderated expletives and face-palm smileys.

Should Saeed Ajmal be on the short list for ICC Test Player of the Year? Well, he would be on mine. But then, what do I know? I didn't vote Conservative at the last election. I thought the Olympic logo looked like an accident at a jigsaw factory. And I definitely wouldn't have gone with that hat if it were my Jubilee. What can you do? People made these decisions and people are, in my experience, an untrustworthy lot.

Happily a couple of solutions present themselves. Either the ICC reruns the process, replacing the original electorate with a new, independent voting panel made up of Simon Cowell, Beyonce, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Sourav Ganguly's hair. Or they just quietly ask Clive Lloyd to write, "and S Ajmal" in his bestest handwriting at the bottom of the list. Problem solved.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England