The joys of monsoon cricket
I've never lived in a country where rain has its own corner of the calendar. In England it's spread haphazardly across our four traditional seasons: Icy, Drizzly, Wet, and Wetter. Still, I think the critics of the Sri Lankan board are being unfair. Where else could they shove the New Zealand tour? It's like trying to arrange the chairs in a dining room with a leaky ceiling; someone has to sit under the damp patch.
There is a heroic quality to this perseverance in the face of impossible meteorological odds. Ploughing on with the tour regardless says something about the undaunted human spirit. It reminds us of Captain Ahab's dogged insanity; of Scott at the South Pole; of the stoicism of those people who can endure a whole episode of The X Factor without Valium.
As I've been sitting at my computer, reading ESPNcricinfo's unrivalled rain commentary, occasionally hitting "refresh" and wondering what I'm doing with my life, I've been thinking about cricket's relationship with the weather gods. Maybe we should be looking at this the John Buchanan way. Maybe we should be trying a little grey-sky thinking. Are we absolutely sure that we couldn't play in the rain?
Let's imagine for a moment what monsoon cricket would be like. With the outfield a paddling pool, fielders would be tumbling, fumbling and slipping continually, like inebriated clowns. Exquisitely timed cover-drivers would end with the ball plopping into the turf, rolling through the low tide, spraying a plume of accumulated water, as a runaway Catherine wheel spews flames, before coming to rest at silly mid-off. It could be hilarious.
Just think of all the wet-weather innovations. Since trying to bowl overarm would end with ball splatting miserably into quagmire, we might see the welcome return of the underarm method, as bowlers attempt to skim the ball over the mud patch like a pebble across a river. If the lashing rain makes it hard for outfielders to see the stumps, how about bails with flashing lights? What about a special bucket for Jonathan Trott to bail out his little trench?
Cricketers might object to monsoon cricket on health grounds, but the rest of us have to spend part of our year with soggy ankles and rain trickling down the inside of our collar, so the odd sniffle for a professional sportsman should be no problem. To compensate them, there would be a new range of wet-weather cricket gear for them to endorse. Batting helmets that sprout little umbrellas. Branded Wellington boots. Short-leg snorkels.
We could even use underwater cricket to relaunch the five-day game. Ditch the image of that flimsy, genteel pastime that comes to a halt as soon as the weather turns iffy, and let's market it as a rugged, 21st century, all-terrain sport. Test Match Cricket Extreme: We don't stop for rain (but we do sometimes stop for tea, a digestive and a rub-down).
Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England