March 30, 2013

If it's spring it must be time for county-cricket moaning

But who's doing the hating?

Ah, springtime. Birds are twittering. Trees are blossoming. Hayfever-ridden children are wiping their noses on the sleeves of their school sweaters. And the first crop of articles complaining about county cricket's lack of attention is in full bloom.

Every year about this time, we witness the same colourful pageantry. A cry goes up from the depths of the shires, and cricket journalists harken, like old huntsmen hearing the blast of the beagling horn. They close Angry Birds IPL, put aside their expenses claims, and immediately set to work bashing out 1000 words on "Why Oh Why Oh Why Doesn't County Cricket Get More Coverage?" or "Why Oh Why Oh Why Do People Keep Knocking County Cricket?"

English hacks seem ever vigilant against the deadly threat posed by county-cricket haters, like militia volunteers in the backwoods of Wyoming permanently poised to defend the Republic against the return of King George III and his evil Redcoats.

Yet be-wigged 18th-century monarchs intent on stealing the freedom of Americans are conspicuous by their absence these days, and so are the marauding hordes of county-cricket-hating barbarians from whom we are told the shires need defending. Exactly who is knocking county cricket? I haven't read a single English writer brave enough to suggest that perhaps the county stuff is, well, how shall we say, just a teensy-weensy bit dull.

A lot of this springtime agitation is not completely selfless. Birds like to embellish their treetop abodes at this time of year, and cricket journalists would also like to make their nests warmer and a good deal more feathery. In the old days, county cricket offered many congenial opportunities to follow the doings of Nowhereshire or Yawnchester, penning regular match reports, the details of which could not be disputed since no one else was there.

But that way of life has gone the way of other archaic bits of civilisation like thatched roofs, penny farthings and politicians resigning when they do something wrong. Why oh why oh why aren't newspaper proprietors paying men to sit in the sunshine in pleasant parts of England writing down what they see? Perhaps because not enough readers are interested. We might, from time to time, want to know the score. But we can get that on Cricinfo.

If modern cricket journalists were a little more Neville Cardus and a little less Dan Brown on a bad day, they might be able to offer us something we couldn't get from a mere scorecard. But cricket writers don't write like that anymore. With a few notable exceptions, they are as grimly professional and bland as the interviews of the cricketers whose voices they record on their little machines. So we aren't really missing anything.

And don't forget to look out for the other seasonal piece that every cricket writer has up his hard-drive. Like the sound of the cuckoo, it is a sure sign that the English spring has arrived when you find yourself reading your first IPL denunciation. You know how it goes. Pyjama cricket for silly teenagers…threat to the game…India too powerful…is Shane Warne still in it…damn silly team names…end of civilisation as we know it...

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Toby on April 1, 2013, 21:27 GMT

    I'm not sure that I agree with any of what Mr Hughes says. Is he saying that less newspaper coverage of cricket is a good thing? County cricket is marginalised, when it once had a decent broadsheet coverage. You might find the reporting style dry but not all of us do. And we can get the scores of Cricinfo, eh? Nice little bit of promotional work there! This isn't journalism, it's an advertisement.

  • LAVIGNE on April 1, 2013, 13:59 GMT

    To InsideHedge. Thank you for your comment ! I do not like T20 at all ... because it is too short (duration) ! Call it IPL or BBL or English T20 or Carribean T20, I do not like it. With Test matches and 1st class cricket, each team is playing TWO inns (most of the time). There are some elements of strategy, the game can change direction, after day 1, you do not know who will win, you can have some nice surprises and you have time ... to comment with friends, to discuss. With T20, you turn your head to do something else ... and when you come back, 70 runs have been added for the loss of 4 wickets ! Too fast.

  • Dummy4 on April 1, 2013, 11:43 GMT

    In my college days in India there was lot of coverage of County cricket in Indian news papers and we used to talk a lot about county cricket. 10 years gone, things has changed, we can hardly see the likes of Viv Richards, Botham, Sachin playing in counties. Now International cricket has got more palyers with very few STARS

  • Dummy4 on April 1, 2013, 10:26 GMT

    I hate IPL and I am an Indian. All those cricketers wearing dresses like clowns and the cheer girls dancing to horrible loud Bollywood music after every boundary or after every wicket!!! Andrew, surely to each their own, but if being colourful means cricketers playing in those bright pink flannels, then I do prefer the old school colourless county stuff!!!!

  • Suraj on April 1, 2013, 10:13 GMT

    Great stuff Andrew! Looks like your article about this dull, characterless tournament has brought its supporters crawling out of the woodwork in all of their arrogant, surly glory. Their overblown sense of superiority and seething resentment forged in the cold wetness of the English summer, watching the skies darken and rain intensify as all hopes of getting a game slowly ebb away. Also enjoyed the gratuitous yet typical IPL bashing in the comments. Did they even read that last paragraph?

  • Dummy4 on April 1, 2013, 9:50 GMT

    Q: Why do some IPL players comand such high prices? A: Because they're big test stars in their home country.

    Q: How did they get to play test cricket in their home country? A: Because they cut their teeth in their county/regional/state system.

    If English county cricket (and the same problem exists in other countries) continues to experience dwindling support from the media, fan bases, especially children, will disappear and you IPL fans won't have any players to cheer on.

    County, State and Regional cricket is a factory for international players. Knock it too much in the media and you'll eventually kill the game. The problem is the game's administrators are blinded by money and fail to see the wider picture all too often.

  • Sanjay on April 1, 2013, 3:51 GMT

    @Andre2: Your hatred and paranoia is a reflection of your insecurity. There's no reason why you shouldn't be able to enjoy county cricket without having to hate anything, let alone the IPL which is played in another country altogether. Do you hate the FLT20 or whatever it's called in this country?

  • Dummy4 on April 1, 2013, 0:11 GMT

    As a Pakistani cricket fan, I have great memories of growing up with county cricket. It's always been a thrill to see some of the world's greatest become even greater by honing their craft in England. Beyond that, the game itself is accessable and represents a nice relaxed 'old-school' day out for those of us who can't afford to go to the expensive international cricket.

  • Graham on April 1, 2013, 0:04 GMT

    We like your county cricket here in SA. T20 cricket can be alright, but not very memorable. The 4-day and indeed 5-day game has had a better 12 months than the short attention span version of the game.