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