December 24, 2013

A Christmas wishlist

A genuine English fast bowler, application for KP, a time machine for Sreesanth, and other humble requests

Kevin Pietersen: bucketfuls of inspiration, yet scraping the bottom of his perspiration barrel © PA Photos

Dear Santa,

Hope all is well with you in the non-cricketing North Pole. Although I've never seen you with a bat in your hand - well, apart from on novelty Christmas cards given to blokes who, like me, can't even manage one day of the year without thinking about cricket - I imagine the flawless landscape of the Arctic makes it easy to sight a red ball. You might have to ditch your Coca Cola-sponsored garb for a pair of flannels, but you can keep your white beard, as there is an illustrious history of bushy facial hair and cricket, and it's basically another sightscreen.

Anyway, just thought I'd pop you a few lines about what I want for Christmas, and as your all-seeing godlike CCTV presence knows, I've been a good boy this year. Well, at least on the cricket field, where I started the season by edging one to the keeper and walking, unlike other boys who are no doubt on your "Naughty List". I even apologised to a couple of batsmen after a bout of bowler's Tourette's - I was swearing at myself, not the men scoring runs. Honestly, I wasn't cursing at the guy who hit me for a back foot six over cover, or the other flukey slogger who I had dropped twice before he retired on 70 as if he were too good for the attack.

Well, all that's for you to judge with your omnipresence. Here is my humble list:

An English fast bowler
I doubt I'm the only boy from this fair isle who wants a genuine English paceman. Not after watching Mitchell Johnson bully England back on to the plane, into hospital, and into retirement. And to be honest I have asked you before, ever since the 1980s when I started watching and playing cricket. Okay, we had Devon Malcolm tormenting the South Africans for a day at The Oval, but apart from that one whirlwind display we've never had more than the odd gust.

Perspiration for KP
I imagine you get plenty of leisure time over the summer, what with the elves working as efficiently as Amazon warehouse drones, and you're no doubt very well-read and aware of the Thomas Edison quote, that one about performance being 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. KP has bucketfuls of the inspired stuff, yet he is scraping the bottom of his perspiration barrel. It's sometimes called "temperament" and if you're out of stock on this then "application" would work too. If the elves are puzzled at how to wrap this gift then Geoff Boycott would be happy to advise - just don't ask about anything else as he'll be giving you chimney climbing tips and telling you how he delivered 10,000 presents in 1976 on an uncovered rooftop.

A reader cricket ball
Your elves used to manufacture these back in the early '90s, when I was one of the bowlers in the Leicestershire leagues knocking over teams with a ball that swung late and seamed off tracks as flat as the ceremonial highway in North Korea that Kim Jong-un drives on to executions once a year. I won't get into the details, but a balanced contest between bat and ball is what makes cricket a sporting contest rather than a circus. And how many pom-pomming-cheerleader six celebrations can a fan watch?

The Test match boardgame
Yes, you're right in recalling that you've put one of these in my Christmas stocking before. And it was the best present I've ever received. The bright-green felt outfield and the little white players, how that silver ball kicked down the gully and the little batsman hammered it into the plastic boundary. As you know, I played for hours in the school holidays. When rain halted a Test match, or Chris Tavaré was at the crease, my friends and I would recreate epic battles on a Formica tabletop. The game designers, in their infinite wisdom to fix something that wasn't broken, thought it'd be a good idea to make the pitch smaller and tinker with the bowler - much like Steve Finn and his failed run-up experiment. It might be worth having a look on eBay if you can't put together the original game at short notice.

A West Indies cricket team
Again, I've had one of these before. That gum-strutting empire presided over by King Viv, Joel Garner, and my all-time hero, Malcolm Marshall. I probably loved West Indies more than England. However, much like the Test match boardgame, the original 1980s version was superior to it's modern-day incarnation.

A time machine for Sreesanth
I presume he hasn't made your "Good Boy List" this Christmas, not after the grubby deal with the bookie. I confess I'm rather biased here, as I met and played against him last season and he was the perfect gent - and noble enough to admit I had him plumb lbw. A trip back in time might turn out better with a second chance.

New intercostal muscles and new knees
Unfortunately what I enjoy doing most my body grumbles the most at doing. That is bowling as fast as I can, well beyond forces my action and biomechanics have been designed for. A couple of new knees and a lower-back revamp would be a nice little stocking filler.

So there it is. You might have to bend time and space to accommodate the full list, but with a light speed sleigh guided by a reindeer with a nose as bright as a brand-new cricket ball, I'm sure you'll have no problems.

Yours sincerely,

Nicholas Hogg

PS: A bit of sunshine between April and September wouldn't go amiss.

Nicholas Hogg is a co-founder of the Authors Cricket Club. His first novel, Show Me the Sky, was nominated for the IMPAC literary award