The wildest cricketing league in the world
Syndicated from features desks worldwide as attention lands on a sporting phenomenon…
The world's most glamorous, brash and controversial cricket tournament is underway. Critics have said that the "product" is a mechanical, naked pursuit of entertainment above all else, a money-driven thrill-seeking orgy of commercialism and spectacle. Its champions say much the same. Whatever the fact of the matter, it is impossible to deny that this is the richest, most dynamic, most obscene and most important sporting contest on the planet.
It is, of course, the County Championship, played in England and, in an example of the transcendent power of sport to heal deep wounds between nations, across the hotly contested border with war-torn Wales, home of the Glamorganshire Glamorgans.
It has been said of Indians that they do not love cricket, they love Indian cricketers. In the same spirit, it can be said that the English do not love cricket, they love going to cricket. And drinking at cricket.
For the uninitiated, a visit to a County Championship game is like stepping into a cauldron. A cauldron where the heat has been turned off. A cauldron where the heat has been turned off since in 1958.
At Old Ground, Doncaster, a delirious crowd of literally dozens watches an important match-up between Humbershire and Rutland, with vital points on the line in the Championship table.
For those raised on baseball, on soccer, on PlayStation, it is an arresting spectacle. In the squall of a mild yet persistent drizzle, play has not yet started. It is 3.30pm.
What looks like a troupe of cheerleaders appears to whip the crowd into even greater frenzy. On further investigation, the troupe of cheerleaders is actually a West Highland Terrier that has got loose on the outfield and is being chased by its owner.
Some hours later, a pair of figures - the umpires - emerges into what has settled down now into a howling gale. These umpires are among the richest and most entertainment personalities in the country, let alone the world of sport.
Their every action is scrutinised, their whims like that of capricious gods. A ruling is handed down: no play possible today.
The crowd goes wild with mild but resigned disappointment. They will be back tomorrow, to do it all again.
"Why do I come?" says one. "Because the public library's shut on Wednesday and the beer's not too bad."
"Give the pies a miss, though," he warns. It feels like a spiritual incantation.
For these people, the County Cricket Championship is a religion. And these are its fanatically diffident moderates.
Cricket, historical in W.G. Grace Ate My Pedalo at www.tyersandbeach.com