June 5, 2014

What the spirit of cricket says

The mysterious entity is taking a very dim view of English cricket right now

"If the spirit existed, wouldn't I have been struck down by lightning by now?" © PA Photos

The Spirit of Cricket is a mysterious entity. Until recently, it lived with the Tooth Fairy, Zeus, the Will-o'-the-Wisp and the ghost of WG Grace in an imaginary cloud castle that, depending on the prevailing wind, is located three or four miles above the Lord's Pavilion.

Like most supernatural beings, the Spirit of Cricket was originally well-disposed to humans. We kept talking about how great and important it was, how it made the cricket tribe so much mightier than all the other tribes, and the priests of the MCC even came up with some holy scripture to enhance its reputation, the sacred "Preamble to the Laws".

But over the years the Spirit has started to take a dim view of homo sapiens. Sky fairies may enjoy the unquestioning worship and the regular name checks but on the whole they prefer an easy life. There's not much point living in a luxurious five-star cloud retreat, complete with Olympian swimming pool, refurbished Augean stables and en-suite adulation if every five minutes you have to haul your ectoplasmic backside off your stuffed leather arm chair to intervene in some tedious terrestrial squabble.

The Spirit is particularly annoyed with the English, who keep taking its name in vain. Three years ago, it was woken from a pleasant lunch-time slumber by a clamour emanating from Nottingham where thousands of people were begging it to intervene to save a dozy Englishman named Ian, who had wandered off the field and got himself run out.

The Spirit helped Sleepy Ian get off on a technicality, but were the English grateful? Did they promise to uphold the way of the Spirit? Nope. Two years later, Stuart Broad edged the ball to slip then pretended he hadn't, and the entire English cricket establishment declared that they've always been agnostics anyway.

This week, an even dozier Englishman called Jos was run out, despite being warned that if he continued to do the thing that he was doing, he would be run out. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth and the English implored the Spirit to save Jos the Dopey from looking a bit silly. But the Spirit had had enough. It refused to answer emails, put its phone on silent and carried on watching a re-run of its favourite Test series, the 1932-33 Ashes.

I know this because the Spirit told me in a dream last night. It complained that it can't get a moment's peace and that even when it does intervene in one of these controversies, there is always some smart-alec cricket writer on hand to say that the Spirit of Cricket is just a myth, which frankly, the Spirit considers to be in poor taste.

So, at the end of a long-winded vision rant, the Spirit gave me a message to pass on to the cricket world. As of today, it will be leaving England and moving in with the Spirit of Ice Hockey, the Spirit of 1970s Heavy Metal and the Spirit of Roman Gladiator Fighting, where it is hoping to enjoy a long and peaceful retirement.

And I think we should use this supernatural abdication to sort ourselves out. If executing a legal dismissal according to the rules is also somehow against the Spirit of Cricket, then clearly our game has gone a little crazy.

It's time for a separation of sport and Spirit. We should make no law respecting an establishment of a Spirit of Cricket, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. People can talk about the Spirit of Cricket in private, they can pray to it, they can light candles in front of a plaster replica of Adam Gilchrist, they can even go on pilgrimages to the centre of the pitch where Andrew Flintoff once put his arm round Brett Lee, but for Spirit's sake, let's stop preaching about it, and let's not teach it to impressionable young cricketers like Jos.

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