October 2, 2014

Cricket shirts: gotta love 'em

Cricket nerds love team shirts, especially ones from their childhood

The 1992 World Cup: loved for its jerseys and more © PA Photos

With the passing of barely more than a year since my last house move, I'm packing up and shipping out again this week. The hope is that the new place becomes a family home, and thus it's unlikely we'll be requiring removal trucks again for quite some time.

Given the amount of stuff I've been lugging around my entire adult life, that's something of a relief. I've written about this before but the cricket books are the hardest and most time-consuming to pack, because not only are there so many of them, the removal of each from the shelves brings with it an individual set of memories that need to be processed, sending me down fresh and interesting wormholes of thought each time.

It was a given that I'd take forever to pack up the cricket books but this time what surprised me more than the volume of usual suspects (books, records, magazines and "collectibles" - most of which are far too embarrassing to be owned by a grown man) was the number of cricket shirts I've acquired over the years.

Like so much of my love for cricket, this unintended by-product of my fandom started with the 1992 World Cup, whose shirts were truly the zenith of cricket-uniform design to my trained and exacting eight-year-old eye. I still have the West Indies, Pakistan and England ones, which is three more than is entirely necessary. Until recently I feared that the Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka versions were going to be my own personal Honus Wagner T206 baseball card - a hopelessly unattainable mirage. Now I see they have been re-released to coincide with the 2015 World Cup, and not before time. My credit card awaits abuse.

Like most other opinionated fans, I think that the best of all the colourful limited-overs cricket shirts are the ones worn in the childhood years, when I was at my most impressionable and pliable to marketers

Sometimes you don't realise how genuinely enchanted you are by the visual elements of the game. It's why some park players who might face fewer than 100 deliveries in a season might also own six different pairs of pads and ten bats. It's absurd on one level but, to me, also entirely understandable. That kit is as life-affirming and exciting to the cricket nerd as a set of Bang & Olufsen speakers to an audiophile.

I've noted with interest in the last few years the rise of football, where knowing fans often shell out the average weekly wage on some obscure Bundesliga shirt crafted out of rayon by Adidas in the mid-'80s. Cricket has not yet had an equivalent phase, which I think is a kind of tribute to the resolutely uncool nature of the game; I'd be impressed if I saw someone wearing a Canberra Comets Mercantile Mutual Cup shirt, but it's unlikely many others would agree.

Like most other opinionated fans, I think that the best of all the colourful limited-overs cricket shirts are the ones worn in the childhood years, when I was at my most impressionable and pliable to marketers. My favourites would be that '92 World Cup shirt, the Pakistan version of the "baseball script" design worn in the 1989-90 Benson and Hedges World Series Cup, South Africa's green home series shirt from Australia's 1994 visit, and Victoria's 1990-91 FAI Insurance Cup shirt. Just in case you were wondering.

Other fans might not even give these shirts a second look if they flipped by them in a book. Nor any shirt for that matter. Recalling my own reaction to those has also softened my view of the horrendous colour combinations and garish designs worn by Big Bash League teams in the last few years. Walk into any ground in Australia these days, even during a Test, and you'll see hordes of kids happily wearing their lime- green Melbourne Stars equivalents. They are as excited as you might have been by New Zealand's mid-'80s beige or West Indies' electric pink of the World Series era, and that's a good thing for the game.

Anyway, final moving day is almost here so it's time to pay the price of all that misspent time and money and load up the boxes of books. All there is left to do now is slip on my moving uniform: Sri Lanka's 1999 World Cup shirt.

Russell Jackson is a cricket lover who blogs about sports in the present and nostalgic tense for the Guardian and Wasted Afternoons. @rustyjacko

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