October 2, 2014

Cricket shirts: gotta love 'em

Cricket nerds love team shirts, especially ones from their childhood
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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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on October 6, 2014, 7:44 GMT

    I have been obsessed with shirts too. I was 10 and just beginning to get into following cricket when the 2002 Champions Trophy came along, and a bus stop near my house had an LG advert banner featuring all captains in uniform. I have been enamoured of cricket jerseys since.

    Personally, I love Pakistan's designs, especially the one with the gold-outline crescent and moon on dark green they wear nowadays. I loved SL's minimalist bright design for the T20WC they won. Zimbabwe's red-green-yellow-black in the 2003 WC, and of course, Holland's gorgeous orange with the yellow lion imprint.

    I own India's light blue Nike jersey with the flag running down the side, and isn't it enchanting. The lightest blue, beset by the richest, suave orange, white, green strip. Love.

    I think jersey designs are becoming dumber and dumber. People should put a little more thought into the aesthetics of it all. I would love to start collecting again!

  • Rav on October 4, 2014, 12:04 GMT

    Nice article and enjoyed reading others comments. My favorite kits were probably the 1999 WC kits.

    Far too many teams wear blue (and green!) kits -- not just at international level, but especially in county cricket. Sometimes in county games it looks like only one team is playing against itself!

    Agree with other posters about the country-name lettering and excessive advertising -- both completely over the top. Also like the idea of introducing away strips like in football to avoid colour clashes.

  • Sanjay on October 3, 2014, 18:47 GMT

    @thefountain: You absolutely nailed it, thank heavens there's at least ONE person with some artistic taste putting in a comment. The best were without question the WSC kits - that would be proper World Series Cricket (Packer), not the post Packer annual tri series that still carried the laughably "World Series" tag.

    The 1992 World Cup had the most garish kits I've ever seen, they are AWFUL, the awfulness is compounded by the writing of the country's name in HUGE letters. It's much more classy when the logos are subtle, well designed but not in your face. A well designed kit will make mentioning the country's name REDUNDANT.

    Test kits have become a joke with the greedy sponsor's name plastered all over. I was particularly pleased to see the Sri Lankan Test kit when they toured England a few months ago, it's about as good as it gets given today's corporate needs.

  • Dummy4 on October 3, 2014, 15:50 GMT

    Loved this article. Didn't know that there were others who obsessed over shirts worn by players in one of the less popular international sports. @Anshuman Mohanty and 9ST9 The 90s were the best. I thought the Aussies uniformed everybody smartly, including, of course their own team. Loved the uniforms for the 1992 World Cup. It was like somebody actually applied thought on how to make cricketers look good on field. At that time I wondered why the India team didn't turn out in dark blue kits and why the Lankans used something similar. Now of course I think the navy blue looks good on India. Anybody remembers the opening 'friendly' between India and Pakistan before the 1987 Cup? Wondered why they wore coloured shirts with whites. Possibly didn't have enough money for the pants! Also felt it weird to see names of countries on the initial kits. Apart from adding the obvious, it led to 'crowded' shirts, as somebody mentioned earlier. They should start secondary kits like in football.

  • D on October 3, 2014, 12:26 GMT

    The shirts during Australian home summers during the 90s/early 2000s were fantastic... Pakistan in blue, South Africa in red. Someone should really re-release those. Even Zimbabwe were made to look amazing when they toured Australia.

    New Zealand have always had really great kits (the turquoise blue really stands out). It's a shame the beige shirts are the only ones available.

  • Dummy4 on October 3, 2014, 5:36 GMT

    The 1999 World Cup jerseys got me absolutely hooked as an eight year old kid. When I look back at them, I realise how over-sized they were for each team, you had the shoulder-marks fall way below the shoulders.

    Each ODI series should have it's own jerseys, like in the past. It adds a surprise element for all jersey connoisseurs like us.

  • Ali on October 3, 2014, 4:16 GMT

    The Pakistan shirt looked really good on Imran.

  • Sheran on October 2, 2014, 21:22 GMT

    Look at Imran Khan, he looks like a movie star!!

  • Dummy4 on October 2, 2014, 20:12 GMT

    And i thought i was the only one obsessed with them, i have so much to say but i will just keep it to Pak here, I was 6 years old at the time of 92 world cup and that final just turned a little boy in to a life long cricket fanatic, if you ask any Pakistani almost every guy from my era will say that 92 shirt is his favorite (mine included) and yes i loved when every series of the 90's had its own shirts, If i talk about Pakistan we had some good ones and some awful ones in the past years

    GOOD ONES= i especially liked the tri series (aus,pak,WI-2001) shirt and for the first time saw pak in blue, than there was the t20-2009wc shirt that was really good lookin, WC-2011 was also good, 2014 Asia cup shirt, 2014 t20 wc shirt

    BAD ONES= wc 2003 shirt, 2004 pak-ind odi series shirt, 2005 pak-ind series shirt, awful 2009-2010 shirt, 2013 pak india series shirt, pak-sl 2014 odi series shirt (current)... there are so many from the past but just stuck to current ones

  • Mitchell on October 2, 2014, 19:41 GMT

    Best uniforms were the ones without writing on them, NZ Brown and Beige etc. I've never seen any uniforms BETTER than the early WSC uniforms. Would be good to track down the designer and interview him.

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