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Sue de Groot

Cricket in a time of football

Can't be bothered about flannelled fools? Blame the vuvuzela. Or maybe not…

Sue de Groot

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A fan holds a vuvuzela at the football World Cup, 23 June 2010
"Told you a thousand times dimwits: win the toss and bat" © AFP
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They're everywhere, those long, hard things. You can't leave the house without bumping into one. They're in buses and trains and taxis. They protrude from people's clothing in public places and cause problems in the office. If you stand too close to someone in a queue you're liable to be poked in the back by one. They'll be in the dictionary next, mark my words.

I wish I were talking about cricket bats. Unfortunately, in my neck of the woods, it's the vuvuzela that's everywhere. If you want to know why this column hasn't appeared for a while, it's because the constant roar of vuvuzelas has drowned all thought. If you don't know by now (where have you been?) the vuvuzela is a trumpet, originally made from the horn of an unfortunate kudu (a species of antelope, for those of you who've never visited Africa), now reproduced in plastic, in China. Lately it appears to be permanently affixed to the lips of almost every South African, because, if you don't know (where have you been?), we're hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

This event has done extraordinary things to my countrymen and women. Particularly women. Those who have never watched a soccer match before are explaining the offside rule to each other and calling the Uruguayans a bunch of cry babies and wondering if the French team (now sitting miserably on tractors outside Paris) is made up only of strikers.

Yes, I know we're supposed to talk about cricket here, but I'm getting to that. After South Africa's last, and in many ways triumphant, football match against the masters of cheese, I was having a celebratory drink at a friend's house, and someone was flipping channels on the TV, and they happened on a broadcast from the West Indies, where men dressed in white, two of them holding willow wands, were decorating a green field like icing figurines on a cake, and everyone paused and looked at this magical, otherworldly spectacle in bemusement.

I was reminded of a time when I went river-rafting and we climbed out of the river at a place where there had been an all-night trance party (something involving teenagers doing leaning-tower-of-Pisa impersonations to an electronic beat meant to resemble music). As we dragged our boats up the banks, a pale young man wearing a wizard's hat and winkle-pickers and some purple and tangerine garments in between these items, approached us. He looked at the kayaks as I imagine a hobbit would look at the first elf he's ever encountered. In a reverent whisper he asked, "What things are these?"

 
 
If you ask me, cricket is the sport to which all other sports aspire. When soccer grows up it wants to be cricket
 

This is how cricket appeared to us after just a few weeks of soccer obsession. But once my companions recovered from their initial confusion, once they stopped asking who had moved the goalposts and why no one was lying on the ground pretending to be in agony, they changed. They grew up. They put down their vuvuzelas and paid attention.

I have to say, I don't think cricket would have suffered nearly so much inattention from once-loyal fans if it wasn't for the vuvuzela. Not to beat a drum or anything, but as you may have noticed (in columns written before soccer stilled my pen), I have this idea that cricket is an evolutionarily advanced sport, and that the warlike games of rugby, soccer and anything else involving exercise and physical conflict are really substitutes for war. This isn't a new thought, but it has been confirmed by current events.

What did Darius and Cyrus and those other Persian cats do when they were telling their troops to mow down a few Macedonians? They blew a horn. How did the elves and hobbits get reinforcements to beat back the grisly orcs at whatever that computer-generated battle was called? Someone blew a horn. Understand?

Cricket moves us beyond all this silly war-mongering. If you ask me, cricket is the sport to which all other sports aspire. When soccer grows up it wants to be cricket.

But back to the vuvuzela: if this is football's bugle, does cricket need a more advanced instrument to herald its glory? Like a cello, perhaps, or a piano? Problem is, you'd have to buy an extra seat for the cello, and getting a piano into the car after a long day in the sun is always difficult. Maybe there's something to be said for the portable vuvuzela. Maybe it can be adapted. Having recently learned to blow one ("play" isn't quite the right word for my limited capability), I do acknowledge that those with agile lips and a supple diaphragm can achieve remarkable variation in tone and pitch. Let them watch cricket, I say.

What I'd really like to see, and hear from a respectable distance, is the sound of 11,000 vuvuzelas heralding the achievement of Jacques Kallis. Hang on, I think I hear them now… no, sorry, that was Ghana scoring a goal.

RSS FeedSue de Groot is a Johannesburg-based journalist, columnist and television scriptwriter

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Comments: 4 
Posted by manihammad on (June 30, 2010, 15:20 GMT)

lol entertaining and interesting article..no matter whatever we say..there is still long way before Cricket gets to this much scale of popularity but thats the beauty of every game..love the last line

Posted by EricG on (June 29, 2010, 19:36 GMT)

Very entertaining! I will gladly blow a vuvuzela for Jacques Kallis ANYDAY, despite the fact your chaps laid waste to my Windies earlier today, and, by the way, they DESERVED the win! Surprisingly enough, America showed markedly more interest in the World Cup this year than in years past. Perhaps this is a harbinger of things to come that one day in the not too distant future, I can go to my local Pub (although they usually call them "Sports-Bars" here in the Cultural Wastelands of America) and hear my comrades screaming "LBW--LBW--Didn't you see that??...Didn't you see that!!!"......Hmmm...Stranger things have happened, I can only hope....Thanks for an enjoyable article!

EricG

Posted by bonaku on (June 29, 2010, 16:13 GMT)

nice one...but ppl dont have that much patients probabaly..

Posted by robheinen on (June 29, 2010, 9:46 GMT)

Jaques Kallis, huh....Anyway, you're betraying your ancestory - and had me confused in the mean time - calling the French the masters of cheese. Otherwise glad you found your way to the cricinfo site again. :-)

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Sue de Groot is a Johannesburg-based journalist, columnist and television scriptwriter. Formerly managing editor of men's magazine Directions, features writer for Femina and assistant editor of Cosmopolitan, she is now features editor of Food & Home Entertaining. She wrote the "Wicket Maiden" column for the Wisden Cricketer SA until that magazine's sad demise, and tries to restrict herself to writing about life's six highest pleasures: food, gardening, books, films, cats and cricket.

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Sue de Groot Sue de Groot is a Johannesburg-based journalist, columnist and television scriptwriter. Formerly managing editor of men's magazine Directions, features writer for Femina and assistant editor of Cosmopolitan, she is now features editor of Food & Home Entertaining. She wrote the "Wicket Maiden" column for the Wisden Cricketer SA until that magazine's sad demise, and tries to restrict herself to writing about life's six highest pleasures: food, gardening, books, films, cats and cricket.
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