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England cricket's game of moans: winter is coming

The county grounds are alive with the sounds of griping about the cold. Must be the start of the season then

Alan Tyers

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Snow blankets the County Ground, Northampton, January 6, 2010
Can you spot the one sheepskin-covered man and his St Bernard in the picture above? © Getty Images
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In a routine about the nature of England and the English, the great comedian Bill Bailey said: "Fifty-two per cent of our days are overcast, so as a nation we're infused with a wistful melancholy. But we remain a relentlessly chipper population, prone to mild eccentricity, binge drinking and casual violence." For cricket fans, the forecast of snow on the opening day of the County Championship season is a heaven-sent opportunity to enjoy both a bit of wistful melancholy, and our other go-to emotional state: exasperation. The cricket season has not even begun, and already things ain't what they used to be. Already we are dreaming of those halcyon days back in balmy March, the sun on our backs, a simpler, happier time when all ahead was promise, thoughts of warm beer, wrestling with a deckchair, and lazy afternoons reading yet another article about the indefatigable Mark Ramprakash.

Now we're foregoing warm beer in favour of hot soup at Grace Road. We're trapped in a snowdrift in the Headingley car park, shivering, ripping out pages of the Playfair Cricket Annual to fashion into a makeshift blanket. We lost a lot of good men out there, perambulating in the luncheon interval on the frozen tundra that is the County Ground, Derby. Now is the summer of our discontent.

Naturally, someone is to blame for this bad weather. It's the ECB. It's the IPL. It's the BCCI. It's the BBC's Michael Fish. The reason the season has started so early is to finish in time for the Mickey Mouse Champions' League in September, the bastard child of a capricious false god. Selfish India: it's hot all the time there, isn't it? Why can't they play their games in the winter, let us get out of this freezing cold? This sort of anger gets the blood flowing, raises the body temperature, and could be the difference between losing just a toe or two to frostbite during a Joe Sayers rearguard at Scarborough and actual hypothermia.

The football fan has his sense of outraged persecution, and a burning desire to express it with fisticuffs in the train station, or even worse, on exhaustively researched blogs about Liverpool's transfer net spend. But we cricket fans enjoy a more delicate, inward sort of anger. Well, the English ones anyway.

The national side's four straight defeats in the UAE and Sri Lanka this winter have given England fans a welcome opportunity to see the glass half empty. With the ridiculous snowy start to the domestic season, our cup runneth over and staineth the new shag pile. We just don't really know what to do with ourselves when we're winning too much. It's probably some sort of complicated algorithm of self-loathing encompassing post-colonial guilt, nostalgia for childhoods of beatings by much more exciting teams in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, a less parochial tendency to idolise players from other countries (and get them to play for us), and the British love of a good moan.

By starting the County Championship season in the middle of winter in order to pander to our new Indian overlords, the English game has given its fans plenty to moan about. In the freezing cold. We've never had it so good.

RSS FeedMore wistful melancholy and mild eccentricity in WG Grace Ate My Pedalo and CrickiLeaks by Tyers and Beach

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Alan Tyers
Alan Tyers writes about sport for the Daily Telegraph and others. He is the author of six books published by Bloomsbury, all of them with pictures by the brilliant illustrator Beach. The most recent is Tutenkhamen's Tracksuit: The History of Sport in 100ish Objects. Alan is one of many weak links in the world's worst cricket team, the Twenty Minuters.

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Alan Tyers Alan Tyers writes about sport for the Daily Telegraph and others. He is the author of six books published by Bloomsbury, all of them with pictures by the brilliant illustrator Beach. The most recent is Tutenkhamen's Tracksuit: The History of Sport in 100ish Objects. Alan is one of many weak links in the world's worst cricket team, the Twenty Minuters.
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