To those of you who watch a lot of sport, George Orwell's famous essay on "The Sporting Spirit" might seem a touch melodramatic, particularly lines such as:
"… international sporting contests lead to orgies of hatred".
Yes, people get upset when their team lose, but rational adults realise that most teams will fail to win at least 50% of the time, so learn early on in life to take the rough of defeat along with the rough of heavy defeat.
So you tell yourself with confidence that George was wrong. Just as he was wrong that British life in the mid-1980s would be hellish and soul-destroying (the music of Depeche Mode notwithstanding) he got us sports fans all wrong too. Test match cricket is not the cause of orgies of any description (unless there's such a thing as an orgy of snoozing).
But then you open up your favourite social media site on Wednesday morning and there it is: an orgy of hatred, or more accurately, the script to an orgy of hatred, interspersed with the occasional diagram, imaginatively lewd emoticon or helpfully obscene diagram.
This sudden proliferation of bile from cricket's angry glands can mean only one thing: India and England are playing another Test series. I don't know what it is about these two cricket nations, but they seem incapable of completing a five-day engagement without resorting to squabbling, swearing or petulance on an intergalactic scale. They set out calmly enough, but at a certain point, it all goes wrong.
In 2007 they fell out over jelly beans. In 2011 it was Vaseline. They are like constantly scuffling siblings on a long car journey, able to start an argument on any subject at any time. It doesn't help, of course, that the modern cricket-playing establishment seems to actively encourage systematic verbal abuse. Just hours after sledging bore James Anderson had been charged with a Level 3 offence, Alastair Cook was saying this:
"I like it when Jimmy is in the battle because it means he is up for it and desperate to do well for England."
And his opposite number was saying this:
"We want players to be aggressive, say a few things."
As any parent will tell you, when you have two argumentative children in close proximity for a prolonged period, the last thing you should do is encourage them to abuse one another verbally:
"Now Ravindra, I think it's great that you called Jimmy a smelly big nose, and Jimmy, I like that you said Ravindra has bottom-breath, that tells me that you're both really committed and passionate about this family holiday, just as long as you remember there's a line that you do not cross and please stop doing that with Ravindra's head, Jimmy."
Thanks to the efforts of supposedly independent-minded journalists, who with wearying predictability line up uniformly behind their countrymen, and the helpful interventions of former cricketers-turned-internet trolls (to mention no Michaels) within hours, every one of these grievances takes on the flavour of an international incident and before the day is out, England is at Twitter war with India. Again.
The ICC won't be able to resolve this latest incident for a few days, but that hardly matters. The angry genie is out of the bottle. Whatever the outcome, there will be appeals, denials, conspiracy theories, and an endless rolling tide of internet hatred, punctuated by occasional incidents, near-incidents or alleged incidents on the field of play, which will in turn provide more fuel for the steam-train of thundering idiocy.
Such is the spectacle that modern cricket offers: players abusing each other as a matter of course; captains, journalists, and ex-players eagerly choosing sides in order to pile on, and an army of millions of internet warriors ready to uphold their nation's honour.
Perhaps George was right after all.
Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here
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