Monday, May 28, 2007

Rain Starts Play

The British Summer weather on a bank holiday weekend. Time for tea and crumpet in the pavilion. Last one there is a rotten egg.

Another very British view.

Bank Holiday Monday dawns over Britain and in keeping with tradition, the British put on an extra cardigan, wrap their Macintosh tight around them and set out to enjoy traditional pursuits – regardless of the weather!

Well, my tangible yeomen, it is truly a very good day to remain watertight. Being a cricket fan, I have to admit to being rather disappointed. England are playing the West Indies at Headingly.

I realise that the mere mention of the word cricket will have the majority of you yawning with eyes glazing over and chins drooping. I’d like to say sorry for this, but my heart just wouldn’t be in it. You see, cricket isn’t as complicated as it seems. (Note 1)

Cricket has a very strange fascination. It is one of the very few sports that is played as much with the brain as with the body. If you are not a fan, it is easy to miss the nuances and the technicalities – and easy to get as bored rigid by a fan as by the game itself. I do realise that views on cricket are entrenched and that I stand no chance of changing your view on the game.

Despite the padding and protection, a ball made of cork covered in leather and lacquer, weighing 156g and travelling at 100mph will fell a batsman. Here Brett Lee checks out his latest victim.

I happen to enjoy Test Cricket and believe that this is a greater challenge to the teams involved requiring both ability and mental strength. (Note 2).

The major problem though is that you cannot watch every ball of every Test Match during the summer. With up to seven tests being played, you cannot get every day off work for one thing.

I think that is why cricket journalism has developed a reputation for producing journalists capable of producing excellent word sketches of what is a complex game. A skill made all the more necessary because when it rains – there is no cricket, but the newspapers pages and airtime remain to be filled. So these heroes of the journalistic art develop the skill of being able to produce word sketches about total inactivity!

While TV tends to show highlights of past matches when the rain comes down, the hardier and more frivolous commentators on Test Match Special fill the air time with observations about cakes, pigeons and busses. Often continuing when there is actually cricket being played. Such is the homely appeal of their banter, I am sure that even people who have no interest in the game tune in, close their eyes and pretend they are at a gentile tea party.

The internet has continued with the fine tradition of cricket journalism with a number of excellent sites covering the game, offering up detailed statistical analysis of the game (Note 3) and offering a ball by ball update to the score.

Combining the tradition of cricket journalism with the new, brash and immediate nature of the internet comes a new cult hero to take his place amongst the wordsmiths. Ladies, gentlemen and others, I give you Ben Dirs! Check out the link to his Wikiquote and be… erm… amazed.

From 14th June 2006, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: As you can see, the simplified explanation doesn’t go down too well amongst some cricket fans. Although I love my cricket, I can’t see any harm in it and don’t hold impromptu bonfires when asked to help with the wiping up. Click to return

NOTE 2: The cricketing authorities have tried to improve the image of the game by introducing one day versions of the game which I enjoy, but for different reasons. However, if you want cricket at its rawest and most spectacular, the latest innovation of Twenty/Twenty cricket is well worth a look and will certainly bring converts to the game. Click to return

NOTE 3: Statistics play a huge part in cricket with very detailed records kept of team and individual performances and careers. These statistics are poured over and analysed by aficionados of the game and used to compare players of different eras and styles. Even the most minor statistic can be the subject of a heated debate while players, commentators and spectators wait for the British weather to clear. Click to return

I am now convinced that all of my fine yeomen (of whom I am so very proud), have worked out what is going on. Yet, I want to keep giving out clues.

Here is a wonderful badge. Sadly all my Merkin readers will be disadvantaged by this clue.

Please remember Alan Johnston who is still held hostage in Gaza. There are hopeful signs, but until he is released this logo remains. Freedom of the press to report what is happening is a cornerstone to all our freedoms.

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