Posted by Laura
I owe my life to cricket. It’s not something I admit willingly. In fact, this is the first time I’ve ever confessed my existence has been borne out of a pastime so dull and (whisper it) completely pointless. If it weren’t for the chance meeting of my grandparents at a cricket club some time in the 1930s, I probably wouldn’t be here to deliver a painful lambasting to the game my family holds so dear.
If I ever were in line to be left a fortune, the next few hundred words would be a sure-fire route to disinheritance. But I’m willing to take that chance to fly the flag for all the other cricket-phobes out there. I’m talking the kind of people who, when the word Ashes starts getting bandied about with passion and enthusiasm, involuntarily lapse into some sort of slack-jawed stupor.
Surely it can’t be time for that again? It seems just a few months since we had to endure the never-ending TV coverage, the lame Aussie/English feud-stoking in the press and the hero worship of the England team because, finally, finally this was a game England could be good at. But, as the cricket devotees who have come out of the woodwork once again inform me, the Ashes is not like the football World Cup, which comes round every four years, building up excitement and anticipation among nations in the intervening period, it comes round about every 18 months. I suspect this is because the four-year lead-up is unnecessary; it’s hard to rouse much more than a few raised pulses around a tournament in which two teams could end up playing the same bat-ball-run-for-a-bit-catch-get-a-bit-sunburnt-out! malarkey for up to 25 days.
That’s twenty. Five. Whole. Days. Battles have been won and lost in less time. There are so many better ways to spend almost a month of your life. You could cycle from John o’ Groats to Land’s End with room to get lost en route. You could go on a world cruise and see much more than a bunch of blokes running up and down the same few yards for hours on end. And Ashes fans, seeing as boredom is your bag, you could read the Lord of the Rings trilogy four times and still have enough time to watch the film adaptations, and probably all six Star Wars movies too.
I don’t think I’ve ever encountered anything that has the ability to slow time as much as cricket. I remember the back-to-back coverage that was a permanent fixture on our TV when I was a child. And 25 days of Ashes can seem like a lifetime when you’re young and missing an entire month’s worth of Neighbours. Scott and Charlene could be married, pregnant and divorced in the time it takes to go through five tests. And no one at school the next day was going to try to steal your lunch if you couldn’t tell them what you thought of Botham’s performance. But missing Neighbours, it was a ticket to ridicule.
Even now, after a childhood of bookshelves lined with Geoffrey Boycott and Ray Illingworth biographies, long car journeys with only the commentary of Dickie Bird to pass the time, and that story of ‘it was cricket that brought your grandma and grandad’ together, the game still haunts me.
Just yesterday my cricket-loving colleague was lamenting the time difference between England and Australia, which meant he’d have to seriously rethink the structure of his life for a month. “I think I’m going to have to work out just how much sleep one man needs,” was his brave conclusion. Was there an element of hubris in the admission he was going to make such a brave sacrifice to show his support for the gentleman’s game? Denying oneself sleep for longer than a couple of nights is totally unnecessary. In the name of cricket it’s insane.
Surely cricket induces slumber? The crowds most of the time look like they’re half asleep. There’s no energy and electricity like you’d find at a football match. I’ve been told in no uncertain terms that this is not the case; it’s a run, not a sprint and a game to be savoured, not swallowed whole.
With this in mind, I tried, I really did, to learn more about the pastime that’s been the bane of my life since birth. I’m sure my life will much more enlightened if I know that the true meaning of LBW isn’t really Long, Boring and Worthless, but really an important and insightful sporting term. And I reckon I really could make sense of the 165 for sixes and the series and the tests and the overs. But that’s just it – over? Cricket is NEVER over. It just carries on and on and on like some groundhog day spent in on a green in rural England, perpetually taking tea and scoffing scones with polite village folk. In some matches there is no winner! How can anything be over when it’s not even been won?
I’m sorry, cricket, but I just can’t do it. I’ve tried to embrace what you stand for and get swept up in the passion that my colleague so obviously feels for you. But the only thing I’ve found that can even raise my spirits about something so mind-numbing is the music associated with it. 10CC’s Dreadlock Holiday (play and download) and Soul Limbo, by Booker T and the MGs (play & download the Sargassa Band’s version) are both great tracks. But when the last bars of these three-minute anthems are over, all you’re left with is 22 men, a vast expanse of green, and day upon day of banter, bravado and boredom for the sake of an urn full of dust.