Thursday, 8 October 2009

Cricket: A Lesson In Being British*

For the last seven years I have been a cricket widow. Read it and weep ladies and gentlemen, seven years, that's longer than I've been married, but about as long as I've been with Husband, you do the math Sherlock (he was a mathematician wasn't he?). I should be to all intents and purposes an expert, well versed in the art of the game, attune to the subtle sound of leather on willow (a weeping one in my case) able to discern with a sweeping glance the chances of one team over another, to discuss at length the relative merits of one player over another over polite drinks. I should, but I can't. Because the entire game is one long tea party, and a true lesson in being British.
So, for the benefits of my non-British readers I shall attempt to explain this tally-ho game, and for my British readers, listen carefully, it's you I'm talking about.
Firstly it is played in an enormous field, a massive one, bigger than most football fields (although probably not Manchester United's, they need a lot of Porche parking space). This field is well kept, watered even during a hosepipe ban, aerated by hand by a little old man retained through retirement simply to perform this job, and it is green. Greener than England's pleasant land, greener than Husband's face when he gets my credit card bill. Except of course for the little bit in the middle where they actually play this game called cricket. This bit is brown, dead, left under a specially made triangular thing to make sure it is dead enough, if in doubt they beat it with a large club before each game just to make sure. I think it's the little old man who keeps this bit dead, mainly to show off how beautifully green he keeps the rest of it.
The game is played by eleven men per team, they all wear white, absolutely nothing to discern which team is which, because that would be unsporting. They toss a coin before each match to decide which team fields and which team bats first. If it is a hot day, the coin tossing winning team tends to pick to bat first. This is because only two of them actually go out to play, the rest stay in the pavilion drinking tea and reading papers, pausing only to cheer politely any activity at all on the pitch. Which in infrequent. Not much happens in cricket. Someone bowls a red ball, someone else tries to hit it and if they do they run between two posts to try and get as many runs as possible. The second guy playing for the batting team also runs, in case the batter gets tired and wants an extra run. Obviously, if the batter hits the ball quite far then he doesn't need to run, he just gets given six runs automatically. It doesn't matter that he might be able to run more than six times between the post, the main thing is that he doesn't get tired.
This activity goes on for a while, for as long as the batter can run a couple of times between two posts or until someone catches the ball or hits three sticks with the ball. Catching the ball or hitting three little sticks that aren't glued together is a bad thing in cricket. It means the batter and his wing man have to go and get a cup of tea and their breath back while someone else has a go. You'd think, wouldn't you that the conclusion to this game would come either from death-by-boredom of anyone within a mile radius or by catching the whole team out one by one (this includes surprising them by hitting out at three innocent sticks).
But no. And here comes the oh so British thing about cricket. If the first team is doing surprisingly well, if perchance the batter hasn't been out until 4am drinking Red Bull or a few people come to bat and total up a rather decent score, then they have a little chat. The upshot of this being that they've done well enough old boy and time to let the other team have a go. Did you hear me at the back? They're doing really well, so they decide that rather than be rude and do too well they let the other team have a try until they catch up or overtake. I mean, it would be just terrible to win in one fair swoop wouldn't it? Forget going for gold and striving against all odds, let's have a cup of tea in the pavilion and see if the other team can catch us up. Which they usually do because they stopped to let them have a go.
I'm sure by now you'd like me to stop. Stop! Stop! You're saying, let us be free of this drivel, let us watch football where it's over in ninety minutes and someone actually wins. Let's watch Rugby that's over in eighty minutes and somebody actually wins.
Sorry, but I'm trying to give you a taste of my life. You see this game is not only inactive, but it stops for bad light. That's dusk to you and me, forget flood lights or some little invention called electricity, if one team fancies an early night in with the wife (they may all share one I'm not sure), everyone agrees to end for the day and go home. Regardless of the score. There's always tomorrow. And tomorrow. And tomorrow. No one ever points out that if they just got on with the game and stopped letting each other have a go to catch up it may be over in a day with a discernible winner.
But, ladies and gentlemen, this game goes on for a week (except for 20-20 cricket which is a modern interpretation that they play in two hours. It was easy to create, they just removed the biscuits from the pavilion). It goes on for so long, and so little happens that the radio commentators are not known for their snappy up to the second delivery, their skill at preempting the next move, oh no, the highest paid commentators are those known for filling the gaps in an entertaining manner. Husband's favourite Henry Blowfeld regularly talks about the pigeons on the pitch and their amusing head nodding. I once accidentally tuned in during a long car drive and dear old Henry was commenting on the number ten bus that had just driven past the grounds for the eleventh time. Husband guffawed at the image, inactivity does that to you.
Not only does this game go on for a week, but it can still end up in a draw. Days and days of resting, tea drinking, laughing at a pigeon until it's rejected for playing for laughs, occasional catching and batting only to end up shaking hands and nodding pleasantly at each other at such a sporting game, and what a shame no one got the cup again this year.
Sometimes, just to keep it interesting you understand, there's not even a cup to be won. Take The Ashes for example. A hotly contested annual game between England and Australia. One (possibly drunken) night, a long time ago, an Englishman set fire to a cricket bat and was so remorseful the morning after that he scraped up the ashes and put them in a little wooden box. He then held it up to the Australians and asked if they wanted it. They did, and decided to play cricket for it. Cue millennia of squabbling over The Ashes, although if the Australians ever do win they're not allowed to take them home. They have to have a replica. A testimony to the cack handed nature of Australian cricket players or the propensity of the English to hold onto anything of historical value, no matter who it really belongs to? You decide.
And that's it. That's cricket. Never ending, tournaments all year, endless commentary on every radio station known to man, and a wife. A wife sitting at home, growing cobwebs and wondering whether Husband will make the number ten bus home.



*Husband would like me to point out here that I know nothing at all about cricket. I don't. But surely that makes me the more dinner party worthy of the two of us. Enough said.

29 comments:

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Well said.

Not only does the commentary go on forever, when the whole thing is over, it starts again. And then, when the whole series is over, they start the next one. And then, when summer is over, they go on TOURS to faraway places where the sun is shining and they can still play cricket. Then summer starts again.

I am also a cricket fan widow. But, I secretly I do quite enjoy it. In small doses. Occasionally. x

Moannie said...

And that my foriegn bloggy friends is a damn good description of the game that won us an Empire...well the boring digging the heels in and the buscuit parts. At least they don't strip off their shirts over shaved heads at the first ray of sun to filter through the clouds so they can show off their tattoos and beer bellies. Nor do Cricket fans sing ridiculous songs and fight on the pitch.
Still the most boring game on earth though.

geraldgee said...

You're not my friend any more...:0(

Vicus Scurra said...

Madam, you are clearly too young to have ever seen a Tom Graveney cover drive. Had you seen it, you would convert forthwith. This is an irrefutable truth.

Nota Bene said...

Can you jst expplain the offside rule for me?

Insomniac Mummy said...

You forgot about sticky wickets and googlies.

Cricket makes me want to do housework.

Enough said.

:D

AnyEdge said...

And everything's a wicket. Tell a brit that and they'll say: "no, certainly not. Only...." And then they'll describe cricket and use the word 'wicket' 459 times.

Muddling Along Mummy said...

I hate to say it but I have a fondness for cricket (especially the radio commentary) - what other sport can you go out for several hours and come back to take up again where you more or less left off

Oh and you didn't mention that the Ashes urn is the MOST ridiculous trophy - its about 3 inches high...

Granny on the Web said...

I am with you on the boredom. My hubby never ceases to try and educate me, he desperately wants me to enjoy it like he does. I sit through his explanations, stifling the yawns, and am none the wiser.
I say to him, 'shall I explain this knitting pattern and show you how all the stitches go together to make a sweater?' He gets the message sometimes!

Love Granny

Mwa said...

I cannot find enough patience in me for cricket. I have a (female) friend who will listen to it on the radio all summer, and it baffles me completely. She doesn't even watch it on TV.

Gorilla Bananas said...

I believe it was a cricket bail that an Englishman (possibly Jack the Ripper) set fire to. And you forgot to describe the protective device that the batsman wears to protect that which is dear to his honest buxom wife.

Vic said...

I believe that you must secretly have quite a thing for cricket (or is it the cricketers?) because you seem to know a great deal. Me? I only have to hear the word and bury my head in the sand!

jinksy said...

This is my kind of cricket - gently poking fun at the game in a way only a non-devotee can!

Melissa B. said...

Interesting. I'm a football (American-style) widow, myself. Just last nite he stayed up late watching a college game-on the bedroom TV, while I was trying to get some Zsssssss...SITS sent me by, and I'm glad they did!

Bring Me Ben & Jerry's, Please!

Kim said...

I always wondered how Cricket was played! Visiting from SITS!

Chocolate Lover said...

Even with you explaining it, I still don't get this game! Loved reading the post tho! Thanks for dropping by my blog. Your comment really made me LOL.

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

Oh so true. very well put. Iloved all the comments too! I'm a cricket widow. I actually learnt to play for a women's novice team whilst at uni. It made me view the game differently. It was such a laugh. And made a change eating rather than making the teas. Still don't really understand it though. Do have a slight fondness for it I must admit like BIB, especially when it involves a lovely summer's day & a bottle of wine.

A Lawyer Mom's Musings said...

Wow. Your description kept me on the edge of my seat.

Now then, you must come visit me in the States when they all convene to play again. We'll have wine in flannel PJs, watch movies, eat pizza, aaaahhhhh.

In the meantime, I applaud your tolerance, friend.

traceelements said...

Sadly I pretty much totally understand cricket now. My husband is obviously a lot more persuasive than yours! But I do love your explanation. Reminds me a lot of this classic:

Cricket: As explained to a foreigner...
You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that's in the side that's in goes out, and when he's out he comes in and the next man goes in until he's out. When they are all out, the side that's out comes in and the side that's been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out.
When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in. There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out. When both sides have been in and all the men have been out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game.


And, yeah - what is it about why you English won't let we Aussies take the actual Ashes out of the country when we do win them?

rosiero said...

My sympathies go out to you, because personally I have never had to endure(sorry, I mean watch) a game of cricket where a loved one has been in it. I would sooner watch paint dry......even if there are free cucumber sandwiches!

Chef Eureka said...

Happy Sharefest Saturday!!! :) That's some interesting info to share. I really didn't know that much :)

Lucky Girl said...

Hi! I am a blogger newbie. (I should probably stop telling people this).

Beautiful blog. I will need to spend a lot of time here I can tell. It will take me awhile to learn the language...

So Cricket huh?
Excuse me but...what?? Wow.
That game sounds...fun. (not!) Love, love,loved your description of it though!

Happy Sharefest Saturday!!!
Nuff said.

Working Mum said...

Almost makes me glad to be a football widow instead. And I bet you have to wash his cricket whites as well, don't you?

Potty Mummy said...

Well, I AM English and thanks MH, you just about explained it all better than my dad ever could. Is it any suprise I married a dutchman so I didn't have to put up with this crxp?

Eliza said...

So funny :-) I've never been able to understand the game, i'd prefer to watch paint dry. There's an award for you at my blog.

Tooting Squared said...

MH, you are clearly an expert. I think you should contact the beeb and see if they need a new pundit.

Claire said...

Hey im here from SITS!
Cricket......yawn, i am so so glad my husband has no interest in the sport.....feel for you

Laura Lutz said...

I live in NYC so am not generally surrounded by cricket. However, in the summer, a large group of gentlemen get together to play on the asphalt school play yard next to my building every weekend. For three years, from 17 floors up, I have watched them. And I have still learned nothing about the game.

My husband & I have joked that they probably aren't playing a new game every weekend; rather, they have been the same continuous game for all 3 years that we've lived here. They stop in the winter, still keeping the score in their heads, and then pick it back up come sunnier days. It just goes on and on and...

Adrian's Crazy Life said...

I hope you know how fascinating your blog is for an American like me. I am endlessly fascinated how people from different countries can be so absolutely different in every way.

I would love to propose that bit about stopping play to let the other team "catch up". Even at the Little League level (kids ages 5 to 12), everyone on the field would be completely horrified at the very concept. It goes completely against the whole American way of life.