No 22: Because the game itself isn’t that interesting…

Selling cricket to your partner is always a depressing battle – particularly given how much I play cricket! A conversation with an ex once went like this…

Me: “Cricket season soon!”

Her: “What does that mean?”

Me: “Well… games on a Saturday. Meet at the club between 10am and 12am, depending if it’s home or away, and done by 8-9pm usually!”*
*I carefully avoided mentioning Sunday games, Wednesday League, nets on Tuesdays/Thursdays/Fridays.

Her: “Oh. That’s quite a long time then.”

Me: “Well why don’t you come and watch?”

Her: “But cricket is SO boring!”

Me: “Well do you like sunbathing? Or drinking? There’s always places to do those things near cricket grounds!”

But this made me feel somewhat guilty. Not all cricket clubs have a bar. Some (most) of the time, the weather isn’t that nice – yet for some reason we carry on. Actually – cricket IS quite boring! And thus my mind turned to the wonderful games/pastimes I’ve experienced both playing and watching cricket, which I think fall into two categories.

Whilst you’re meant to be playing

Well the difficulty is that there are large parts of the match where you’re not doing anything, except maybe wicket keepers – but they’re an odd bunch. Be this the middle part of an innings in the field, where your mind wanders or the hangover clears, or simply if you’re a lower order batter (we’ll avoid nasty terms like tail-ender, or rabbit) – or heaven forbid, an opener who’s got out very early in the innings (in my experience this is ALWAYS due to the pitch doing funny things, getting the best ball of the day, or a fielder taking the catch of the season – but cricketing excuses is an entirely different post).

Fielding

Now games to play whilst fielding are quite tricky and mostly seem to be word games. I once spent an entire afternoon where my team was only allowed to sledge using song/film titles, a process that would run like this:

  • 3-4 balls before sledge, much guffawing from fielder
  • batsman plays and misses (or some other minor mistake)
  • “FLASH!! AH AH – Saviour of the Universe”
  • cue repeated chuckles in the field

This happened to work to such devastating effect that one of the opposition threatened to assault the next person to do this. Clearly so rattled by our witty sledges the opposition rattled off the run chase in double quick time (maybe a bit more focus on stopping or catching the ball would’ve been useful). Other pastimes include playing eye-spy, telling jokes to other fielders (I once spent the best part of 5 overs being told a bit of a joke at the change of ends), and my favourite – the sausage game. This being a game where one fielder asks a rhetorical question, but if another fielder provides the answer they ‘lose’ and will have ‘sausage’ shouted at them.

Batting

I’m fortunate that in the league I play in in Oxfordshire most of the games have ‘appointed’ umpires,  and scorers who aren’t playing. This means quite a few of the team can be sat waiting for something to do (generally two batsmen are ‘in’ and two more are padded up waiting to be ‘in’). If the batsmen are building a partnership then after the first 10 or so overs again the mind will usually wander. Once the standard conversations are held on sports/local politics/club politics, often you’ll need something else to be entertained by. Quite often ‘doing a lap’ is seen as a euphemism for continuing the conversations outlined above, but to my mind the best game is ‘boundary bowls’.

There are many local variants of ‘boundary bowls’ but they will all generally involve rolling around some cricket balls on the edge of the field. Objectives like the flags, another ball, or just trees etc are all brought into play. And, being cricketers, of course there is the minutiae of detail (and special rules) that will have to be applied. Here’s an example – the straying of balls into the outfield is often a problem (as is over keen youngsters straying behind the bowlers arm) – how I would love to see this being played during an international game!

bowls

Whilst watching / during breaks in play

Now sadly it does rain quite a bit in the UK, which means one often de-camps into the clubhouse/shack/the biggest car/the pub over the road. Card games are often a favourite, and some of the best cricket related conversations I’ve had have been in rain breaks. I’ve discussed the greatest one-cap wonders, the most rotund XI, and England county players who never won a Test cap but should have. You get the general idea.

Whilst watching any form of cricket a similar process happens – the mind wanders and you start discussing other things. Someone will pop to the bar. A beer snake is started. A friend gets out her knitting. You have a snooze. You do a crossword.

This to my mind is what makes cricket, cricketers and fans of the game fantastic. We ALL know that the game is slightly dull, yet we’ve invented a myriad of ways to keep it interesting during the ‘boring bits’. Personally, this is why I’m not a fan of T20 – the last game I watched there was far too much going on – I had no time to read a magazine or really chat to my friends (although Kat did fit in some knitting, we ate some cake and drank some very alcoholic coffee – more on sneaking drinks into cricket grounds another day I think!).

So long live the great game – and the great minor games and pastimes that have thrived because of it!

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