Monday, September 12, 2005

The Ashes

I think I started watching cricket in 1992 or '93, pretty much the nadir of the modern era for England's team. In those days, all England players were called Graham. There was Graham Gooch, Graham Hick, dewy-eyed debutant Graham Thorpe, and of course larrikin paceman Graham Trombone*. Even though the standard of Grahams was desperately low, I found the soothing pace of the five-day game very pleasing to my brain. And when the team went overseas to the West Indies or South Africa, you could leave the radio on BBC Radio 4 longwave all night, and wake up from strange dreams to hear what awful deeds tall foreign men had wrought on "our boys". Invariably, someone would be blowing on a conch shell.

So to win the Ashes today was in one sense very exciting. I know people around the country have apparently suddenly discovered that cricket is okay, and that they can watch it and pretend to know what the rules are. I've been watching it for 13 years and I don't know where "silly mid-on" is. It doesn't matter. I don't know which side is "leg" and which one is "off". But I was always pleased that some people didn't get it. Everyone I knew who was worth a shake got it.

You don't need to be a sports bore to watch test cricket, because it all happens so slowly. You get to know the players, and like a soap opera, you get to like them. Shane Warne may be a tubby and boorish Aussie, but he's been coming into my home for more than a decade and he's never stunk the joint out. That's not the Warne way. Cricket is a reality show where you like all the contestants, and they don't outstay their welcome.

When I tired of football's nebbish prima donnas in the late 90s, cricket didn't pall, so while I was happy to win the Ashes, i was sad because it's the end of live cricket on free-to-air TV. Sky Sports' cricket coverage is woeful and I wouldn't pay for the channel just for that. So today marked the end of something I really enjoyed. I doubt I'm the only person who felt like this.

Like George Costanza, I believe in always going out on a high. But for me and the summer game, the high was never really the point.

* Not a real player


fontgoddess said...

That little piece of writing there made this American wish that I could watch cricket and be a cricket fan. Beautiful.

David said...

Double Lagaan!!

Roman said...

Well, John, there's always next summer. I think. When does the cricket season begin?

Liam said...

That was sort of his point I think. Next summer's cricket will be only seen on Sky tv.

By the time we next get around to the Ashes, no doubt cricket would have been murdered.

Maybe, just maybe, this success will balance it all out, but in the long run, probably not.

Nonetheless, I am still happy about us winning!

Suds said...

We'll get you next time my pretty and your little dog too!

But seriously, it's a sad thing the whole Pay TV fiasco, the same shenanigans are going on here too in the good old land of Oz.

Hopefully next year they'll manage to convince one of the free-to-air stations to host it again (they almost didn't this year).

Suds said...

by Oz i meant case anyone is confused.

Jay said...

Let's go Mets!

Oops...wrong article. Very sorry, carry on.

Spectra said...

I know it's been said a million times by the TMS radio team, but that was, by a wide margin, the best Ashes series I can remember in my 27-odd years. Even though we lost, dammit.
My lowlight: The "day" didn't start until 7:30pm our time, so my sleep patterns have been shot for the last couple of months.
Highlight: Jonathan Agnew - does that fellow have the perfect radio voice, or what?
Sure, neither of those things are actually anything to do with the matches, but as you clearly understand, cricket is not just about the game - it's the whole experience around it.

Bad Andy said...

Bahwling Shyane.

Bee said...

Ah, W. G. Grace. My great-grandfather (W. T. Thompson) caught and bowled him, back in 1908!

Have that, beardy!

leigh said...

that was charmingly written, and smacks of my intentionally ignorant love of curling. yes, that's the crazy canadian game with the big rocks slid down the ice. i'm very fuzzy on the rules, but that's half the point: watching it is stress free and full of warm memories of grandma's cookies and grandpa's dissertations at tv screens.

this of course all being in grave danger, as i've convinced a competitive curler to be my drummer. oh dears.

arborealprimate said...

This Australian salutes you and your national team. It was beautiful cricket from both sides.

On other matters entirely, did you notice that Scott Kurtz is bigging you up?

arborealprimate said...

Oh, and curling is a Scottish game, as any fule know.

Roman said...

Ah, OK, so the situation is analogous to professional hockey being shown only on the Outdoor Life Network next year here in the U.S. If so, then I feel John's pain.

I think it would be fun to take up curling, too.

Suds said... with an iron?

Beej said...

Argh Australia played pretty poorly, I'm ashamed. But Warney, oh Warney, did you ever kick arse this series. I'm upset that we lost, but I'm glad that there's finally a team to stand up to Australia and put some more excitement back into the game (but you can stop winning now!!!).