The Mad Batter’s Tea Party; Obvious Positives.

Working in and for the game of cricket, I take more than a passing interest in how folks view all of its multifarious (or possibly just nefarious?) forms. (Go see Jarrod Kimber ‘bout that latter niche.) I’m as daft and as clueless as the next fan/coach/umpire/player about many things within what we might call the world of cricket but medium clued-in, I would say, on matters to do with coaching and retention – what the game (or, okaaay, what Cricket Wales) is looking to do.

I’m not boasting. I’m not saying I’m good at this or that, just that I have some knowledge – some information – stored on these issues, following turgid or revelatory classroom-bound discussions or blokey workshopping or centre-practice of cricket stuff. It’s what I do. Why wouldn’t I know something? If I don’t know what the path forward looks like on Coach Education and in terms of schools provision, I do know what’s being discussed, or put in place, or considered at local and national level. But ultimately… everything’s context.  Everything out there shapes things.

Cricket People are like Ordinary People in that they locate themselves, noisily or quietly, into wildly different zones of opinion or belief. Sometimes a level of global calm seems to win out, as the cricket equivalent of peacetime – or tea-time – prevails. Other times the brew is stronger and the scones, yaknow… stonier.

Now feels like a Mad Batters Tea Party. An incendiary, expressionistic, drug-addled cornucopia-fest. Where the crashbangwallop of the game magnificently and beautifully but maybe luridly reflects the noises off, the times, the turbidity currents building around cricket’s heaving continents. It’s excitingly off its own head.

The times of course do contribute to the vulcanism; ‘f you don’t like something or somebody you mercilessly troll them. ‘F you see the umpire got it wrong from 24 different angles you blow your collective, high definition fuse. If the game slows down you down another Fosters. So if this doesn’t seem like a Test Cricket kindofa time then maybe that’s because it really ain’t.

However. Despite the absurdities and indeed immoralities exposed by ‘Death of A Gentleman’; despite the *challenges* to fairness/honesty/decency implicit in an Indo-Aus-Giles Clark Pact; despite the alleged woefulness of some of the Ashes Women batting – despite the obscene hurry we’re all in to get somewhere brasher quicker – there are Obvious Positives. Even for Test Cricket. Surely there are? Positives which though they may not necessarily ‘grow the game’ – in that immortal phrase – may counter-intuitively perhaps preserve it and develop it.

I know some of these positives from my work and in that I am privileged. I see young girls in Penny Dropping mode as they get that this is their game too. I see the powerful and yet relatively untapped educational potential in upful, ‘physical’ but thoughtful school sessions – children building cricket games and therefore using a zillion ‘academic’ skills as well as heartily lugging round those limbs – moving. I meet, actually, loads of brilliant people, either in schools or within Cricket Wales or Glamorgan C.C.C. or elsewhere.  But hey look if you think I’m coming over all soft-sellingly pro- what I do then I’ll park that and go back to where we came in. Which was with perceptions – opinions.

I went both to the Ashes Test Match in Cardiff and the Bank Holiday double header extravaganza – where both men and women played T20 Internationals. Both were superb events, confirming the racy, thrilling, contemporary brilliance of short-format cricket and the traditional but evolving majesty of the five (soon-to-be-four) day experience. Moeen Ali was great. Ben Stokes was great – all kinds of things from that general upping of the ante to seeing Cook command the new era with confidence and imagination were great.

These days were both a novelty and a re-affirmation.  We’ve burst through something, haven’t we? Carved out of yesterday’s billion-year-old past.

I’ve previously wittered on about this new wild positivity – picked holes in it – but generally it’s pretty fab, right? It offers us cricketpeeps clear opportunities; let’s take them.

But enough foam for a minute. Here’s a wee story which feels relevant. ‘Sharing’ stuff, (hate that phrase!) asyado, on twitter, I happened to drop in a minor note of disappointment re the level of attendance at the beginning of the Women’s T20 and was fairly promptly slapped down for using the everydaysexism hashtag to accompany my (honestly relatively minor) gripe. I should say I have the luxury of being a complete nobody so this was not heavyweight trolling, you understand, this was two blokes.

They objected to my high-handedness and accused me of that kind of hypocrisy whereby you *support* something you don’t really support because (probably) you read that this is right in the Guardian. They said that the Women’s Ashes was poor and I shouldn’t be pretending otherwise, effectively: also that you can’t force people to watch something.

I know what they meant and that there is such a weasley phenomenon at work in the Liberal Mind. And I suppose I fall into that category. But they were wrong.

Firstly I hadn’t said or implied anything about the quality or otherwise of the game. Secondly they misunderstood – probably wilfully – the essence of my disappointment. Not wishing to use too much battery time on the discussion, I signed off promptly –
Have a good day, Genghis.

With the SSE Swalec emptyish rather than fullish as Brunt and Shrubsole went about their opening business and in the knowledge, frankly, that on a purely economic level it made sense for supporters to take in both internationals, I expressed disappointment. Why not support the women’s match, even if you find it less dynamic or entertaining – even if the ‘standard’ offends you? Don’t get it. Unless #everydaysexism.

To clasp that nettley comparison – this;
a) it’s both faintly ridiculous and mildly dumb to compare men and women – they’re simply different
b) (if) levels of power are the central issue maybe something could be done on type/weight of ball and/or length of pitch – if we become sure that women’s cricket needs to replicate men’s by becoming increasingly about elite-level mega-dynamism. If we don’t, then maybe (wonderfully/hilariously/enlighteningly) women’s cricket will be a/the game for skill, subtlety and patience, as things develop.

Finally on that, things have developed. Meaning despite the ‘distance yet to travel’ inferred by much of the writing on the Women’s Ashes, cricket played by women and girls is a cause for celebration and it seems essential and right to support it. Not indiscriminately but support it. Sure the scores are markedly lower, sure the hitting is markedly less wallopacious, sure the event is of a different timbre – currently and maybe permanently. But there has been and there will be rapid ‘progress’ as wider opportunities for top level competitive play/training/competition emerge.

Finally finally, watching from directly behind the bowler’s arm, I loved it that Anya Shrubsole (who bowled a flawed spell, ye-es!) swung the ball further than anyone of any sex on that double-header of a day. I also really enjoyed Brunt’s Proper Fast Bowler Attitude from t’other end.

Throw in Sarah Taylor’s nonchalant excellence behind the sticks and there you have three reasons to be cheerful. Obvious Positives. Now if we (the English/Welsh) can sort the Buttler batting thing out – oh and the Lyth one – and then get to the fascistic world-governance scene-thing, imagine how fabulous cricket could be?

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