Cresselly CC v Carew, on the last Saturday of the season – Pembs Division 1. The title at stake. Bowling points, batting points being juggled through the minds. Given Carew’s 21-point lead, what are the options? Well…
Everything is compound – or feels it. So we can’t come over all judgemental, or maybe even all idealistic, without expecting counterviews to arise. Make a statement and the universe will challenge it. Make a statement that you know is controversial or provocative and you better don the proverbial tin hat.
There is conviction; there is friction; there is opinion.
Sport lives off this fury – or rather it’s an essential part of the magical, infuriating sporty whole. It’s how many of us on the sidelines access the game(s), by bawling, or responding, more or less gracelessly, to the issues arising.
Pembs cricket had an issue this weekend. Or should I say – because there are fabulous and fascinating micro-issues within every game, right? – it spawned a biggie, a grotesque, attention-seeking argument worthy of discourse beyond the moment, beyond the region. That debate is welcome… and it will come.
In their final ‘critical’ game, Carew Cricket Club declared on 18 for 1, essentially to protect themselves from any possibility of failure in their quest for the First Division title. Playing nearest rivals Cresselly, away, with a 21-point lead in the table, Carew shut down the possibilities and the match.
In so far as there ever can be shockwaves in Pembrokeshire sport or Pembrokeshire life, there were shockwaves, around the local grounds (as games were barely under way) and, inevitably, via social media. The universe – our universe – was gobsmacked.
I saw this on twitter and despite being more than semi-detached from senior cricket, recognised the sonic boom-thing pretty early in its rumble. There really was a certain level of shock. Everybody knew immediately that Carew could do what they did; yet there was still a striking level of distaste around that choice, never mind discontentment.
A wholly unscientific survey of reactions from roundabout (and beyond) suggests my own reaction – part disappointment, part weird moralistic sub-anger – was fairly general. Instinctively, something about this just felt too brutal – too wrong. But maybe we/I need to look at this, too?
I’ve seen no-one I recognise as a leading figure in Welsh Cricket come out in favour of the declaration. In fact the decision is being widely viewed as somewhere between cynical and – as others, notably Fraser Watson in The Western Telegraph, have said – cowardly. (I’m not that comfortable with that word but can understand why it was used).
On @cricketmanwales I twittered that I thought what the champions did was anti-sport and I’m happy to stick with that, despite being aware of a certain corniness and (again) that dangerous whiff of the moralistic. Clearly, Carew acted to close out any risk: but in doing so they insulted their opponents on the day, on their home ground, mid glorious finale. Arguably they also traduced something which we may or may not choose to call the spirit of the game.
I know a chunk of the cricket world and/or media has become tired or resistant or hostile to the idea of a Spirit of Cricket. I understand that. The naysayers have a point, in particular around the pomposity, the reactionary dumbness that can attach itself to the cause here: who the hell do we cricketpeeps think we are, guardians of the (non-effing) universe? (Cue the eight zillion examples where we have patently failed our own, faux-glorious, sanctimonious standards). What right, what credibility do we have, to hold forth so? Why don’t we just get real, pipe down a bit and still try to be good sports? I get all that.
And yet two things spring to mind. One is we don’t have to conflate this into The Great Debate over The Meaning or Otherwise of the Spirit of Cricket, necessarily. The other is if you ask me the straight question is it good or bad to aspire to high standards of sportsmanship at all levels then I would emphatically and without hesitation say it is good.
In every issue there lie those wonderful or ugly or key micro-issues. Rivalries, needle, previous. And there are always places that we can take the argument – precedents – that might re-calibrate our truths. Carew might want to take us to some of those, or they might, as is their prerogative, brazen this one out with a non-explanation, a ‘show us the rules precluding’ kindofa shrug.
I haven’t yet heard it but I do expect to see the view that their decision was magnificently bold and de-mystifying; a view that could be both legitimate and offensive. Me? I thought was anti-sport. And I feel somehow robbed. How’s it looking from Cresselly, I wonder?