Sunday, March 18, 2007

Oh no! One more step on the road to becoming a colonial power.
When we speak of 'The Necessity for De-Anglicising the Irish Nation', we mean it, not as a protest against imitating what is best in the English people, for that would be absurd, but rather to show the folly of neglecting what is Irish, and hastening to adopt, pell-mell, and indiscriminately, everything that is English, simply because it is cricket.
Douglas Hyde 1892

It was with a growing sense of disquiet that I lay in bed the other night listening to the BBC World Service as the Ireland cricket team made history by drawing with Zimbabwe. I heard smug and patronising commentators write off any chance that Ireland had of avoiding the inevitable humiliation at the hands of a 'serious' cricketing side. There is after all no place for plucky little amateurs in world class cricket. But they pulled it off and hubris was the emotion of the night.

Ok I thought, no need to panic. Ireland meet Pakistan in the next fixture and, Paddy's Day or not, reality will bite with the bone-crushing force of a great white shark on the toned thighs of an unwary swimmer. Nope. They went and done and did it, beating the Pakistanis quite convincingly by 3 wickets. A more than likely win by the West Indies over Zimbabwe will now take them into the final stages of the cricket world cup and meetings with Australia and England in the next stage of the competition.

Part of me wishes the lads in green jym-jams well, but the other part of me, the mean spirited product of an English grammar school education, hopes they crash and burn spectacularly. Bear with me on this one: We do not want cricket getting a foothold in the popular imagination on this Ireland.

My utter contempt for Rugby Union is well documented, but I have kept silent about cricket in my time here. But once I see lads in green pyjamas and pads displayed willy-nilly over the front pages of the Irish Sundays, I believe that now is the time to speak out.

My reasons are simple:

1. Contrary to popular belief cricket is not a boring game, it is merely incomprehensible to most sane people. Here are the rules:

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 all 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 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!

Not merely are the rules incomprehensible but, unlike the R game, there are no helpful referees to explain them to players and spectators as the game unfolds. Umpires take pride in their incontestable inscrutability preferring to communicate their decisions in an arcane sign language known only to certain North American Plains Indians.

The English revel in this lack of transparency and in some quarters it is regarded as a mark of cultural assimilation: if you can understand the game to their satisfaction you're well on the way to getting an invitation to the hunt ball.

2. Should the game catch on here, anyone with an English accent will be asked constantly to explain the rules to home grown fans. Explaining the off-side rule to a person of the feminine persuasion is a piece of cake by comparison. This painfully frustrating task would try the patience of a Catholic martyr and, in fact, cannot be accomplished due to the illogical nature of said rules.

On the plus side shared incomprehension might increase the bond between us and our American cousins as victims of snot-nosed English contempt.

3. Cricket has a distinctly negative effect on the Irish psyche. Look at Samuel Becket, one of only a handful of Nobel prize winners to play first class cricket. Beckett's pessimism about the human condition was acquired after a game against Northamptonshire in 1935 when he conceded 63 runs for no wicket and was never allowed bowl again. He spent the remainder of his cricketing career pondering the imponderables of existence at 3rd man, a posting well known for its ability to drive sane men over the boundary into madness.

It is widely rumoured that the entire script of Endgame was cribbed from the crowd during a particularly tedious county match between Somerset and Glamorgan in 1955, a game notable only for the deaths of 3 spectators from ennui. And every dog on the street knows that the absence of climax in Waiting for Godot is a metaphor not for life but for county cricket.

4. These days they play in pyjamas. This is fine if you're a tracker-knacker teenager from Ballymun or Dolphin's Barn for whom Dunne's nightwear is daytime de rigeur. But imagine if you started seeing this stuff sold at usurious prices in your local Champion Sports and, what is worse, folk started wearing it on a regular basis around the inns and hostelries of this fair city. Ughhhh!

5. Fans of the game think this kind of thing is trouser-wettingly hilarious:
Welcome to Worcester where you've just missed seeing
Barry Richards hitting one of Basil D'Oliveira's balls
clean out of the ground.
- Brian Johnston, BBC Radio

The bowler's Holding, the batsman's Willey.
- Brian Johnston, BBC

Oo-er, Mrs Golightly, not exactly Oscar Wilde, is it? Or even Benny Hill for that matter.

6. When cricket was introduced to the Trobriand islands, according to anthropologists 'they embraced it and made it their own, transforming the game in keeping with their own ideas about village warfare, sorcery, hospitality, fair play, and spectacle'. In actual fact it became a substitute for head-hunting, wife raiding, and the routine mayhem of life in a Melanesian jungle paradise.

Thinks: A single here will get me 2 new wives, a potlatch dinner and curse my enemies for the next 3 generations

I don't even want to contemplate the consequence if we took a leaf out of them lads' book. Isn't the old stick-fighting trouble enough?

And finally,

7. Would you like these guys walking our streets singing calypso at the top of their voices, eating cake, and giving sugar-lumps to police-horses on a regular basis?

I don't think I have to answer that, do I?

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