Parting Has Been Such Sweet Sorrow

We have a pulse.

We’ve not written much during lockdown, and while I can’t speak for the others, in my own case it’s really because I haven’t had anything to say.  Other matters have been vastly more important, whether in health terms or concerns over income.  Sure, it would have been easy enough to write a series of Ten Best articles, but I didn’t especially care and couldn’t be bothered.  The lockdown was in more ways than one, and for someone like me, working in the travel and tourism sector, the existential crisis of an entire industry has been on my mind throughout.

Set against the reality of no income for several months, the issues around cricket didn’t particularly push me to want to write about them.  Or to put it bluntly, I didn’t really give a shit.  That’s not to take issue for a second with those who did, or those who were vocal throughout, for everyone had their own specific urgent needs and continue to do so, but it is to explain a general lack of interest in those subjects that mattered to some more than others.  It’s true right across the board, and I’m sufficiently self-aware to perfectly understand that the disaster facing my own work environment is of minimal interest to the vast majority – they have their own concerns.

But cricket is back, both recreational and in Test terms.  It’s not ideal, there are limitations, but that it is back at all is the most important thing.  There was never any prospect of a sudden return to normality, so the baby steps are essential in that road of return.  From Wednesday, we will have the start of the England – West Indies Test series, and recognition should be made of the willingness of the visitors this summer, the West Indies and Pakistan, to come to England and play.  Right now it might seem routine enough, particularly when something like the Premier League is being played, but at the time the decision to come was made, that wasn’t at all the case.  The ECB has been a long way from being a supportive partner of the less financially stable cricketing nations, and there is no excuse now should they fail to improve over the coming years.  I remain highly sceptical they will be anything other than the self-interested, venal organisation they have been for quite some time.  But we shall see.

For the clubs, the ability to offer at least some portion of a season was vital.  Amateur cricket has been in dire straits for many years, not helped by the patronising discourse from above that tends to assume the recreational game is run by clueless fools who sit and wait for largesse from on high and are unaware of grassroots challenges, but the loss of players who would have moved on to other activities would have been crippling to a level that was unsustainable.  The sport faces immense challenges anyway, this additional one will undoubtedly have pushed many over the edge, reflecting the wider societal and industrial crisis to come.  But at least it will save many – the perfect should not be the enemy of the good.

It is for that reason that the restrictions on players in the Tests matter so little to me.  Saliva on the ball, being unable to celebrate a wicket properly, the absence of spectators – it just isn’t important.  What is, is getting a game on at all, the normality and routine of being able to have the sport played in any kind of way.  Sure, objectively and in isolation, it all matters, especially the lack of spectators, whether that be cricket or football.  Taking the latter, it’s been said often enough in recent weeks that football is nothing without fans, and it’s nearly true.  But football without fans is the only football anyone is going to get right now.  Cricket without fans is the only cricket anyone is going to get.  And ultimately it comes down to that choice, whether to have it played and rail against the limitations that creates, or not have it at all.  Personally, I’ll go with it.

It is also behind the odd, but entirely understandable focus on team selection, conditions and the outcome of the game itself.  Whether Jos Buttler is indeed the right wicketkeeper or whether the peculiarly disfavoured Ben Foakes ran over Ed Smith’s cat at any point in the last couple of years is a topic that can be debated at length and in detail.  It is a parallel world where we all try to convince ourselves that these things are of critical importance.  Journalists, often also without income over these last months, have fallen over themselves to produce copy about the minutiae of selection, the opposition, and anything tangentially related to the match, the tour and cricket itself.  I don’t blame them in any way, I thoroughly welcome it;  it is a blessed relief for all they are able to do so, and they have no choice anyway if they want to be able to put food on the table.

So I don’t care.  I don’t care about who is playing and who isn’t.  I don’t care about the fact the crowds aren’t there.  I don’t care about how the players will be able to shine the ball sufficiently or whether it will mean reverse swing is more or less of an issue.  I don’t care who wins, I don’t care who loses; who scores runs and who takes wickets.  It just doesn’t matter in the slightest.

I do care it’s back.  I do care that we are making tentative steps to getting back to normal.  And whatever happens, whoever succeeds or fails, I thoroughly welcome the return of the game of cricket.  Sport is the most important least important thing there is, and while the last few months have reminded us how unimportant it is, Wednesday morning will remind us that it still matters.

13 thoughts on “Parting Has Been Such Sweet Sorrow

  1. thebogfather Jul 6, 2020 / 2:29 pm

    Chris, and the other 3 non-whoresmen of the ECB apocalypse 🙂

    Your words, your situation, your lives – they hit home to us all.

    I’ve been ‘lucky’? in that my job is guaranteed, I’ve been working sort of normally, as part of the front-line NHS estate, managing health centres and my community reception and admin teams throughout, while keeping my base at one of my 12 sites in the Portsmouth area and doing our best to keep everyone safe. I could have worked from home, but felt that as my team were out there, so should be I.
    Cricket has been a large part in keeping me sane, The TMS on 5LiveXtra replays of the full Tests from the past (including rain break chatter, as well as the replays of last years world cup have been magical – please save the BBC as we know it!
    Now that there is to be a Test Series, albeit in a strange situation, I can’t wait to listen in and feel involved in some way.
    Following on from this, I feel the need for interaction on a site like this ( actually, just this site), hence my request for a Wisden Trophy Panel. I fully understand the reasons why this won’t happen, however I would willingly set up questions as part of a daily post if none of you felt able or would want to. The only Q’s would be whether any of you would set it up or if I could do it easily instead? (Also if there was anyone else interested to be a panelist! lol)

    But, in the end, it’s everyone’s physical health, personal situation and mental wellbeing that matter more than bat and ball.

    Keep well, keep safe and try to keep smiling… to everyone

    Liked by 1 person

    • thelegglance Jul 6, 2020 / 3:01 pm

      It was more a practicality thing to be honest Trevor. It always takes a couple of days or more to collate answers or persuade people to be a part of it and it would have been too late by then.

      But you’re always welcome to create a post! Just say the word…

      Like

      • thebogfather Jul 6, 2020 / 3:58 pm

        The word – If you’ll let me do and enable me so, I’ll see how a panel could go, but need to set it up tonight, shall I just post 5 Q’s to invite?

        Like

        • thelegglance Jul 6, 2020 / 4:08 pm

          I’m out from tomorrow, but if you want to send it to one of the others go for it. No reason it can’t go up tomorrow.

          Like

          • thebogfather Jul 6, 2020 / 7:09 pm

            Hey, if the guys wanna roll with it, then that;s great, if not we’ll all be here to sate – thanks Chris, take care and hope things cheer up soon

            Like

  2. thebogfather Jul 6, 2020 / 4:17 pm

    To you all

    Ahead of this arranged yet obviously strange, Test Series for the Wisden Trophy

    May we have your thoughts on these not so obvious Q’s

    1. No crowds, no rhyme nor reason why, apart from TV financial appeasing – will the play have any real relevance?

    2. Both teams can bowl, neither team can bat, will this series be much more than that… exciting the ICC towards 4 day Tests or will we be surprised and 5 day caressed?

    3. Has there been a more uninspiring England top 4, who should have been included so to adore?

    4. Will England lose their heads, by going total pace with both Woods and Archer and dropping Broad (with naff headband) instead

    5. The number one and two ICC ranked all rounders in the world – face to face as captains too this Test, who’ll come out the best?

    and, as an extra Q….

    6. What does ‘Being Outside Cricket’ truly mean to you?

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebogfather Jul 6, 2020 / 4:45 pm

      please take Q6 as in how this blog and posts, maybe keep you close or remote, in whatever your personal situation, caan cricket and this site still provide uplifting enervation?

      Like

      • psoans Jul 6, 2020 / 5:29 pm

        Q6: Sean, Danny & Dmitri wear their heart on the sleeve when it comes to what they write. You know that they will speak their mind and sometimes it is really hard hitting.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Marek Jul 7, 2020 / 10:14 pm

      Well, someone’s got to reply after you’ve spent so much time and effort compiling the questions, Bogfather! Thank you.

      So, for what it’s worth:

      1. Yes, for all the reasons TLG set out above. It wil be relevant because it’s play, and it doesn’t need any more relevance than that (including the “relevance” of the WTC!) In fact, it will be extra relevant because we’ve had such a long break; because it’s far from impossible that the English season will see the only international cricket between two top-nine sides between mid-March and mid-November; and because we’re at a stage where Test cricket could easily (conveniently?) be shunted to one side and forgotten about if there aren’t regular reminders of it

      2. The real argument about length of Tests will be about money, and I think it’s more likely to be tests or no tests now. But this series: I’m not hopeful of too much action on day 5, let’s put it that way. WI haven’t fielded a regular specialist batsman in the last five years who averages the dizzy heights of 33 (Holder manages that by about half a run!), and I can’t see an England middle-order of Pope (please bat him at no. 5!), Stokes and Buttler scoring too slowly

      3. Woolmer, Steele (as opener–he made 4 and 0), Hayes and Balderstone (Headingley 1976) would give them a good run for their money! I’m not too uninspired actually, except maybe by the continued picking of Denly (I’d have liked to see Lawrence given a go). Burns and Sibley haven’t got their places nailed down yet, but could quite possibly be a combination for a few years, and Crawley seems to be getting better every match he plays. It’s a lot more inspiring than Brathwaite, Campbell, Hope and Brooks, too!

      4. Let’s hope so! If one express-pace bowler can be a match-changer, the two is even better. I’m not a fan of resting players at the beginning of a series just in case…something, the more so when it’s Wood, who probably won’t be fit 80% of the time anyway. If the most incisive England attack includes both Wood and Archer (and for me, at the moment it definitely does), then play them both. If one of them gets injured, deal with that later. (But don’t bowl Archer for 42 overs per innings in nine-over spells again…!)

      5. With the huge caveat that they’re the best two all-rounders only because the real best all-rounder of his generation is sitting at home pondering the phrase “all approaches from dodgy characters must be reported”…I could see Stokes more likely to make a match-changing contribution in a session, but wouldn’t be surprised to see Holder end up with better figures overall. I’ll call it an honourable draw…provided Holder bats a bit better than he has in the last two weeks! They both look like inspirational, lead-by-example captains…and the first test has the potential to demonstrate a Rootless future-England-captaincy, for which we should be duly grateful.

      6. I like the seasonal rhythms of this site, although I’m always happy to post shit about cricket: I like it that if you don’t feel like posting anything, you don’t post anything. And I like the level of informed debate, emphasis on informed.

      Like

      • thebogfather Jul 8, 2020 / 2:54 pm

        Hi Marek

        Thank you for you response – you do write and think so well!

        Any one else want to fill a rainbreak or three?

        Like

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