Do They Really Care?Graham Brown |
The squeaky wheel of the ‘Car Park End’ sightscreen sounds its usual melody indicating the young left arm seamer is going to charge in from the other side of the stumps. Handfuls of damp sawdust being sprinkled over a squelching popping crease, as a gaggle of rotund fieldsmen drag the cumbersome screen. The old umpire raises his creaking arm to just above horizontal in a vain attempt to forge the bowler’s stance and the batter squints through eyes stinging with sweat to line up the direction his next adversary will attack him from. As the wiry bowler steams in, the batter focuses on the ball like so many times before, 100 trains of thought rush around his helmeted head, back and across, get forward, wait for the bad ball, smack it, have a look, must push on, keep your head sti . . . . .
Never before has there been a more disheartening sound. The flat lining beep of a life support machine, the slam of the door as the wife leaves with the sprogs and your car, the yelp of the cat as you roll the car back forward just to check you did run over it, all pale into insignificance. For that split second there is nothing more stomach turning, spirit crushing and downright swear provoking than the dull hollow sound coming from behind you as you hang your head and look back to check it wasn’t a terrible dream.
And that’s it; you waited all week, procrastinating through the usual unfulfilling routine. Sure there is the odd highpoint through Sunday to Friday. The young girl in the office might have left a button on her blouse open, you might get the last steak slice at the pie shop or find the stash of bluies you forgot you had under the floorboards, but mostly it’s the dull countdown to Saturday haze.
And it’s all over before it really got started, the missus pressing your whites to military precision in case you get your picture in the paper, the new spikes you bought with the shorter studs to solve that problem with your footwork all wasted. The 10 minutes you spent buggering about with the loose Velcro on your thigh pad, the stretching routine, the icy glare you gave the wicketkeeper when he dared to mention you had your pads on the wrong legs, all for nothing.
The frustrating numbness of the familiar feeling of deflation wears off, for me usually by Wednesday, but as I sit here watching coverage of the IPL it has been replaced by a feeling of curiosity. As the sponsor clad corporate prostitute that is the IPL cuts to yet another commercial break it has got me thinking. Do the players I see on my screen care as much as me?
Do they feel the pang of pain that losing your wicket brings? Do they spend hours trawling the internet looking at videos of how to improve their technique usually uploaded by equally inadequate cricketers? Do they fret about averages and strike rates, do they greet every ‘clunk’ with a ‘bollocks’?
Or has the money, the expensive flights, the dancing girls, the ridiculous names, Bowden’s spasmodic signals and that bloody horn desensitised them to how it used to feel? Who knows, maybe some do, maybe they all do, but if they do, they hide it well. Maybe it’s to maintain the cool image that their punters, sorry sponsors, pay such princely sums to see. Could that be the reason why club cricketers across the globe play to crowds of 14 including two dogs, the lady who makes the teas and a young couple emerging from the bushes?
If you could bottle the spirit of those village greens, the passion, the perseverance and the commitment to keep at it week after week year after year, you would have a substance more valuable than all the riches of the IPL and all the players in it combined. But then club cricket for me has never been about the money, it’s all about being part of the bedrock of a game I love.
Besides, who wants to pay to see an overweight foul mouthed batsmen make the same mistakes he made the week before, just in different cricket spikes?