Friday, April 24, 2009

Here comes the sun (which is often not a bad thing in a sporting context)

The warm murmurings of spring; the smell of cut grass on the breeze ... things that remind me of youthful trips to the fields over the back to play cricket on the concrete strip, or headers-and-volleys with rugby posts for a goal.

Normally I favour more pluvial conditions, the type that change the tenor of a late-autumn football match, or which make for muddled and muddied rugby. Such a preference is probably also influenced by a pallor more Ronald (McDonald) than Ronaldo, but there is one unequivocal bonus to seeing the sun parked high in the sky: cricket.

It has to be pleasure-in-chief of the summer months and, with the World Twenty20 and the Ashes among the few major sporting events on the 2009 calendar, there will be plenty of bat'n'ball to be enjoyed. There may be some scuffling along cricket's boundary rope - such as the continued debate about the respective merits of the Test and Twenty20 games - but that shouldn't overshadow another season of domestic and international contest; provided the weather holds, of course.

Yes, it's certainly one thing the sun is good for. Hat on, can/glass/hip flask in hand, some bins shielding the eyes as the players shimmer out in the heat. I have, of course, done my time sitting under cover while rain conquers the outfield - but a sport can't be blamed for the inconsistencies of the native seasons, can it?

There is, simply, an ineluctable beauty to a day spent watching two teams - or more precisely, two men - jousting out in the middle. And this is where I think the county game, and the championship in particular, holds its own. Away from the circus of England matches (which are of course fun, but for other reasons), and the inescapable marketing and consumerism that swamps so much of professional sport, the county championship hums along, a faithful and trustworthy friend. Like the libraries of academe, or meadows filled with nothing but cows and buttercups, there is something of the English idyll at play here, I think.

This is cricket, for me, pared down, perhaps not even that popular - but pure. With time to read the paper, or go for a wander in search of a pint, then to return to the duel at hand. Because that's what we're after, isn't it? Two fellows (along with sundry supporting players) taking to the wicket to try and get the better of each other with just a bat and a ball.

So I'll be taking advantage of the sunshine, whensoever it happens to grace this isle, to add to my list of county grounds visited and while away a few more hours taking idle pleasure from the summer game. Making sure to apply the sunscreen to myself, of course ... almost as often as applying myself to the ale.

Labels: , , ,