Hard boiled eggs prepared the previous evening, bread rolls in fridge to keep fresh with samosas, pork pie, ham, cherry tomatoes and crisps. Tick, ingredients for Cricket sustenance bought and ready to be assembled. Fitful sleep, anticipation, early start, nervous look at the weather, sandwiches made and packed, book in bag and extra layers of clothing just in case weather is inclement and off we go, the start of this summer’s cricket watching is underway.
The start of the county championship cricket season is always something special. When I was working I got to see live cricket only rarely even less so when I was playing myself, though I always kept abreast of the scores, especially my beloved Yorkshire. It’s a lot easier now to know the scores and even see some of the wickets instantly via video, times have changed. Since retirement and, notwithstanding some logistical problems, I have renewed my Yorkshire membership with the hope that this year I can see more games with the greater mobility my mobility scooter should bring me. This is not just within the ground but also, parking my car, and facing a long walk has become more and more of a problem. The trouble is the premier first class Cricket competition takes place either in the usually arctic conditions of April/May and returns in September with only the odd game in the heart of the summer.
Part of me was glad the first two days of the new season were unfit for play it meant that today I could see the opening skirmishes of the season. So with everything readied, my son and I set off to Leeds to enjoy the Cricket. Half-way there I checked twitter to see that a further pitch inspection would happen at 1.40 pm. Same news as the first two days where parts of the ground were so saturated that no play was possible at all. So we decided that a minimum of four hours wait on a day promising rain this afternoon were poor odds and so elected to cut our losses and return home. Dreams shattered and a wait to see cricket with my favourite team extended for a couple of weeks, pork pie and a cup of tea in the sitting room rather than at the home of Yorkshire Cricket. You have to get used to such disappointments if you are a cricket follower, weather cannot be predicted and last year in April it was playable but very cold indeed. (Postscript – at 2pm game abandoned for the day, our instincts proved correct!)
I confess that I am a traditionalist when it comes to cricket and like what is often now called, somewhat disparagingly, red-ball cricket more than its white-ball counterpart – or proper cricket against mickey mouse cricket or is this going too far? I am not a Luddite and have enjoyed Yorkshire’s improvement in one-day cricket and its less successful attempts at T20. Reaching the T20 finals two years ago we went to Edgbaston but there was too much hype, music and other distracting stuff. It was also too busy, a personal factor which stops me attending test matches these days, though five days in front of the TV is some compensation. In fact I love those days, settling down with a cup of tea in my armchair watching the test unfold. I like the slow developing, first class game requiring the highest of skills, a war of attrition, a game of chess on grass.
I was struck last year attending a one day game I was surrounded with a very different Cricket follower who relished the quick fire nature of the game and held a different conversation with their family and friends about what was going on than is evident on the often, sparsely attended, county championship. It is an older crowd, no doubt, but knowledgable, full of dour Yorkshire humour, always critical, always referencing the past but giving the game a different feel. Scarborough bucks the trend of lower numbers with large and knowledgable crowds even for the first class game. Out-grounds are coming back across the country as they attract a particular following and I have enjoyed Southport, Arundel and of course the incomparable Scarborough in recent years. My favourite venue is North Marine Road Scarborough. I just love it there, already booked in for both games where I also enjoy the hospitality of the Raven Hall Hotel in Ravenscar. Those two games make my summer.
There is no doubt that the National game is in trouble as the markets demand instant Cricket rather than the traditional game. T20 oozes money and somehow in supporting this form of the game the bigger (and better?) game is threatened. I understand the power of money and we have seen many sports cut their cloth to increase their marketability. But getting rid of replays in football, or long sets in tennis, or shorter games in table tennis to take just three does not demand a change in the manner of the game played. In Cricket the shorter format impinges on the essential skill development which makes test cricket so fascinating. Recently we have seen too many short Tests and this is down to the lack of technique which is not needed in the white ball game. Other skills are needed so I am not denigrating that at all but to prosper at the highest level the skills have to be nurtured and the first class game does this.
I know anyone who has read this far who is over 50 will nod in agreement. Those younger won’t understand and more will regard my thoughts as out of touch. I agree, regretfully I am out of touch. The game is changing beyond recognition. There will come a time when white ball is dominant if that has not already happened in a number of countries. But whilst I have always tried to go with change I won’t do with this one. For me, watching a carefully crafted century in difficult conditions, on a sunny afternoon at a marvellous venue, seeped in history, is what I want. Not much to ask really and as I probably only have 2, maybe 3 years if I’m lucky to watch, it won’t disintegrate in that time.
Enjoy your summer.
My photos this week: