Sunday, 10 June 2012

Your team sucks, so there!

As I write this, Surrey are staring down the barrel of "if we don't sort our batting out, we're looking at relegation". Out of 8 first-class matches this year, we have only won one - the first of the season, in fact, when it was so incredibly cold I'm surprised the fielders weren't wearing parkas and mittens. Of the remaining seven games, we have lost three, drawn three and had one abandoned due to the rain not even stopping long enough to have the toss. As Sod's Law would have it, we may well have been able to win that game, looking at how Durham have been struggling this season.

I touched on one of the losses a while back and I said then that Middlesex didn't win that game, Surrey lost it. My opinion on that hasn't changed. Surrey are suffering what England did during the winter. They have a lot of talented individuals and a huge amount of potential but they are not putting those things together into a working team unit. They still do not have a batting order which makes them happy - or which scores runs. They have failed to get a decent total in any first innings so far, so even when the batting does come together it's not gaining any points. And, though I hate to say it, we were lucky with a couple of the draws. There were times when winning them was in our grasp, but there were also times when a loss looked pretty possible too. I'd say we're about even in the "what could have been" stakes, to be honest.

Surrey have been hard done by in terms of the rain, but they've not done themselves any favours. They are, just now, the very image of "when they're good, they're very very good; but when they're bad..." In that, though, is the key. Surrey are floundering in the LV championship. I am, as you might imagine, deeply disappointed by this. However, they've won every CB40 game that they've been able to complete (damn you weather, DAMN YOU!). Rory Hamilton-Brown has shown huge improvement as a batsman. New boy Jon Lewis has proved his worth with the bat as much as with the ball, being exactly the sort of dig-in steady influence that the lower order needs. Overseas signing Murali Kartik has only been here a few games but is already proving he's worth the money. The promise that Stuart Meaker demonstrated last year has matured into stellar performance. Surrey are not a dead loss. They need to sort themselves out pronto, but the raw materials are there.

Now I love Surrey. I still do, despite the fact that they're not doing their best just now. I will stand by my team even if they lose every other game this season through acts of ineptitude and poor judgement. Part of this is my belief in them as a team, in their skills and potential. Part of it is my love for the people that make up Surrey - the team, the support, the staff at the Oval. Surrey would have to do far more than get themselves relegated to lose me as a fan*. And while I stand by Surrey, I also understand that other people love other teams, that the Sussex supporters are delighted that they beat us last game and so on...

The thing I don't understand at all is how many people are happy to see Surrey lose. I'm not talking about the fans of the team who just beat us in a game. I'm not talking about relieved supporters who have just realised that Surrey's failure to pick up those crucial batting points keeps a buffer between their team and the bottom of the table. I'm talking about people to whom it doesn't matter how Surrey do. Those whose team is at the top of Division 1, or in Division 2. Those who don't even really have a team that they support consistently. They don't care who wins, as long as Surrey lose.

I do not get this. Not at all.

This all struck me when Surrey choked quite spectacularly in their first innings against Worcester. 113 all out, more than half of which was thanks to Jacques Rudolph (who is no longer with Surrey) and the second highest score went to no.10 George Edwards. It was an absolute shocker - I will admit that. Surrey redeemed themselves with 431/7 declared in the second innings (could've used those 5 batting points the day before, lads!) but still, it wasn't good. All of the Surrey fans on my Twitter timeline were pretty realistic about it - disappointed in the performance and willing to admit that the team were batting poorly. A couple of Worcs supporting friends of mine did a sterling job not rubbing it in. And then the vitriol started. A load of tweets from people who don't support Worcs, some of whom who support Div 2 teams, saying pretty much "ha ha, Surrey are crap, serves them right".

Er... what?

Now, this would have been merely annoying but what escalated it into the territory of 'quite upsetting, actually' was when these tweets were addressed directly to me. Not in response to me saying something foolish like "Surrey may be doing badly but they're still the best team in the whole world ever OMG LULZ" because, frankly, I would have deserved everything I got if I stooped to that. Just out of the blue, from random people who follow me on Twitter, "hey you, your team is shit".

I say again: Er... what?

Why is this necessary? Had I offended these people in some way? Did they feel that I needed taking down a peg or two solely because I have the audacity to support Surrey? Eventually, I did say something and the few that replied said that Surrey are so arrogant and full of it, they (and I assume, by association, their supporters) deserve any aggro that comes their way. Now, I've talked about Surrey's supposed arrogance before. Granted, I don't have the wide experience of meeting cricketers that some on my Twitter timeline have so I can't really compare the Surrey lads to more than a handful of players from other sides, but I'll say again that I've never found them arrogant in the slightest. Maybe I've got it all wrong and they're a bunch of total gits compared to other teams. Maybe there are squads out there who massage old ladies' feet between overs, bring home-baked cakes round for the fans in the tea interval and invite the opposition supporters out for a pint after the game... but I doubt it. I've never said that I thought Surrey could win the Division 1 title this year. Sure, it'd be nice but I'm a little more cynical realistic than that. I'm usually quite open on Twitter when I think that they've dropped the ball, figuratively as well as literally. So it's not as though I was being arrogant about the team that I support, to invite that nonsense on a personal level.

Okay, I know that there are trolls out there on the internet. I know that there are people who seem to spend an insane amount of time stalking other people's Twitter (or whatever) accounts for the sole purpose of telling them that they suck. But these weren't random saddos hiding behind shell accounts. These were real people who mostly post about what they're having for dinner, the hilarious thing that their kid did this morning or how annoyed they are that the boiler repairman didn't turn up when he should have done. It just made me a bit sad. Obviously, I don't expect everyone I know to support my team, be it Surrey or England, but it would be nice to think that they accept me supporting them.

I have friends who support county teams all over the country. I have online friends who support different countries. Now, if my team is playing your team then sure, let's have a bit of friendly abuse on Twitter. You know the thing: "may the best team win", "yeah, we intend to" sort of to-and-fro between fans. It's to be expected. I do understand that there's a long-standing London-clubs rivalry between Surrey and Middlesex, so the level may be raised a notch for those games. Fair enough. And everyone has the right to be a bit smug when their team's winning - goodness knows, I'm the first one to dance around on Twitter going "woohoo!" when Surrey are doing well. But I can do that without doing the other team down. "Surrey rock!" not "Sussex / Durham / whoever are a bag of crap". There is a difference. It may look like a small one, but it is important. It's a big part of what I'm trying to teach MiniSurreyFan about sportsmanship. Win or lose, you shake the other team's hands and say, "well played". You might not be thinking that. You might be thinking, "You bunch of cheating bastards". You might be thinking, "A team made up of my 3-year-old, my dog and my granny could've beaten you today". It doesn't matter. I was disappointed when it looked as though Surrey were blaming the pitch for their defeat against Middlesex. I would have been equally disappointed by their behaviour had they won and said it was because the other team were awful.

So, much as we might all mock those 'cricket bingo card' statements like "there were positives to be taken from the game" and "there are issues that need to be addressed", they are necessary in some ways. Maybe the veneer of polite sophistication is only paper thin but it is still there. Cricket is much celebrated as the more refined individual in the sporting world. So let's not all start having a go just because we may not agree with each other's choice of team. It's not as though we're football supporters**, after all...

* There you go guys, you can all sleep soundly again. I'm sure you were dead worried about that happening.
** This is irony. I do not believe that all football supporters are jeering, beer-swilling yobbos who shouldn't be allowed out in civilised company. I have, however, been in Glasgow when a Celtic / Rangers game was on. Draw your own conclusions.


  1. Couldn't agree more. I've been supporting Surrey since the early 90s and we were hideously hated back then by everyone - but we were winning so I could understand it. Our Championship form has hardly been stellar over the last few seasons yet people still get all wound up when we do well, and even moreso when we don't it seems. I follow you on Twitter, mainly because the main thing you Tweet about is Surrey CC - so I don't understand why other random people follow you purely to dish out abuse. These people are a total mystery to me.

    1. I've not been supporting Surrey (or cricket in general) that long but long enough to realise they seem to be the love-to-hate team out there. Maybe it's an ambition thing - the British seem to have this attitude about people 'getting ideas above their station' or whatever - maybe people think Surrey should just lurk about in Div 2 and be grateful for it.

  2. We have the same sort of "I hate your team" rubbish here - not so much in cricket but in the rugby. People despise Auckland and for a while you would see young kids holding up "We hate Carlos" banners at matches in Canterbury. For me, people of that ilk miss the point of sport - the majority will never have played any game and are largely fairweather supporters.

    I support the Surrey lads all the way from NZ, and get to listen to a fair bit of their LVCC cricket via the iPad - if we were able to score a few runs in the first innings things would be a lot better.

    C'mon the 'rey!

    1. I think it's so important for kids to learn that you can love your team without hating the opposition. Like when we played Durham and Gareth Breese knackered his leg there were some kids cheering since, effectively, it gave us another wicket - absolutely not on.

      Given your support of Surrey, I feel kind of guilty for supporting Wellington over the winter, but RHB was playing for them - plus I was writing with one of their boys - so it'd have been weird to wave the flag for anyone else.

      #cmontherey indeed!

  3. I don't like the general tone of the internet of which you've picked a good example. To me it's rudeness. I also dislike the attitude of some Sussex supporters to generally mock "Slurrey".

    However as I understand it the widespread dislike of Surrey comes from:

    - The feeling that judicious use of the Oval has given the team a permanent financial advantage that they jealously guard at the expense of smaller counties.
    - That they are breaking the salary cap arrangements (this rumour is firmly believed even by my friend who is an ardent Surrey member).
    - That they are distorting the wages of players by paying over the odds for young and old players alike. At Sussex it is rumoured RHB was offered a ~400% increase in salary to go back to Surrey.
    - Re the above they have taken smaller sides best players in such circumstances.
    - Batty seems to have been hated by almost everyone I know that follows county cricket including some Surrey members. I have no idea why but they just do.
    - The plan for a hotel on the side of the ground. This made you sound like Chelsea and Leeds apparently.

    Now I disagree with a fair few of those points but everything that has happened in the championship plays into a sense of schadenfreude:

    - Maynard coming back from a night out in Brighton 40 miles away from base during a county match with a black eye - check.
    - Random selections and dropping of players who served you well last year (Tim Linley where are you?) - check.
    - Not having a clue who should open - Jordan take a bow.
    - Ramprakash doing his best impression of someone who prefers being a big fish in a small pond of talent - check.
    - Gareth Batty batting at 7 on a green top - check.
    - Ultimately a wonderfully talented squad not performing.

    So there's a quick run through. Now I disagree with many of those points but some of them are legitimate issues. However random abuse whether on the internet or at the ground is ridiculous.

    P.S. Essex are generally hated by Sussex because a significant portion of their fans have a habit of drunken abuse that has no place at a cricket ground.
    P.P.S. Monty Panesar hitting Kartik for 6 and Dernbach losing it/shouting at himself were two of the funniest things I've seen this year.