Sunday, 11 March 2012

Stop putting grubby finger-marks on my cricket!

I do sometimes anthropomorphise cricket, as though the sport is a person with whom I'm still in the rose-tinted, grope-each-other-in-public phase of a relationship.* We have not yet reached the stage of "if you leave a wet towel on the bed ever ever again, I will stab you through the eye with a potato peeler" and I hope we never will. As such, I'm not keen on hearing the bad stuff about cricket and am tempted to put my fingers in my ears and sing if anyone says anything nasty. "Hey, you know that lovely bloke you just started seeing? Well, he slept with his ex-girlfriend's sister." La la la! I can't heaaaaaaar you! Actually, this analogy holds in two ways:

(1) I would be foolish to ignore that there are, potentially, signs that cricket is not as wonderful as I thought it was.
(2) I would be equally foolish to think that this meant cricket was rotten to the core and I should dump it immediately.

This entry, obviously, is a reaction to the... well, I hate to use the word 'revelations' because nothing specific was revealed... er, suggestions in The Sunday Times that county cricket has become corrupted.  English Cricket in Bung Scandal says the headline. Too much to hope that this is the shocking news that someone didn't seal the homebrew flask properly and several players ended up getting dodgy airing-cupboard wine pumped out of their stomachs on a Friday night. Sadly not. Apparently, county cricket is set to become a hotbed of match-fixing bookies and Bollywood honeytraps. Writing this, I realise that sounds like plot of a bad movie. I fully expect someone to come bursting through a door shouting, "That's no wicket-keeper, dammit, that's my wife!" and rip off another character's false moustache.

There is nothing concrete in the article. The bookies in question claim that they have spoken to some players and have had the chance to speak to others. They say that English county cricket is a ripe new market because "nobody monitors it". Well hang on just a moment - you're talking to the press and saying that you want a pop at something because nobody's looking. Isn't that a bit like sauntering into the local police station wearing a stripy top and carrying a bag marked 'SWAG' then announcing that the big house down the road has left its front door open?

It makes me sad, though, and - while I suppose I'd rather know what's going on than it all be dumped in my lap as a fait accompli later on - part of me doesn't want to hear it. Recently-ish, I had lunch with a guy who tried to impress me with Semi-Scandalous Stuff He Knows About Cricket. "They're all doing coke and that, these young players," he said, referring to my beloved Surrey crew. I was tempted to throw my pasta into his lap and scream "Bullshit!" but I smiled and nodded, told him he was welcome to his opinon, then went home and mentally added him to the list of people I'd sacrifice come the Zombie Apocalypse. I doubt very much that 'all' of the Surrey players are snorting their salary in the off-season. I'd like to think that none of them would be so utterly stupid. I've met most of them and they are really nice guys - I don't like to consider the fact that they might be arseholes in their spare time. And my point in sharing this little gem with you is that if you slag off Surrey I will feed your tiny brain to zombies I will accept the bad stuff but only if it comes with decent evidence.

I'm not stupid. No, really, I'm not. I know that nothing is without its faults. I know that it's unlikely all of this has come out of absolutely nowhere. There may well be some cricketers out there who have taken bribes to play in a certain way. As @la_sophista said on Twitter: "Where there's competition and money there will always be people trying to cheat. It's sadly just human nature." She's right. There will be people trying to get what they want through unscrupulous means. There will be people greedy enough to take the money because that's more important than their integrity. There will also be those foolish youngsters, swept along by the idea of money, fame and girls, who will get involved without really thinking what they are doing.

However - and this is the really important part - EVEN IF this is happening, county cricket (and cricket as a whole) has not been and will not be wrecked by it. In any given population there is a variety of types. There's nothing like the blanket statement "All ..... are ....." (fill in the blanks) to get people onto their soapboxes, and rightly so. There are good, honest people in cricket. There are players who have given their heart and soul for the game, who have done serious damage to their physical and/or mental health because they love cricket. They think cricket is worth it. They are worth a billion times more than some idiots who wants to dirty their hands for a few extra quid.

I refuse to let these allegations tarnish my feelings for the game. I still love you, cricket. Just don't leave wet towels on the bed, ok?

* I have never groped cricket **. That would be peculiar.
** I may, however, have given it the odd lustful glance across the outfield.


  1. More gold! Form the little I have heard of the article, it seems the author is simply trying to live off his 'fame' from the Pakistani players' sting. I have no doubt that somewhere there is match (and spot) fixing going on, but I despise that media glorifies it for headlines and readership - front up with names or zip it! If a 'journalist' won't provide names, why? Are they concerned about libel or are their 'facts' from corrupt bookies trying to big note not reliable, much like the men themselves?

    I hope against hope that little comes of it - cricket doesn't need a couple of clowns ruining the game of giants - our great game.

    1. I'm really hoping that this does just turn out to be a load of hot air and conjecture. And the nature of sensationalist reporting IS to make a huge deal out of it - one young player six beers down saying to a pretty girl "ha ha, yeah, give me ten grand and I'll bowl like Mitch on a bad day" becomes 'County cricket is a hotbed of corruption'.