Not the IPL

When 'people' - usually lazy journalists of the type who become disorientated if they're ever forced to set foot outside the M25 - say that county cricket (by which they mainly mean County Championship cricket) is dying and isn't watched by anyone, I tend to get a bit annoyed. This is because I like County Championship cricket, and, where I usually watch it, the number of people who turn up can easily be mistaken for a crowd.

It's not always like that, though.

On a Saturday afternoon in early May which looked and felt more like a Tuesday morning in late November, it briefly seemed like a good idea to try to see some cricket. It may not have felt like it, but it was, after all, supposed to be the cricket season.

After a tour round the suburban cricket grounds of Derby, most of which appear to be under water, there is only one thing for it. We head for the County Ground, where a Second Division match between Derbyshire and Gloucestershire is quietly dying.

We drive into the ground and fortunately no-one tries to charge us for doing so. It is mid-afternoon and any stewards who may once have been on duty have long since gone home. It is a comparatively easy task to count the crowd, which, remarkably, numbers as many as seventy people. In the middle the two Gloucestershire batsmen, Ian Cockbain and Will Gidman, are stroking the ball around with ease against a Derbyshire 'attack' which comprises almost everyone who is still standing. The pitch has preceded the match into a watery grave. The players are cold, the umpires are cold and the crowd is cold. The prevailing atmosphere carries more than a hint of desolation and utter pointlessness. The IPL it ain't.

Tea is taken at 3.40, but, having carelessly neglected to bring either the Laws of Cricket or the playing conditions of the County Championship with us, we are unsure exactly when the game will finish. We assume that it will finally be certified extinct at about five o'clock, so we are somewhat surprised when, at half past four, Peter Willey calls a drinks interval. Conditions being what they are, this is no ordinary drinks interval. The twelfth men bear large metallic flasks which contain we know not what. Tea? Coffee? Soup? Clinical stimulants? For God's sake, we know that everyone is struggling to stay awake but the match will, it turns out, be ending in twenty minutes.

After the drinks interval things start to get even more bizarre. This being a County Championship match, loud music isn't scheduled to play any part in proceedings. However, in a marquee at deep fine leg, a local DJ is warming up for that evening's wedding reception. As the bowler bowls, the increasingly empty ground suddenly reverberates to the sound of Mr.Brightside by The Killers. This annoys Peter Willey (and an angry Peter Willey is a worrying sight). In blunt Geordie tones he instructs a fielder to enter the marquee and tell the person responsible to leave his sound check until the end of the game. He will not have long to wait.

At ten to five, with only eighteen spectators still present, Gloucestershire declare their innings and the match is laid to rest. Few will mourn its passing.

We all go home.


David Mutton said...

It is nothing new Brian. I remember going to a match in early May in the mid 90s. My sole purpose was to get Graham Gooch's autograph. For the entire day's play he was at first slip looking freezing cold. At lunch he refused to come out of the pavilion and at tea, looking suitably surly, he signed my autograph book. Teenage me was satisfied if very cold.

Brian Carpenter said...

Thanks, David.

I don't know what it's been like in NYC recently but it's been very cold and wet all over the UK since the end of March. The sort of weather which makes you wonder how we ever invented cricket.

You did well with Gooch. It was well-known that he was pretty miserable whenever he wasn't batting. And sometmes - facing Shane Warne in 1993, for example - he was miserable while he was batting.

Rob said...

Cricket when it's cold is almost a different sport to when it is warm. I cannot get much enthusiasm for it when my first thought is 'when can I go home and turn the central heating on...'

Brian Carpenter said...

Perversely I don't mind watching cricket in the cold as long as it doesn't affect my health too much (I once felt ill for about a week after a day at Lord's in April; mild hypothermia was diagnosed) but I really don't like playing when it's cold.

This is probably because the likelihood of injury is even higher than usual, and at my stage in life it's usually pretty high anyway.

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