Monday, 11 July 2011

Chesham Bois vs HHCC

What is the point in village cricket? One might just as well ask what the point is of sport more generally, but village cricket – free from such influences as money – is arguably sport in its purest form. By pure however I don't mean necessarily honest or fair or friendly or 'pure' in that rose-tinted Neville Cardus image of cricket that was always already a myth. I mean 'pure' in the sense of exemplary. People play village cricket for a variety of reasons: as an escape from the children, as an excuse to start drinking at midday, as a way of making friends, getting some exercise, or simply having fun. But almost everyone, at least for the duration of the match, wants to win. That is the point in sport – the assumption when you agree to take part in a game is that you will play by the rules, and that you will try to win. Otherwise there's no point at all.

But there's also the spirit in which a game is played – you play to win, but you play not only within the rules, but also according to that nebulous chimera known as the Spirit of Cricket. The Spirit of Cricket has many grey areas. It's acceptable, for example, to appeal for an LBW even if you kind of know there was an inside edge, but to claim a catch you know not to have carried is intolerable. But the basics are that you want to havea drink with the opposition afterwards and a laugh, and you want them to play you again next season.

And this is where two issues come in: walking, and ringers. In professional cricket you don't walk (unless you're Adam Gilchrist and he only did it when it suited him); but in village cricket you always walk. It's as simple as that, and for two very good reasons: 1. The umpire is not a professional – he's probably a member of your team, maybe your dad, maybe a twelve year-old who doesn't really know the rules, maybe a 90 year-old who can't remember them – and it's unfair to put the pressure fo the decision onto such shoulders. And 2. Because it's village cricket. Nobody's livelihood is at stake. The spirit is as important as the rules, and certainly more important than winning.

And so to the issue of ringers. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with village teams enlisting the help of players who are very good, particularly in the case of Chesham Bois who routinely get hammered by us and therefore quite understandably sought to bolster their usually fairly ordinary XI. Ringers have been used since time immemorial – even HHCC have been known to field the odd one – so it's not that they are a problem in themselves, but rather that they pose two potential problems. 1. is if they are so good that the match simply becomes a joke. Yes, we play to win, but what enjoyment can be taken from a ten man team who contribute next to nothing to their victory? The ideal village cricket match is evenly contested – that is why village captains will often speak to each other to negotiate the relative strtengths of their own XIs: everyone wants a close match.

Problem number 2 is that ringers often play in a very different spirit from the one associated with village cricket – however complex and indefinable that spirit may be. It's therefore the responsibility of the village club to ensure that their ringer plays in the right spirit, something which Chesham Bois singularly failed to do this weekend.

You may by now be aware that Hyde Heath were not particularly enamoured with the oppo this weekend. During their chase, Chesham Bois' opener – who plays Grade cricket in Australia apparently and is currently training with Michael Carberry – was clearly caught behind trying to cut James Shrimpton early in his innings. The umpire wasn't sure and the batsman – guilt etched across his face – refused to walk. It did not go down well. And was made worse by the fact that he proceeded to destroy our bowling en route to a brutal 130-odd, before he was caught on the boundary of Ben Sonley – who bowled extremely well. There was even something of Bob Willis' Headingly '81 heroics in his glassy stare between deliveries.

Earlier, we'd compiled what we thought was a respectable 239 on a pitch with tennis ball bounce, thanks to a painstaking and gutsy 70 from Henry Capper and some seriously impressive lower order fireworks from Nick the Kiwi, Andy Williamson and Bradley Holt.

But it was all to no avail, as the oppo's ringer demonstrated both his class and his infuriating lack of class.

1 comment:

  1. My friend has just drawn my attention to this.

    I am glad I don't watch cricket but have heard many a Hyde Heath player in Old Amersham talking and laughing about getting others into win the games, so I think it is double standards and sad that this has been published!!!!!