Global village cricket
Late last August, on tour in Worcestershire with the Old Boys, we gathered around a screen to watch some Twenty20 finals day action. We have tended to find good cricket to view in and around our own Bank Holiday weekend matches. The screen this year was a lap-top, belonging to our number 4, an emigre resident of Delaware. The action was brought to us by Willow TV under a contract purchased in the US by our middle-order bat. Possibly, although this may just display my ignorance of the internet, the images of cricket played 35 miles north at Edgbaston, were travelling to and fro across the Atlantic before spluttering out of a pipe into the piano room of our tour weekend country pad.
Our number 4 enjoys comprehensive and timely coverage of international cricket. He even finds the time difference advantageous as he was able to watch chunks of last year’s Ashes series live after work in the evening. The game is every bit as accessible to him in the US as it is to teammates in the UK.
Twenty years ago I lived in Philadelphia. I kept in touch with England’s fortunes by newspaper. The sources, in increasing degrees of immediacy were: cuttings from the Telegraph, posted by my Father; broadsheets in the University of Pennsylvania library; English papers in the international news store on the edge of campus. Only this last source gave me any sense of the game being current – it was all history by the time I read the cuttings or the papers stacked in the library. During the 1990/91 Ashes, a paper I picked up in the shop on Monday was Saturday’s report of Friday’s action.
Reading the report of England’s struggles in the early sessions of a match, I knew the game was probably already over. I felt like an astronomer studying the light from a star that is already extinguished. So I recall reading about Mark Waugh’s debut hundred – match-winning I was sure (but wrong) as I grimaced through the account of its excellence.
The year before that I had been in Japan. My obsession with cricket was something I had decided to set aside to make the most of a year living a very different life in Yokohama. One evening, settling down for my weekly beginner’s Japanese lesson, I scanned an American student’s (English language) Japan Times. On the back page, squeezed by North American basketball, ice hockey and local sports was a report that England had defeated West Indies in Jamaica. Trembling, I reread it several times before bursting up and charging around the classroom, fists pumping. I tried to explain its significance, without success and spent the lesson in a reverie of England leading a test series in the West Indies.
For the past three generations, newspapers have provided readers with depth and analysis of news (as well as lots of trivia). Their readers have already found out the big stuff that’s happening in the world from radio, tv and the internet. My experience of English newspapers when living overseas in the late 80s and early 90s was closer to that of the reader in the 1930s and earlier. I reached for the paper, opened it, folded it to the right page, anxious for the news it would give me of England’s fortunes. I do feel nostalgic for that revelatory experience of reading the day’s paper.
Back in 2011 and Willow TV spluttered and spat in chunks onto the lap-top screen. The picture froze with the bowler in his delivery stride and restarted with the batsman passing through the gate to the pavilion. My teammates drifted back to the kitchen to read the morning’s newspapers.