Posts to toast (from cricket blogs 2012)
I used the 2012 Boxing Day Test as an opportunity to promote again a piece I wrote in January: Does English cricket need its own Boxing Day Test? In response to my half-apology for recycling old material, Matt Becker of Limited Overs reassured me:
Lots of great posts get missed because the Internet moves so fast. I wish more bloggers would re-post.
And that’s the purpose of this piece: to draw attention to material I have read this year and particularly enjoyed, as well as posts nominated by other enthusiasts. The other qualification is that they should be the work of bloggers, not written for cash.
Bloggers have the freedom to be arch, subversive, inter-textual and even funny. So we lead off with a Pavilion Opinion post that was all of those and put the whole late summer KP farrago into place: England are Mean Girls.
The man on the pavilion balcony explains, “If England are to educate themselves, however, then their real lesson of choice must be to watch seminal teen flick Mean Girls because, in many respects, they have become the living embodiment of it.” Our cultural critic takes us blow-by-embarrassing-blow through the parallel worlds of gossip, gettings-on and gettings-off. Read this and then watch out for the sequel.
Current events, as we’ve seen (and will do again), cannot be ignored by the blogger, but some use the medium to take us to other times. Backwatersman (the clue is in the name) had a Christmas treat with a piece on Arthur ‘Ticker’ Mitchell: Cricket’s Hardest Man. The collection of stories about the Yorkshire batsman, coach and all round misanthrope included:
“His [Don Wilson’s] first session with the bat, facing the full pace of Fred Trueman, did not impress the coach Arthur Mitchell: “What do you do for a living, lad? [He was a joiner] Well, forget the cricket. Fetch some bloody timber and board that end up.”
Being picked to play for one’s country is the cricketer’s proudest moment, isn’t it? Read Backwatersman if only to find out Mitchell’s response to an unexpected call-up.
The entities most commonly made subject-matter for cricket writing are matches, series or players. Bloggers can take slices across those familiar units, which create fresh and lively insights. The Old Batsman, in the most memorable post of the year for me, wrote about the art of fielding while not fielding. I could lift a quote from any paragraph, but will tease you with this brief beauty: “Not liking fielding is one of the game’s dirty little secrets.”
Another brief quote should sell an essay by Epistemological Irrelevance: “The fast bowler’s run up is the greatest foreplay in sports.” Yes, just the run-up, isolated and celebrated.
To write about cricket, it is advantage, although not essential, to have played a bit. Bloggers ‘find their voice’ recounting their own brushes with willow, leather and grass – as The Old Batsman did in his essay on fielding and again here in All ten, which starts with a day stolen from work or other more serious activity and develops into a story for the grand kids (and, fortunately, us):
Every over from the other end had a strange tension – neither side actually wanted a wicket to go down. At drinks, we half-joked about deliberately dropping one if a chance came, but that somehow didn’t feel right either. If it was going to happen, it couldn’t be manufactured.
David Mutton (The Silly Mid Off) wrote about an experience that comes eventually to all but Bradman, Tendulkar and Stuart Broad: finding out how far down the pecking order you belong in The End of Childhood Dreams.
“It would hyperbolic to describe batting in those nets as hellish but I certainly gained an insight into the concept of purgatory. Eventually my trial came to a conclusion and the judgment was beyond obvious. So ended my dream of becoming a cricketer.”
If you feel that should have come with a spoiler alert, fear not, as that isn’t the post’s conclusion, which is appealingly uplifting.
From the individual to the global. Some like to contend that politics and sport should not mix. Not Peter Miller, who supplied one of the grandest sweeps of the year, in Cricket as Class Warfare. As someone who has strong views on batting order, I particularly relished this passage:
As each batsman falls he is replaced with someone of lesser ability. Just as once great kings and emperors are replaced by their idiot off spring, so the steady opener is replaced by the flashy middle order players. Once the middle order is disposed of, the tail enders arrive. Just as we had Nero, a descendent of the great Caesers, fiddling while Rome burned, so we have lower order clinging on to power that was obtained by others.
This selection doesn’t feature any match reports, series previews or dissections. That reflects my personal view that professional writers, attending matches, travelling with the team, cater for those genres very well. Bloggers do, of course, attend matches. Danee on King Cricket supplied the match report of the year for West Indies v New Zealand T20 in cricket-friendly Florida.
We chose to stay in a budget hotel in Fort Lauderdale. It certainly attracted an interesting clientele; a heady mix of prostitutes (the lady in front of us when we were checking in was trying to rent a room by the hour) and drug dealers. It had almost no cockroaches in it.
At other times, bloggers have the liberty to be more direct than the paid writers. Chucking (alleged and actual) raises blood pressure. The Third Man responded to Saeed Ajmal’s success against England with a series of passionate, but hard-nosed, rationally argued articles. In the first, Ajmal throws England out for 192, he challenges the mainstream media for avoiding awkward truths
Over on Test Match Special, a man in bright yellow trousers was looking for buses, seagulls, and naked nuns rather than have to describe the action that was taking place in front of his nose down there on Planet Darts.
This selection of blog posts from 2012 ends with endings. The first deals with the beginning of the end: So long Sachin. I hardly knew you… opines Pavilion Opinion on Tendulkar’s ODI retirement: “I still don’t quite understand who you are, though you were candid, beaming and impish in interviews, with hair that got better with age and never the credit it deserved.”
Rahul Dravid really did retire in 2012. If you are missing his elegant stroke-play, Brian Carpenter’s ‘A Serious Player‘ will conjure him up in your mind’s eye. An example is this moment from an innings in 2011:
Dravid does what he has done to many bowlers over many years; he sees out all the good balls, but, as soon as Swann drops errantly short, he rocks on to his back foot and eases the ball through the covers for four with a completely straight bat and an alchemic combination of timing and power.
I hope this selection introduces readers to a new writer or at least a new piece of writing. I would be happy to be challenged on the selection and certainly to have it extended. It occurs to me that: 1) I have offered a predominantly male, white, anglo-centric sample of writers who I imagine aren’t of an age to be pressing for a call-up to their club first XI; and 2) it doesn’t include any analytical or statistical pieces, many of the most insightful of which are produced by dedicated amateurs.
Finally, thanks to Matt Becker for permitting me this indulgence.