How did 2020 affect cricket blogging? Despite there being a lot less cricket played and very much less spectated than most would have planned, we blogged on. For a couple of months in the early summer, our method appeared to have infiltrated the professional media, which switched from match previews and reports to traditional blogging fare: nostalgia, lists and ‘things I would change about cricket’ pieces.
It filled their column inches, but their efforts didn’t really come up to scratch, particularly when compared to the quality output highlighted here. What follows is my personal selection of eleven blog posts from the year. None, to the best of my knowledge, was written for money and none of the writers has been featured in my nine previous annual selections.
It turned out that cricket in the UK found a sweet-spot in 2020, between the first wave of the pandemic and the autumn resurgence. In the early summer, however, it had seemed that the recreational game would be prohibited. The writer and club cricketer, Roger Morgan-Grenville (@RogerMGwriter) articulated what so many involved in the game were feeling in Time for some (very) civil disobedience.
when the Prime Minister announced on Monday that recreational cricket was not free to go ahead, when we were all free to go into pubs to get pissed, shops to get coughed on and churches to pray in, I must admit that something in me broke. It had threatened to do so for some months, but now it just did.
Writing a week or so later, with club cricket officially sanctioned, Pete Langman (@elegantfowl) found his anticipation of the return to play – The silence of the stands – haunted by the fear of failure: a golden duck
It means we spent more time walking out to bat and back to the pavilion again than we spent in the middle. Dammit, we spent longer donning our protective equipment than we spent on the field.
In unsettled times, the past provides a refuge. The blog ‘Oldebor’ (@sarastro77) is dedicated to cricket before the war. My favourite of its long-form posts this year was the retelling of the story of Douglas Carr, the 37 year-old school master called up for the final Ashes Test of the 1909 campaign.
Where Oldebor does not dwell on the lessons of the past, Stephen Hope (@fh_stephen) draws conclusions from his early memories of the game which he would like today’s administrators to acknowledge – in particular the Sunday League, which “did a more than decent job regenerating the game.. thanks to the Beeb’s coverage and to games played in places that kids could get to. All told it was played on 127 grounds.”
County cricket has come to mean a great deal for @The_Grumbler The silent sanctuary of county cricket soothes this lost soul – but it wasn’t always this way.
Until recently I too considered county cricket as the most wonderful waste of time. Glorious but pointless. Now, in the most difficult period of my life, it has revealed a hitherto hidden purpose as salvation and sanctuary for my troubled mind.
The Full Toss first featured in these annual reviews in 2014. Founder James Morgan has kept the blog fresh, in part by recruiting guest writers. I particularly enjoyed Cameron Ponsonby’s (@cameronponsonby) writing, including an accomplished interview piece about the challenge of facing the fastest bowlers in the game: Watch the ball, play it late, don’t be scared.
Three young cricketers inspired two strong analytical blog-posts. Khartikeya (@static_a357) found a template for the future in the Pooran Way: “Pooran sees the value of his wicket in T20 for what it is. If he gets out attacking, so be it, but the value of hitting sixes in the middle overs outweighs almost everything.” Khartikeya’s argument is strengthened by the conclusion: “..it will all regress to the mean and we will wait for the next Trinidadian superhero to show us the way forward.”
Oscar Ratcliffe (@oscar_cricket) invoked Philip Pullman, Stuart Broad and Steven Smith in assessing the future direction of the careers of Dom Bess and Sam Curran: Showing some mongrel..
There was no lack of quality statistics-based blogging this year. From that genre, I have picked a single piece by Amol Desai (@amol_desai) which took a familiar question – does captaincy affect performance? – and wrung from the numbers (a lot) more insight than Sky Sport’s ex-England captain presenters have managed from their years in post.
Cricket coaching has its own small blogging niche which enables coaches to share ideas and debate best practice. From time-to-time, something of more general interest emerges, as is the case with David Hinchliffe’s (@davidhinchliffe) account of what happened during an indoor session with school age cricketers when one participant said, “I just want to hit balls I don’t care about the game” – All training is compromise..
The final post in the XI is written by someone who would not consider himself to be a cricket blogger, who associates his interest in the game with shame and concludes that he doesn’t really like the sport. But, hey, we welcome all-comers, particularly if they compose entertaining, opinionated cricket-based lists. Clive Barnett (@cliveyb) includes a seasonal message while choosing his top cricket books.
I keep acquiring them thinking that they are likely to be better than they turn out to be, and then disposing of them. It turns out that, unlike dogs, cricket books really are often just for Christmas.
To complement my annual Select XI, I also nominate the ‘World’s Leading Cricket Blogger’ for sustained excellence and entertainment throughout the year. On this occasion, it was a sustained burst of daily blogging from 22 March to the 2 July. Bob Irvine, aka Fantasy Bob (@realfantasybob) was a welcome lockdown companion, with his Witterings covering art, music, the Aberdeen typhoid outbreak of 1964 and every step of pandemic policy – all through the prism of 4th team club cricket in Scotland. Public service blogging.