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October 2008
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Miles Jupp: Stanford or Somerset? I know my choice …

October 30th, 2008 by Miles Jupp in County cricket, Miscellaneous, Stanford Twenty20 and tagged , , , ,

Allen Stanford could only have generated more column inches in the British press this week if he’d started branching out into prank calls. We now know Gordon Brown’s important thoughts about Brand and Ross but can only speculate on his feelings regarding the inaugural 20/20 for 20. But he’d just jump on the general consensus bandwagon again and voice reservations about Saturday’s high-stakes contest.

Stanford has been attracting the snobbery that the English reserve for those with newly acquired wealth and his taste has been questioned over his slapstick canoodling with England’s WAGs, which has resulted in more fuss than is strictly necessary. Someone even had a go at Emily Prior for sitting on a man’s lap in her pregnant state – as if it was that sort of careless behaviour that got her that way in the first place.

While the Stanford tournament has been gathering pace, I have been working in the company of distinctly non-cricketing people, savages who accuse us of speaking in code. I find these laboured anti-cricket diatribes irritating and their orators, usually unaware of their lack of originality, hard to silence. One cricket-mad friend interrupts these ranters saying “cricket is a very important part of my life actually” and then looking hurt, which embarrasses people into feeling as if they’ve criticised someone’s belief system.

Last week I was in Taunton with a spare afternoon and even though it was raining I felt a visit to the county ground a better way of passing time than a self-destructive visit to a Wetherspoons.

Although the museum was closed, the shop was open and selling at recession-proof prices. And October is clearly the best time of year to buy a new bat, although I’m not in the market for one – mine is three years old and has only suffered 40 runs worth of damage, most of them during a blistering innings of 28 by a team-mate.

I asked about a copy of Trescothick’s autobiography but was told there were none left. They could order one in for me, they said, which sounded a little old fashioned. Perhaps I’m better off without it if it’s as gloomy as Graham Thorpe’s – generally considered by academics to be the most depressing piece of non-Russian literature ever written.

Out in the middle of the square there stood a scare crow. Apparently sea gulls have caused ten grand’s worth of damage. I wonder what Stanford would do if birds threatened his beloved fixture – I reckon he’d sit on the steps of the pavilion and shoot them himself.

I assumed that you had to be important to visit the Centre Of Excellence, but decided to risk it anyway. As soon as I stepped through the door an efficient looking man appeared in my path. “Can I help?” he asked. “Erm, I just sort of wanted to have a bit of a look around really,” I replied, expecting to be bundled from the premises. “Sure,” he said, “no problem. There’s a viewing gallery upstairs, you know.” “You mean that? It’s actually OK just to wander about the place”. And it really was. I didn’t even need a CRB check. I strolled about looking at photos and reading motivational messages posted up everywhere. And upstairs, in the viewing gallery, not only were there armchairs but also a coffee machine and a huge pile of old Wisden Cricketers that saw me through the rest of the afternoon. You don’t get that in Wetherspoons.

All of this seemed a world away from the shenanigans in the West Indies. Nothing I’ve seen or read about the games makes me want to be there but my visit on this damp day to Taunton made me desperate to return to watch a game in summer. Taunton in the rain was still a joyful experience. I suspect that in similar conditions the Antigua SCG could only be a disappointment.

Miles Jupp is an actor, comedian and cricket fan

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