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September 2009
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Lee Calvert: Soggy ground and dashed dreams

September 2nd, 2009 by TWC in England, Twenty20

Any fan of cricket can remember their first big match; a major ground with real star players, a huge crowd and all the associated excitement and drama. Thanks to the performance of Lancashire’s covers, the umpires and the captains of England and Australia I know a seven-year-old fan who will have no such misty-eyed tale to tell in a decade or two.

Driving east from our home some 60 miles away in North Wales to Manchester for the second Twenty20, all eyes were on the sky and it was hopeful: a bit grey but clearing in the right places and enough wind to ensure the rain could be moved along. Arriving around 6:30pm the sun was actually shining so much that many people in the east side of the ground were sheltering their eyes with the large sponsors’ cards with a big ‘6′ on them.  After six months waiting and one excited sleepless night it seemed things had turned out OK for his first game. How wrong I was.

Minutes after taking our seats the delayed start announcements came; due to a storm a few hours before, the ground was wet and there would be an inspection at 7pm, accompanied by that creeping evening chill as summer gives way to autumn. The game could and should have been abandoned then and there (if not before) as there was zero chance of drying in the conditions, even with 10 super-soakers rather the the two on the pitch. Instead, the soul-splintering merry-go-round of inspection – announcement – inspection continued until 7:55pm when a friend of mine watching on Sky texted to tell me it was off. At 8pm the whole stadium knew.

I was angry, of course, but that anger was nothing compared to the apprehension I felt at having to tell the boy that there would be no cricket. It went something like this:

“It’s been called off mate.”
“What does called off mean?”
“It means they won’t be playing cricket.”
“They say the ground is too wet.”
“Does that mean we have to go?”
“Yes love.”

At which point he dissolved into tears.

Following on from my lad having his excitement shattered, we had to suffer apologist drivel from Collingwood and Michael Clarke, such as “When you’ve got a lot of people in the crowd, it’s a brave call to make but it’s good that they are making those calls.” Good for who, exactly? Also, there was nothing brave about the call; the truly courageous course of action would be to start playing with a view to taking the players off should safety become an obvious issue. To not even try to play is cowardice.

A number of suggestions have been ventured that would have seen some sort of game played – use of matting, replacing turf, bowling spinners, using the good end only – and many have said in rebuttal that this would lend the match an element of farce. More farcical than 20,000 people going home on a dry, clear night? More farcical than leaving a young fan with a first memory of international cricket and cricketers as things that let him down?

On the journey home he broke his sullen silence to ask: “Why couldn’t they put football boots on and play?” It was difficult to think of an answer that would make any sense to him. Or me.

Lee Calvert is a freelance sports journalist and editor of rugby blog

Posted in England, Twenty20 |

3 Responses to “Lee Calvert: Soggy ground and dashed dreams”

  1.   Ivan says:

    Absolutely spot on. The whole “there will be another examination at…” farce is an insult to the intelligence. A friend and I spent most of the first day at the Edgbaston test enduring this. The reason given for not starting ’til 5.00pm. was that the outfield was still too wet. When they finally started no one seemed to have any trouble with it and the ball certainly didn’t, I have rarely seen a quicker outfield. It was of course pure co-incidence that late start gave just enough time to get 25 overs in so that no refunds were due. It should be perfectly obvious whether play will be possible or not, if it is start, if it isn’t call it off, what is so difficult about that.

  2.   Lee says:

    Ivan, spot on mate. At least with your game they had all day to see any improvement. This game was in the evening, so there would be no chance of anything changing in an hour.

    There are so many unanswered questions about this match, but the main one must surely be how on earth the covers did not keep the run-ups dry in the first place

  3.   Mark Shuttleworth says:

    It’s the 21st Century - and English grounds still live in Victorian times, as do the administrators. Well done Mr Cumbes for your words last week ….. what a pity he wasn’t so indignant when, a month earlier, I sat in sunshine at Old Trafford to be told that the Pro 40 game was abandoned ebcause of, oooh, a small wet patch in the outfield. I’d like to see the cricket administrators suffer from a few wet patches.
    I believe that Sky paid the ECB the equivalent of Lichtenstein’s national debt for TV rights. What a shame that some of that is not invested in new technology for covers. Even Wimbledon has a roof - and the LTA is so archaic that they still don’t allow coloured clothing in their tournament.
    If each test ground has a couple of those monster squeegy rollers, why aren’t all of them sent to a Test / ODI / T20 - or any other televised game for that matter? It may cost £1m or so each year to transport them and some staff to each ground, but it would be money well spent.
    After 20 years, I recently gave up my county membership. Why? Because I see less and less investment in me as a member - and more and more in adminstrators and players pockets.
    Time to wake up and smell teh coffee guys.

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