There is a film whose name escapes me of an American arriving at Victoria. Seeing a billboard “England in crisis” he asks the newspaper vendor what it’s all about and is informed it’s a test match against Australia. The American heads off to the Oval where a spectator, Miles Malleson, explains to him incredulously that cricket is a five day game likely to end without a result, indeed he now hopes so – “We don’t want drama”.
I thought of this yesterday at a friendly game between Surrey and Sussex at Hove. As there were no scorecards, it was hard to follow what was happening. The teams agreed to play 30 overs each and Luke Wright and Ben Brown scored freely for Sussex. There was a handful of spectators and most of the toilets and all the bars were closed so there was a surreal feeling of being in a sports arena that was not ready for the spectator. I was hoping to catch a look at the young tyro Sussex speedster Tyman Mills, acquired from Essex, who can bowl at 90 mph – or even Kevin Pietersen. In other sports, hungry for the oxygen of publicity, currently the most famous cricketer in the land Kevin Pietersen of Surrey might have been present – how the media and crowds would have flocked. Instead I hear he was doing 2 days intensive work one to one with Alec Stewart at the Oval.
The general view in cricket is that KP cannot return without Peter Moores, Paul Downton and James Whittaker falling first. Over dinner at English’s – Daffers would not have approved of a watery fish soup – whilst my guest was in the loo I went onto the BBC website to discover that Downton had gone. My guest, well informed in cricketing and and football matters, opined that there must be a successor lined up. I felt rather sorry for Downton who had left his successful City career and would have difficulty in reigniting it but he did seem out of his depth away from the world of the panelled mahogany boardroom of Cazenove into the shark pool where media sniping is all. West Indies cricket is in a dreadful state with the Indian Cricket Board suing their Caribbean equivalent for the abandoned tour, so it’s hard to see England losing. There would have to be a poor series against New Zealand, installing fear of an Ashes defeat, coupled with Pietersen scoring impressively for Surrey for him to return. The new ECB chairman Groves has opened the door but I can’t see it happening.
Nonetheless, sitting in comfy whicker chairs by the boundary, chatting cricket in the sunshine with gulls sweeping overhead and the breeze bringing in the nectar of sea air, there are certainly worse places to be than Hove. I followed the article on Sussex’s greatest team with interest and saw there in the covers the Nawab of Pataudi with his one eye and Paul Parker fielding with distinction; John Snow, Garth Le Roux and Imran Khan racing in with their grenades; lordly batters like Ranji, Duleep and Dexter despatching the ball to all parts; the magician Mushtaq Ahmed. Cricket can be as enjoyable – more so in my view – with such quiet musings and nostalgic reflections rather than the incessant blare of rock music at the twenty/20 games.