Tuesday, September 6, 2011

England v India: Only Twenty20

With the Test series over, all Indian eyes turned to the limited overs format. Both the Twenty20 and the ODI series can expect to draw in large, noisy and passionate crowds. The Twenty20 happened almost a week ago, but again I've been all over the place and have only just got round to being able to duckify it. Here's what happened at the cricket in t'north west:

Calling over on "The Barbie Army"

A while ago now, I was given the link to a post by King Cricket. I decided to do a bit of Googling to see if I could find the original article/press release from Viagogo. I don't think I managed to, but I found this one and, as a female cricket fan, was overwhelmed by not only the sheer ignorance, but the perpetual stereotyping of women as types who are easily influenced by celebrities and their inane fancies, care what the players look like or are glory hunters.

Cheers. Clearly we know nothing about the history of the game, clearly we have not experienced England's pain in the past and clearly we're not there because we love this fantastic sport. We obviously don't have a thirst and a knowledge for it that can only be quenched by parting with our hard earned cash, battling the public transport system of the nation and making our way to far flung corners of the country to watch some beautiful cover drives or a masterclass of swing bowling.

I like cricket. Actually no, I don't like it. I absolutely bloody love it. I love the competitiveness, the skills involved, how it's not just about physical strength. I absolutely love the statistics and I love the analysis. I'm regularly found on Cricinfo's statsguru in the small hours of the morning, comparing Ravi Bopara's averages against the various Test nations he's played against. I love the Hawkeye, pitch maps, beehives, wagon wheels. I love the jargon. I love the people I meet, the people it attracts to the ground (where else would you get a load of people dressed as bananas being chased by a guy dressed as a gorilla?), the intricate conversations you can have, discussing things from someone's weakness outside the off stump to why Essex have had a rubbish season and I love that something can bring so many people together in a shared passion.

So, what kind of message do outlandish public statements like the one from Viagogo send? The amount of ticket sales amongst women has increased. Brilliant! Let's question our customers motives. Do they have a press release for the different age brackets? Young people like sport too, why aren't they being "congratulated"? Why not the kids?

Yes, I'm happy to admit that the current England team are an aesthetically pleasing bunch. But so what I think so-and-so's attractive? For me, and the many other female cricket fans that I know, the sport always comes first. Oh, so-and-so's at fine leg? Brilliant, I can shout at him to stop bowling so short or applaud him for a cracking delivery to break a crucial partnership. I don't care that Liz Hurley is dating Shane "I look like I belong in Madame Tussauds" Warne. I remember Warne because of his bowling and when he managed to take out his own stumps with his foot at Edgbaston in 2005. 

I'm not the only female cricket fan out there (and if you're really that interested my cricket introduction is here) and in curiosity, and because I wanted other people's opinions, I decided to ask other female cricket fans I know why they love cricket. Here are some of the responses: 

I've played since I was six, and then my dad got me really into watching the games and I gradually became more and more obsessed - definitely watch for the cricket, but it helps that the England team are all so damn cute together! ... I probably watch it for pretty much the same reason as any guy would, which is because I love the game and find it fascinating to watch. 

I'm a bit of a sucker for history, and cricket's history is ridiculously posh and colonial and upper class and amazing. The Gentlemen and Players, North v South, Anybody's XI v Someone Else's XI. It's a nice throwback to the era of high society and stiff upper lip Britishness when men were men and played cricket in top hats which would fall off and hit their wicket.
- Liz, a volunteer at Lord's and someone who I now regularly watch cricket with.

I like that it’s both a team and individual sport at the same time.
I love the way batsmen lean on their bats. I find fast bowling beautiful and will watch it in slo mo for hours if possible. I love the sound of the ball hitting the bat.
I like the fact that it’s a psychological battle just as well as a physical one.
I love that there is a break for tea.
I love that there is a way to measure and count and average pretty much everything, yet some of the most important factors are still a flip of a coin and the weather.
I also like it because in my country it’s an unknown sport and so among my friends it’s in a way mine.
itallstartedokay, a cricket fan from the Czech Republic.

In the early 90s, I hated cricket. In my opinion, it took too long, and (more importantly) the Ashes used to steal my father away from me…it irritated me that he would rather sit and watch some weird moustached man (Graham Gooch) instead of playing Scrabble with me. Hmph. 
Fast forward to January 1996. I was in hospital, and utterly bored in my room. As luck would have it, the TV in the room would only show one channel - the same channel that was showing Sri Lanka’s infamous tour of Australia. I had two choices: try and follow the cricket, or die of boredom. And so I followed. I listened to the commentary, and tried to figure out what the hell was going on. I filled in the gaps by quizzing my father during visiting hours. And then I was discharged, just in time for the World Cup (which Sri Lanka won). The rest, as they say, is history.
Being my silly American self, I had never heard of cricket until right before the 2010-2011 Ashes series (and, yes, I do feel really self conscious about how long I’ve liked it compared to everyone who has followed it for ages). I have always been up for trying and learning new things and I was just curious about how the game was played. I read everything I could online and watched a billion video clips until I understood what was going on. ... I don’t know how I made my way through life without it before now!
- Emma, a cricket fan from Atlanta.  

When I was little we used to go to the local ground by my Grandma’s house to watch the matches. As a family, we watched a lot of the cricket on Sky, from the county Twenty20 matches to the Ashes series and various England tests, complete with graphics of ducks stomping off screen when a batter got out for 0.
- Amy, someone else who I now regularly watch cricket with.

And since females make up a majority of the cricket watching public, which is the point of this post, I also wanted to know of any experiences that other women had had at cricket matches, no matter what the level. Here are a couple of responses:
It’s true that I usually get more derisive remarks because I’m a girl who likes cricket, rather than a girl who likes cricket but when someone does mock my love of the game, what usually works best for me is smile and let them know I probably know more about cricket then they do. ... Like this one guy at a local match. He’d just been bowled for 8 and wasn’t particularly happy about it. We started chatting and he tried to impress me by explaining the rules. Right. Still trying to be nice, I asked him who his favourite player was. He just laughed and replied that I don’t know any Indian players anyway. I assured him I do and he asked me to name three, with that condescending smile. Eventually he told me his favourite was Sehwag and he would like to play like him. He left after I smiled my best innocent smile and asked him if he’d been following the Eng v Ind Test series.
- itallstartedokay. 
I got really rather cross with a Middlesex member in the MCC Library the other week when I was sat with my digital radio listening to TMS from The Oval. It was loud and clear for the library to hear and most of the gentlemen in there would come and talk to me about what was going on, or show me passages from books they were reading which would interest me. This one man came over, looked at me, noticed I was female and said (in a rather patronising voice) "So you like cricket do you?" to which my response was naturally a yes. "...oh", he replied, shot me a look and walked off.
 - Liz.

The experiences I've had at cricket matches, as a woman sat on my own, are generally positive. I've had the odd look and the occasional "not many women like cricket" comments, but generally, nobody even gives you a second glance. Back in April, I befriended some of the Essex members as they were having a discussion about young Reece Topley. I, having a local newspaper that loves having people with potential from Suffolk, knew a little bit about him, so was able to tell these elderly folks some facts and statistics. They labelled me "better than Playfair" and asked me if I would come along more often. I then spent much of the afternoon discussing cricket, university and English Literature.

However, I've had some moments that have made me feel a bit awkward. I've been cornered on a train before after it became obvious I'd spent my afternoon at a cricket match. The moment you say you like sport, you suddenly discover that you can either be questioned endlessly in order to "prove" your love of the various games you follow, or that you suddenly become an object of desire, there to receive awful attempts at being wooed rather than be treated as someone who is just there to watch cricket. Engage me in a conversation about cricket and I'll talk for hours and end up boring you. Try and engage me in a conversation about my marital status and I'll just stare at you until you shut up.

As for the label of "The Barbie Army"? Was this press release accompanied by the infernal Here Come the Girls? The term "Barbie" evokes all kinds of connotations which to me feel mostly negative. It's also a nickname for Stuart Broad, but we won't go there. You may get ladies dressed up in nice outfits and looking stylish (I just rock up in a pair of jeans/shorts and whatever shirt's clean), but at heart, they're spending their time doing exactly what a bloke who rocks up in a suit is doing.

I accept that some women are there because they do love this game because they have a crush on the players. Requesting marriage, telling someone they can "bowl this maiden over" and they have "six appeal" are all things that I've seen at cricket matches. Whenever a player gets a century, they usually flick the camera over to the area in which the family are sat in so you can see what their wife/girlfriend thinks of it. But what's not to say that these people are just as passionate about the game of cricket? Rather than make ridiculous assumptions involving the celebrity culture about why more women are going to cricket, why not actually think that women like cricket for the same reason as men, that we are just as passionate about the actual game? Because, as you can see, this is almost certainly the case.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

England v Ireland: Only ODI

This happened over a week ago now and it was a pretty pointless ODI that was ravaged by rain. Still, I told Andrew Strauss that I did duck recreations of every match England had played this summer, and I'm not going to lie to the captain of the England cricket team. Here's what happened in sunny Dublin last week:
Eoin Morgan, captaining the England side for the first time, loses the toss. William Porterfield decides that he wants to field first. 
The first boundary of the day comes to Jonathan Trott, who is playing his first match since recovering from the shoulder injury he picked up at Trent Bridge. 

He glances it to fine leg for a four.
Kieswetter gets all in a tangle to Rankin...

But still ends up getting a six that he doesn't know much about.
But, in what seems to be the standard Kieswetter international innings, he gets a start but then gets out.
John Mooney picks up the first wicket as Kieswetter edges behind to be caught by Niall O'Brien. England are 24-1.
He goes for 14.
The Leicestershire batsman, James Taylor, is the next one in, but he departs for a single.
He top edges a pull...
And is caught by Wilson. England are 34-2.
Soon after Taylor's wicket, the rain started to come down. (In er... bright sunshine, clearly.)
In comes Eoin Morgan. He decides that with Trott anchoring one end, it's his job to put some impetus into the England innings. 
He hits a four that causes the Irish DJ to bring out 'That Don't Impress Me Much'.
In a shock to everyone, Trott gets a boundary with a reverse sweep.
Morgan brings up his 50 with another four.
He raises his bat and shares an old fashioned shake of the wings with Trott.
Trott also brings up his half century.

He reaches it with a single...
And also raises his bat. The Sky commentary box is not as appreciative. 
Paul Stirling finally gets the breakthrough for Ireland. 
Morgan manages to get a leading edge...
And Stirling takes the catch. Morgan goes for 59 and the Irish know how important that wicket is. 
In comes Bopara...
And out he goes. He looks to guide a Jones delivery down to third man, but instead guides it into the gloves of O'Brien. 
Ben Stokes comes in.
But Paul Stirling strikes again as he takes the return catch. Stokes goes for 3 and England are 148-5.
Patel comes in and gets a couple of boundaries, but then goes for the big shot.

Kevin O'Brien takes the catch at long off. England are 172-6 in their reduced overs innings.
Trott departs a couple of overs later.
He decides to try and hit out...
But instead only finds Jones in the deep. He goes for 69 off 105 deliveries and it leaves England on 172-7.
Scott Borthwick gets dropped by Joyce after a paddle sweep. 
After these drops, Borthwick hits Mooney straight down the ground for a 6.
Borthwick attempts to go for another big shot...
But can only find Stirling. Borthwick goes for 15 off 9 and England are 197-8.
England's innings closes with a 4 and they reach 201-8 off 42. With no more rain, the match could potentially get interesting.
Woakes takes the first over, Finn takes the second. He begins with a wide and then Stirling smashes him over the ropes for a 6.

Stirling attempts to go for another big shot...
But instead can only sky it. Bopara sets himself for the catch.
Which he takes. Ireland are 6-1.
The wicket seems to boost Finn's confidence a bit. Both he and Woakes are bowling well and Finn soon picks up the wicket of Joyce.
He's caught behind by Kieswetter for 10. As Joyce departs, it's still raining.
And eventually, with Ireland 42-2, the rain forces the players off for a rain delay of over an hour. When Ireland return, they need 129 off 23 overs. 
Their chase doesn't start off well. Porterfield goes for a single that was never there...
And does not get back into his crease fast enough. 
He gets run out by Borthwick and Ireland are 43-3.
In comes Kevin O'Brien and here you have to make a mandatory World Cup reference. He takes a couple of deliveries to get his eye in...
And then hits Borthwick for one six...
And then another.

Niall O'Brien gets a slower ball bouncer...
Which he pulls, but cannot keep down.
And Finn takes the catch. 66-4.
Bopara joins in on the wicket taking. He bowls Nigel Jones for 2 to reduce Ireland to 71-5.
A lot is riding on KOB. He's got 25 off 13, but then gets a yorker from Dernbach...
And gets bowled leg stump. It's a huge wicket for England and a massive blow to Ireland. It reduces them to 77-6 and that's probably Ireland's challenge over.
Or is it?
Mooney hits a six off a Dernbach slower ball and Ireland need 36 off 22.
With the last ball of the over, Mooney goes for another big shot...
He almost gets a hold of it...
But Stokes takes a good catch on the boundary. Mooney goes for 15 off 8 and Ireland are 97-7.
Wilson goes to Patel a couple of overs later. 
He looks for the boundary, but instead can only get an outside edge on a flighted delivery and is caught by Bopara. 108-8.
Ireland need 19 to win off the last over and young George Dockrell faces the final three deliveries. He needs a six...
He smashes a full toss down the ground...
But it bounces before the rope and goes for only four.
Ireland need 13 off the final ball. Dernbach doesn't bowl a wide or a no-ball...
And Ireland scamper through for a bye. England win by 11 runs. 
The stand in captain of Eoin Morgan is named man of the match. England don't really learn much from the match and Trott gets all the negative media again. A standard ODI game really.