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Monday, June 15, 2009

Open University Cricket

I've been quite enjoying Empire Of Cricket, the BBC-2 Sunday night series, for the clips of Bradman's final duck, Botham's Headingley innings, the tie between the West Indies and Australia and old faces like Shane Warne, Clive Lloyd, Richie Benaud, Neil Harvey and many others. What's quickly become tiresome is the narrative spine of the series, which seems to have been cobbled up by a sociology lecturer looking for a way to justify his grant for a planned jaunt round the cricket grounds of the world. Each episode is devoted to a country and each country becomes an example of a theme. In England it's class distinction, in the West Indies it's racial discrimination, in Australia it's nationalistic self-confidence; presumably the series will continue in this vein. Those are obviously powerful elements of the story but the focus on them, which no doubt ticks a box somewhere, comes at the expense of any feeling for the things that interests me far more. How does the game operate in all those countries? What does amateur cricket feel like in Antigua or Sri Lanka? Is it taught in schools? What kind of status do the great heroes of the game enjoy in those places? What's it like to go to a game of cricket there? What does the grass smell like? Are they as sentimental about it as we are?