By Sam Blackledge
Every day I step inside a room which not many people know about.
Most days I offer a comment or a quip. Sometimes I stay quiet and watch.
It is said that if you use the internet in the right way, it will reward you.
Follow the right people, bookmark the right sites, type the right combination of characters and eventually you will find your niche.
The other people in the room are among the most intelligent, witty, kind and self-deprecating folk I’ve come across.
I have never met any of them face-to-face.
Welcome to the world of King Cricket.
At first glance – basic design, topical posts, stock images – it looks like just another cricket blog. But peer behind the curtain and you will find so much more.
Established by Alex Bowden in 2006, King Cricket has evolved into a self-sufficient online community, removed from the gibbering indignation and pitchfork-wielding ignorance of social media.
Allow me to introduce you to the gang.
There’s Bert, the wise old guru who sets impenetrable crosswords and is always ready with a rambling anecdote or scathing grammatical critique.
There’s Ged, the die-hard Middlesex fan who provides comprehensive reports of his global travels, accompanied by Benjy the Baritone Ukulele, Ivan the Smart Phone, Charley the Gent and Escamillo Escapillo.
Then there’s Ceci, Balladeer, Daneel, Mike, Bradders, Howe, Miriam, and of course Uncle J-Rod, who despite ascending to global media stardom still pops back occasionally to rub shoulders with the peasants.
I realise this probably isn’t making much sense. I sound like a wide-eyed fresher on his first trip home from uni, ranting to his parents about the zany antics of his new-found chums. Indulge me a little longer.
The rules of the room are fairly loose, but here are a few principles you must follow in order to become a full member:
An undying devotion to former Kent captain Robert Key.
Mild indifference to Warwickshire batsman Ian Bell.
A fundamental belief in the primacy and romance of Test cricket.
Deep loathing of ex-ECB chairman Giles Clarke.
A healthy dose of misanthropy and scepticism.
An appreciation of a rudimental Venn diagram.
A passion for the art of pedantry.
A penchant for a tortured pun.
Once a post entitled ‘West Indian cricketer name generator’ – take your mother’s maiden name and the town of your birth – attracted 120 comments. That was a good day.
We share jokes about grammar, science, mathematics, fallacies of logic, arthouse cinema, and everything in between.
Just last week, there was a thread about the precise definition of the word ‘amortise’, which sparked an in-joke about Just for Men hair dye, which led to Ged referencing Chico Marx.
The following day I found a group swapping puns based around the Italian bread Focaccia.
The chaos is all expertly orchestrated by Alex, the eponymous King Cricket. (He is at pains to point out that he never gave himself the title, but it has stuck nonetheless.)
His pithy posts are perfectly pitched, mixing anger, cynicism and on-the-nose analysis with baffling surrealism and jokes about ankylosing spondylitis.
He is not afraid to make a hard-hitting point about politics, governance or corruption, but will happily follow up with a picture of a cat looking conspicuously indifferent to a cricket book.
Above all he has an uncanny ability to say what we’re all thinking, without appearing to ever be trying very hard. He writes as both serious cricket journalist and ordinary fan.
If there were any justice in the world, he would be writing for a broadsheet newspaper or running the ICC.
But I doubt he would last very long, due to his tendency to describe himself as “largely unarsed”.
Although I was massive geek in my youth, I never quite embraced my geekiness until now.
Discovering King Cricket was like finding the friendship group I never had.
We tease, but it’s never spiteful. We listen to each other’s stories and share a genuine passion for our chosen sport and, more importantly, everything surrounding it.
Three years ago, Alex wrote a post asking why we keep coming back and whether the site is worthwhile.
The replies – all 199 of them – were heartfelt and largely free from the usual wisecracking irony.
The final word must go to veteran commenter Bert, posting in that same thread.
“Some of the funniest things I have ever read are on here,” he said.
“There is always that sense of sitting at the match, mid-afternoon, slightly pissed, talking drivel with friends.
“Sometimes you laugh, sometimes they laugh, sometimes they just stare at you and cough gently before changing the subject. It’s hard to explain, but the cricket is central to this, without being dominant.
“That’s what makes this website different from Twitter. The article sets the scene; everything else hangs from it, even if the link seems occasionally tenuous.
“It doesn’t have to be long, or insightful, or even right. But it does have to be there.
“The cats know this. They’re not merely indifferent – they’re indifferent to cricket, which is not the same.”