Tag Archives: world cup

Cats, cynicism and ankylosing spondylitis: All hail the reign of King Cricket

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.

Regular features include ‘Lord Megachief of Gold’, ‘Cricket bats pictured in unusual places’, ‘Matthew Hayden watch’ and many more.

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.”

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Nobody got hurt and we all went home

Launceston 2nd XI (175-3) beat Menheniot 3rd XI (174-8) by seven wickets

When I started this blog I promised to faithfully chart the ups and downs of the cricket season. It’s been a bit of a bumpy ride so far, but Saturday marked a new low. When it was all over I felt like finding a large hole, climbing into it and sleeping until September. Writing about what happened was the last thing I wanted to do. But it’s becoming painfully apparent that it’s the only thing I can do.

It started so well. We travelled in cheery convoy from Menheniot, arriving in Launceston’s plush new pavilion full of optimism. Conditions were misty overhead and soggy underfoot, but we posed happily for team photos and took the field on time. Alan and Zac rode their luck in a fantastic partnership of 124 for the second wicket, making the most of some extremely dodgy fielding. More of that later.

A sudden collapse sent the tail-enders scrabbling around for kit and racing out to face the final few overs. I was bowled for a duck, but I wasn’t too bothered. We had long ago passed the captain’s minimum target of 120, finishing with a more than respectable 174 in tricky conditions. We took tea safe in the knowledge that at least we had a competitive game on our hands, and at best a real shot at victory. In my eager state, forgetting my usual wary vegetarian approach to clubhouse buffets, I took a bite out of a pepperoni pizza. This should have been my first clue that there was trouble ahead.

BsWrdx6IMAAJgeE

As often happens, we had a lopsided starting XI featuring a handful of genuine batsmen but not many bowlers. Phil and Paul kicked things off and everything went wrong. I was stationed at square leg where the ball seemed to follow me, as if the umpire had a cork and leather magnet in his coat pocket. Every time a pull, flick, glance or swipe came my way I missed it. I told myself again and again to watch the ball, get behind it, long barrier, just stop the bloody thing. But the more I tried, the worse it got. One glaring misfield is bad enough, but I must have notched up four or five, giving away three or four runs each time. Yes, the outfield was soaking wet and the ball was very slippy. But sometimes I didn’t even get a hand on it.

I’ve never really failed at anything in my life; I even passed my driving test first time. If this wasn’t failure, it felt an awful lot like it. It’s not a pleasant sensation. I felt like David Luiz while the Germans were running riot in Belo Horizonte. Granted, there weren’t 60,000 frenzied home fans staring down at me, and the world’s media were probably not analysing my every move (although a reporter from the Sunday Independent was seen skulking around the boundary), but they might as well have been.

Needless to say my confidence, a fickle and nomadic bird at the best of times, thought ‘Sod this’ and flew away into the misty hills. I told myself not to mope around and be ready for the next ball, but inside I was praying for the end. I knew I wasn’t going to bowl, could never make up for all the runs I’d conceded and would probably let even more through given the chance.

brazil

When you find yourself in such a situation, what do you do? You can’t walk off, you can’t fall in a heap and cry. You just have to keep going. It’s a snapshot of life, part of the seemingly never-ending saga of growing up. Sometimes we make mistakes, sometimes bad things happen, sometimes they keep happening.

I took a crumb of comfort from the fact that I wasn’t the only one finding it tough. Even Zac, one of the club’s best fielders, had an off day. Earlier, while we were warming up, he spilled a straightforward dolly. ‘I think that’s the first catch I’ve ever seen you drop,’ I laughed. Talk about tempting fate – he shelled another one, the kind he would take 99 times out of 100, in his sleep and standing upside down, as the home side’s innings descended into farce. At least he was 66 runs in credit following his batting exploits.

I have been involved in more than my fair share of humiliating defeats, but nothing as bad as this. All I wanted to do was get changed, pack up and get out of there. Unfortunately I had given Steve and Zac a lift, so we endured the 30 minute journey back in complete silence. It was almost as excruciating as the game itself.

I wasn’t sure whether to write this at all. I wanted to forget, to lock it all away inside a box of bad dreams. But I figured I owed it to myself to be honest, and it could be a coping mechanism, a form of therapy. Get it all out and move on. I wanted to apologise to the captain before we left, but couldn’t find the words. I’m not sure they would have made any difference anyway. As we trudged away I heard him say ‘It’s only a game’. He was right. But it didn’t help.

The world of sport being what it is – an ultimately meaningless quest for supremacy over one’s fellow human being – there is a bottomless bucket of cliched inspirational quotes for those in need of a post-defeat pick-me-up. This one, from Olympic champion Victoria Pendleton, stands out: “Track cycling isn’t about life or death: it’s about rolling around a wooden bowl on a bike with no brakes.” If anybody asks me how I got on at the weekend, maybe I should say the following: “I stood in the rain for three hours wearing white flannelled trousers. A man with a big bat hit a hard ball towards my knees and I missed it. Nobody got hurt and we all went home.”

Sam Blackledge

Tagged , , , , , , , ,
Advertisements