Sunday, February 24, 2008

Not Just Cricket

I don’t really get cricket. There’s something suspicious about a sport that takes a whole working week to reach a conclusion. In fact it’s a dubious proposition in my mind whether it can deservingly be defined as a sport at all. I think it is in fact ‘a game’. Honestly, can it be a sport if the spectators are getting more exercise than the participants?

By any standards cricket must have the most complicated scoring system known to man. Not just rivalling but actually surpassing GAA “points v goals” system in this respect. Consider the following score:
South Africa: 170, 178/4 (57.0 Ovs)

And that’s just the one team’s score! But that’s not what makes the whole pursuit so utterly impenetrable to the casual observer. All fields of human endeavour generate an individual argot, but cricket takes the prize for building its own private tower of Babel. The quaint English pastime has added to the lexicon: “Zooter”, “Bump Ball”, “Doosra”, “Silly mid-off”, “Arm Ball”, “Beamer”, “Bosie”, “In-ducker”, “Jaffa”, “Bouncer”, “Googly”, “Grubber”, “Leg-cutter”, “Yorker”, “Sticky wicket”. You could look up the definitions, but I promise you; you’ve got better things to be doing with your time. Consider the following excerpt:
“...he tried to hit off-spinner Shoaib Malik for six
with 21 needed and six wickets still in hand,
he was stumped”.

He’s not the only one that’s stumped by that sentence. Or this:
“Ireland reached 2 for 32 after 10 overs ...
Pakistan losing wickets when Hafeez (4)
was caught behind from seamer Langford-
Smith. Khan then followed with a third-ball
nought, caught at slip, to make the score
2 for 15”.

Cricket people say things like this all the time and actually expect to be taken seriously.

So why am I so concerned with this particularly bizarre example of the English practice of creating-a-sport-and- exporting-it- so-that-everyone-else- can-beat-them-at-it? Well the hint is in the two quotes above. We were all more than a little surprised last year to discover that not only did the Irish have a cricket team, but they had actually advanced to the World Cup in the Caribbean. Then they took the huge scalp of Pakistan – on St. Patrick’s Day! The BBC describes this as “one of the greatest victories in cricket's rich history”.

Over a year ago, Paul Davey, an Irish friend of mine based in Sydney, had the idea of making a documentary film about the Irish participation. He took a huge risk. Giving up his lucrative technology job and investing his savings in the venture. Paul had unprecedented access to the whole team. In a sense he became part of it, getting first hand reactions of the players.

The resulting documentary is a really good story, even if – like me – you don’t know the first thing about cricket. The players were all part timers and Paul shows them going from their ordinary lives as postmen and teachers to the superstar world of international sportsmen and back to their inevitable postal-rounds. And on top of that you will all remember the controversial, untimely death of the Packistani coach. The documentary has had great critical acclaim and I want to encourage you all to go and see it. To do so, follow this link.

Monday, February 18, 2008

5 Kilos of Books

I recently confronted an interesting conundrum. On a brief, 4 day, visit to Dublin I decided to send a portion of my Irish library to myself in Sydney. Between one thing and another it turns out that it’s really cheap to send 5 kilos of books and starts to get rather pricy if you want to send more.

This raised the question of what were my most valued books, by weight.

Thus while my Concise Oxford English Dictionary is valuable to me, weighing in at over a kilo it displaced far too many other works to make the cut. At the other extreme, even the lightest of my ‘Holy Bible’ collection was never likely to be scheduled for transportation.

[Some readers will be surprised to learn of my scripture stack. As I see it; if the Gideon Society give me their stuff it would be rude not to accept it. Taking their gift saves the next occupant of the hotel room from reading the thing and after a while you get a paper pile that can be useful for packing material, origami, or fuel.]

My 5 Kilo pack was made up of Carl Sagan, Karl Popper and Richard Dawkins works, but the real question for you, gentle reader, is; what would you take with you? (I feel this owes something to the last page of H. G. Wells’s ‘Time Machine’ which I may send in the next 5-kilo instalment).