Why we need cricket

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Pessimists have been saying it’s the end of cricket as we know it, all this fuss about sticking broken bits of wood together in order to light fires. But everyone I know is just as excited about the Zimbabwean Tour as they were when South Africa scored a goal against Mexico. (Remember football, that game we thought was all the rage a few months ago? No, me neither.) No one I know has said they will stop playing cricket because a few bad eggs were found in the salad. Of course I do tend to hang around with people who are cricket supporters, but all the same, I think there’s life in the old game yet.


Men need cricket for all sorts of reasons. Women need it because it is, in my opinion, the only true means of judging a man’s character. When I first started writing for The Wisden Cricketer SA, way back in the mists of time when magazines sold lots of copies and umpires made decisions, I remember saying something along these lines: Men can be divided into two groups. There are those who know the difference between a Yorker and a Yorkshireman, between a full toss and a tosser… and then there are those who don’t. Liking cricket casts a man in a whole new light.


In order to enjoy cricket, a man must have a generous disposition and a lot of patience. Unlike games where the score can be worked out by counting the number of times a ball goes through a set of posts, cricket requires concentration, intelligence and analytical skills. Cricket fans have evolved beyond instant gratification, simplistic explanations and obvious thrills. They have even been known to enjoy films with subtitles.


Cricket fans have an advanced sense of aesthetic appreciation. They are in touch with their sensuality. They love the smell of freshly mown grass, the warmth of sun on skin and the music of leather on willow as the mighty game plays out. They are moved by the grace and beauty of cricket’s spectacle. In countries where they don’t play cricket, these are the men who go to the ballet instead.


The man who can give himself entire to a game of cricket is a man who looks beneath the surface of things. He knows that when a woman says, “It’s fine,” it isn’t necessarily fine at all. He knows that victory requires not only patience and skill, but an even-tempered and philosophical attitude. And he’s more likely to be the marrying sort, since he has no objection to seeing someone dressed all in white.


The Wisden Cricketer SA, for which I originally wrote some of these words, is sadly no longer with us. But, thankfully, cricket is. And for women who might be reading this, all you really need to know about a man is that he likes cricket. If he does, he might just be a keeper.


Sue de Groot writes the Hit or Miss column for cricinfo.com.


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