The price of cricket – NICHOLAS HOGG

Club membership, match fees, kit and equipment costs all add up to make playing cricket an expensive hobby © Getty Images

With an empty Coke can, a plastic bottle, or even just a stone, we used to play football. Drop down a pair of jumpers for goalposts and you have an instant pitch in classrooms, corridors, and even the little patio at my grandma’s house, where I played epic matches against my sister. To form a basic game of football cost absolutely nothing. And yes, cricket too: with improvised bats from bits of wood and balls shaped from scrunched-up paper. You can pretend to be a national legend when stroking a sphere of rubbish along the floor with a rolled-up umbrella.

However, if you actually take the field and formally upgrade, the financial costs of playing football and cricket rapidly diverge.

Ask Durham, relegated from top-flight cricket because they couldn’t balance their books.

Ask mum and dad when their son or daughter picks up a bat.

Ask the club cricketer walking to the crease on a Saturday afternoon, where the rising price of playing is at its most extortionate. Before even being picked for his team, the treasurer will have asked for his annual subs, and while not as wallet-emptying as joining a golf club, these could be anything from £100 upwards, along with a weekly match fee – the last time I played league cricket, this was £15 a game.

       The problem is that bat quality does tend to equal bat price. You can get lucky with a bargain plank, and find the middle pings even when the grain wavers and the knots spoil the finish, but the best willow will cost

Still, our amateur is eager, and he has paid his bills and is striding to the middle. Depending on whether he wants his boots to fall apart before he scores that century, or he rightly understands that his feet are precious – my dad once broke his ankle darting for a quick single when one set of spikes stuck and the others slipped – and need support, he could have forked out anything from £20 for a pair of clodhoppers to £125 for a pair of cutting- edge Asics that promise to help him “run quicker between the wickets”.

Inside this boot is a sock – white, because no one rates a player wearing any other colour. And for a day standing in the field this sock might include “ventilation channels” and be constructed from choice Merino wool and “polypropylene to wick away moisture” and set you back £10-£15 a pair. And unless you’re a cricket brute who thinks it’s okay to take guard in a pair of chinos, you’ll be wearing whites: a shirt and pair of trousers that may or may not be included in your team subs.

You’re dressed for the sport and you’ve paid to be on the pitch. Now you need protection.

Before pads, the Gentlemen and Players of yesteryear would suffer gangrene from cricket-ball welts. So you don modern leg guards that make you look like a stormtrooper, especially in addition to that brand new helmet, the second one you have bought in two seasons as your old lid didn’t conform to the latest ECB British standard regulations banning movable grilles. Still, safety is paramount, and if your teeth get knocked out, your dentist becomes part of the cricket-cost equation, rather than the landlord after you buy that round in the pub after the game. Besides, at your level, batting on the occasional minefield wicket, you need all the defence you can get against a ball weighing 5¾ ounces, travelling up to 90mph – not to mention costing anything from £5 (if you want to bowl with something shaped liked a potato after ten overs) to £90. You also need hand-stitched gloves (even cheap gloves are handmade, due to their design complexity) to defend your digits, and a priceless box.

While kids can play anywhere and with anything, the more formal the structure, the higher the costs © AFP

Finally, and most importantly – and most expensive – your bat. Your beloved blade, an extension of your body. The bat you choose represents something of your character, and perhaps your financial situation. Some men buy flashy cars in a mid-life crisis, others buy bats. Interviewed onTest Match Special this season, fellow writer Jon Hotten wondered if the pricey clefts of his team-mates would ever make more runs than they had cost in pounds. The problem is that bat quality does tend to equal bat price. You can get lucky with a bargain plank, and find the middle pings even when the grain wavers and the knots spoil the finish, but the best willow will cost.

So there our club player stands, kitted out and settled up with the treasurer, ready to face his first ball of the season, a delivery that will pitch on a wicket tended and maintained by professional ground staff. Even the mangiest of park tracks will, despite appearances, have been mowed, weeded, scarified and rolled. A strip will have been painted on, sightscreens erected, and quite possibly an umpire who is not one of your mates will be adjudicating, and expecting a few quid in exchange for listening to bowlers swear at him all afternoon.

Cricket costs. It drains pockets of the impoverished keen. It’s simply not a cheap sport when played properly, and I do wonder how many kids from less privileged backgrounds don’t get into the game because they, or their parents, can’t afford it. Good schools, usually private, provide proper facilities. Bad comprehensives can’t afford a manicured square and paid coaches. Vandals set fire to my own school’s artificial strip a week after it was laid.

Thankfully, beyond the governing bodies who ultimately dole out cash coming in from the clubs, amateur players and spectators, there are benefactors: sponsors, broadcasters, great charities, like Chance to Shine, dedicated mums and dads who dig deep so their children can take the pitch in proper whites and proper kit, and the generous clubs who subsidise the less well-heeled player.

Cricket costs, but it’s also a sport people obsess about. A sport we love. And when we’re in love, we find a way.

Nicholas Hogg is a co-founder of the Authors Cricket Club. His third novel, TOKYO, is out now.@nicholas_hogg

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Afghanistan will come back stronger from World Cup experience — coach Andy Moles

Afghanistan coach Andy Moles admits his team will quot come back stronger quot from their experience in the World Cup following the nine wicket defeat against England in Sydney Captain Mohammad Nabi also insisted that his country will continue to get improve and make progress This is the official channel of the ECB Watch all […]

via Afghanistan will come back stronger from World Cup experience coach Andy Moles — Cricket Central

If not now, when? Mike Atherton


Quitting at the top: Steve Waugh is carried shoulder-high after his last Test, at Sydney in 2004 © Getty Images

The retirement of Virender Sehwag in October was nothing if not postmodern. On parade in Dubai at the launch of the golden oldies Twenty20 Masters Champions League, whose rules precluded any current internationals, Sehwag was forced to announce the end of his career summarily, on Twitter – though not before journalists attending the launch had beaten him to it. His words, like his batting, were to the point: “I hereby retire from all forms of international cricket and from the Indian Premier League. A statement will follow.”

What actually followed was an outpouring which betrayed Sehwag’s sense of frustration at the underwhelming manner of his departure – unlike that of Sachin Tendulkar, his team-mate of many years, who had been feted gloriously in Mumbai two years earlier. Like the actor dragged off-stage with the spotlight still aglow and the audience in full-throated roar, Sehwag – whose last game for India had been back in March 2013 – felt he had not received the encore he was due. Later he asked, plaintively: “Should not a player who has played 12 to 13 years for his country deserve a farewell match?”

It is a good question – and the modern cricketer has answered it in the affirmative. The grand goodbye is a relatively recent phenomenon: Don Bradman received three cheers from the opposition (and even that was considered boisterous). There was no extended au revoir across the grounds of England, no guard of honour, and certainly not one off the mark.

Contrast that with the series-long homage paid to Steve Waugh, who – perhaps more than any other cricketer – gave rise to the right of farewell. Keen to dampen speculation, he had confirmed that the Australia v India series of 2003-04 would be his last Test, inadvertently turning the Border-Gavaskar Trophy into a circus, the focus on one man and his going, rather than on the contest and the result. A Sydney newspaper even offered readers a replica of Waugh’s famous red rag, to be waved whenever he walked to and from the crease, thus commercialising an event that, not many years before, would hardly have qualified as an event in the first place. Not that his greatness could mould the cricket completely to his will: in his first innings of the series, at Brisbane, he trod on his stumps before he had scored. At times, wrote one Australian writer, it was like watching the final performance of a great singer who had suddenly caught a frog in his throat.

A leaked letter from coach John Buchanan to his team gave voice to a wider concern. “In the lead-up to this game,” he wrote before the Second Test, “the issues that have dominated conversations, priorities and by definition your attention have been deal-making, sponsors and Tug’s [Waugh’s] farewell to Adelaide.” Such is the danger of trying to pre-empt the moment or shape it to your desires. The game, after all, is about the many, as well as the individual.

But, as with much of what Waugh brought to cricket, the episode set a template, so that the manner of a player’s departure now reflects his stature: the more emotional and fervent it is, the more power and lustre are added to the brand.

In 2015, a cynic might have concluded that Waugh’s most recently retired successor, Michael Clarke, awarded himself not one farewell, but two. The first was at the World Cup final, which he announced would be his last one-day international and so guaranteed an emotional send-off; the second came after the Fourth Ashes Test at Trent Bridge, when he ensured something grand at The Oval. England duly fell in line, granting Clarke a guard of honour before his final innings. His team-mate Chris Rogers, on the other hand, left the stage quietly. When Clarke announced in January 2016 that he was planning to play franchise Twenty20 cricket, he seemed to capture the spirit of the age: careers rarely come to an abrupt halt these days.

Like Clarke and Sehwag, Shivnarine Chanderpaul – another modern batting giant – felt he merited proper acknowledgment after a long and decorated career. Leaked email conversations before West Indies’ home series against Australia in June – first between Chanderpaul and chief selector Clive Lloyd, then between Chanderpaul and head coach Phil Simmons – revealed the possibilities for friction. A player’s feelings of entitlement do not always dovetail with the selectors’ responsibility of choosing the best team. After being informed by Lloyd that he would be omitted for reasons of form, Chanderpaul reportedly wrote: “My request to finish up with the Australian series is not asking too much. It gives me a chance to acknowledge my supporters at home and the possibility of the WICB properly honouring me for my contribution to West Indies cricket. I should not be pushed into retirement.” It was a plea for the kind of send-off granted to Waugh – or at least for the kind belatedly craved by Sehwag.

Simmons’s response was sympathetic, if firm, and emphasised not so much Chanderpaul’s needs as his own duty as a selector. Simmons paid tribute to his long service and indicated he would be properly recognised by the West Indian board, but reiterated that neither longevity nor public opinion was a basis for being picked. Were it so, he said, Chanderpaul could hope to play until he was 50. Simmons said the selectors were trying to “dignify” the situation by giving him the chance to go gracefully, rather than be dropped. The Guyana Cricket Board backed their man, accusing WICB of “gross disrespect”.

Despite my admiration for Chanderpaul as a player, and my disappointment that he did not get the finale his career deserved, my sympathies lie with the selectors. Whether they were right or wrong in their judgment that Chanderpaul, then 40, no longer merited his place was immaterial. But, once they had made it, they were duty-bound not to pick him, because sport is nothing if not a meritocracy, one of the few areas in life where status, breeding or ability to schmooze should not matter. The next-generation Chanderpaul, who might have worked tirelessly to become the best he can be, deserves the same opportunity to play as Chanderpaul himself was given at the old Bourda ground in Georgetown, as a whip-thin teenager, back in March 1994.

Is this a touch unsympathetic? Possibly. And what about the supporters? It would have been wonderful if they had seen off Chanderpaul in style: only the hardest of hearts does not warm to these occasions. But only if he warranted his place. Supporters deserve to know that any team is picked on merit. The light seemed to have gone from his eyes. In January 2016, he bowed to the inevitable – and signed up for the Masters Champions League.

In any case, players are not necessarily the best judges of the right time to go. Sportsmen, they say, die not once but twice, the first death bringing an end to a career, the second to life itself. And, because of the uncertainties of a post-sporting existence, the first death can be more difficult to handle. Now, with financial temptations greater than ever, it has become even harder. Asked why he was retiring, England’s great pre-war batsman Patsy Hendren replied that it was precisely because he was being asked “why now?” rather than “why not now?” These days, the well-remunerated cricketer may invert the question: why not play on just a little longer?

Last summer, I sat with a fellow journalist at Clarke’s pre-Ashes press conference in Cardiff. After it, we looked at each other and articulated the same thought: the light seemed to have gone from his eyes. Normally such a sparky communicator, and despite being on the verge of the most-hyped series in cricket, he looked and sounded distracted, bored even. Given that this was the third Ashes series in two years, who could blame him? But, later, when he cited a loss of love for the game, the sentiment rang truer than anything he had uttered to the contrary during the series.

As it unfolded, and Clarke’s batting and leadership difficulties became obvious, the thought persisted that this was a tour too far. The desire to finish on a high was stronger than the mind or, in his case, the body would allow. There were echoes of the struggles of his predecessor, Ricky Ponting, who in his autobiography wrote rather well about the nagging voice on a sportsman’s shoulder during the dying days of his first life: “It’s a negative voice, one that says you’re no good, that you can’t win, that it’s not worth it, that you should give up… I couldn’t get rid of the little bastard at the end.”

Ponting might not have been able to get rid of it but, like all sportsmen, he did his best to convince himself he could. Bluff is one of a batsman’s most potent weapons against poor form, low confidence, a stronger opponent or Father Time. Not for nothing does a Test batsman puff out his chest and stride to the wicket trying to look invincible, even while, deep down, he is feeling as vulnerable as a Sunday-league hacker. Not for nothing did Clarke, only one match before he announced his retirement, write in an Australian newspaper: “People are talking about how I am going to retire after this series. Well, they don’t know me. I’m 34, not 37, and I want to keep playing.”

If sportsmen are masters of self-deception, then this is strengthened by the dressing-room, often a place of glib reinforcement rather than honest assessment. It is a place where confidence, false or not, is fostered; a place of positive messages and massaged egos. Come on, skipper, you can do it! It is not a place for self-doubt or negativity. And off the field? For wives, partners, children and hangers-on, the modern tour is a very nice place to be, thank you. Not much chance of honest evaluation there. Keep the gravy train rolling.

Timing a retirement, then, is problematic: the desire to keep going and finish fittingly is often at odds with the realities of professional sport, which creep up quickly and unexpectedly. It is why, perhaps, there has been a rise of mid-match retirements: Shoaib Malik in Sharjah, Mitchell Johnson in Perth. The realisation hits home that it is time to go, but the player would still like a decent send-off. Johnson was given a guard of honour, and carried off on his team- mates’ shoulders.

Even those who do not demand an ego-soothing exit can get it wrong. Graeme Swann retired abruptly in the middle of the 2013-14 Ashes when, given England’s implosion, it might have been better for him and the team had he sat quietly and supportively until the end – as Australia’s wicketkeeper Brad Haddin did during the return leg in 2015. Unavailable (for family reasons) at Lord’s, and ignored controversially thereafter, he later admitted he had “lost the hunger”. But he kept his counsel, waited until the series was over, then retired in dignified, low-key fashion.

Possibly, the manner of retirement reflects a cricketer’s character above all. My own favourite of recent times was studded with a little mystery. As a complete surprise to his team-mates, and despite the next match being on his home ground at the WACA, Damien Martyn retired abruptly after the Adelaide Test of the 2006-07 Ashes. Puff, gone, with a simple two-line acknowledgment. It spoke of humility and an awareness that the game moves on, that every player, no matter how good, is just a speck in an ever-growing cloud of dust.

The Big Show’s Big Statement

BY BOZZA …1..144164144.421.411.1.66..21161114126.411424214614.66611242.1 That is the remarkable ball by ball account of how Glenn Maxwell flayed Sri Lanka in the First T20 international earlier this week. 145 not out off 65 balls: an amazing statement from the reigning Australian ODI Player of the Year in his first International game after losing his position in the one day […]

via The Big Show’s Big Statement —

Sudden cardiac death under age 40: Is exercise dangerous?

It’s a tragic news story that often makes headlines — a young, healthy, fit athlete suddenly collapses and dies of cardiac arrest while playing sports.Sudden cardiac death under age 40: Is exercise dangerous?

Dr. Andrew Krahn of the University of British Columbia, presenting a study at the 2012 Canadian Cardiovascular Congress about sudden cardiac death in Ontario, suggests this is a problem that warrants attention, but says don’t blame the sports.

Reviewing coroners’ reports, Dr. Krahn and a team of researchers found there were 174 cases of presumed sudden death in Ontario in 2008 in people aged two to 40 years.

Heart disease was present in 126 cases (72 per cent), 78 per cent of which was unrecognized. The majority of victims were male (76 per cent) between the ages of 18 and 40 (90 per cent).

With sudden cardiac death, people who seem to be perfectly healthy can die suddenly. Each year up to 40,000 Canadians die of sudden cardiac arrest. A significant proportion of these cases occur in otherwise healthy, young individuals.

Dr. Krahn’s research dispels a myth that sudden cardiac death often takes place during rigorous physical activity. In fact, he found the majority of events (72 per cent) occurred at home.

Only 33 per cent of events involving children/adolescents and just nine per cent of events in adults occurred during moderate or vigorous exercise.

“Put it this way: If you have a 13-year-old kid who is not the star athlete who dies at home watching TV, it doesn’t make the news,” said Dr. Krahn. “But if the same kid is a high school quarterback or hockey star, then it’s covered.”

Regardless of the location of the cardiac event, Dr. Krahn believes his research sheds some light on this issue.

“This research gives us an idea of the scope of the problem — there are almost 200 young people who die suddenly every year in Ontario. A good proportion of them have unrecognized heart disease. So the question is: How can we catch this before it happens?”

He suggests more attention be paid to possible warning signs such as fainting. He believes that teachers, coaches and an aware public may be key to detecting risk, ensuring prevention and formal medical evaluation and therapy.

“I would advocate for careful screening of people who faint, using questionnaires and education of healthcare professionals so that when warning signs present themselves, they recognize them and this information gets passed on to the right people,” he says.

A nationwide screening program would be the most effective measure but there isn’t currently such a thing in Canada, says Dr. Krahn. “Unfortunately, we lack a simple, inexpensive test that is ideally used for screening,” he says. “There is a global debate about the merits of screening, which is not performed in most countries.”

Still, there are other measures that could potentially save lives, feels Dr. Beth Abramson, a Heart and Stroke Foundation researcher.

Training in CPR and the placement of Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) in schools, arenas and gyms could save the lives of many of these people, she says.

“Our goal is to make AEDs as available as fire extinguishers in public places from Yellowknife to St. John’s,” says Dr. Abramson. “The odds of surviving a cardiac arrest can increase to up to 75 per cent when early CPR is used in combination with an AED in the first few minutes.” Since 2006, the Heart and Stroke Foundation has helped place more than 3,000 AEDs in schools and other public spaces.

The importance of AEDs was demonstrated this past summer when NHL hockey player Brett MacLean suffered a cardiac arrest at an arena in Owen Sound, Ont., during a pick-up game with friends. Players immediately performed CPR on the ice, while a spectator retrieved the AED in the arena.

Through their action, the 23-year-old survived and is currently recovering his home town of Port Elgin.


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The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.