By Mark Jefferson
Apparently, it is no longer enough to play cricket. Cricket is given to words – innuendo, jargon – which means we must now all play a “brand of cricket”. After the recent World Cup debacle for England, included in the post-mortem management speak was the assertion that England had “let themselves down and been unable to play the brand of cricket they set out to play”. I’m more in the Geoffrey Boycott camp – like their language, their cricket was just “roobbish”.
Talking in tongues is prevalent wherever you look. He was “fairly ordinary”, “is a better player than that” and “perhaps he needs a break from the game”. The gibberish is often just like the cricket – plain awful. Sending down dross can be dressed up as “he is employing all of his variations”. It is hard to know which is worse – the cricket or the vernacular.
Perhaps then the brand derives from the language. So what of the Kensington brand? Do our secrets reside in our on-field utterances? Maybe.
If you arrive a few balls late for a Kensington game, you will more than likely hear a bowler being exhorted to “relax into it”. This is a euphemism for “try landing one on the cut bit”, but, when this is finally achieved, there will be a general rallying-call of “great comeback”. The purveying of pies is swiftly forgotten, the language unfailingly supportive.
We have our rare blemishes – double tea-pots, internecine bickering, on-field stand-up arguments. However, our use of euphemism in our brand of cricket protects everyone. A captain might be thinking “I’m not setting fields to your filth”, but what he will actually say is: “Fancy a bat today, mate.” This positivity sets the tone for all that we do. Slow innings are “gritty” or “necessary”, bad spells are merely “rusty”, the opposition unerringly “outstanding”.
Yet our true brand of cricket plays itself out in the Kensington fielding. This is a problem much discussed, with many theories expounded, and no solution found. However, after the initial disappointment of a spilled lollypop, someone – and it happens every time – will enthusiastically shout out “Catch the next one”.
Therein lies the rub. However disastrous the present is not the point or the problem. For there is always redemption – there will always be a future where everything clicks into place. Round the corner is the “next one” – another innings, another spell, another catch, another chance. Inherent in our brand of cricket is that greatness beckons – and is not far away. Our motto is “Quid nobis ardui” or “What is hard for us?” The answer, in the face of such optimism, in the face of the sheer spirit of the possible, is “nothing”.