A Test best left push­ing up the daisies

Sunday Times - - Sport Rugby/Cricket - Telford Vice

● There shouldn’t have been a game of cricket at the Wan­der­ers this week. Noth­ing so grand as a Test, any­way.

But here we are, pon­der­ing the par­tic­u­lars of the third Test be­tween SA and Pak­istan — the last gasp of a se­ries that was de­cided a week ago at New­lands.

Events at the Wan­der­ers, then, are stale news. Noth­ing to see there. Move on…

Ten­nis can’t de­cide whether it’s played us­ing rac­quets or rack­ets, and de­spite show­cas­ing fe­male su­per­stars, it is rid­dled with misog­yny. But the Davis Cup dumped the dead rub­ber in 2011.

The jet-fu­elled ham­sters of For­mula 1 stop stink­ing up the planet with their Godzil­la­sized car­bon foot­print af­ter one of them has taken the che­quered flag.

But, in cricket, we play en­tire matches, some­times more than one, that don’t mat­ter be­cause the rub­ber is as dead as Monty Python’s par­rot.

As the ex­as­per­ated pet shop cus­tomer, the bril­liant John Cleese, ex­plained: “’E’s not pinin’! ’E’s passed on! This par­rot is no more! He has ceased to be! ’E’s ex­pired and gone to meet ’is maker! ’E’s a stiff! Bereft of life, ’e rests in peace! If you hadn’t nailed ’im to the perch ’e’d be push­ing up the daisies! ’Is meta­bolic pro­cesses are now ’is­tory! ’E’s off the twig! ’E’s kicked the bucket! ’E’s shuf­fled off ’is mor­tal coil, run down the cur­tain and joined the bleedin’ choir in­vis­i­ble! This is an ex-par­rot!”

The Wan­der­ers Test is that par­rot.

Part of the prob­lem is in the plan­ning. When three of the first four days of an­other Wan­der­ers Test — against New Zealand in De­cem­ber 2000 — were washed out, the suits begged the press to lunch in the Long Room to pre­vent at least some of a trawler­full of smoked salmon from go­ing to

For­mula 1 stop stink­ing up the planet af­ter one of them has taken the che­quered flag... But, in cricket, we play en­tire matches... that don’t mat­ter

waste. It was meant to be eaten by peo­ple who couldn’t be both­ered to turn up to watch a game go­ing nowhere slowly. The press duly went: never mind smoked salmon, a Long Room lunch in­volves booze.

It was a strange game, in­deed — Chris Scott and his ground staff won man-of-the­match.

Watch­ing sport up close and per­sonal is about more than see­ing vic­tory and de­feat. It’s also about drink­ing taste­less beer from squidgy plas­tic cups be­tween bites of MSG flavoured stuff that may or may not safely be called food while wedged into the cruel con­fines of a plas­tic seat, awk­wardly an­gled on a grass bank, or in the bleach­ers hop­ing you don’t end up with splin­ters in your back­side.

There will be blaz­ing sun. There will be bone-rat­tling cold. There will be rain. There will be wind. On the Highveld, there will be thun­der and light­ning; very, very fright­en­ing. Some­times, there will be all of the above.

You will pay for these priv­i­leges. But only once you have gone through the frus­tra­tion of find­ing a place to park your car, which will also cost you money.

Hap­pily, there’s more to the arena ex­pe­ri­ence, and es­pe­cially in an arena as driven by drama as the Wan­der­ers.

Your mates will be there. Or you’ll make new ones be­fore the day’s out. You will be part of some­thing big­ger than you or your old and new mates, some­thing that seems in­tan­gi­ble but is more real than the un­for­giv­ing edge of your plas­tic seat.

You may see some­thing that makes you mar­vel at what hu­mans can do. You may see noth­ing you haven’t for­got­ten once you’ve sham­bled out the gate.

But you will have been there, some­times only to help keep a dead par­rot alive, and bless you for that.

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