TAUNTON, Somerset: The storm clouds have gathered this past week, and not only over Somerset’s county cricket ground, but the Caucasus, the global economy and the Olympics are getting an almost daily drenching.
Once upon a time it was said; ‘to understand cricket, was to understand life.’ Meaning, the aristocratic game encompassed all the virtues and values of a civilized society, the most prized of which was fair play.
China’s communist government has spent more money on the Beijing Olympics than all other Olympics combined. Though the opening ceremony will not be remembered for its digitally enhanced TV pictures of the fireworks, but a little girl with buck teeth deemed too ugly for TV and replaced with a more “attractive child, miming her song.
I was thinking about this charade as I nodded off watching Somerset bat in their cricket match against Surrey and what a metaphor it was for all the troubles in the world. When a little girl’s teeth might bring shame on a nation, how insecure could a government be. It’s the great shame of China.
Watching cricket you often nod off, then come round and read the newspaper again, whilst keeping one eye on the action, because that’s all it requires.
Part of cricket’s artistry is its metronome elegance, never hurrying its business or demanding a climatic end. The art of diplomacy should also tick along the back channels to a steady dialogue of calm, avoiding the calamity of war.
But no, buffoons like the Georgian President are allowed to antagonize the Russian bear, which we all know has a sore head at the moment, and may well be capable of anything.
The bear has been stomping around for a few years now; tinkering with Europe’s gas supplies, reinstating the high altitude long range nuclear bombers and planting their flag on the Artic seabed.
So it came as no surprise to me, when given the opportunity to scorch Georgian earth, the Russians took it. Because this is exactly the tactics you employ in a cricket match. When the opposition shows weakness or if given an opportunity, you drive home your advantage, grinding the opposition into the dirt.
Soon enough though, the rains will come to douse the flames. “Saved by the rain, is a favorite cricket expression and the fires that burn in the Caucasus will also disappear from the front pages. But alas, I fear this game is not over.
Cricket had a brief appearance at the Paris Olympics in 1900, and a silver medal was won by an English touring team, The Devon & Somerset Wanderers. There is talk of bringing it back for the London games in 2012. Possibly by that time the world would have recovered from recession and will be in the mood for cricket, as it can be a bit dour to the uninitiated.
After lunch at Taunton, only a few balls were bowled and the heavens opened, which for no particular reason got me wondering if Peking duck was on the menu at Beijing’s Olympic Village and whether or not the locals still call the place Peking, or maybe it was just a western colonialist translation?
Because in India, the locals call Mumbai, Bombay, and only the tourists say Mumbai, confusing everyone.
Cricket gives you time to think, staring for hours out onto a vast green space makes you wonder about this and that. I guess grass just has that special property to enhance the imagination.
So I was thinking, how did the Chinese develop so quickly and does communism really work? Was it just the Soviet Russians who gave communism a bad name? Could it be “the model for development?
A one-child-policy brings population control. A five year plan focus. Censorship avoids bad news and cheap labor brings foreign investment. A large army will help with natural disasters and poor construction, and the Olympics bring global acknowledgment that you have made it.
Many are amazed with China’s progress towards ‘superpowerism’ and this could be measured by global economic penetration, military hardware or an Olympic medal table.
But the true test of a superpower is whether or not an empire can transplant their national sports. The British spread cricket throughout their 19th Century Empire, the Americans succeeded with making basketball global in the 20th Century, so it is up to the Chinese to get us all playing ping pong now in the 21st Century.
But I doubt it, ping pong or table tennis is what you play in the garage on a wet weekend, when play at the cricket field is abandoned, and I think that is fair enough.