The first in a new series of How To Save Cricket…
Inzy, Tubbs, Hollywood Shane. Colins Milburn and Cowdrey. The Big Ship. The Doctor himself. Fat men all, and men without whose considerable presences cricket would have been immeasurably diminished.
And yet, as poor Samit Patel found out when he was cast aside by the ECB just for eating a treacle tart when he should have been doing his shuttle runs or practising his touch-karate with Snapey, there is no place in modern cricket for the larger gentleman.
Cricket fans worldwide can agree on very few things: for some, even players deliberately not trying to win matches can be a grey area of cultural imperialism and post-colonial media machination. For every fan of Twenty20’s cheap and cheerful thrills, there is a County diehard diligently scoring along to an Arun Harinath red-inker. Well, perhaps 0.002 of a County diehard.
There are people, it is said, who don’t even mind Shane Watson all that much.
But upon one matter can cricket lovers agree: all other things being equal, we prefer a fat lad. It is not just that fat people look amusing, or that we ascribe affable personalities to them. It is because they provide the illusion of accessibility. Nobody looks at Stuart Broad and thinks “I could be in his shoes” (apart from losing the rag a lot or having bad haircuts). The man, for his faults, is clearly an athletic demigod. But Rob Key? He looks like a bloke you could conceivably play alongside in a pub team. He is living our dreams. With chips.
The fat cricketer belongs to a simpler time, before the invention of agents and central contracts and product placement and cholesterol. Merciless professionalism, up to and including pretending you are from a different country in order to get a game, has made the best cricketers seem distant figures. (As has their absence from the domestic scene.) We admire dead-eyed total dedication, but what we like best in our sportsmen is the illusion of amateurism, that it all comes as easily as putting down your sausage roll and smashing the ball around the ground. We have lost that joy to beep tests and ice baths, and only through the fatty do we recapture it.
As such, we propose our first solution to fix cricket: every professional team should have to field at least one fat player. This would be measured by a complicated body mass formula, or seeing if they could keep Matt Walker’s trousers up without needing a belt. Borderline players would have to binge in the 24 hours before the game to make the weight. If a team cannot field a really big unit, fines and run penalties will apply.
This scheme will once again ensure that cricket is played by all shapes and sizes. And it will allow fans to reconnect with cricketers, remind us all that cricket at its best is a game of individuals, not robots, and provide inspiration for Britain’s millions of obese children to put down their iTwizzlers and McBox360s and, sweating and wheezing, take up the greatest game.
By Alan Tyers
There is a veritable autumn sortie of fat men in Alan’s Victorian cricket annual ‘W.G. Grace Ate My Pedalo’, which you can check out here www.wggraceatemypedalo.com
Or you can follow him on Twitter here www.twitter.com/alantyers