We had a beautiful weekend in the Yorkshire Dales a couple of weekends back, but it can’t really be considered summer in March, can it? April, though, is fair game, and as today was the first day of play at Headingley Cricket Ground for the year, I left home just before 9 in order to get there for 11am. I missed the first couple of overs by stopping into Morrisons to get some breakfast, and then spent the rest of the day sitting in glorious sunshine, reading through a book on the Barmy Army and making notes pertinent to the PhD proposal I’m putting together.
There really is nothing I love more than a day spent watching a game of cricket, but I don’t get to do it often enough. Last summer I only saw a couple of days, largely because I spent most of the season in South East Asia. My county are in the ascendency, and I saw them parade the championship trophy at home on the last day of the season. My country, less so. This summer they face New Zealand and Australia, two of the top teams in the world, and aren’t expected to do well.
If I can afford it, I’ll be there. The book I was reading was about the Barmy Army, the legendary group of England fans who gained their name and reputation when I was just a child. I was 15 when we won back the Ashes at home, in a series that cemented our return to the top flight. For the previous fifteen years, we were woefully inadequate, inept, pathetic. And still, a raggedy band of fans followed them all over the world, singing and chanting and drowning out the local supporters. The Barmy Army backed their side, no matter how awful they were.
I think England need the Barmy Army now. We’ve got complacent, we gained fans when we were at the top of the game, beating the Aussies on their own turf back in 2010-11. Now, though, we’re rather less than superior. We got kicked out of the World Cup in the first round. We got thrashed in the last Ashes series. We’re facing another drubbing this summer.
The media are up in arms. The fans aren’t any happier. The Barmy Army will back their team no matter what, though. If I can, I’ll be there with them. I remember the 90s, listening to the best teams in the world battering our boys, and I never stopped hoping. I still haven’t.
But at least Yorkshire are still in the form of the century.