Ipple-Pen Diary. A Truly Happy Man

There is something remarkable about the farmers who earn their living in and from the fields around Ipplepen of which the most notable is their uncanny awareness and knowledge to know exactly (within a day) when the grass is going to begin to green up and become nutritious for the livestock.

The only other person who watches as intently to the grass growing is the secretary of the Ipplepen Cricket Club who in addition to his other duties has with the Captain taken on responsibility for the ‘cricket square’.

To my Americans friends who don’t understand why a strip of ground 22 yards long and 10 feet wide is called a ‘square’ -welcome to the club.

They have watched throughout the winter as last seasons ‘square’ has been subjected to the ravishes of nature and now resembles nothing more than an unremarkable patch of land.

But this patch of land will now be treated with the kind of attention only reserved for those you love most.

In fact the Captain and Secretary according to their wives treat the cricket pitch with a damn sight more love and attention than them as the cricket season approaches – but that’s another story best reserved for the future.

It was only a few seasons ago that they had seriously considered giving the game up altogether for the simple reason the pitch was so bad it was impossible to win on it.

Every Sunday was a lottery of who was going to be written off next as the ball either reared up like an enraged horse or scuttled along the ground lower than a snakes belly.

There may have also been a major contribution for the fact that the players had missing one essential element that was needed – namely talent.

But the season is approaching, temperatures have even risen in the past fortnight sometimes reaching as high as six degrees and the excitement is beginning to build.

It is the time of year when those who love cricket know full well that there are other things that a man (or woman) can spend their time doing over the weekend.

Until that is they remember that the other things include the pain of having to run the gauntlet of super market shoppers and their bloody trolleys or visiting the relatives who they’re always desperately disappointed to find are still alive.

So with hope springing eternal they reach and bleach, or at least attempt to bleach, last season grass stains out of their white (ish) flannels and start dreaming of a successful season with unbridled optimism until come September the bitter disappointment of reality takes hold.

The problem as I’m sure the Club Secretary and Captiain if asked would be happy to confirm that cricket is the one thing in their life that has never let them down.

It has always realised his expectations of it.

Cricket is a game that has been designed for the thinker which is why it lasts so long taking to the uninitiated an apparent interminable length of time to eventually Peter out in a result where there are no winners.

To those who aren’t in love with the game cricket is slow and boring but to those who love and play the game it has an added bonus which is that when within the boundary ropes the ‘real world’ ceases to exist.

It is this thought that occupies the mind of the secretary and captain as they go about preparing the square for the coming season, or at least it is when they aren’t struggling with getting the intransigent and obstinate ancient grass cutter started.

In the ‘real world’ of the cricketer the teams and individuals who play the game forget about breaking the everyday rules and conform happily to the laws of the game and go even further by acting with respect and courtesy towards the officials.

To do otherwise wouldn’t be within the spirit of the game and would render cricket as a meaningless pastime.

The game is after all is designed on an anti-1984 vision of what life would be like if mankind could ever get its act together and treat each other with respect.

Or at least that is what cricketers would like you to believe.

What they don’t like to admit is cricket operates most effectively on the field of play when the Captain adopts the role of of benign dictator moving the team around without any sign of dissent.

The one certainty that all cricket Captains know – or at least the good ones – is that consensus on the field won’t work.

Can you imagine the furore if the player sent to third man or silly mid-on refused to field there?

It doesn’t matter at what level the game is being played, first class or on the village green there are a number of polite civilities that are ingrained into the game such as the bowler always apologises to the batsman when he has been hit on the head by the ball (even if the apology isn’t really sincere).

Or congratulating a batsman when he reaches a century of runs.

As for the result – well who really cares about that – it become insignificant once the two teams have spent a count pile of hours in the Welly and partaken of a few of the local brews.

As the evening draws on the teams performance suddenly takes on a different perspective with individual performance being elevated to something akin to an Ian Botham Ashes level of heroics.

And so on to the next game and as the Captain walks out followed by his team with the sun on his back and the fresh smell of newly cut grass in his nostrils he is if only for a fleeting intoxicating moment a truly happy man.