A CRICKET CHRISTMAS CAROL: A GHOST STORY
Part One: in which Scrooge plans the demise of county cricket
Old Marley was dead. As dead as Old Father Time’s great grandfather and, if Ebenezer Scrooge had anything to do with it, as dead as county cricket would be in just a few short years.
It was late afternoon on Christmas Eve and Scrooge was sat at his desk in a large office, one of many in the building that housed the ECB. Ordinarily he was not one to find any pleasure from the festive season but a smile was now beginning to spread across his face as he typed the concluding sentence to his manifesto for the future of domestic game. His work finished for the afternoon, he printed the completed document and placed it in his brief case.
Scrooge was the one who had been responsible for introducing ‘The Hundred’, the pernicious competition that had had sickened so many genuine cricket supporters. It had been injurious to the health of many county cricket clubs too and Scrooge hoped that his latest suggestions would be the final nail in their coffin. For a brief moment he thought about his predecessor who had died several years previously. Jacob Marley had been someone who had always delighted in the longer formats of the game and Scrooge knew that, if it was possible for one already dead to be described as such, Marley would be mortified by what he was now proposing.
At that moment there was a knock on the door and Scrooge looked up to see Mr Robert Cratchit, his personal assistant, standing in the open doorway. He was wearing a novelty Christmas jumper which only served to darken Scrooge’s already black mood.
‘What is it Cratchit?’, Scrooge snapped. ‘Can’t you see I’m busy?’
‘It was just that I noticed that you didn’t join us for a drink to celebrate the festive season so I brought you a little of what was left over’, Cratchit replied, offering Scrooge as he did so what he had been holding in his hands, namely a box of mince pies and a tube of Prosecco and pink peppercorn Pringles – the latter, notwithstanding the impressive alliteration, surely an ill advised flavour choice regardless of the time of year. ‘Merry Christmas, Mr Scrooge!’
‘Bah, humbug!’ muttered Scrooge to himself as he got to his feet. ‘Every idiot’, he continued, ‘who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips should be forced to explain the Duckworth Lewis Method to a group of disgruntled Yorkshire fans who can’t understand how they have just lost to Lancashire despite having scored more runs than them in less overs!’.
And with that Scrooge grabbed his coat and brief case and, without so much as a by your leave, strode past Cratchit and out of the office.
Scrooge made his way to the car park and from there drove the few miles to his home, an old house that he’d bought some years before. Enveloped by fog, Scrooge approached the front door. And then, as he fumbled in his pocket for his key, Scrooge watched as the door knocker, usually a golden yellow colour not dissimilar to that of a Wisden Cricketer’s Almanack, transformed into a garish mix of pink and green, a colour combination so unpleasant that Scrooge was compelled to look away. After a few moments, the nausea he had felt having abated, Scrooge managed to summon the courage to gaze once more upon the marred entrance to his home and was relieved to find that the door knocker had reverted to its normal hue. Scrooge thought he must have imagined the whole affair, reasoning that nobody in their right mind would come up with such an atrocious colour mix.
Scrooge entered the house and made his way to the kitchen. Never one to spend longer on something than was strictly necessary, Scrooge took a minute or two to heat up the ready meal he had bought for his evening repast. Once cooked he took it with him to the lounge and got ready to eat it in front of the television. He briefly considered watching a film but, recognising the shortness of his attention span, chose instead to flip through the TV channels, until he eventually came across a festive edition of ‘Pointless’ and thus found himself trying to think of the name of any England batsmen who had scored an Ashes century in a Boxing Day test.
And it was then that Scrooge heard something the like of which he’d never heard before, a strange ethereal voice that seemed to Scrooge to be emanating from a world that was not the one to which he was accustomed.
‘Well, for a start’, the voice was saying, ‘there’s Chris Broad’s 112 at the MCG in 1986’.
Scrooge turned his head and froze in fear as he noticed the ghostly yet unmistakable figure of Jacob Marley.
‘Though why anyone should think such essential information ‘pointless’ is simply beyond me!’ the spirit continued, moving slowly out of the shadowy corner of Scrooge’s lounge dragging behind him as he did so, what appeared to be cumbersome segments of boundary rope.
As Marley drew closer to Scrooge he noticed a look of utter bewilderment on Scrooge’s face and explained how, whilst it was more traditional for those in the afterlife to be burdened with heavy metal chains, an exception had been made in Marley’s case in view of his lifetime commitment to the game of cricket. Marley paused a moment and took on an air of contemplation. ‘Death would be so much easier’, he remarked wistfully, ‘if only they could be replaced with those triangular foam wedges they use today.’
Scrooge, nothing if not a man of reason, rose up from his chair and spoke to the spectre in an accusatory tone.
‘I don’t believe in you!’, he said, refusing to accept what his senses were making all too plain.
‘Well as you should well know, Mr Scrooge, truth isn’t determined by what you believe, as is all too apparent given your seeming lack of belief in that most fundamental of realities – specifically the importance of cherishing those long observed cricket traditions that you hold in contempt. But the importance of such things is real, as I am too. And to convince you of this you will be haunted by three spirits that will teach you all you need to know to save the game of cricket. Expect the first when the clock strikes one.’
And with that the ghost of Jacob Markey departed, groaning incoherent sounds of lamentation and dragging with the boundary ropes with him. For a few minutes Scrooge stood motionless not knowing what to make of what he’d just experienced but eventually concluded that the only possible explanation was that he’d been suffering from a severe case of indigestion on account of the ready meal he’d eaten being past its sell by date.
And so, convinced that the night would pass uneventfully, Scrooge changed into his pyjamas, slipped under his duvet and drifted off to sleep.
To be continued…
To read Part Two, click here
Or the whole story can be read here
Other Cricket related posts:
To read ‘Scooby Doo and the Mystery of the Deseted Cricket Ground’, click here
To read ‘Brian and Stumpy visit The Repair Shop’, click here
To read ‘A Tale of Two Tons’, click here
To read ‘A Somerset Cricket Players Emporium’, click here
To read ‘A Cricket Taunt’, click here
To read ‘A Song for Brian’, click here
To read ‘At Season’s End’, click here
To read ‘A Day at the Cricket’, click here
To read ‘The Great Cricket Sell Off’, click here
To read ‘On passing a village cricket club at dusk one late November afternoon’ click here
To read ‘How the Grinch stole from county cricket…or at least tried to’. click here
To read ‘How Covid-19 stole the the cricket season’, click here
To read ‘A Cricket Tea Kind of a Day’, click here
To read ‘Life in the slow lane’, click here
To read ‘Frodo and the Format of Power’, click here
To read ‘If Only’, click here
To read ‘I’ve got a little CRICKET list’, click here
To read ‘Eve of the RLODC limericks’ click here
To read ‘It’s coming home…’, click here
To read ‘A Song for Ben Green’, click here
To read ‘Enough Said…’, the last section of which is cricket related, click here
A Jack Leach Trilogy:
To read ‘For when we can’t see why’, click here
To read ‘WWJD – What would Jack Do?’, click here
To read ‘On Playing a Blinder’, click here
To read ‘Coping with Disappointment’, click here
To read ‘The Dr Scrooge Chronicles’, something completely different, yet in some ways similar, click here
And to finish – a couple with a theological flavour
To read ‘Somerset CCC – Good for the soul’, click here
To read ‘Longing for the pavilion whilst enjoying a good innings’, click here