The real purpose of cricket quotations
It is a fact beyond dispute that, outside the nine or 10 nations in which it is a mainstream sport, foreigners don't really get cricket. Even in some of the countries represented at the ICC World Twenty20, which begins in Guyana on Friday, mention of the game will draw more quizzical looks than comprehension.
Of all the things about the game that induce only bafflement, high on the list is the idea that it could have been devised in England. How does anyone invent a game to be played in dry conditions outdoors, over four or even five days, in a country where, on average, rain falls on one day in every three?
The answer may be more simple than you think. Clearly, given the number of new cricket books published each year, it was to give spectators convenient interludes in which to read!
Of course, not all rain stoppages are equal, and while hours of unremitting drizzle are not exactly an uncommon feature of an English summer there are stop-start days as well, which can be frustrating for the reader, especially if he is trying to settle into the rhythm of a more weighty work.
But cricket's literary riches offer the solution to this dilemma, too, in the form of handy little volumes stuffed with nothing but quotations -- perfect to dip in and out of when showers are about.
The Sports Bookshelf's current favourite comes from the yellow-jacketed Wisden collection, edited by Lawrence Booth and entitled "What are the Butchers For?": And Other Splendid Cricket Quotations.
As you would expect from Booth, always a writer with an eye for the quirkier side of the game, it looks beyond the obvious sources. To whet your appetite, try guessing who said what from among the following...
1 -- 'Test Match Special is all chocolate cakes and jolly japes, but I didn't enjoy being called a wheelie bin and neither did my family.'
2 -- 'Cricket is basically baseball on valium.'
3 -- 'I did call him Freddie once, but he said: "No, you can't call me Freddie. I'm Andrew to you."'
4 -- 'To be honest, Mark, I'm struggling.'
5 -- 'Great! Just great!... When does it start?'
6 -- 'I'd buy Luton Town football club.'
7 -- 'Remember to say "Good areas", "Work hard", "Keep it simple"'
8 -- 'How can you tell your wife you are just popping out to play a match and then not come back for five days?'
Click here for the answers.
Lawrence Booth's eye for humour in cricket earned him a large following when he wrote a weekly online column, The Spin, for the Guardian. His move to the Daily Mail might have spelled the end for The Spin but happily it has been reincarnated as Top Spin on dailymail.co.uk.
By the way, it was an American actress, Pauline Chase, who is thought to have asked 'What are the Butchers For?' when she spotted the white-coated umpires at a cricket match in the early 1900s. Chase starred in the title role of Peter Pan during a seven-year run at London theatres at around the same time, having been introduced to Peter Pan author J M Barrie, who was a cricket enthusiast.
For more by Lawrence Booth or more on cricket, visit The Sports Bookshelf Shop.