I have always thought of cricket as a very Jewish game. The Wisden Almanac is almost the equivalent of the Talmud, and going to watch cricket is very much like going to a synagogue service — most people are more interested in chatting to each other or snoozing than paying attention to what is going on out there on the pitch.
When the second Ashes Test begins at Lord’s next week, there will be plenty of Jews in attendance — in fact there could well be more Jews in the pavilion at the St John’s Wood home of cricket on Shabbat than at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue across the road (as the old joke goes, this particular shul is not on the Lord’s side).
Of course, observant Jewish fans are always unable to watch play on the Saturday of the Test unless they carelessly forget to turn the upstairs TV off before Shabbat comes in (so easily done). However, lots more people are now in the same position.
In fact, this series will have much in common with the famous Ashes summer of 1948. Of course there will be no Bradman crashing the England bowling to the boundary, nor will there be food rationing (unless the recession really kicks in). But for the first time since the ’40s we will not be able to watch the cricket on TV; at least those of us who don’t have a subscription to Sky Sports won’t be able to.
So whereas in the 1970s I was able to watch Lillee and Thomson bombarding the England batsmen in full colour from 11am to 6pm (with the option of catching The Magic Roundabout at the end of play), now in our technological multimedia age, I have had to brush the dust off my wireless so as to listen to the crackling commentary from Cardiff.
And at the end of the day’s play, I warm up my television set to catch some flickering highlights on Five (the reception isn’t that great) — not that dissimilar from those who experienced the 1948 series via the peerless voice of John Arlott, and caught up with the action on Movietone News, with commentary from thet men with the vere, vere porsh eccent.
Ok, so living in 21st century Britain is not exactly like living in the ’40s and we do have important advantages over cricket fans from yesteryear. For example, we don’t have to subsist on powdered egg anymore, it’s unlikely we’ll fall into a bomb crater on the way to the game and we now know that there are better sore-throat cures than 20 Woodbines a day. Oh yes, and Bradman won’t be playing this time around either, so we have a chance.
Perhaps someone could let me know if we win.