The Impact Of Fantasy Cricket On The County Championship
It is Saturday afternoon in the garden. The sun is shining, the birds singing and BBC Radio Yorkshire on the headphones.
‘And Ballance cracks that to the boundary, taking him past 50 as the hosts continue to dominate…”
Up to my elbows in compost, clutching a rusty trowel, I pump my fist in delight. Get in there, Gaz. Keep it going old son.
Wait. Hang on a second. Something here isn’t quite right. I am a die-hard Warwickshire fan. Born and raised a stone’s throw from Edgbaston, the Bear and ragged staff runs through me like a stick of rock. I have never cheered for Yorkshire in my life.
A few minutes later, a round-up of the latest county scores elicits yet more unfamiliar responses. Gurney’s got a wicket for Notts! But Chanderpaul’s gone for a gozzer, Foster’s dropped a sitter and Magoffin has done his hamstring.
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I usually let the county scores wash over me, only paying attention to anyone wearing Warwickshire colours or with an outside chance of playing for England. But this year is different, because I have decided to part with my hard-earned cash and play fantasy cricket.
I had been playing it all along anyway, really. From the age of about six I was obsessed with the game, poring over scorecards, constructing home-made match reports and falling asleep clutching the latest copy of Wisden Cricket Monthly.
So I paid my eight quid, signed up to the Daily Telegraph and convinced a few friends and family to join a private league. Three weeks in and already I’m taking it far too seriously – studying the form book, playing the transfer market, sapping the joy out of the whole thing. The other day I even found myself checking the long-range weather forecast for Manchester. I don’t live in Manchester. I live a long way from Manchester.
As I write this, my wife has overtaken me at the top of the table. This is mainly due to the fact that she made Jake Ball her captain (double points) and stuck a pin in the list of low-ranked players and came out with Gloucestershire all-rounder Jack Higgins, who promptly transformed into Gary Bloody Sobers.
It has been said the public are losing touch with the county game. Well here’s an idea for those ECB bigwigs. Never mind 100-ball games, dancing girls, fireworks and flogging the TV rights. Just get everyone signed up to fantasy land, and watch the sparks fly.
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