According to the actor Hugh Grant in the Financial Times, “Women do love a cricketer. It’s one of those things. It’s like Aston Martins.” As the article writer, George Parker, notes, the idea might strike some as absurd—even though Martin’s (no relation to the car) less attractive birth-twin (same day, same year, same country) and former Grant-flame Elizabeth Hurley is currently enjoying the googlies and wrong ‘uns of Australian great and bon viveur Shane Warne. However, as a rule, cricketers aren’t necessarily great athletes and the game is not fast-moving (like soccer or Formula 1 racing). Nor does it require a classic physique (like swimming) or muscle (like rugby).
My theory is that what it lacks in obvious vavoom, it more than makes up for in the language of love—or at least an argot suggestive of fun times between the sheets. Where else do you get a chance to stroke or caress a ball through the covers, and handle an offbreak by gently tickling it past the slips? How can you not love a game that, even though it’s filled with swingers and pullers and hookers, nevertheless allows anyone with a steady arm and subtle fingers to bowl a maiden over?
Of course, to our baseball cousins—drawn to the more immediate pleasure offered by a slider from the mound touching the outside corner or the exquisite frustration presented by striking out with two out, three on, and A-Rod on deck—the jouissance of cricket may seem at once esoteric and unnecessarily deferred. Ah, but isn’t that the delight of a game that can last five days? Why foul off or struggle to get to first base (whether on an error or not) when you can with minimal effort enjoy the seduction of a brand-new cherry kissing the edge of the willow or relish a long hop hoisted over deep backward square? What sport! my friends. What sport!