I am a farmer and a keen cricketer (though not a high standard player by anyone’s account). I love playing the game and find all its nuances and foibles fascinating but right now, there are certain cricketing analogies I’d like to draw with the situation this country finds itself in.
I recall not so long ago that we were promised easy deals and a golden age of prosperity. Instead, we find ourselves staring down the barrel of a no deal or bad deal Brexit with the European Union (EU), and scratching around for any country willing to do any sort of deal with us when we leave the customs union.
Back in the mid-seventies when England played Australia in the Ashes series it is a little-known fact that the Aussies had a ‘secret female’ fast bowler (‘Lillian Thompson’ I think ‘her’ name was. I may have got that wrong as I was very young, but I think ‘she’ used to get England out very cheaply). Also, in 1976 the then England captain Tony Greig stated he was going to make the West Indies grovel in the forthcoming test series. It turned out to be a very unfortunate prediction as the Windies, also with the world’s fastest bowlers, won the series easily 5-1.
In both cases, the England team was guilty of over-estimating its ability and under-estimating the ability of its opponents. The same thing is happening with Brexit. How humiliating it is as we send out our top batsmen to the Brussels middle only to have them very quickly back in the Westminster pavilion for little or no runs.
Cricket is a game where there are no rules but laws which, like other laws, have to be obeyed. But this government seems to think laws are made to be broken.
Imagine if our PM were the umpire in a game and the Home Secretary was batting and she was hit on the back-foot plumb in front of middle stump. He would not give her out even though the bowler, wicket keeper and three slips all appeal in the loudest way possible and the replay showed the virtual bails flying in the air.
If Brandon Lewis was fielding at deep mid-wicket, he would watch the ball trickle over the boundary, pick it up and throw it back claiming he had stopped a four. This would of course only be breaking the laws of cricket in ‘a limited and specific way’.
If the PM was batting and edged a ball to the keeper, he would refuse to walk and the umpire would resign in disgust.
I imagine Dominic Cummings would have a pocket full of sandpaper to ‘polish’ the ball with, and whilst scoring, not put down opposition runs blaming his eyesight for the oversight.
In both cricket and real life, we must uphold the rule of law or the whole system becomes unworkable. Farming is about to be bowled a spell of bouncers from both ends with the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) we had under the EU diminishing and the new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) not ready until at least 2024.
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Agriculture has had a good innings but now it is very much on the back foot. We will need to get on the front foot and play with a straight bat on this very sticky wicket. No doubt some will shoulder arms and be back in the pavilion very cheaply, but others may hit a six or two and make it to the end of the innings. Some of us may go down in a blaze of glory going for the big hit and being caught at cow corner or do what I did last year and miss a hook shot and get a ball in the eye but survive to tell the tale.
After that incident I decided I ought to have some coaching. Speaking to the coaches they said that they struggle to find suitable locations for winter nets as sports halls and schools want to fill their spaces with aerobics classes and other activities which involve many more paying participants than a couple of cricket nets ever can.
That got me thinking that I have part of a barn which I only use for the summer months which was the right shape and size to fit three full size nets in. Now nearly a year later the nets are up and the matting down and we are just waiting for the end of lockdown to officially open in December. The interest on social media has been amazing (www.rutlandcricketcentre.co.uk) and it looks like it could be a big hit for the local cricketing community.
Despite all the doom and gloom of this year there is always cause for optimism and I for one am looking forward to getting on the front foot even on this sticky wicket.
Anything else just wouldn’t be cricket!
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