Picture this: it’s your wife’s first time at a cricket match and she asks you what to expect – apart from a long day watching gentlemen in white throwing a red ball at a man with pads and a helmet on. “And what about the people?” she says. “It’s a wide variety” I reply, “let me explain them to you”…
1. The posh bloke
Posh bloke generally went to public school, and if he went to a ‘major one’ like Eton then he’ll probably let you know all about it. He’ll be the one asking everyone else around them: “what school did you go to?”, and if they find out they know someone in common, they’ll chat about what’s happened to this character, which can range from “they’re dead”, to “married a man”, to “hasn’t changed a bit” (which, generally, is not a good thing).
Oh, and they tend to bray, very loudly. And sometimes – not always – they even wear their old school tie. They might even bait people who went to rival schools, which usually ends with spiky words followed by hours of uncomfortable silence. Or giggles.
2. The club cricket man
This is the chap who thinks it’s all important to turn up to a Test Match wearing club cricket caps or jackets as a signal that they’ve ****ing played the game. Of course, it’s ‘cricketing dress-up’, but it’s also the hope that someone might ask them about their team. Occasionally, the conversation might get awkward when you reveal that the last time you saw Salisbury Village CC, they were out for 35 after being 25 for 0.
This is a good time for me to mention that I was never much of a player myself. I once totalled just 5 runs in a whole season. Instead, I used to love scoring. It enabled me to travel to other clubs and feel like part of the team without making any strenuous physical efforts. I also earned a bit of booze and cigarette money for the weekends.
3. The expert
Every sport has them. This is the chap who can give you long lectures about conditions, off-cutters, leg spin and suchlike. He’ll also know the past, present and future of most cricket teams. He’ll talk at you and won’t bother asking for your opinion. And if you ask him too many stupid questions, he might well give you the “what the hell are you doing here?” look. However, he’s good for an in-depth discussion about a side’s faulty top order.
4. The ‘I’m just here for the piss-up’
Funny story: I’ve taken my wife to three cricket matches. Two out of three of them have been at Edgbaston. There the first-ever day/night Test against West Indies (Day 1) and T20 Finals Day. My wife couldn’t stop looking at the Hollies Stand during the former, when the crowd turned up having had a few ales before the match had even started. “Why are they dressed up?” she asked, “is this a stag do?” When I said no, I lowered my head in shame.
On Finals Day we actually sat in the Hollies Stand. Behind us was a dinosaur and to our left were 16 blokes in Hawaiian shirts (and three of them even had inflatable surfboards). There were about 5 balloons firing around. But my wife said to me something I’d never really noticed before: “is anyone actually watching the cricket?” I couldn’t give her a firm answer on that one.
When Worcestershire finally scored the winning runs, a lot of people were obviously slaughtered. And while it might be fun at the time, getting booze spilled on you is not. I can assure you. Oh, and the drunks can get aggressive, too. I’ve seen fights break out between the Mario Brothers and Teletubbies, and once witnessed a scouser dressed in a Mexican hat yell abuse at Donald Trump for the best part of 2 hours. It wasn’t banter. He was just being a knob.
Having said that, getting hammered at the cricket is part and parcel of the game. So if you don’t like being surrounded by 10,000 people getting on it all day, then Edgbaston Test matches and T2Os simply aren’t for you.
5. The foodie
Let me tell you: if you can score a ticket with the Bharat Army, do so. And don’t bring food, because they always come over-prepared. After you’re done, your stomach will feel as though it’s done 16 rounds on Brick Lane (and 12 hours later, your toilet will feel like that too).
But elsewhere, there are people who show up bringing all manner of stuff in the picnic basket. My Mrs brings quite the spread. With me, it’s 3 bottles of Coca-Cola, and three packs of Quavers. And maybe a Pret sandwich.
Note: At Lord’s they allow you to bring a limited amount of your own booze (as well as unlimited softies) so it can be quite the cocktail party. This is obviously the part my wife loves best… ”I like going to cricket… it’s the only sport when you can have a drink at 10.30 am and no-one bats an eyelid.”
6. The corporate chap
Corporates, sadly, are a necessary evil at cricket matches. They drive the price of tickets up and then don’t bother showing up for the after-lunch session. And it’s really effing annoying. It’s even more annoying when they tell everyone about the company they work for. Repeatedly. And they generally know nothing about the game.
My friend Kay and I went to a game at The Oval. Kay spotted a group and immediately predicted that they worked in real estate. So we took a bet and asked them. And yes, they were indeed developers. And yes, they knew nothing about cricket, aside from telling me how nice it was to be at Lord’s! Their subsequent attempts to network ended in failure.
7. The chatterer
This is the chap that wants to talk to 250 people at the game so they have a ‘cricket cocktail party’. His cheeriness at 12pm is rather sweet. But by 6pm everyone wants to kill him – particularly if his ‘banter’ includes foul language, three or visits to the toilet to meet a Columbian friend of his, and enough booze to kill a horse.
8. The wind-up merchant
You’ll know this guy. He comes from the opposing country, stands up and gives the home supporters loads of shit because, well, it’s the cricket and therefore he’s allowed to have a blast. He can be a good lad. But he can also be a prick.
My Dad once scored Test tickets for India at The Oval. Where were we sitting? With the Bharat Army! Suddenly, the joke was on us. Fortunately, however, there aren’t too many rude characters who think it’s funny to abuse rival fans.
I’ll quickly mention, mind due, that I once sat next to the mother of a rather famous cricketer at Lord’s. She asked – very loudly – why a member of England’s team should play for the team “if he did not look English.” My reaction – like the 25 people around us who heard – was abject horror.
9. The ‘Traveler’.
We all love to hear travellers’ tales, especially when it’s first hand rather than on bloody Facebook. Anecdotes range from the entertaining to the plain sad. My friend, for example, booked a trip to watch two Tests in Australia – but arrived with England already 3-0 down and the Ashes gone. Happier tales include watching England bowl Australia out for 98 at the MCG, and spending most of England’s tour to Sri Lanka in the bar.
The traveler is also interested in the other team’s fanbase and will keenly gather intelligence on local places to eat, drink and stay upon his next sojourn. An added bonus is the number of retired cricketers now working for corporate travel groups. They’re usually keen to have a chat. Nice work if you can get it.
10. The ‘normie’
Finally, we have the normal cricket fan. He loves his cricket, doesn’t go all that much because he can’t afford it, has a few beers but not too many, and is generally pleasant to talk to. He’s ultimately pretty forgettable, but at least he won’t tell you about his job over and over again like the corporate chap. After all, we go to watch cricket to escape work. The two shouldn’t mix.
Can you think of any other type of cricket supporter? Just let us know in the comments.
*For the record, this writer is writing from a place of knowledge, because he’s been all 10 of the above – sometimes on the same day.