An Open Letter To The New Fans Of English Cricket

Hello there, jubilant, formally reintroduced via Channel Four, cricket-watching Briton!

Glad to see you’ve joined us again. Right off the bat, you’re forgiven for assuming the sport has always been this good while you were away. Or that its results will always be this delightful when England’s visiting the subcontinent.

As a matter of fact, you’ll often wonder what’s the point of waking up at odd hours and copping it from your spouse or your dogs for turning on the telly at four in the morning, sacrificing potential sleep along the way, hoping to see your team do well. Contrary to what you might have imagined, they aren’t the most dependable lot.

If anyone dares to mention the word ‘Auckland’ or the total ‘58’ around you on hearing you’re a new entrant to this business of liking England, turn a blind eye to them. Then, look at them again and slap them in the face. Trust me, they deserve it.

The last time you were with us, you saw the 2005 Ashes – all of it. Or the 2019 ODI World Cup Final – the last thirty minutes or so, because none of us can remember what happened before it. But here was that ginger-headed Mr Stokes again, on the other side of the world, dismissing the opposition’s best batsman in the wee hours of the morning just a couple of overs before the final wickets fell too. He has a knack for getting the breakthroughs, you’ll see. And not all the miracles he produces are off the edge of his bat.

But whenever his team’s at it, you’ll be on the edge of your seat yourself. There is a fine line to be drawn between method and madness. For the longest time, this team preferred the latter, wandering around abroad like Joe Denly wandered around the top order for the longest time – none at all.

Who’s Joe Denly, you ask? Well, he’s a good bloke who Ed Smith, the national selector, liked a bit too much. But you don’t have to worry about him anymore. Denly, I mean. Ed Smith’s still very much around. And he threatens to keep defying logic in favour of his personal wisdom, which prompted him to stick with the iconic white-ball great Jos Buttler as the keeper for the Test side. Rumour has, by the way, that Ed Smith either possesses a crystal ball which told him his decision will come good in the end, or a personal vendetta of ruining the confidence of their best white-ball batsman by making him face the red one too.

Once again, you don’t need to worry about it, because Buttler’s come good in Test cricket – finally! There was a time when it didn’t seem likely. But now, he’s pulling off stumpings and carrying himself around the field like a man who knows he belongs where he is. He’s going home, though, and a certain Ben Foakes will take up his place now. That lad’s quite good too.

In fact, he might turn out to be so good that people will start asking for him to retain his place even once Buttler returns. You’ll be confused yourself about the entire matter, but here’s my foremost tip for you if you’re to be an English cricket fan – carry an opinion whenever you go into any such debate, and defend your belief till death even if you haven’t the slightest idea what’s going on.

Jos Buttler’s too good not to have in the team. What, it’s the national archery team we’re talking about? No matter, I still want him on it. That bloke can do anything.

Or, you might even pick up a fan favourite like having a stance you mustn’t back down from no matter how relevant or how obscure the numbers thrown at you are.

Stuart Broad’s rubbish. Gerrim off the team and give him a full-time job as an EPL fantasy manager!

You’ll get heaps of flak for it, but don’t let it put you off. It’s all part of the experience, you’ll understand sooner rather than later. Or later rather than sooner, if you’re a Joe Root fan, and see no problem with the timing of his declarations.

But disagreements and debates and criticism must happen in the proper manner and at the proper time – which means you’re allowed to break into fistfights in the middle of the road.

But for the next few weeks, don’t engage in cricket related physical arguments, because there’s still a pesky pandemic going on. Also, because you wouldn’t want to be caught in the middle of a street in the middle of a lockdown.

But feel free to bring your arguments online. Social media is useful only for three things

  1. Sharing baby pictures
  2. Inciting insurrections, and
  3. Debating the utility of scoring runs if you’re as slow as Cheteshwar Pujara

There are three more Test matches to go in this series. Hopefully they’ll be just as brilliant as this one. Proceed with caution, though – the Indians are quite good at Test cricket too, and they’ve been good at it for much longer than us in the recent past.

There’s every chance that you’ll find yourself watching a Pant masterclass or an Ashwin ten-fer which takes the game away from the opposition before its supporters even get the chance to wake up. Not everyone can manage copping it every day from their spouse and their pets, after all. It’ll leave you awestruck, then bitter, then disappointed.

But don’t lose your patience with the game. We felt the same way about this team for the longest time, cursing them and blessing them at once – but they haven’t done too badly for themselves in the last few weeks, have they?

It’s going to be the ride of a lifetime. Stick around.

Welcome to the England Test team.

Abhijato Sensarma 

PS: A final word of advice. If any of your acquaintances wonder out loud online whether Keaton Jennings should be brought into the Test side again, the Laws of the Game compel you to change their password, break their laptop, and stuff it inside the cupboard where we keep all our cricketing memories from the 90s. Also, throw the key away.


  • The Pommies gave us a hard punch at Chepauk. we do realise that this English players have done their home work well before charting out to India after an upbeat performance in Srilanka. BTW they have trounced the asians at their own backyard, a rare phenomena in test cricket. Well done. Hope India wake up from slumber and give a hard try to win back their credentials in the second test.

  • Hope the present terrestrial live cricket continues, especially as it looks like we have a pretty decent England squad in all formats, so the games profile can be raised.
    We have matchwinners galore for a new generation of fans to follow in this squad, players who can make a significant impact in a short space of time. Presently I believe we outnumber any side in the world with these. Most sides have a few of them, I believe we have 7.
    On the bowling front we have Anderson, Broad and Archer and the still underrated make something happen bowling if Stokes. Shame we have no class spinners.
    On the batting front we have Root, Stokes, Buttler and Bairstow.
    That’s a darn sight more world class talent than we have on the football field at present. Yet we get bombarded by live footie where it’s mostly foreign imports making the headlines.

    • And you don’t even mention Pope ! He’s our best natural batsman bar Root but he has work to do if he’s going to realise his potential.

      • Pope isn’t world class. You have to put in a few match winning performances to get up there.
        Promising isn’t anything here until you’ve done it consistently at the top.

  • “here’s my foremost tip for you if you’re to be an English cricket fan – carry an opinion whenever you go into any such debate, and defend your belief till death even if you haven’t the slightest idea what’s going on”.

    I think he was talking about cricket, but you’re doing great son!

  • Keaton Jennings…Oh, yes, indeedy. I’ll throw a rock at anyone who starts the sentence, “Well, he’s good against spin…”.

  • For new watchers of England one thing that is always like this is when England put in a good performance the modern media whose stupidity is exceeded only by their amnesia will start talking about “the greatest ever”.

    Here are five greater England away wins (deliberately not including any of the five The Guardian ompared to this one):

    1) Fifth Test 1894/95, beat Australia by 6 wickets.
    England had been 2-0 up in the series but were pegged back to 2-2. Fast bowler Tom Richardson bowled over 40 overs to take 6 wickets and keep the final target to a still extremely tricky 290-odd. England lost two quick wickets (including captain Stoddart) before JT Brown blasted a run a minute 140 and backed by opener Albert Ward took England to the brink of victory.
    2) Fifth Test 1922-23, beat SA by 109 runs.
    The series stood at 1-1 and England had a useful 1st innings’ lead of a hundred until a 2nd innings’ batting collapse threatened to throw it all away. Opener ‘Jack’ Russell got out of his sick bed and scored a century batting down the order when no team mate could score above 40. Russell had scored a century in the 1st innings as well and so became the first Englishman (and second overall) to score a hundred in each innings. The selectors never picked him again!
    3) First Test 1928-29, beat Australia by 675 runs.
    For sadists everywhere, that margin of defeat is one to treasure. Patsy Hendren scored a big hundred in the first innings and Harold Larwood took 6/30 as Australia collapsed. Douglas Jardine wasn’t going to take any chances enforcing the follow-on with a mere 399 run lead. Some bloke called Bradman made his debut.
    4) Fifth Test, beat WI by 9 wickets.
    Having been 2-0 down England had pulled it back to 2-1 thanks to a mammoth century by Len Hutton. After Trevor Bailey had skittled the home team Hutton this time made a double century and his spinners sealed the win. Hutton later reckoned these innings took two years off his career the effort was so great.
    5) Second Test 1976-77, beat India by 10 wickets.
    Having lost the First Test to England’s seamers India prepared a raging bunsen for their great spin triumvirate. Bob Willis still skittled a side including Gavaskar and Viswanath. England were in danger of their own collapse but reserve keeper Roger Tolchard hung on while a seriously unwell Tony Greig made a century consisting entirely of pulls and cuts because he rated the pitch too treacherous for attacking front foot shots. Underwood then completed the rout and showed that he wasn’t just a wet wicket bowler.

    Honorable mentions go to the final test wins in the 1973-74 and 2004-05 series.

    • Could you maybe say why specifically you think these five are better than the Guardian’s five?

      I agree about the general trend of greatest-ever-itis, including that it’s often extremely banal and recent-past obsessed–but the Guardian’s list seemed to me to be neither especially stupid (Adelaide 1954-5 has been regularly cited throughout my lifetime as a classic England overseas win; Kingston in 1990 was scarcely believable in some ways, in context) nor amnesiac (only one of the matches is from less than thirty years ago–or more than the lifespan of quite a few cricket fans–while one is 66 years old and another 88). They also missed out some of the more obvious suspects that those with shorter memories often go for (nothing from the 2010 Ashes, for example; no “Ring of Fire” for the three millionth time).

      Of course any two cricket fans could argue till the cows come home about this one–and there’s no ultimate correct answer–but your list looks at first glance a little bit like simply a peg on which to hang your feelings of superiority and derision for the media, or an exercise in deliberate contrariness.

  • Headingly 1981 would top any list for me. Only the second time a team had won a Test after following on. I watched it live and perhaps only the last Ashes Test of 2005 would come near it in those I have actually seen.


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