Cricket – A Good Reason to Remain

Is there anything lovelier, at the end of a long working week, than to come home on a sunny summer’s day to watch the cricket on the telly. Thanks to Oggie and his wizardry I can watch this marvellous game from my living room in Prague.


Today is the second day of the Third Test Match in the three-match series between Sri Lanka and England. Sri Lanka are doing well after two catastrophic matches played on pitches in the north of England during the last three weeks. England have already won the series but the Sri Lankans have their honour to play for. With a risk of rain on Sunday, a draw seems the most likely outcome. This Third Test is being played at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London, the greatest cricket ground in the universe, at least as far as we know. But how marvellous it would be if, when aliens finally arrive, they were to arrive as a team of eleven in cricket whites. We would know that they must be intelligent.

You don’t have to concentrate on cricket. When those moments of excitement come and a wicket falls, you can abandon your blogging, cooking, or whatever you might be doing, and watch the replay. The sound of idle banter between the commentators is the perfect background music to the summer. Perhaps it reminds me of those summer days when my father would do something pointless in the garden with the cricket radio commentary playing loud enough for everyone, including the neighbours, to hear.

I played the game, too, as a child. I loved to bowl, but I was too scared of the rock-hard ball to bat with confidence and I was completely hopeless at catching. The ball comes at you at 90 miles per hour with the hardness and weight of steel, as it rockets or glances off the batsman’s bat. Custom demands that you never wince at the pain (my Godfather once took a catch in Malta at the cost of a split finger).

Cricket, in its Test Match variety (true cricket), must be the longest game that humans play. It lasts no longer than five days, but of course a full five day series (as between Australia and England when the Ashes are played for) may involve twenty-five days of cricket.  It is the only game, as far as I know, that stops for tea. Though it demands great physical fitness it isn’t vulgarly physical and it is rare that one player ever touches another. It is the game that most closely resembles life  or war- there are long periods of quietness (I won’t say tedium) and then moments of immense excitement, and always plenty of tea. It is affected by the arbitrary forces of nature – on a damp day, the ball will swing more alarmingly, or bounce more erratically, and if the rains come the match is suspended with no compensation. Strategy, patience and thoughtfulness are rewarded, and aggression concealed beneath a patina of politeness and gentlemanly conduct. Fair play, decency, magnanimity, gallantry, and giving credit where it is due – these are the values of the game.

I have long since ceased attempting to explain the rules of the game to the barbarians amongst whom I live in the Czech Republic, but I believe the game is occasionally played by the Commonwealth expats who live here. At least it is allowed. In fact I know of no country in the world where the game is outlawed. It is permitted even in places where it is impossible to play it, such as Antarctica. Even the UN fields a team.

The EU has not so far, legislated on the issue of standard competitive games between EU nations, and I suspect it never will. If anything is evidence that the culture of a nation is safe within the European Union it is cricket.


Let Them In

There are a dozen of arguments to be made about immigration, but the immediate moral issue is clear. Whilst we squabble about the future of these ‘migrants’, ‘immigrants’, ‘asylum seekers’ or ‘refugees’, arbitrarily labelling them ‘economic’ or ‘legitimate’ to suit one argument or another, they suffocate and drown.

Let them in.


Some argue that an ageing Europe needs immigrants to avoid economic decline. Others argue that if this is true in the mid- and long-term, there are still sufficient unemployed young people and women to take up the short-term slack.

Some argue that the ethnic, cultural, and religious diversity that follows from large-scale immigration is harmful. England for the English, Hungary for Hungarians. But the greatest civilisations of the world have thrived on diversity, and the world is smaller now – the parochial values of nationalism, ethnic, cultural, and religious homogeneity belong to the past.

Today, our values are supranational or global. Democracy, justice, human rights, equality of opportunity, tolerance. They transcend the particular customs and whims of a single group, and have nothing to do with creed.

Some argue that these people’s problems are not our problems. But in many cases it is the rich world’s meddling (usually driven by an insatiable thirst for oil) that have created the conditions they flee. What good came of our hundred years of meddling in Iraq, in Libya, in Afghanistan, in Syria?

Some argue that immigrants are a terrorist threat. But surely, well-funded terrorists can find a more convenient way of infiltrating Europe than through the fields of southern Europe and under the razor wire, or across the choppy seas of the Mediterranean in unseaworthy vessels.

There are many more arguments for or against. And whilst we argue, these desperate people drown and suffocate, prey to the people-smuggling scum who profit from their misery.

What I miss is kindness. Angela Merkel’s words stand out from the harsh, pragmatic words of her counterparts. And yet Germany has accepted twelve times as many immigrants in 2015 than Britain.

Quoting from the Guardian:

“There can be no tolerance of those who question the dignity of other people,” she said, standing in front of placards accusing her of being the people’s traitor. “There is no tolerance of those who are not ready to help, where, for legal and humanitarian reasons, help is due.”

And then there is our hypocrisy.

How often do our guide books extol the generous hospitality of the Arab world? And yet how hard we find it to reciprocate.

How often have we ourselves fled our own nations, and been received generously by others? Think of Hungary in 1956.

Whatever the causes, the immediate situation requires just one response. Let them in.