Arundel, A great place to start!|
Written by Luke Gillian
Thrown at the web around 30/06/2001 00:08:23
Arundel, A great place to start!
I have been asked countless times if I would ever consider a cricket media position in order to pay my way around the cricket world and my answer has always been a stern no.
I have been asked countless times if I would ever consider a cricket media position in order to pay my way around the cricket world and my answer has always been a stern no. However, I have never been in the financial situation I find myself right now and so when asked by Hayters Sports agency based in London to phone through session reports at all of Australia's tour games (thankfully not test matches) for the series, I didn't hesitate saying yes. Taking up such a role has in the short time I have been doing it, given cricket a far different perspective.
My reason for not wanting to do this years earlier was not wanting to cross that line between supporting and reporting. I want to support the cricket team, not hold responsibilities other than turning up to watch the lads in action. I'm there to keep my diary not a deadline. To many a degree, tour matches are a far cry from test matches and the intensity of reportage are polar opposites, so with that, sitting in the sun, enjoying a few beers and some good catch up conversation with friends at the game in Arundel, in between penning 300 words after every two hours of play, was hardly a burden. But then also, as a member of the 'press entourage' not wanting to bring into any disrepute the journos I've traveled with for many years, the level of vocal and visual support I would normally offer as I sit on the embankment basking in the simplicity of life, had to go on hold for three days. Though biting my tongue wasn't tough, it just hurt slightly.
The game at Arundel, always the first warm up game, has been on the Ashes tour schedule since 1956 and when the early schedule precluded a game at Arundel I for one was disappointed. As they always are, schedules are amended and before long, Arundel was included once more and early last Monday morning, I jumped onto my 'trusty treadley' and cycled out to Victoria Terminus for a 90minute train journey down to the historic town of Arundel, near the south coast.
Arundel was formally a Roman Villa however a Saxon council was created here over 1000 years ago, and it's importance to England was such that a giant castle was built in the 11th century at the time of the Norman Conquest. As with many British towns these days, Arundel survives merely on tourism and its castle that rises mightily above the town nestled on the Arun River is the prime attraction. The castle has been besieged and destroyed and rebuilt four times, most recently in the early 19th century, as it now stands. It is a glorious structure that is clearly seen from the train well before arriving into the very sleepy hollow village.
It is the castle that lends its name to the 'Castle Ground', the venue for Australia's three-day game against MCC. The castle, once an imposing backdrop is now shrouded by a wall of fir trees that ring one side of this quaint field, carved from the side of the hill that runs down into the town on the banks of the river. It is a pleasant ground to watch cricket. The first days play attracting about 5000 people to fill every seat dotting the embankments, or to picnic the day away on the large spanse of grass flats. The ground has the 'park end' and the 'Cathedral end'.
The Roman Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady and St Philip Howard standing above the tree line looks old because of its ageing fašade but was actually only built in the mid 19th century. Well, that for me, comparatively with Australia, is old, but this England where history has, of course, stood still. Gazing across the outfield to the Cathedral of the diocese of Arundel and Brighton certainly does add to the atmosphere of a lazy day at what can be defined as typical 'English Village Cricket'. The Castle Ground too has the standard rickety old misinforming scoreboard, and 'A' framed pavilion that hosts a wealth of cricket history, on a ground whose only international match is usually between Australia and MCC.
Aside the millennia old stone structures (and the pavilion that must have been built at the same time as the Castle judging by its looks) what has to be the fondest and most gratifying memory of the game were the announcements broadcast from the scoreboard. With an expression of royalty and bourgeoisie, the gentleman would declare the incoming batsmen or bowlers with tones suggesting he was announcing the arrival at the crease of Her Madge, the Queen. Instead of Simon Katich, he would roll out, "Siimon Kateesh". Colin Miller became "Corlin Meelar" and the MCC's Charles Willoughby was introduced to us all as "Shar Willerby". Short of Simon Katich's 168, the PA became the most talked of event of the game! It was good for a laugh that only gave the game that more quintessential British air when the perhaps the cricket didn't.
I think more people use the day at Arundel for an excuse to picnic rather than watch the cricket, and although the game was entertaining in an all-round kind of way, I don't think there were too many people overly concerned as to what happened out in the middle or who was coming in, Mr. Katich or Kateesh. I too, even in my new found employment, felt many an urge to just lay under a tree and pass out for a few slumbering hours. But it was the ability to walk laps of this delightful spanse of land, soaking up the sun and view of the game from several angles that kept the concentration in check.
It could be argued that there are many similar grounds around England and I would agree, but even when going to so many of these 'village greens', you love each and every one for its own uniqueness, whether that be Arundel Castle or Worcester Cathedral, essentially it makes little difference geographically, but socially and indeed nostalgically, so many will have left Arundel, as they will Worcester or Lord's or wherever, saying it is one of the best places to watch cricket because of the location rather than the game. And if you can take that from any venue, the appreciation of the underrated tour game is far higher than the mountain the ground is situated. Combine that with bringing in your picnic basket, your wine cellar, and your pillow and you have an almost perfect day!
I commuted daily from London and on the morning after the game had to remind myself the game was finished and instead remain in London. I've been trying to think whether it was the soothing relaxation of a sun-bathed non-event game of village cricket or the fact I was earning some cash to pay off the credit card that made me robotically start the cycle to Victoria terminus before realizing I could have slept in. Well look who cares anyway, because I know that I will longingly wait the four years to return to Arundel, albeit to work!
Luke Gillian 30/06/2001 00:08:23