Thursday, 10 May 2012

Armchair Cricket

The red box of Armchair Cricket has lain unopened on FB's shelf for many years. The blurb says, 'Captures all the excitement of the real game, whether Limited Overs, Test Matches, or knockabout Beer matches.'

All the excitement? Like all such claims, this requires to be taken with a pinch of salt.

On opening the box you come face to face with the scoresheets.  These do capture all the excitement of the real game - there are rows for the batters' scores, boxes for the overs, spaces for the extras and the fall of wickets and rows of numbers to cross off to keep the running score.  Just like the real thing. But one quarter of the size.

Apart from that brush with reality, Armchair Cricket is nothing like cricket.  It is a card game.  It has a simple basic premise: if you play a higher card than your opponent you score runs.  If you can't follow suit you lose a wicket.  But on that basic structure are laden rule upon rule - 15 pages of microscopic text all meant to reflect aspects of the real game.  So there is a no ball rule - which involves putting a match stick against a symbol in a little box to identify the suit that can't be played in that over.  There are tables which identify how wickets fall by reference to the suits of the cards that are played.  (The suits are specially cricket relevant balls, pads, stumps and so on).  There are variations for lower order batsman for fielding.  Extras have their own rules.  And so on.  And so on.  Cricket itself has 42 laws and these seem child's play compared to this.

Inside the box -
 all the excitement
of the real game
And therein lies the rub.  The blurb for Armchair Cricket says that 'however lucky a player may be at cards, the winner will normally be the more skillful exponent of the rules in relation to cricket tactics'.

FB found this claim open to question.  His most frequent opponent at Armchair Cricket was his late father-in-law.  Popski was Polish.  His knowledge of cricket was rudimentary.  He had played the game once, at the invitation of his workmates.  Coming proudly in to bat, he was dismissed instantly stumped.  He then argued till the cows came home that this could not be, since he had made no attempt to hit the ball.  The population of Poland may be no great shakes at cricket, but they are Test Match Quality when it comes to starting and sustaining an argument on any minor matter.  In the course of the examination of this incident, Popski's discourse reviewed the whole history of Poland, and the circumstances of Upper and Lower Silesia in the mid 19th Century in particular, were prayed in evidence of his position.  The course of the Warsaw Rising was surveyed in the minutest detail to throw light on the incident.  The views of the then Polish Pope were cited as authoritative on the ethics of stumping.

So you might have thought that when Popski and a cricket buff such as FB came to open the Armchair Cricket box and set out to seek all the excitement of the real game, the advantage would be FB's.  You might have thought.  But you would have failed to recognise that Popski played Bridge with a religious fervour, and was no less passionate about other card games.  FB's skill at cards begins and ends with SNAP.  

Besides his lack of card nous, FB also had to do the scoring. This was a major distraction requiring him to put down his hand of cards, totally forgetting what he was thinking of as his next move. Popski meanwhile had the next ball and the next over figured.  He would remind FB about the no ball rule, with no idea of  what a no ball was in life.  He always seemed to have that high card still in his hand when FB was sure that it had been played.  In fact he became a flat track bully - or whatever the cards equivalent is.  But Popski never quite assimilated the vocabulary of cricket. He kept asking what was trumps.  And when a wicket fell he would say he had taken a trick.

The scorecards are still in the box from FB and Popski's furious struggles with the game.  The teams are the usual mix of cricketers, celebrities and historical figures.  Popski and FB never got beyond the limited over format - somehow life seemed just too short to venture a full 2 innings Test match.  Sadly, Popski's innings was terminated 4 years ago since when Armchair Cricket has lain unopened until FB noticed it the other day.  Fond memories.

Armchair Cricket - FB's advice is to play it with a cricketer who likes scoring - under no circumstances play it with a card player.


  1. FB is correct in his assumption that playing an Eastern European in card games, or indeed any board game, is a futile exercise. The ingenuity of the Polish nation, born of centuries of oppression by powerful neighbours, makes them particularly formidable and resourceful opponents. It's just as well they never took up cricket.

  2. A start has been made.