Ok, so you like cricket and like playing during the summer, but you don’t like spending money and you especially don’t like spending it on anything other than alcohol. Unlike the rest of your team-mates whose whites are at a crisply impeccable ‘Daz’ advert standard, you revamp each piece of your kit about once every ten years. Some pieces have lasted longer than that, other bits have been replaced or replenished every season (usually balls; when the overseas player who is playing at far beneath his capability launches your perfectly acceptable medium dobbler over mid-wicket into the brambled hedgerow where the particularly vociferous tramp resides, and you can’t persuade anyone to come with you to fetch it).
Your pads are one of those items which have stood the stern test of time. They’ve been with you since you were a 16 year old Colt, survived through university, and prosper into your adult life. You were initially hoping for one last growth spurt to help you reach 6ft and thus outgrow them, but it never materialised; you remain of a squalidly unimpressive stature and the pads still fit your squalidly unimpressive shins aptly. Sure, they are now a greyish brown, and have more ‘cherry’ marks than any bat you’ve ever owned, but they’ve done you well. Not broken; why fix…
Why fix? Well, my pads aren’t exactly broken, I find them easy to run in still and they stop hurtled leather from hurting my shins. However…well, it’s difficult to say. It’s just…just…well…they’re kind of like, erm…buckled.
Buckled. In the world of pads, this is a criteria which makes them genuinely impossible to replace. Despite the wrong’un hounding Gray Nicholl’s official Twitter feed with requests, a shout out from the ever amusing @FredBoycott account, and an extensive google search, it appears that Velcro is the only pad-fastener available to mankind in the year 2012.
Velcro, of all things! Velcro! Personally, I don’t think it has the give that leather straps did, and I don’t think they offer the sturdiness and immovability of the traditional buckle. Also, velcro was invented by a Swiss. I don’t eat their chocolate, I don’t have one of their timepieces, and I don’t like velcro. Why? I can’t really explain without sounding strange, but I’ll try. A big part of the appeal of cricket is the history, the sense of tradition, the simplicity of wood on leather, the sense of a sport where attitudes are sporting and somewhat noble; and we certainly don’t just ditch our traditional buckles at the first sign of ingenious Swiss-invented labour-saving technology. Obviously velcro in a non-cricketing context is perfectly acceptable – for instance I quite like it when it fastens a child’s shoe, and I don’t dislike it’s use in ‘tag’ rugby. Cricket is just a little sacred and above all that, though: First we’ll lose our buckles, next we’ll be playing World Cups for 20 overs a side. Eurgh.
Of course, velcro was invented in 1955, so it is probably only really a wonder as to why it didn’t catch on for cricket pads until the 1980s. I have to admit that having to start padding up with the opening pair when you aren’t batting until 7 is probably not as endlessly funny as your team-mates seem to find it every match. One would think my squalidly unimpressive fingers might have co-ordinated some form of buckling routine by now, but it still takes me as long as it did when I was 10 years old – which probably also doesn’t bode too well for any forced change to Velcro.
All I can hope is that my pads retain their unbrokenness – provided they do so I’ll be retaining a little part of this romantic, idealistic cricketing world which probably doesn’t even exist. And at least it gave me an opportunity to churn out a photo of Sir Geoff on the blog.