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Saturday, 17 December 2011

Mascots of the Year

“Mascot Awards”

As I mentioned, we've been to a fair few matches this year. In total, we've attended 41 days of cricket, including Tests, CB40, T20 and even a Village match. During this time the handlers & I have been able to see some truly amazing feats & performances.

Cricket is moving with the times and clubs are trying to encourage families to attend games. As part of this they have introduced club mascots and at Finals day there’s the mascot race, overseen by the legend that is David 'Bumble' Lloyd.

As a mascot myself, I've encouraged the Handlers to take special note this year of the standards out there, and the results may be a little surprising:

In 3rd Place:
Stumpy The Dragon (Somerset) – had a good wander around the Ground before the CB40 match with Durham, stopped for pics and even had a word with Yours Truly (in mascot speak, of course). The only downside was that the SCCC stewards insisted I was deflated about 10 minutes later... 5/10

2nd Place:
Sid The Shark (Sussex) – Out and about throughout the T20 & Pro40 games, Sid interacted with the kids, adults and even Dancers generally having a laugh. A tad territorial when we first met at Hove, he redeemed himself over the course of the season and by the time we met again at Horsham we were quite friendly. 8/10

1st Place:
Lanky The Giraffe (Lancashire) – Far and away the best Mascot in the game (excluding myself of course), we've a table topping performance from the Old Trafford favourite. Lanky celebrates wickets and boundaries possibly more enthusiastically than anyone else in the ground, yet he always stops to have pictures taken or to sign autographs. The kids and adults alike adore him and with good reason, and he loves to play up to them. But the element of his Gameplay that really sets him aside, is that as soon as a bowler begins his run, he sits down and indicates that the kids around him should do the same. He sets a brilliant example to set all cricket watchers, and it's this that wins him the Mascot Of The Year award. Lanky, we salute you

However, all awards ceremonies also acknowledge those who've let the side down a little and this year the Worst Mascots are:

The Rest of 'em: sorry guys (and I'm sorry to say this includes Chester of Durham) but turning up briefly at the very start of the game and wandering around with an occasional wave really doesn't cut it. Though this only applies to those that bother to turn up at all; there were a few grounds where we didn't even see an appearance (we actually had to look up online who Max & Molly of Yorkshire were – and the form they take? No idea, never seen 'em). Come on guys, buck up a little – mix with the crowd, sign a few autographs and pose for a few pics – it's not that difficult surely?

I won't be around to gee you all up next season, moving on as I am to pastures new, but I'll be keeping my beady little eye on you to make sure you up your game.

On a final note though, to all the mascots & to Bumble himself. The mascots race on T20 finals day is and always has been a great bit of fun and it’s wonderful to see the fellow mascots having their moment of fame on such a wonderful day. But Sid, don't cheat next year!

Friday, 23 September 2011

Hey Mr DJ....

“Hey Mr DJ…….”

So it seems that one of the newer additions into a cricket match is music. As yet, it hasn't crept into (and crapped on...) the county game, and for that I clap my fins in delight. However, for cricket as a family based experience, the use of music when celebrating wickets, boundaries etc. is on the whole, quite a bonus. So for this section, we've awarded the prizes according to their individual merit and useage/effect, rather than against the individual grounds.

Can I just stress, however, that the trumpeting noise used in the Champions League and IPL is actually supposed to signify that a new bowler is about to be used; it's not supposed to be blasted out willy-nilly halfway through an over. It’s annoying and just makes the DJ look stupid. Though I admit I still join in with the cheer, regardless * hangs head in shame. *

                                                                Lanky Rocks Out

A couple of years ago, the Handlers began to put together a playlist based on songs heard at, inspired by, or performed by cricket/cricketers. This has steadily been added to, and all too frequently the shout goes up “Oooh Shazam this one!” Said playlist now consists of a whopping 168 songs, a total of 10.5hours of music. That's actually enough to drive to Hove and back without repeating a song! @mrsipkissmog got particularly creative, adding appropriate photographs to certain tracks which always elicits a giggle when they play in the car; personally I'm of the opinion there are seem to be a lot of shots of blond allrounders in there, but hey, I've only been following the sport for a year.

Even the IPL themes have been plundered. With the Handlers supporting KKR & KXIP, there's a goodie and a baddie on themes there (judge for yourself which way round) but both happily sing along to the truly cheesy yet somehow brilliant Deccan Chargers theme. Their turn to be ashamed, methinks.

Anyway, I digress. As this is the review for 2011, here are the tracks I have most enjoyed shaking my tail to this year:

And the Winners are:
  • In 3rd Place – the brilliant “Bright Lights, Bigger City” – great for a boundary, gets people up and moving. Also particularly good when played at full welly in the car with the lid down on the way back from a good win.
  • Runner-Up – “Forget You” – A brave song to play at any public venue, especially where alcohol is readily available and we've been present at least once when the Album Version was played (we assume by mistake), much to the laughter of all present. Watching a batsman departing to this is very, very funny.
  • Winner – “Number One” – For some reason this was played a LOT whilst England were playing in the ODI’s. Was the DJ trying to remind us about something? It certainly worked. Lost a little bit of the impact though, when at the PostTest Party, the Walkabout DJ refused to play it ?! #missedthepoint

The Handlers finished the awards here, but I feel special mention must be made of “Invincible”, if only for the effort made by the Sharkettes of Hove in their routine to this; it's stuck in my mind (in a good way) ever since the Essex game at the start of the season.
                                                             The Sussex Sharkettes

Hall of Shame:
  • 3rd Worst Song – “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” – Ok, it was funny the first 2/3 years, but now its old, wornout and just annoying. Hell, I like the Life of Brian, but it’s getting very very boring. Come on Mr DJ, be a bit more original. Worth noting that the accompanying pic for this on the Ipod is Ryan Sidebottom – nuff said
  • Runner-up – “YMCA” – Really Mr DJ, is this the best “crowd song” you can think of? Even the Barmies have dropped this one, despite Captain Cook's success!
  • 1st Place – “Umberella” – Yes! It’s spelt wrong! But it is in the bloody song too! Now playing it whilst it’s raining has a certain chuckleability about it, though the Handlers howl aloud at the appalling pronunciation. But when it’s not raining, what are you doing?? Are you hoping that Ducky-Lucky might be needed to save the game for the hometeam? No No & Double No!! – we want the full game not a rain delay so stop tempting fate. Not to mention the detail that it's a bloody awful song; if we must teach illiteracy to the youth of the country, at least make it tuneful!
                                                "She's got a pine-apple - on her head..."

So there you have 'em. There were a few others that screamed out for inclusion in both sections, but alas only 3 spots are available. However there are a few songs which we keep coming back to time and time again on the journeys; check 'em out if you haven't already heard 'em.

Mark Butcher’s whole album “Songs from the Sun House” - bluesy but funky, particularly like “Put Some Soul In It”
Duckworth Lewis Method – yes, really, it exists. And it's a belter. Favourites are “Test Match Special”, “Pedalo”, “Flatten the Hay” and “Meeting Mr Miandad” though you can't miss the hilarious “Jiggery Pokery”
The Piranhas - Tom Hark – and you'll be singing it for hours afterwards too, like it or not!
Roll Deep – Green Light – dreadful lyrics, but great chorus
Tinie Tempah – Pass Out – and pretty much the rest of the TT album too
Booker T – Soul Limbo (sorry TMS themetune has to get a mention here) – even non-cricket heathens know this one
Chase & Status – Blind Faith – and I still say the line is “Sussex Sharks”...

That's your lot on this one folks, as we work our way ever closer to the illustrious prize of Best Ground. But next, we tackle the Mascots...

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

"Is the Sun over the Yard-Arm..?" Awards of the Year

Or as the Handlers put it, “Is it too early for a pint?”
I'm advised that before my arrival on the scene, the record for a morning beer was 10.40am, instigated by their friend Janey at the T20 World Cup at the Oval between New Zealand and Scotland in 2009. They also rather sheepishly reference the West Indies Test at Old Trafford where in the course of a day they accumulated 7 of those cardboard beer carriers between the two of them – and that's NOT counting the free shots of Cockspur Rum being dished out at the same time! I say sheepishly as they managed to completely miss our beloved Monty's moment of glory and wickettaking magic so have been suitably chastised for this!

As I'm a little too young to drink, I've had to doff my fins to their superior judgements on this particular subject, so without further ado, and after much negotiation, discussion and arguments, the Handlers Beer Awards are as follows.

@ipkissmog speech:
“aherm, aherm... Ladies and Gentlemen of the Cricketing fraternity... We all know that there is something about cricket... it allows you the time to savour a beer whilst watching the game unfold, rather than frantically gulping down a paltry offering at halftime as you have to do in a football match. As such, you tend to find that most grounds provide a decent pint. Thus said, we have also named and shamed the shocking beer providers too.”

And the Winners are:
  • In 3rd Place, Old Trafford – Thwaites. It's a nice smooth beer perfect for an ODI/T20; possibly not so clever to over-indulge during a Test Match though, as we found out to our cost.
  • The Runner-Up has to be Edgbaston – Pedigree. Generally a great beer anyway, and was provided 'well-poured' – extremely drinkable.
  • And the Winner is... The Emirates Durham ICG – Pedigree. Hands down! Same beer as at Edgbaston but when served in Austin’s bar with proper Pedigree glasses there's a certain class to it. And even in the plastic glasses it still manages to be a damn fine beer to watch the game with.
                                   @mrsipkissmog huddles against the cold... but I'm NOT a beer-rest!
Hall of Shame:
  • 3rd Worst Beer came from Trent Bridge – Worthingtons. Watery yet metallic tasting, and served in plastic pots so flimsy that most of it spills out when you grasp it. On the plus-side though, that means you don't have to drink quite so much of it.* see addendum below!
  • Runner-up was, I'm afraid, Leicester – Old Speckled Hen. Well that's what they said it was. It looked more like lager to us, and the taste wasn’t easy to identify either.
  • And the Worst Beer of the Year goes to Taunton – Pedigree. This was on the grounds that their native Cider was only available in cans (really? in Zumerzet??) Safe bet, you would say, but no, not here. No head to speak of, just some unhealthy splotches of cream on the top that made it look like off-milk. It takes a lot for two Geordies (one descended from a Yorkshireman) to leave ale, so imagine Susie's shock when we left over half of our pints undrunk!!
                                               The Fearns were horrified at Lanky's behaviour!

It's worth adding that we would've included for the Australian Grounds too, if either of the Handlers had been capable of indulging whilst at the match. But alas, having severely overindulged at Barmy Army Headquarters before the start of the Tests, they went somewhat green at the thought.

*Special mention does to to Trent Bridge however, for whilst the beer was poor, they had a kiosk selling wine in special plastic bottles, and these were of very fine vintages which made for a pleasant change. Credit where it's due for innovation!

Just to summarise the grounds we've been to this year are:
Aigburth   Arundel   Derby   Durham   Edgbaston  Headingley   Horsham   Hove   Leicester   Norden CC   Old Trafford   Scarborough   Taunton   Trent Bridge   Whitgift School   Worcester

Australian Grounds:
Sydney Cricket Ground (NSW Blues) WACA Perth (Retravision Warriors)

Sunday, 11 September 2011


Welcome to Susie Shark’s first blog about cricket & life – well mainly cricket actually.

Firstly let me explain a little about me. I am an unofficial mascot for Sussex & Durham (and whoever we choose if it's a neutral game) looked after by my two handlers @mrsipkissmog & @ipkissmog. I made my debut at Old Trafford (the proper cricket one, not that garish bright lights imitation along the road) for a CB40 match between Lancs and Sussex. Since then I have been privileged to be allowed into such hallowed locations as the Sydney Cricket Ground, The Riverside (SORRY I mean the Emirates Durham International Cricket Ground... Nah, The Riverside), Trent Bridge, Edgbaston & Hove.

To anyone considering adopting a mascot, let me say straight off that we DO NOT condone the flouting of the ECB rules & regs. As such, I'd say that you should contact the grounds for permission before making the journet; also if granted to keep that permission with you at all times. In my case, most grounds have been very accommodating, and provided simple rules are adhered to then there's been no issue - I have to say 'most' as unfortunately as in all cases there are exceptions, but in defence of the two who've refused me, we hadn't made contact beforehand.

I have had the privilege of meeting many players of this strange & wonderful game that we all love so much, and they have been very kind in tattooing me when asked (albeit somewhat amusedly). These have included (to date, and by no means exhaustedly): MJ Prior, IJL Trott, PD Collingwood, ME Trescothick, G Onions, MS Panesar, LJ Wright along with the legend that is M Muralitharan.

Over the following blogs I shall type with my own fair fins some articles on games I have been to, grounds I have visited & with the help of reports backfrom the Handlers I will also include their views on best & worst beer/food/security/fans etc.

A special thank you should go out to Yvette @ Durham ( @durhamcricket ) & Dave Brooks at Sussex CCC for their welcoming humour and feedback during the past 2 years.

More to follow very soon