Edinburgh Fringe 2010
Tall tale of a wannabe cricket journalist who blags his way onto an England tour of India covering cricket for the two of the most unlikely media entities possible.
I’m a true cricket nerd. Ask me who played for England in the Lord’s Test against Australia in 1938, 1968 or 1985 and I will cure your insomnia by reciting who did what to whom and in what order. So I was intrigued to find out how Miles Jupp, by his own admission a jobbing actor best known for his role in a long running children’s TV series, had managed to do what so many of us cricketing nerds aspire to and gain access to hallowed cricketing pavilions and press boxes posing as an allegedly bona fide cricketing journalist.
And, given that these days so many of this ilk are former players, would the presence of this cricketing rabbit amongst his heroes not raise a few eyebrows? How would he respond were he called upon to discuss the variants of the forward defensive stroke or to engage in a debate about the merits of the current LBW law?
It is, apparently, surprisingly easy to become a cricketing journalist. All you need is a couple of obscure media contacts and the ability to sound confident when asking for the press pass that opens the door to the free entertainment. A bit like working as a Fringe reviewer I suppose.
And so Jupp talks himself into a job for the Western Mail (Cardiff) and BBC Scotland as their roving cricket correspondent for the England tour of India that immediately followed their great Ashes triumph of 2005.
Jupp has an endearing way of telling the story, using irony, liberal self-deprecation and clever comic timing to keep the audience engaged as we hear of the travails he undergoes in trying to secure press passes for each of the Test matches on which he is supposed to report. We learn of his surprise at being bought drinks by Messrs Gower, Botham and Hussain, all former England captains and heroes to our narrator and about his success in advising Michael Atherton on where to insert his memory stick.
He clearly loves words, rolling them round in his mind, using double entendre and pauses to great effect, building the tale to a neat punch line or break point. His clever use of anecdotes ensured that those with a less than encyclopedic knowledge of the game got as much out of the tale as those who sat agog waiting for the next bit of hero name dropping.
And he knows his cricket as well. He reeled off a stream of statistics concerning the contribution that the aforementioned heroes had made to England’s cause in terms of runs, wickets and catches. Whether the audience had even the slightest clue as to the veracity of the numbers I somewhat doubt, but the sad thing is that I could have told you there and then every statistic was accurate.
But this was more than just a canter through an already long forgotten England tour of India. There was a neat twist at the end of the tale as he neatly exposed the frailties and insecurities of those working in the fourth estate, showing that the working hack will do almost anything to steal a march on a rival. As he said, working in a press box is rather like sitting in an open plan office where all the people around you represent the competition who are trying to steal your ideas.
In the end, gaining access to the stilted and silent atmosphere in the press box removed the very thing that he wanted out of cricket – to be part of a vibrant crowd, engaged in and being a part of the action. And having free access to his cricketing idols pricked the bubble that real cricket fans use to preserve the mystique with which they like to surround their heroes. Whilst David Gower might be an approachable bloke to those in the press bubble, to Jupp he will always be the man that graced 117 Tests, scored over 8000 runs for his country and batted as if he were playing a different game to the other mortals on the field.
So the moral of his tale is, as he says, to be true to your values. In his case, he loves the game as a fan. Getting the keys to the game’s inner sanctum detracted from, rather than enhanced that experience. Makes me glad that I remain a true cricket nerd.