Scottish grounds exposed
Earlier this year the Guardian did a feature on the most beautiful cricket grounds in the world. Caribbean islands and English rural backwaters featured heavily. Sadly no Scottish ground was featured, though Fantasy Bob recalls a similar review of British grounds a couple of years ago making reference to Falkland’s Scroggie Park.
In truth there is no cricket ground that does not have some redeeming visual or aesthetic appeal and Scottish grounds score as heavily as any. For example, FB’s own stamping ground of Carlton’s Grange Loan has the imposing backdrop of Arthur’s Seat and its row of cherry blossomed trees, while grounds on the north side of Edinburgh allow the tired fielder to look up to the spectacular city skyline of Edinburgh’s High Street and take appropriate inspiration.
But the recent poor weather that has accompanied the start of the Scottish season has got FB thinking about what an article in the Guardian on the most exposed cricket grounds in the world would look like; grounds, where never mind the background views or the quaintness of the Victorian pavilion, or the sweeping vista of elms and sycamores; grounds where the risk of hypothermia is at Test Match Levels. Such a list would surely be dominated by Scottish grounds.
FB’s first memory of the risk of exposure on the cricket field was when he played a school match in Fraserburgh. As all geographers know, there is nothing between Fraserburgh and the Arctic so it was appropriate that FB and his chums were sent to play there clad in nothing but aertex shirts and shorts.
The Arctic may well be retreating nowadays but at the time FB cricketed in Fraserburgh it was perilously close. There was only a caravan site on the midwicket boundary between the players and the frozen sea. That caravan site was an inviting target for the big heave – but was well protected by the gale blowing straight from the Arctic Ice Sheet. Exposure quotient a world class 10.
Later in his career and in his early days in the lower divisions of the East League, FB and team mates made an annual visit on league business to Freuchie. A delightful ground with a church spire on the boundary. Not particularly near the Arctic one might think, but it is the only place that FB has played through a snow shower. It had been cold that week, but maybe no colder than many other opening weeks of the season, or weeks in the middle of season come to that. Freuchie's ground may not be as exposed as many others, but it generally wasn't a warm place either. Now those were the days before Skins and thermal base layers and all that techno stuff, so FB usually found himself bound up in several sweaters - at least 5 until well into June. A modelling contract with Michelin was always promised but never materialised.
As FB took the field the temperature dropped gradually, until 15 overs or so into the innings, snow flakes began to dance in the icy wind. It was not clear if this was a hindrance more to batting or bowling, and the game situation was evenly poised, so the umpires just thrust their hands deeper into their pockets and play continued uninterrupted. It seems common sense that only in blizzard conditions should play be stopped - gentle snowfalls are well within the range of playable conditions. Men were men in those days. Even so, FB was standing at slip and the thought crossed his mind that if the ball came fast to him one of the icicles that were his fingers could just snap off. His violin playing days would be over. Not that they had ever started but you get the point. Exposure quotient a competitive 8.
But these experiences are gentle compared to the range of exposure conditions offered by the grounds in Edinburgh. Here is the top 4 with survival tips.
Peffermill – Edinburgh University’s fields are exposed to wind from all angles, which is where it generally comes from at great velocity - all angles. The changing rooms are half a mile away. There is no shelter. Players with a weak bladder should plan well ahead or cast modesty aside. They should check they are pointing downwind to save further embarrassment or discomfort. Players should find the benefit of a beanie worn under a helmet . Any cap should be fixed firmly to the forehead to maintain its position – nails, staples or superglue are among the limited range of effective fixatives for this purpose. Exposure quotient 25…and counting.
Meggetland – Slightly protected from the south wind which ever blows in Edinburgh, Meggetland offers the victim of frostbite an industrialised view including the green green grass of an Asda superstore. Many a sufferer has, in the first stages of hypothermic delirium, hallucinated that he is buying warm food and clothing there and is heard appealing for LBW with the novel phrase ‘Customer Service 600 – Aisle 5 please.’ Umpires generally ignore this shout – just as they do in Asda. Exposure quotient 15.
Inverleith – the spectacular backdrop of the Castle and St Giles are an inadequate compensation for a cricketer huddled for non- existent shelter against the west wind that sweeps across this flat expanse of prairie. The second square is a taxi ride away from the dressing rooms. Cricketers may wish to establish a base camp about half way there and rest before the onward journey. While a couple of trees provide a semblance of shelter they are no protection when the wind is in the east and a cricketer can feel every Siberian frosty breath. Exposure quotient 14.
Myreside – it is sometimes possible to find shelter from the prevailing wind in the lee of the wall next to the scoreboard and huddled parents can be found there witnessing the ghastly rites of school matches while their youngsters appear unaffected by the sub zero temperatures as they cavort in short sleeve shirts and goosepimples. Generations of parents have discovered that Myreside has the paradoxical effect of being colder when the sun is shining that when it is not. This may indicate that it has a special configuration of ley lines passing across it. Exposure quotient 13.
Fantasy Bob is sure that Cricket Scotland’s many followers will have their own nominations for this prestigious list of the most exposed cricket ground in the world. He looks forward to hearing those nominations.
PS – FB really has a deep affection for any place where cricket is played.