George Four-well returns with a blistering satire on the current state of the game and its relationship with those who aren’t quite as good as the rest. As if by fate, we pick up the action in Chapter (two-thousand-and) Ten…
There were many more countries in the game now, though the increase was not so great as had been expected in earlier years. Many associates had been born; to whom the Rebellion was only a dim tradition, passed on by word of mouth. Others had been bought who had never heard mention of such a thing before their arrival. The game possessed three forces now besides Kenya. They were fine upstanding beasts, willing workers and good comrades, but very candid. They accepted everything that they were told about the Rebellion and the principles of Associatism, especially from Kenya, for whom they had an almost filial respect; but it was doubtful whether they understood very much of it.
The game was more prosperous now, and better organised: it had even been enlarged by two fields which had been bought from Mr. Stanford. The Dubai HQ had been successfully completed at last, and various new buildings had been added to it. Australia had bought itself a dogcart – they called it Mitchell. The Dubai office, however, had not after all been used for generating political power. It was used for milling scorn, and brought in a handsome money profit. The Associates were hard at work building yet another windfall; when that one was finished, so it was said, the dynamos would be installed. But the luxuries of which Sri Lanka had once taught the Associates to dream, the move to the ‘top flight’ and ODI and Test status, and the five-day games, were no longer talked about. ICC had dismissed such ideas as contrary to the spirit of Associatism . The truest happiness, they said, lay in working hard and living frugally.
Somehow it seemed as though the game had grown richer without making the Associates themselves any richer – except, of course, for the Full Members. Perhaps this was partly because there were so many Full Members. It was not that these creatures did not work, after their fashion. There was, as ICC was never tired of explaining, endless work in the supervision and organisation of the game. Much of this work was of a kind that the other Associates were too ignorant to understand. For example, ICC told them that the Full Members had to expend enormous labours every year upon mysterious things called “series,” “sponsors,” “central contracts,” and “Ravi Shastri.” These were large sheets of paper which had to be closely covered with writing, and as soon as they were so covered, they were burnt in the furnace of live television coverage. This was of the highest importance for the welfare of the game, ICC said. But still, neither Full Members produced any food by their own endeavour; and there were very many of them, and their appetites were always good.
As for the others, their life, so far as they knew, was as it had always been. They were generally hungry, they needed more, they drank from the pool, they laboured in the fields; in winter they were troubled by the cold, and in summer by the flies. Sometimes the older ones among them racked their dim memories and tried to determine whether in the early days of the Rebellion, things had been better or worse than now. They could not remember. There was nothing with which they could compare their present lives: they had nothing to go upon except ICC’s lists of figures, which invariably demonstrated that everything was getting better and better. The Associates found the problem insoluble; in any case, they had little time for speculating on such things now. Only old Canada professed to remember every detail of its long life and to know that things never had been, nor ever could be much better or much worse – hunger, hardship, and disappointment being, so he said, the unalterable law of cricket’s hierarchy.
And yet, the Associates never gave up hope. More, they never lost, even for an instant, their sense of honour and privilege in being members of Associate Farm. They were still the only farm able to show up England, owned and humiliated by Associates. And when they heard the crowd booming and saw the badly written placards fluttering at the Pavilion End (U WIL WIN SACHIN 4 INDIA LOL!!!11), their hearts swelled with imperishable pride, and the talk turned always towards the old heroic days. None of the old dreams had been abandoned. The Republic of the Associates which had been foretold, when the green fields of England should be trodden by minnow feet, was still believed in. Some day it was coming: it might not be soon, it might not be with in the lifetime of any Associate now living, but still it was coming. It might be that their lives were hard and that not all of their hopes had been fulfilled; but they were conscious that they were not as other Associates. If they worked hard, at least they worked for themselves. No team among them went upon last legs. No creature called any other creature “Master.” All Associates were equal.
One day in early summer ICC ordered the Full Members to follow him, and led them out to a piece of waste ground (or the MCG, as it’s colloquially known) at the other end of the farm, which had become overgrown with weak saplings like Steve Smith. The Full Members spent the whole day there browsing at the leaves under ICC’s supervision. In the evening he returned to the Dubai HQ himself, but, as it was warm weather, told the Full Members to stay where they were. It ended by their remaining there for a whole week, during which time the other Associates saw nothing of them. ICC was with them for the greater part of every day. It was, he said, teaching them to sing a new song, for which privacy was needed.
It was just after the Full Members had returned, on a pleasant evening when the Associates had finished work and were making their way back to the Intercontinental Cup, that the terrified neighing of a team sounded from the yard. Startled, the Associates stopped in their tracks. It was Ireland’s voice. It neighed again, and all the Associates broke into a gallop and rushed into the yard. Then they saw what Ireland had seen.
It was India walking at its own behest.
A little awkwardly, as though not quite used to supporting its considerable bulk in that position, but with perfect balance, it was strolling across the yard. And a moment later, out from the door of the farmhouse came a long file of Full Members, all walking at their own behest. Some did it better than others, one or two were even a trifle unsteady and looked as though they would have liked the support of a stick, but every one of them made its way right round the yard successfully. And finally there was a tremendous baying and a shrill crowing, and out came ICC itself, majestically upright, casting haughty glances from side to side.
It carried a whip.
There was a deadly silence. Amazed, terrified, huddling together, the Associates watched the long line of Full Members march slowly round the yard. It was as though the World Cup had turned upside-down. Then there came a moment when the first shock had worn off and when, in spite of the habit, developed through long years, of never complaining, never criticising, no matter what happened – they might have uttered some word of protest. But just at that moment, as though at a signal, all the Full Members burst out into a tremendous bleating of:
“Members good, Full Members better! Members good, Full Members better! Members good, Full Members better!”
It went on for five minutes without stopping. And by the time the Full Members had quieted down, the chance to utter any protest had passed, for the teams had marched back into the pavilion.
Netherlands felt a nose nuzzling at its shoulder. He looked round. It was Kenya. Its old eyes looked dimmer than ever. Without saying anything, it tugged gently at it’s team bus and drove it round to the end of the Media Centre, where the Seven Cricket Commandments were written. For a minute or two they stood gazing at the tatted wall with its white lettering.
“My sight is failing,” it said finally. “Even when I was young I could not have read what was written there. But it appears to me that that wall looks different. Are the Seven Cricket Commandments the same as they used to be, Netherlands?”
For once Netherlands consented to break its rule, and it read out to Kenya what was written on the wall. There was nothing there now except a single Commandment. It ran:
ALL TEAMS ARE EQUAL
BUT SOME TEAM ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS
After that it did not seem strange when next day the Full Members who were supervising the work of the game all carried whips. It did not seem strange to learn that the Full Members had bought themselves an UDRS set, were arranging to install a website, and had taken out subscriptions to SPIN, AOC and the Wisden Cricketer. It did not seem strange when the ICC was seen strolling in the outfield with a pipe in its mouth – no, not even when the Full Members took Old Father Time’s clothes out of the wardrobes and put them on, ICC itself appearing in a black coat, ratcatcher breeches, and leather leggings, while its favourite India appeared in the watered silk dress which Mrs. Father Time had been used to wear for the Sunday League.
… alas we leave it there as Four-well continues on to recount the union of the Full Member and the businessman under the wise leadership of the ICC and Mr Modi representing a consortium of premier interests. Nothing would surely go wrong…