A World Cup tale of hope and hopelessness from rainy Bristol


There’s an ‘Ellis Boyd Redding’ feel about the Cricket World Cup today.

I’m sat amid the media throng in the English city of Bristol, gazing out across the ‘Brightside Ground’ – which is looking anything but ‘Bright’ – hopes of play between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka fading with each passing minute.

So, I find my thoughts wandering to Morgan Freeman’s iconic portrayal of ‘Red’ in the 1994 classic ‘The Shawshank Redemption.’ Confused? Let me explain.

‘Red,’ despite being the ‘man who knows how to get things,’ spends 90% of the grisly prison drama as the voice of pessimism or fate. The ‘only guilty man in Shawshank’ lives a life of institutionalised resignation.

Periodically, he is provoked concerning ‘hope’ by the film’s other central character ‘Andy Dufresne’ – wrongly incarcerated for the murder of his wife and her lover. But ‘Red,’ apparently too cynical isn’t for turning.

‘Hope is a dangerous thing,’ he tells Andy one day in the prison yard. ‘Hope can drive a man insane.’

There are parallels with that conversation and this murky morning, soon to be afternoon in Bristol.

Tarpaulins cover the entire pitch and square, leaving the outfield to bear the wrath of the rain which has fallen here for more than 20 hours.

The umpires have had a cursory look and others are planned, but they carry the sense of observing mere protocol. Sooner, or later, there is an inevitability that the arbiters of this match will bow to the weather gods and call the whole thing off.

To be fair it’s been hopeless for quite some time. For several days weather radars have been predicting this wall to wall rain. The tiny bit of Dufresne in each one of us tries to ignore it, telling ourselves, ‘maybe they’re wrong.’

Yet even as we rolled south-west on the bus, ‘Red’ resurfaced amid ever-darkening skies.

The walk up to the ground deepened the sense of gloom and once inside the site of the blotter – the machine used to soak up water from the playing surface, depositing gallons beyond the boundary rope confirms our worst fears.

Not that anyone seems to have told the vocal band of vibrant Bangladeshi fans, some of whom travelled down on the bus with me from central London at an ungodly hour this morning. They are festive, waving their flags, banging their drum and blowing their horns. They are if you like the Dufresne voice of hope calling out to the ‘Reds’ amongst us to believe for better.

Their calls are though unheeded amongst the battle-hardened hacks, me included. Like ‘Red,’ the British amongst us at least have seen this scenario unfold many times. Therefore, the joyful sounds will be drowned out by the suffocating Bristol rains. This truly is hopeless.

It’s 2pm and the inevitable has happened – match abandoned and after a final chorus the Bangladeshi fans have retreated to drier climes. For both players and fans alike it’s an adventure diluted, not to say wasted.

So that’s the end of that. But it’s not the whole story as I remind myself it wasn’t for Red either.

Those of you who have seen The Shawshank Redemption will know Dufresne, refusing to be crushed by Shawshank’s oppressive regime, finally makes good his escape and when Red eventually gets released, he’s persuaded by his friend to commit parole violation and take another bus journey across the Mexican border, the spark of hope for something better well and truly lit.

The World Cup will move on too – Sri Lanka to London to face Australia at the Oval on Saturday, while Bangladesh head further west to Taunton to take on the West Indies. So, a fresh challenge awaits.

No doubt the Bangladesh hoards, complete with instruments, will make the journey again as full of hope and vigour as ever.

And my next stop comes in the early hours of Saturday morning – destination Cardiff for Afghanistan versus South Africa.

As with Red, hope means there’s always another bus.


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