Chris Waters: Standing room only at Headingley ... for just 50p a ticket!
Quite often, the world of international sport can seem a somewhat cold and cheerless place, played by fiercely competitive people in an atmosphere in which humour can be at something of a premium – witness the recent Test series between South Africa and Australia.
Better still, some would say, that levity came at the expense of a “southerner” in the shape of Surrey’s Sam Curran, who made his debut in the match against Pakistan.
According to impeccable authority, it happened something like this...
Curran, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, playing his first Test, got his first look at the new stand being built at the Rugby Stand end.
As you may know, that stand is in the formative stages of construction, with only half of it beginning to look like one, with a large gap existing that enables you to see from the Carnegie Pavilion at the Kirkstall Lane end of the cricket ground right through to the new stand being built on the far side of Headingley’s adjacent rugby stadium.
Curran, who turned 20 years old on the third and final day of the Test, was said to have been somewhat surprised at the cricket stand’s semi-finished state, with the area resembling a glorified building site.
“Is that it?” he asked Root, a tad perplexed. To which Root returned: “Yes, that’s it. They’ve deliberately left a big gap there so that Yorkshire can sell the seats on the far side of the rugby ground so that people can watch the cricket from a distance.”
Root went on: “The idea is to charge 50p, because Yorkshire folk don’t like to pay too much money to watch their cricket, as a means of trying to boost the attendance.”
Hanging on his captain’s every word, and with no reason to doubt it, Curran replied: “Oh really? That’s great.”
Apologies if those quotes are not strictly verbatim, but who says that humour is dead in international sport?
Levity aside, the new stand has all the makings of becoming an impressive edifice, one in front of which the highly-gifted Curran will no doubt enjoy plenty of success in the coming years, along with Root.
It will raise Headingley’s capacity to 18,350, helping Yorkshire to retain international cricket going forward, and it will be known as the Emerald Stand, in line with the ground’s correct title of Emerald Headingley.
At one county game earlier this season, I heard the new stand brilliantly dubbed by a colleague as the “Toblerone Stand”, seeing as parts of it presently resemble pieces of the Swiss chocolate bar layered in concrete.
Of course, it will look somewhat different when the seats are in place, with the stand on course to be finished in time for next year’s World Cup and Ashes series, when Headingley will be a ground transformed.
Alas, by then, Root’s 50p seats will have depreciated heavily in value, for the simple reason that they will no longer afford a view of the cricket – only the back of the Emerald Stand.
The gap now present will be a thing of the past, with only Root’s sharp humour to remind us of how it used to be.