I tend to think that cricket is the greatest thing that God ever created on earth — certainly greater than sex, although sex isn’t too bad either.
When young, I couldn’t imagine a time when I would not play football or cricket. Two sports of which I had some proficiency. Yet as I type these words, I have not played either ‘in anger’ for over 25 years.
Playing football was my first love, but I write in this week’s Reflection of cricket. While playing that game, I damaged my knee for a second time (the first was while coming to a stricken motorist’s aid to help move their car).
I was batting at the time. As the ball approached, I timed my stroke to perfection. The ball pinged from the centre of the bat and raced low and fast towards the boundary. I did not see it reach that far. By then I had fallen to the ground like a tree in the forest.
That second explosive injury in my knee meant surgery, physio, and an everlasting weakness. A weakness that ruled out playing the two sports I enjoyed.
I mentioned that football was my first love, but cricket is a far more convivial game. When I played it still retained something of the old-fashioned air of sporting conduct. The fielding team clapped the batter to the crease. Batters would also ‘walk’ if they believed themselves ‘out’. And after the game, the players mixed socially.
My bowling, beloved of those facing it, was of a gentle pace. My batting haphazard. At times, a stroke would see the ball fizzing to the boundary. At times, a missed stroke would send my middle stump cartwheeling. However, I could keep wicket, with capable hands and sharp reflexes.
After my injury, I did try umpiring, but my first match brought that to an ignominious end. To begin with, things had gone well with little contention on which to decide. Then a ball bowled in line, evaded a bat, and smacked a pad, dead centre. A cry of ‘howzat’ erupted. Not just from the fielders but also yours truly! My role as an officiater overwhelmed by the natural reactions of playing.
“Guess that’s out then, Ump” offered the smiling skipper of the fielding team.
As I raised my finger to confirm that decision, I received a look from the batter that could have solidified molten lava.
So, what’s the music to go with this week’s offering? I could have gone for Lord Beginner’s, ‘Victory Test Match’ with its “Cricket, lovely cricket”. Or 10cc’s ‘Dreadlock Holiday’ — “I don’t like cricket, oh no, I love it”
Instead, I’ve gone for Soul Limbo from Booker T. & the M.G.’s. They are an R&B band that hails from, of all countries, the USA. BBC Television first used the tune as the theme for its cricket coverage. BBC Radio’s Test Match Special then adopted it.
I have many memories of listening to Test Match Special. Especially in my working days when driving on cold, miserable, damp early mornings. The attraction of the overseas broadcast wasn’t so much England’s performance, it was the commentators. Their banter transporting me to sunnier and warmer climes.
As always with TMS, the cricket seems almost peripheral. In my early days of listening through the 60s and 70s, the commentators included John Arlot, Henry Blofeld, Christopher Martin-Jenkins, Brian Johnston, and Richie Benaud. Now there’s a new breed of commentators. Still, the style remains the same. Intelligent, sometimes irreverent, commentary and conversation, and as much a mention of cake and beards as wickets and sixes.
Going back to my playing days, I am proud that I am a qualified member of the Primary Club (I’ll leave you to Google that). I’ve always felt it an honour to wear the club tie.
Here’s the music …