This blog will not be written from out in the middle. I don’t play cricket. Never have, really, apart from a consistently unsuccessful school career where I never got picked for the school team, and the unavailability of toughened plastic lenses to enable me to play in glasses proved rather a handicap – and a solitary day’s single-wicket competition on a mudbath of a wicket in Bourn, Cambridgeshire on which, remarkably, I did manage to get a few runs.
I merely watch cricket. Not even on television these days, since I don’t have Sky, and not at Test matches: just county cricket – and even then, not at echoing, empty stadia, but, resolutely, only at picturesque festival grounds. I make an exception for a few county grounds like Canterbury and Hove. All this does narrow the focus, I grant you.
I don’t much mind who wins, either: I go to watch play – that’s all. I go for a nice day out: an occasion. And that’s what I shall write about. Not about whether Ian Bell should be in the Test side, or whether KP should be recalled, or who’s going to win the next World Cup. How should I know, even if I cared enough? I usually travel a fair way to see a day’s cricket, so I expect more than just 90-odd overs of a particular game: I hope for an event, and I’m interested in how and why it becomes one, and what kind. When the trend of sports coverage seems ever more concentrated on the minutiae of a game itself, with endless counter-factual speculations on how tactics, decisions and outcomes could and should have been different, I’m of the opposite inclination: easily distracted; a divergent thinker, I guess would be the technical term.
I’m on the outside: casting an eye on the action from my metaphorical hammock slung between those two trees beyond the boundary rope. That’s what’s intriguing and important about sport: that, while its oblivious exponents and aficionados are so caught up in this strange exclusive ritual, everything else that has nothing to do with sport is still coming into it. You get a good view of all that, swinging idly in your hammock.