From the Back Yard to the Back of Beyond.

I am sitting here typing whilst listening to the Backa Beyond, Spirit of the Forest; a band I saw a million years ago when you could go to gigs on a whim; I’m looking forward to being able to act a bit more impulsively, I am sure we all are. There is a distinct feeling of the 90s band ‘Deep Forest’ about it, music to play backgammon by (on a sun drenched Indian Ocean beach). Deep indeed. The Back of Beyond indeed.

FROM THE BACKYARD

Cricket has already been everywhere I have not. It is the annoying elder brother who does everything first and gets everything first, but then I suppose it is a few hundred years older than me. Reference ‘Master and Commander’ to see Russell Crowe as Captain Jack Aubrey or Matt Smith as Prince Philip in ‘The Crown’ in order to gauge the expected swopping of Cultures and History Cricket has been involved in. Gratifyingly it has generally been the one thing that has united people and embraced and straddled cultures with some ease. Amongst the tough tales of massacres in India and Pakistan, and slavery in the West Indies, the game of cricket has endured, and is now still loved in all its various forms. Yes, Basketball or even Golf seem to be the apple to many a young Caribbean’s eye at the moment, but as long as there is a Jason Gayle there will be a following. It was good to hear Vaughan and Tuffers praising him for his recent achievement of 1000 sixes in the IPL on their recent podcast.

What am I getting at? The very notion that Cricket is still our very best export. I have seen the love of football in East Africa, but there was a burgeoning Sunday Cricket Club. The East Africans of Indian descent generally headed up the cricket, but there was interest from other locals too. There were some very fluid run ups, and pacy deliveries displayed in the nets by some of the younger boys.

Having spent the last 5 years teaching in China and Tanzania, I have a good idea of how Cricket is being both played and accessed in these places. It is a world of good for the communities and schools. In the next few decades I believe China will adopt it in a very big way. The lack of presence it has in the Olympics means a Government wide investment is not for the moment forthcoming but I believe this could change, if only for the fact that the sport by its very nature can be defined by Tea Intervals. What’s not to love?

For an expat teacher I have found sport an excellent way of settling in to a new community. I found it a little easier to arrange tennis matches than I did cricket matches, but once you have played for a team, even if 8 of the other players are ‘duffers’ (as Arthur Ransom would have written), there will still be a couple who will be good for a pint.

If you can’t find your niche in Cricket, Tennis, Badminton, or T’ai Chi, music is another great way to get in with a community. One of my ex colleagues had the Summer of his life taking his guitar down to Yunnan and jamming with the locals. It helps that Yunnan is the Province of eternal Spring and the vibe is sweet. There is a Shangri-la out there. Just read ‘Lost Horizon’.

…TO THE BACK OF BEYOND.

The MCC Foundation is currently involved in work in Nepal, and perhaps we will see Cricket finally move over the Himalayas. The corridor forming the Karakoram Highway from Pakistan to China is another possible route, and with some International teams keen to start touring Pakistan again, I think word of mouth will act well. It’s only a matter of time.

In other news, just before the November Coronavirus lockdown, I had my first Real Tennis lesson. It is an amazing game. Unique and very enjoyable.

AND BACK AGAIN… REAL TENNIS AT THE MCC.

Thoughts on Aggers’ Superb Supermarket Column.

Given that the mag is free in Waitrose (PR Dept. feel free to get in touch and offer me those nice free coffees which seem to have vanished into thin air btw), have a read.

Jonathan’s article.

It takes a Pandemic to start nitpicking apart the Pensioners’ favourite Daytime TV programme, Pointless. But here goes. Amongst other things, Jonathan Agnew writes of his broken heart at hearing Alistair Cook being a Pointless answer. I’m not going to go into the rules of the game, if you don’t already know them, congratulations at taking WFH so seriously you never flick on the Telly. The Question : Name any cricketer who had captained England on six occasions or more. As our Jonathan points out, Sir Alistair captained England a record 59 times. How can this be? How can everyone not love cricket as much as me?

The point here is demographics. I have often thought back to my Geography and Maths classes at school when I hear of people conducting surveys. If you do your fieldwork on High Street Kensington you will get a very different set of 100 people than you would if you took a sample from a more financially deprived part of the UK. I have long thought Pointless should bear this in mind. Mr Armstrong should let his contestants know where the 100 people were captured. Where, Richard Agatha Christie Osman was the survey conducted? Anyway, it is after all Pointless, and it is pointless in me taking any of this too seriously. Pensioners and Cricket are unlikely to save the world from bloody Coronavirus. Or maybe not? Stranger things have happened in the Dover Straits that is for sure.

Aggers mentions that during a ‘Summer’ spent in the bio bubble, pretty envious to be honest – can think few better places to be than being in that bubble, (Vaughan looks quite handy at table tennis, but I still reckon I’d have him), he’s come to realise, money talks more than ever right now.

One does wonder if the Chinese pulling out of the Football Premiership sponsorship was a direct consequence of the Hauwei 5G ‘U’ turn. I can tell you, China can be pretty joined up in its thinking, and if you piss off Uncle Xi, you might only find out from nephew Deng.

Yes, visibility is key. These sportsmen need to be on TV or the connectivity we feel through live events just dies as a result of events not being attended. Looking forward to Mr Agnew’s next column. On the IPL?

At the business end of the day.

After a needed Saturday siesta, a Sichuan nap of sorts, I cycled down to the local village Cricket green to see if there was a game on. To my delight, there was. I propped my bicycle against the picket fencing sectioning off the Croquet court and watched the two in-batsmen stroking it around the field for an over or two, before strolling around a quarter of the boundary.

I struck up conversation with the lad fielding as sweeper, and after gleaning the scores, generously commented that it was close, at the same time thinking if that Bat continues to cream sixes the home side have no chance. Chasing around 210, the opposition stood strong at 160- 5.

Cracks started to show and after a lucky wicket from a full toss, the home side got the bit between their teeth. I was witnessing a come back. Only twenty four hours ago on TV I’d seen the English bowlers outwit the Aussies in the first of the 3 match 20/20 series, surely it couldn’t happen two days running?

There was the usual beautiful village cricket stuff : batsmen colliding with bowlers; a thwack on the kneecap from an effective but ungainly piece of fielding by a portly gentleman at mid off; banter.

Wickets continued to fall. Another dislodging of bails from a full toss. A well held catch at mid off. The home team were in the running. The score was not nudging beyond the 180s and the visiting XI seemed to be throwing away their chances.

I think there was above all a feeling of relief to be out there playing, and I for one was feeling joy at just watching some live cricket. In the end, the home team did it. A glance and a nick down the leg side, with a catch held by the keeper saw an unforeseen (from my book) victory.

Cycling away down the lane I thought how scenic it was, the late Summer / early Autumn evening sun streaming through the leaves giving a dappled lighting, highlighting the flying insects.

Engaging with Cricket!

Playing the game and watching the game is in my blood, and Corona Virus has meant very little of both over the Summer of 2020. So where have I got my fix? In the most random of places.

The most enjoyable game was a game of beach cricket during the heatwave about a month ago. I love beach cricket. Young and old unite and there’s always the sea to admire. During a weekend visit to Bath recently it was very relaxing sitting in comfy leather chairs, sheltered from the cool breeze by floor to ceiling glass looking out on the square and watching a batsman from Bristol bring up his 100 by driving a six out the ground over long on.

Aside from these instances, I have enjoyed watching and listening to the England team play both the West Indies and Pakistan. The Rose Bowl and Old Trafford have stood up and accommodated the necessary bubbles. As Agnew mentioned, it would have been superb for James Anderson to have the crowd urging him on to 600, but hey, at least he got there. It really does seem like only yesterday that he was passing Sir Ian’s total of 383. There you go, time, like the tide, waits for no man.

Cricket during CoronaVirus

There has not been much. A few months ago it was announced the England team would not be touring Sri Lanka. Three West Indies players pulled out of the tour to England, which is to be played to empty arenas.

The IPL simply has not happened.

When you see the likes of Ben Stokes placing Energy Drinks at the forefront of the image for social media clips, you know times are tight.

The flip side of all this is my MCC Associate Membership has come through, twelve years after filling out the application form.

Cape Town Thriller

When the Cape Town Test was moved from Boxing Day to the New Year I was pretty gutted as I was hoping to go, and the teacher holiday would have allowed for the Boxing Day Test but not one starting on the 3rd. As things turned out I was to return to England for another hernia operation anyway, so it was all academic.

When Test Matches go to the full five five days, and especially deep in to the last session, it is a treat. I left school after a pretty good workshop (to be fair) on Dyslexia, and drove the Toyota Colorado up to the local bar Smileys. I need to reboot my DSTV (Sky) subscription but that requires jumping on the back of a ‘boda’ (motorcycle taxi), scooting into town, queuing, and paying money to kick start another month or so. The lazy and time saving option was to just drive to the bar.

It was 4 months ago, and in the same place that I watched Ben Stokes keep the Ashes alive at Headingley. This time it was his bowling at the death that won through. For a few minutes I believed he might just do it with a hat-trick. It was a superb team effort, and I’m sad I missed watching us beat the Saffers at Cape Town for the first time since 1957, but at least the hernia operation is over with.

Stokes keeps Ashes Alive!

Where were you?

Everyone thought the wheels had fallen off. Let’s be honest. Dead and buried.

The Ashes had been tossed away in a session. 67 all out. Disappointment.

But between 3.19pm and 4.19pm last Sunday something very magical happened.

Ben Stokes pulled off the most remarkable come back in Cricket I have ever seen.

Was that a dream? A fairytale?

Thank you Ben Stokes.
ArushaSTOKES