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.
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’.
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.