CRICKET, LOVELY VILLAGE CRICKET.......
The past few days have been `difficult` - which simply understates the reality. Car bombs in London, terror attack in Glasgow, devastating floods in the north of England and on this windswept, unpredictable Sunday afternoon I find myself breathing a metaphorical sigh of relief .
On the television, England are playing the West Indies in a one-day international at Lord`s. It`s a peaceful scene - the day is drifting by between the interruptions for showers but cricket - even in the accelerated tempo of a one-day game - seems to provide a constant reminder of quieter, more enjoyable times gone by among good friends playing the eternal game.
I played most of my cricket 50 years ago and more - at a time when there were no `leagues,` no competitions to be won or lost, when a whole season`s fixtures comprised nothing but `friendly` matches against other village teams spread throughout the countryside of Kent. Mostly they were afternoon games - bat for two hours, have tea, then the other team would bat, then down the pub for a convivial retrospect of the afternoon`s events. But there were also rare all-day matches home and away against clubs like Stone-cum-Ebony in the Isle of Oxney, down on the border of Romney Marsh. Another memorable annual fixture was against Dominica, a team of talented, gracious gentlemen of West Indian extraction from south-east London, who relished their visits to the countryside and the sloping ground at Basted. They always beat us quite soundly, but that wasn`t the point for us or for them.
Funny how I remember the fixture lists from all those years ago. They were good days - I filled my teenage weekends playing for Platt on Saturdays and Basted on Sundays and, despite my modest abilities with both bat and ball, I was quite astonishingly made captain of Basted when I was 18. Looking back now, it was the friendly nature of it all that made it so enjoyable....and made my captaincy a joy and not in any sense a burden.
I suppose that when one looks back at anything over so many years, there is the tendancy to reach for the rose-tinted spectacles and I`m no different. But I still cherish those days in the sun - the tea and sandwiches at 1/6d - the very, very occasional 50 - the even more occasional 5-wicket haul - the annual struggle to achieve the `Basted double` of 100 runs and 10 wickets in a season - the way each incoming batsman was applauded to the wicket - the complete absence of `sledging` - the unquestioning acceptance of umpiring decisions.....and the sadness when it all ended once I had been frogmarched away to do my National Service.
I played a bit when I came back, but the teams had dispersed, Basted had moved away from their idiosyncratic ground to the urban environment of Tonbridge and I, newly married, had other calls on my weekend time. But cricket still holds that rare quality of taking me away from the troubles of the `real world` even if there is more at stake in the game these days than just the sheer pleasure of playing it.
......over and out!!