Posted by: Paul | November 27, 2010

Five reasons why I now enjoy Test Cricket.

In honour of the Ashes being underway in Australia, here’s my cricketing journey to enlightenment.

1. 2005.
OK, so I bandwagon-jumped. I certainly wasn’t the only person to do so. Beating Australia in 2005 caught my attention for two main reasons – (a) it was one of those sporting summers which brought the country together, like Euro 96 for cricket, and (b) it involved us beating Australia at something for the first time in years. And oh, how we English love to lord it over the Aussies at every available opportunity, which have been precious few and far between in recent years. Kids joined cricket clubs all over the country as a result, and there’s a lot to like about an event that motivates people to get active.

2. I’m older.
My Dad has been a cricket fan for as long as I can remember. Much like gardening, enjoyment of cricket was not something I ever thought I’d inherit. My young mind was racing all over the place, I had no attention span, and cricket just seemed so, well, boring. Matches took forever with seemingly nothing happening, sometimes for hours. As I’ve grown up I’ve grown a modicum of patience (though my family will dispute that!), and both an attention span and an obsessive love of statistical detail which cricket provides in spades. Once you’ve tuned into it’s wavelength, it draws you in like little else.

3. The tactical ebb and flow results in great drama.
I was attempting to explain the basics of cricket to an American friend during this summer, and her jaw hit the floor when I explained that the most elite form of the game was played over five days. “Five days?” she said, incredulous. “Five whole days and still nobody wins?” But this is the part I love – being a fan of drama, cricket provides everything a good narrative should – a beginning, middle and end, conflict aplenty, cliffhangers (resumed the next day), the unlikeliest of comebacks, and defeats snatched from the jaws of victory. I cheered tail-end batsman Monty Panesar saving a draw against South Africa last summer when all looked lost. You don’t find moments like that in any other sport!

4. It’s just brilliant radio to decorate to.
This is really the reason I got into it in 2005. We were stripping wallpaper in the spare room and I got fed up with music radio, and I tuned into Radio 4 longwave instead of FM. I was up a ladder painting coving and ceilings and couldn’t be bothered to get down and retune the radio so I stayed listening to Test Match Special. And stayed. And stayed. And stayed some more. The banter between the various presenters, experts and ex-cricketers was jovial and engaging, and the tension in each over, partnership, innings and match builds gradually. Before you know it you’re hooked!

5. It baffles other people.
I like to have things I feel are ‘mine’. I can then spend time trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to engage other people in my interests and spread the word, knowing I liked it before them. There’s a certain magnanimous sense of self-satisfaction in that which gives me a feeling of superiority when others can’t understand what I’m going on about. That’s entirely selfish I know! But it gives me the chance, when they look blankly back, to shrug and say “well, there are just some things that are difficult to get your head around. Maybe one day you’ll understand!”

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