Regular readers will know I like cricket though ‘like’ is a facile feeble flaccid word to describe the ludicrous passion I have for this game of ins and outs and meal breaks. The love began in the 1960s and runs like a lovely cover drive through my life since.
If you ask me to recall, say, 1970 it’s not a no 1 hit or holiday memory but the cancelled South African cricket tour and the replacement with a Rest of The World team, Garry Sobers batting with Barry Richards, Bajan with Blond South African as a symbol of the stupidity of Apartheid – not that I recognised the politics, nor even the brilliance of two of the greatest cricketers ever. No, I wanted my England to get them out and win. Good cricket played by England always topped Great Cricket.
I’m more discerning now.. no, that’s errant bollocks. I want England to win and if that means Quasimodo ugly then so be it.
Dad took me to my first Test match – 1971 versus India at the Oval. I sat on the rotting wooden bleachers and stared at the crowd, the gods in flannels and knew what obsession meant. John Jameson, Richard Hutton and Alan Knott were heroes that day – most followers would struggle to remember the first two but not me.
No, not me.
It became a thing, for dad and me, that trip to the cricket and that day at the Oval sometimes amazing sometimes desperately disappointing but each was, at least, a shared occasion, a point where we knew exactly what the other thought. We shared the same emotional response, dictated by eleven players representing England.
In 2005 dad died – March. I already had the tickets for our day at the Oval in August. It was a truly exceptional summer of cricket when suddenly it seemed England arose from 15 years of torpor to beat Australia, our oldest cricketing enemy. As I stood to acknowledge those eleven greats, I like a fair few in the ground shed a tear.
Of joy, yes, but also of loss and an absence too. He would have loved it.
So on Sunday at Lord’s I will be there to watch England take on New Zealand in a world cup final, the first final England have been in since 1992. I will be with my son and if England win – and they have never yet won – I will be deliriously happy and may even shed a tear or two. But one of them will be for the man not there, the man who would understand what I am feeling the man, the man who I like to imagine would turn to his son and say:
‘We did it boy, we bloody did it.’
And if we lose he’d smile and say:
‘Never mind, boy, next time, eh. Better team won.’
Not that he’d mean it.