Sometimes in life you have to try and keep a sense of proportion.
For some months now, from the side-lines, I’ve been following the Rust sports department’s campaigns seeking to condemn drugs cheats absolutely and point out the absurdities inherent in the PC-backed thrust to get elite female sports star equivalent pay and coverage with their male counterparts because … er … of (presumably) some primeval sense of entitlement and a conviction that true equality between the sexes will not be achieved unless and until they do.
At the same time – to be fair – I’ve also been conscious of the fact that nothing can stop hold back the essential truth that society and the world around us is always evolving and changing, and one of the inevitable bugbears of growing older is that there’s an accompanying danger of being left behind if, for good or ill, one doesn’t embrace everything that’s happening in the 21st Century.
Nobody wants to get a reputation for being a dinosaur, stuck in the past, holding forth to a ever-diminishing number of folk about ‘the good old days’ – or rather perhaps a somewhat rose-tinted glasses version thereof in which everything was then perfect, standards of integrity were universal and a chap could always sleep easy in his bed knowing that when he woke again the following morning everything was going to be exactly the same as it had been the night before and indeed (thankfully) would always be.
From a personal perspective I like to think that I’ve remained steady in a healthy position of respecting and wishing to conserve the great positives of yore and yet also being open-minded enough to embrace the new whatever it might be.
As a youngster it was a staple of my annual sporting year. At school we played football in the autumn, rugby in the spring and cricket all through the summer term and the long vacation – and lessons were regarded by one and all as series of unnatural interruptions that filled in time between one sporting contest and the next.
Like all those with a degree of competence at sport, I liked to both bat and bowl. I was never what is described as ‘a natural ball games player’ but managed to hold my own as an enthusiastic middle order batsman (usually going in somewhere between 5 and 9).
Initially as an opening fast (well, just above military medium) bowler, later developing – for the sheer hell of it, having been mucking about in the nets – a secondary role as that peculiar and rare item, a slow left arm, round the wicket, operator whose stock ball was a ‘Chinaman’ (a left-armer’s off-spinner) that came out the back of my hand.
My biggest cricketing hero at the time was Garry Sobers and – if he could do everything – then why couldn’t I?
As you do, after school and long into adulthood I kept playing in casually-organised cricket matches – I once scored 92 in an inter-company game and, at the age of 19, having been invited to play for a proper local village team in one of their fixtures, I took 4 for 10 with my Chinamen.
Other than that, I was about as average as you could get and it didn’t matter anyway because I was only ever playing for the fun and social side of things.
That was until I reached the age of about 52 or 53.
It was a sobering experience because – lack of practice or not – it was the first time in my life that I realised my reflexes and timing were “shot”.
It was a ‘hit and giggle’ game in which naturally everyone got a turn to bowl and bat. My team fielded first and I was posted to the square leg boundary. The first time the ball was hit firmly in my direction, I immediately went down into the classic fielder’s position – half-kneeling, side-on, ready to receive the ball and then return it to the bowler’s end with one of my whipped overarm throws.
The only trouble was, by the time I’d adopted said ‘receiving’ position the bloody pill had already whistled past me, over the boundary and into the wood beyond. And it wasn’t the only time that happened to me that afternoon!
I only bowled one over because after it I took myself off.
Far from troubling the batsman with my unorthodox left arm spin, I was unable to land the ball on the pitch – my first four balls went straight through to the wicket-keeper (my aforementioned brother) at head-high level!
As it happened, given the way the game went, I didn’t get to bat when our innings came around. However, the overall experience was enough. I made an instant and since unregretted decision to retire from cricket altogether.
Which brings me back to 2019 and some recent developments that caused me to rethink my decision never to trouble a cricket scoreboard again.
It may have escaped some Rusters, but at the beginning of this month – with a degree of fanfare – Cricket Australia announced its first-ever transgender policy for elite cricket, which will allow those self-identifying as female to play women’s cricket provided, in line with the ICC’s gender recognition policy, their concentration of testosterone in serum has been less than 10 nanomoles per litre continuously for at least 12 months: – see here for a link to a report on the website of – ESPNCRICINFO
Since reading of this development I have purchased a gross of testosterone-suppressant tablets via a well-known online source and am now embarked upon a programme of taking one per day and also nipping down to my local village club where, on Thursday afternoons, those over 60 can use the nets for free between 2.00pm and 5.00pm.
It’s early days yet, of course, but then you have to start somewhere.
If, like me, you’ve had a boyhood ambition one day to play cricket for England in an Ashes series what could be more enticing that the prospect of playing in the next women’s series, to be played in Australia in 2021 I believe – especially when with only one five-day Test to play and then a few one-dayers, even someone like me, who’ll be nearing 70 by then, should be able to last the distance?
I was also much encouraged overnight by coming across this report by Sean Ingle on the ECB’s enthusiastic adoption of Australia Cricket’s far-sighted policy as appears today upon the website of – THE GUARDIAN