Tuesday, March 24, 2009
6:37 pm gmt
Observer March 15th
It was a Test series which received a lot of stick. The boys on the OBO were scathing,
the TMS team, who in less inisistent times would have simply opened another crate of claret and got on with it, were critical,
and even Geoffrey Boycott, blocker turned broadcaster, had the gall to wade in. All of which surprised me, because I loved
The first inkling that I might be taking this year's Wisden trophy more seriously than its predecessors
emerged when the abandonment of the Antigua test caused me to froth at the mouth. In other years I might not even have known
it was due to take place, this time I paced the living room anxiously searching for new things which might be able to fill
my time. This was either a symptom of having developed a profound love for the game or a sign that I had taken early retirement
(apparently this being yet another one of those things where one is always the last to know, the penny only dropping when
you open the door of a morning and realize you have nowhere to go). Whichever, I was very grateful to all those who made the
3rd Test possible.
And what a Test it was. It had runs galore and nearly the full compliment of wickets and ended
with men crowded round the bat as England strived in vain to level the series. You can't ask for more than that, but,
in a different way, we received it in Barbados. The scores give you the story with a brutal simplicity:
England 600 for
6 (3.91 runs per over)
West Indies 749 for 9 (3.84 r.p.o)
England 279 for 2 (3.44 r.p.o)
I watched or listened
to every ball, lapsing into a trance like state which was both calming and beneficial for the soul.
It was what
one traitorious Yorshireman now living in Jersey might once have called 'proper cricket'. Luckily, Jamaica offered
more of the same, The carpers (see first paragraph) continued to carp. Their enjoyment of the show perhaps hampered by the
conditions under which they were watching it. It must be hard to enjoy proper cricket if you have to keep sifting through
your in-box and lobbing out the odd reply or, arguably more stressful, sit sweating over your next podcast. The non-working
man, in contrast, can close his eyes and dream. A position from which, counter-intuitively, he can see more clearly than the
For instance, while Chanderpaul was making his 361 ball 147 not out I was honing my next bid for literary
stardom. The Myersons (mere, pere and fils) it struck me had been cute, but not cute enough. How much sharper the story if
it had been the eldest son writing a book about throwing his father out ('There is a glass-fronted box in the corner of
every child's room, protecting the lives of their parents: Smash Only In Case Of Emergency. THIS IS AN EMRGENCY')
for dossing about the house in ill-fitting T shirts and trying to knock out a living selling skunk to the younger siblings.
The Myersons had written a musical, I had a masterpiece on my hands.
I was about to get on the phone to my agent,
or, more accurately, get on the phone to an agent, when Kevin Pietersen started batting and the West Indies started collapsing
and after nine and a half days of wonderful tedium the cricket became unbelievably tense as the West Indies suddenly looked
as if they might not win their first series since they scubbed a 1-0 against Bangladesh five years ago (those who criticised
their tactics failing to realize this and being the kind of people who criticised the mighty Liverpool for passing back to
Bruce Grobbelaar 200 odd times a game) and the tension reached such a pitch that the whole thing became unwatchable. And I
had to go next door for a lie down.