‘Me? At my peak I was about six feet tall & weighed under ten & a half stones.’
‘So you were a batsman then? Using your reach & light weight to move effortlessly into place, before executing a perfect drive through the covers?’
‘So (& I’m sorry to get personal here) you used the power from your ample backside to thunder into the crease, scaring the wits out of batsmen the length & breadth of the country?’
‘Er, no again, sorry.’
‘So what did you do that made you such a successful cricketer?’
‘Well I’ve got buckets for hands. Oh &, like my father, I was left handed. Is it making sense now…?
So began the Test Match Special interview that never was. The TMS team were never going to interview me about my career. Players who don’t make it beyond the 2nd X1 of a couple of very average teams in the Manchester Association rarely are interviewed on national radio – certainly not about their cricketing exploits. Ah well. Did my lack of success diminish my love for greatest sport ever invented? Did it fiddlesticks!! (You haven’t just dropped a catch off my bowling, reader, so I’ll keep the language polite.)
So what is it I love so much about cricket? To answer that question, let us start by looking at a couple of other sports that are popular with amateurs – football & rugby union. In both sports, to succeed at even a lowly level it helps to be physically big. Sure, in football, you will occasionally come across a slightly built but technically gifted midfielder. However, he will be greatly outnumbered by the man mountains in the defence & forward line. As for rugby union, the need for big men is even greater. Long gone are the days when the half-backs were slightly built guys who could wriggle their way through the opposition. ‘You want to play at scrum-half, son? Come back when you are six inches taller & two stones heavier.’ Well that stopped me ever enjoying either aforementioned sports, irrespective of a complete lack of ability.
Cricket, on the other hand? Well, at all levels of the sport, but particularly at club level, I’ve seen all sorts of physical specimens have success. Bit of a short-arse are you? Doesn’t matter, you can still become a decent batsman (for a start you won’t have to duck as frequently when the short pitched stuff is flying around) in the manner of the late Harry Pilling or, for that matter, any number of teenagers playing for their club first team. Want to bowl spin? Well I’m sure that the MCC boffins have, under lock & key, the blueprint for the next English Murali but don’t let that worry you. I’ve seen spin bowlers who looked no more like Murali than I look like Miss World. Big guys, little guys, in between guys…they could all bowl spin with varying degrees of success. One thing they never lacked was enthusiasm. See yourself as the next great fielding sensation? Jonty Rhodes your hero? Again, don’t worry that you are only five & a half feet tall & weigh close to fourteen stones…we’ll put you in the slips & with those large hands of yours & your mental speed of reaction you can take twenty catches a season to turn our season into a successful one.
The above examples are but a few of the hundreds that I could quote, at all levels of the sport, but particularly at club level. There are, as this site proves, hundreds of reasons to love cricket. However, cricket remains, even at its highest level, the one major sport where size really does not matter.