A young lad, with a big grin, asked me the other day if I was “a weekend cricketer”. Not a phrase I recognised but the meaning was clear. Did I actually know anything about cricket or had I jumped on the bandwagon?
I will readily admit that the fielding positions sometimes leave me stumped – silly mid-wicket, this slip, that slip – but I did score 6 out of 6 on the quiz Colin subjected me to. All about the umpire's movements. I can tell the difference between a six and a four, a wide and a leg-by.
For quite sometime, I wanted to adopt the recently retired Umpire Shepherd as my grandad. I was quite alarmed and saddened when I discovered he was only a couple of years older than my dad. He looks just like a grandad should.
So, how did I grow from a early-twenties someone totally baffled by cricket to an early-thirties someone who genuinely enjoys it? Henry Blofeld. I could listen to him for hours on Radio Four. Blowers builds up such a vivid picture in your mind. Twinkle-toes Tendulka; Freddie running up like a baby elephant to bowl. And it isn't just the cricket. We get to hear all about the geese, the sea-gulls, the buses passing by. Such a pleasant way to while away the time.
My interest has been sustained by the great sportsmanship that still exists in cricket. Competitiveness and aggression clearly play their part but there is an overwhelming sense of fair-play and respect. One of the enduring images from the series will be Freddie placing a hand on Brett Lee's shoulder in a touching gesture of consolation while the rest of the England team were bouncing round the field celebrating.
Most men now accept that women can watch football – at the ground, on the tv – and sustain a conversation on the topic. Cricket, I have discovered, is another matter. It was nearly an all male-affair at school which is surprising. I would have thought the atmosphere and values on display over the summer would appeal to women more than the testosterone-fuelled antics and often raw-chauvinism witnessed on football pitches. Perhaps the rules make the sport seem impenetrable. Let's hope the win will encourage people, especially women and children, to get involved in the sport. And more importantly let's hope cricket, for all its successes, doesn't go the way of the sport it magnificently overshadowed for the past couple of months.