Monday, August 24, 2009


This is not the space for a cricket commentary or opinion piece. Others will do that far more articulately and with much greater expertise than me. But I played cricket, at a very low level, for a few years. And all I want to say is that you need to have played a game or two to realise just how difficult it is.

The only thing I was any good at was catching. I was a nimble fielder with very good reactions. In one of my last seasons I took a catch at square leg. The ball was hooked and came at me very fast. There is no time to think in such circumstances. Practice and experience tells you the position to get your hands in and how to give a little at the moment of impact to stop the ball bouncing out again.

I took the catch and then noticed that the webbing between the little and ring fingers of my left hand had split. Get your fingers in slightly the wrong position and that ball is very hard and very dangerous. Notice Ricky Ponting doing the post match interview with the scar of a ball's seam across his mouth. It's one of the many details that you only get to know if you play. The ball is hard. It hurts when it hits. It could kill you. It comes fast.

Those 22 guys who have been playing Tests for the last few weeks have had few injuries and have made amazingly few mistakes. In what other sport do you have to concentrate for two hours in case something happens and then have to dive to take a blinding catch? Ask a slip fielder on a flat track how they manage to keep their eyes on every ball.

It was good to watch England win but it was better to see how good those 22 players were at a very difficult sport. Respect.

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