Lord's casts a spell over the very best of us
On Monday night I sat at The Address Hotel opposite Burj Khalifa and watched in awe the display that brought life to the world's tallest building. I could not believe the quantity of fireworks that were propelled out of those innocuous, devilish little boxes positioned up and down the side of the Burj. From where I was positioned those boxes were about the size of a cricket abdominal guard. There's no way you could have packed that much firepower in to my old cricket box but if it was any one in the West Indian cricket team then absolutely.
Then I got to wondering about this Christmas break and the things I have been up to. Now that I am in retirement, how would I equate these holiday experiences across to my cricket career and what would it compare to? Well for starters, I'm going to begin with what I just witnessed: the opening of the Burj. There's only one comparison: Test cricket at Lords. When you play at HQ it is quite surreal. My first impression of it was as a young professional playing for Nottinghamshire.
You walk the staircase of the main pavilion, up two big flights of stairs. You then open the dressing-room doors, turning the same handle that all the greatest players in the world have turned (I'm a monster historian of the game, bordering on anorak) and you get goose bumps. Normally when you enter a dressing room any number of things occur. Firstly, though, you look for a strategic place to make your home for the next four days. Key things to look for when setting yourself up in a dressing room are how many pegs are in the vicinity to hang your gear; making sure you're not close to the door or toilet and keeping away from the drinks machine.
But when I walked in that first time at Lord's I dropped the bags and floated over to the balcony to cast an eye out over the home of cricket. Me, this little bloke from Picton, New Zealand standing there made me feel part of cricket folklore. Everything was perfect. The stands, the outfield, the scoreboard, everything. What's so ironic about the most perfect ground in the world is its imperfection. It has a seven-foot gradient running across the pitch and, in olden times, the gradient's size was referred to as the equivalent of a gentleman with a top hat.
This creates a slope that plays a big part in the match. The ball moves with the slope, dependent on which end you are bowling from. I always struggled from the Pavilion End as I felt it made me jump in towards the wickets in my delivery. Sir Richard Hadlee and Glenn McGrath always bowled from the Pavilion End and they were a lot better than me, bowled at the wrong end. I then went back inside and focused my eyes for the next round of goose bumps: the honours board. This is for those who are lucky enough to score a hundred or take five wickets during a Test match there.
Your name is immortalised, suspended in time, recording your feats for those future generations to look at and ask "Was he really any good?" Now because everyone in your team is already there and set up in their places, I had no choice where to plant myself. The next four days were spent next to the messiest, smelliest bloke in our team. But I didn't care a hoot. This was Lord's and I loved every second of it.
The next part of my festive holiday is having a good middle ground: a New Year's Eve party at our house. Good crew, good food and drink plus a midnight dive in the pool fully clothed meant 2010 was brought in memorably. This I would equate to a one-day win against Australia. Like New Year's Eve, beating Australia, for us, normally came round once a year so we made a good celebratory feast of it.
Because it didn't happen that often then the Australian blokes were usually quite happy we won also as it meant staying at the ground and sharing a good drop or two with them in the dressing room till the wee small hours. And lastly the not so good stuff, for which there are few candidates. Cleaning up and loading the dishwasher I hate. Mopping the floors is definitely heinous. Cleaning up my dog Max's deposits I can stomach, but only when he's on dry food. When your mother in law is feeding him human food all Christmas this means a good dose of the runs for Max.
However, over my Christmas break it is Ikea construction that takes the cake with the pain-in-the-rear award. I know it's a great company and these Swedish dudes are smart when it comes to preparing this stuff for us, the DIY challenge. But it's just so thankless. If you get it right it's no big deal, any idiot can follow instructions. But get it wrong and it's remembered at every dinner party for the rest of your life only because the back of someone's dinner chair unceremoniously collapsed and you knew you should have included those extra screws that you thought were surplus.
This thankless Ikea task in the cricket world is like being 12th man. A job created by cricket people to give other cricket people a slave. Now when you're not 12th man, part of your job as a player is to totally abuse the person who is unlucky enough to be in that role. It is a philosophy handed down by senior players in the team and achieved by asking the "twelfy" to get any item you desire. This ranges from extra jumpers and sun cream to the phone number of the good-looking girl on the far side of the ground.
The whole concept is to never be 12th man. Make sure you are always playing or do such a bad job at it that you are never asked back. Simple. I hope 2010 will treat you all well and I truly wish you all, the very best. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Published: January 7, 2010 04:00 AM