Caught at gully: or not caught at gully…

Those of you who know me well will know that it speaks volumes for me just to be able to say “I played cricket last Saturday”. But what a game! It had everything. Drama, flair and courage. This was my comeback game after maybe six years or something like that. And it was all made possible by the neurosurgery and implantation of electrodes deep in my brain in November. Not all of you follow my Parkinson’s ‘exploits’ but my Parky pals will know how much it meant to me.

Cricket is a metaphor for life. A metaphor for the twists and turns of life, its myriad subtleties and nuances. There is a rugged poetry about the game of cricket, its ebb and flow, it’s embodiment of courage, loneliness, concentration and panache. As any cricketer will gladly quote to you “cricket is a team game played by individuals”. Games are won and lost on that elusive combination of individual moments. That moment when a huge strike lands just over the boundary rope when it could, just as easily, have fallen into the waiting fielder’s hands, thereby annulling what went on to be a huge half-century. This is cricket.

But yesterday’s game however was different. Brooksy, the skipper, had let it be known, via the club’s Facebook page, that this was my ‘comeback’ game. That in itself was amazing and I was overwhelmed by the kind wishes from so many of the best cricketers I know. Some simply wished me the best of luck. Others reminisced about games we had played together in the past. We had legends visit us at Cousley Wood – Mick ‘Mitch’ Mitchell, lethal fast bowler from years gone by, Steve Dunkerley, my first captain all those years back and still one of the best cricketers I’ve met, Fudgie Maynard, mother of Charlie, whom I played alongside and saw develop into a very good whippy fast bowler. Charlie not Fudgie! And so on.

It was that kind of day. And if Heathfield Park cricket club had played its part correctly would have been an epic victory by a handful of runs. But fairytales rarely happen and the cold dark statistics tell the tale. We lost by one wicket. After several hours of ebb and flow, cut and thrust, something and something else, they won by one wicket.

To be honest that’s the way you want it, to go down to the wire with everything still to play for. The formula is simple nowadays – win or lose. No subtle draws, battled out over hours of grim self-denial. Only swashbuckling wins and desperate defeats.

Cricket is a game full of maybes. Maybe we could have got off to a better start. Maybe we could have held more catches. Maybe, just maybe. And when you come to talk about a game, it’s turning those maybes into realities that define the sport.

And I had my chance later on, as an individual, to win the game for my team. A sharp low chance diving to my right. Got a hand to it but couldn’t hold on. Maybe I could have seen the chance marginally sooner against the sunlight. Maybe I could have extended my fingers those few inches to take the catch. But I didn’t. And a few overs later, the game was lost.

If you had asked me before the game whether I would settle for one moment, one chance of glory, of course I would. And that’s what I got. That one chance. In the fairytale version, the way it was scripted, I would have held the catch, been a hero and had more beer bought for me than I could possibly drink. Another day.

Cricket is truly a metaphor for life. And you will never hear me complain. To be able to play club cricket, at however low a level, has been one of the great pleasures of my adult life. And the friends I have made along the way will, one day I hope, become the cornerstones of a cricketing novel.

Well, maybe.