Blast of Summer

Summer is not yet here, I suppose, but it feels like it, partly because it is so warm, but also because between two lessons yesterday afternoon I was able to listen to a few overs of the Test Match.

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The Test Match, for the uniformed, is the cricket – for the semi-informed, it is the proper cricket, distinct from the one-day forms of the game (so-called 20-20 and 50-over cricket, the latter being the format used in the World Cup).

I was able to listen to the Test Match because just now for a couple of weeks the English team is in the Caribbean, the Caribbean islands playing together as one country (uniquely, I think, in sport). They are known as the West Indies. When I was growing up in the 1970s and 80s the West Indies were about the most terrifying sporting object imaginable: physically menacing, supremely talented, world-conquering, unbeatable.

They are not unbeatable or world-conquering any more. But it is still vaguely marvellous to me to be able to turn on the radio and hear live commentary on the cricket, something I first experienced in the 1980s when I would wake up an hour earlier than necessary and tune in to the end of the day’s play in India, over a crackly, indistinct line. Lying in bed before school in the dead of winter listening to familiar commentators several thousand miles and half-a-dozen time zones away talking about summer sport unfolding in front of them was disconcerting miraculous.

And some of those familiar commentators are still going strong. Last week the greatest of them all, Australian Ritchie Benaud, died at the age of 84, but Tony Cozier, who was commentating on test matches with the West Indies as far back as the 1960s, was chatting away yesterday in between balls. He is only 75 years old, so has a fair few miles left on the clock.

So, not yet summer. But things are starting to converge…

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