A few days ago, I enrolled Bert Jr. (aged 7½) at our local cricket club. This is Phase 1 of Project Free-Test-Match-Tickets-For-Life-Because-Son-Is-England-Captain. The club was holding its junior indoor net. Eighteen kids, aged between 7 and 12, all being “organised” by two coaches (or, as I shall see them from now on, heroically misguided masochists).
As regular readers will recall, Bert Jr. is already a county cricket aficionado, having been to two days of the same match last summer. Keen therefore to become a fully rounded cricketist, he leapt at the chance to join a club. Obviously, Bert wasn’t without some knowledge of the basics of playing cricket. I had spent many a summer hour teaching him the fundamentals of a proper dead-bat defence, instead of his preferred pull for four over the patio table (and in one case his step-down-the-wicket lofted drive back over the bowlers head and, it must be admitted, over the house).
The session was all about running. As far as the coaches were concerned, this meant running between the wickets, carefully controlled by clear and decisive calling, aligning the body so as to maintain a view of the ball during the running and the proper technique for sliding the bat home. As far as the eighteen were concerned, it just meant running. Did I say heroic? The way they managed to keep going with the lesson to the widest possible distribution of children was truly magnificent.
“So you need to keep the bat in your left hand if the ball goes to the… Norman, sit down… goes to the leg… and you, Brian… side, so that you can… yes of course it meant you as well, Brian, why would you think it didn’t… can see the… stop throwing that ball, Derek… the ball at all… it’s your own time you’re wasting here, you know… times.”
The following morning, Bert Jr. elected not to watch CBBC while having his breakfast and instead tuned in to the last day of the first Test at Chittagong. He watched fascinated as the Bangladesh players put into practice (sort of) exactly what the coaches had said to do, stealing a yard or two as non-striker, clear calling and watching the ball. Bert’s mother came in, ashen-faced and clearly distraught at the turn our family life had taken. “But he’s learning,” I said, helpfully. “What can I do?”
Bert’s mother would consider a successful outcome to Project FTMTFLBSIEC to be the worst possible scenario. I’ve tried to warn her that it is inevitable and even more so with Bert’s younger brother, Ernie, who on top of having our family’s innate cricket skills was also born with David Gower’s hair.