It’s a baking hot day here in the UK, and I’m not watching cricket. Not that unusual an event for most people to be fair, but unlike a lot of people, I like the cricket. I would have liked to watch some today, but it’s probably for the best – I might have melted. It’s too hot. I got the usual ‘girls don’t tend to like cricket’ response to my queries about cricket, closely followed by ‘you’re definitely in a minority’. Well, yes, this is not a surprise to anyone really, I don’t do conformity as a rule.
Girls do like cricket, just as much as boys do. Of course they do. I did a quick straw poll of friends – all the girls liked cricket (more than one said they loved it) and only 50% of the boys actually liked cricket. OK, I do tend to hang around in the minority groups so this probably isn’t a surprise, either way. I have one friend who waxes lyrical about how attractive she finds her husband when he’s playing cricket. It’s definitely a good spectator sport.
My dad likes cricket, but it was my ex who got me hooked. I spent 9 years dating a man from West Yorkshire – you have to like cricket if you date a Yorkshireman or you spend a lot of time alone in the summer, that’s just part of the territory. And it’s addictive, really addictive, you pick it up whether you intend to or not. I watched my ex play in local club cricket, I went to cricket matches with him, and cricket was always on the radio because that was all his dad listened to in the summer. I’ve learned a lot, and apart from the field placings (which I still get very confused about) I’ve got a pretty good handle on the game, I can even identify an lbw dismissal most of the time (go and look it up if you don’t know what it is).
The first time I knew I’d been bitten by the cricket bug was the summer of 1998 when England beat South Africa at Headingly – it was a test match and we went on the Sunday, the day England won. The sun was shining and I was with my ex and his family. It was non-stop action and lots of runs were being scored and South Africa lost their final few wickets at what seemed like a rate of knots. Of course this was all over the course of a day, so probably not as quick as it felt at all, but it was really exciting to watch as I’d never been to an international match before. It’s really lovely memory too, which is good considering what we all had to go on to deal with.
I used to live by Edgbaston cricket ground, on a sunny weekend we used to crack open the windows and listen to the cricket along with the radio commentary. I don’t understand how people don’t like cricket – it’s synonymous with a sunny summer day in my world, although I will disappear to watch tennis if there’s a conflict. I guess it’s not as fast and frenetic as some sports, not as immediately rewarding, but that’s part of its charm for me. I regularly sit in the garden at weekends when L is at her dad’s and listen to whatever international cricket match is being broadcast.
Girls do like cricket, just as much as boys do, it’s just that cricket is not the most popular sport for anyone. Not all boys like cricket either (I’ll go out on a limb and say not all Yorkshiremen do either, but they probably keep it quiet). Gender has nothing to do with it from what I can see. Girls do play cricket, of course they do, the England Women’s Cricket team are evidence of this. It’s not just a boy’s game. But girls aren’t usually given the opportunity to play cricket at school, that’s where the issue is from my perspective.
I was lucky, being on all the sports teams meant we got to try out some of the sports we didn’t normally do in games lessons (including lacrosse, which is a completely mad game). One of my friends became a fan of playing rugby and another was good at football, most of us loved basketball. I’m diabolical at football, but while I can catch and bat reasonably well in cricket, I’m utterly hopeless at throwing as I’ve got wonky elbows. Really, they are. They’re either put together slightly skew-whiff or being slightly hypermobile means the tendons developed in a peculiar manner; either way, my elbow faces the wrong direction (downwards instead of sideways when arms are stretched out). But, the point is that I got an opportunity in sport that others in my school didn’t get.
I don’t know if it’s improved or not, I’ll find out when L goes to big school I reckon, but if they’re still just playing hockey, rounders and netball I’ll be having words. All sports should be tried by all children – how else will they find what they’re good at? If the boys at my school had tried netball like we’d tried football, perhaps we wouldn’t have given them such a thrashing when we had a girls vs boys tournament! We beat them 17-2 in netball, seriously lads, were you moving at all?! They beat us 2-1 in football if you’re interested, perfectly respectable.
But today I wasn’t allowed to go and watch cricket, I think mostly because it wasn’t a very good venue. That doesn’t matter to me, certainly not on a day like today, but apparently it’s a factor, which is sweet. This can be interpreted several ways, but the equivalent to me is music, so if it’s like this I get it. I wouldn’t want someone to come and watch me play in a concert at a crappy venue. First time viewing would ideally be one of the cooler places I’ve played, such as The Royal Festival Hall in London, or the Birmingham Town Hall (for anyone who doesn’t know these venues, yes I am totally bragging right now!) I’m not likely to play in these places again, but a proper venue and not a crappy church hall, with a decent band such as my old band or orchestra in Birmingham would be how I’d want a newbie to see me play. I don’t know if this is the correct analogy or not, but I suspect it’s close.
So at some point, hopefully soon, I’ll be permitted to watch a cricket match, and I’m genuinely looking forward to it. Because I like cricket. Yes, indeed I do, girls like cricket too.