Cricket: trickier than it looks, but great fun at the same time | Jack Marshall's column

Joe Root, Ben Stokes, and Jimmy Anderson all make it look so easy.

Monday, 3rd May 2021, 7:00 am
England and Lancashire pace bowler Jimmy Anderson, who is from Burnley

See ball, hit ball. Eyes on the prize, steady yourself, take the catch. Measure out your run up, jog in, release. Simples.

Not simples.

As a long-term cricket tragic who fell in love with the sport as a 14-year-old then-naive and misguided enough to ask his dad why he was indulging something as dull as Test cricket (I vivdly remember thinking ‘how can this thing have the temerity to call itself a spectator sport?’), I have finally started playing at the age of 27.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The immediate verdict is this: it’s an awfully hard sport to get to grips with on a tangibly first-person level when your sole point of reference is 13 years of watching the elite of the elite make pretty much every single aspect of it look exceedingly easy.

Heading down to my first net session with palms sweaty with nerves, I found the people to be nothing short of universally lovely and welcoming. Then again, if you’re the kind of person who willingly submits themselves to such a cruelly punishing sport for fun, a jovial and laissez faire attitude comes in handy.

The bowling has gone okay, save for the odd delivery spitting out at a wonky angle. Back muscles I previously had yet to become acquainted with now ache and it turns out that repeatedly crashing down on your left ankle, as bowling demands, can make it a little sore.

But when it goes right and you bowl a batsman, entice an edge, or even draw out a mistimed waft, the sense of superiority is intoxicating. As well as the financial rewards, I can now see why Jimmy has stuck about for 160 Tests.

The batting has been less fruitful which, as a happy-go-lucky swatter with middling-at-best hand-eye coordination, is hardly surprising. One of the first-team’s top-order batsmen accurately described me as the kind of shot-maker whose eyes light up like a pinball machine more often than not.

The fielding could take some work too, but I’m nothing if not a willing trier. And that’s what being part of the club is all about for me: trying my hand at something which I have loved for a vast proportion of my life. I’d love to be brilliant at it, but what I most want is to enjoy it.

And so I may not have Joe Root’s timing, Ben Stokes’ general all-round brilliance, or Jimmy Anderson’s sheer skillfulness, but if I can have even a fraction as good a time as they do playing a bit of cricket, well then that’s alright with me.