The sheer beauty of village cricket... | Jack Marshall's column
Plenty of phrases from the cricketing vernacular have wheedled their way into the everyday lexicon. ‘Hit for six’ = to be shocked, ‘play with a straight bat’ = avoiding controversy, ‘had a good innings’ = dying at an acceptable age.
But one example I personally love is ‘that’s so village’. Something ‘village’ is comically low-rent, almost to the point of pride. Because, while we notionally play the same sport, there could not be more difference between what professional and village cricketers get up to.
I joined my local cricket club three months ago. I’d never played before, having grown up abroad in a country where cricket is to locals what Greco-Roman wrestling is to Jimmy Anderson. But I became a fan through my dad, and so vowed to play at uni in the UK.
Then, somehow - mysteriously - drinking and going out became more appealing than spending entire afternoons fielding. Goodness knows how that happened, but as a result, my cricketing career - sure to be stellar - was again put on hold. Laziness set in.
Realising I’d actually have to make an effort to play cricket if I wanted to play cricket, I signed up ahead of this season. But cricket clubs tend to be populated by three categories of players: wizened veterans, first-teamers in their prime, and promising youngsters.
As a 27-year-old with zero experience, I fell neatly outside these parameters and into a whole new category: the amateurishly-useless grown man who repeatedly gets outplayed by pensioners and who finds it infinitely harder to pick up new skills than younger players.
I embody ‘village’.
Filling in for a first team which has previously featured Test players but which was, at the start of the season, low on numbers, I’ve dropped two catches, batted twice, been out first-ball once, edged a four, and not bowled. In the seconds, the first ball I did bowl went to the boundary.
But I’m nothing if not keen. A career as some kind of low-rent Ben Stokes may no longer be in the offing as it once assuredly was, but spending Saturdays in the sun wise-cracking with a bunch of cricket fans isn’t the worst fate in the world.
And, I’ve discovered the key to village cricket: its ‘village’ nature is its selling point. Balls getting lost in rivers, comical run-outs, outfields which slope with a hill or feature the odd tree - it’s all part of the charm.
Plus, village cricketers tend to spend Sunday nights in the clubhouse, where I can once again indulge the passion which consumed my university years with gusto. ‘Village’? That’s a compliment.