By Richard Clark
There was much to celebrate at Bristol – Shafali & Sophia, Rana & Bhatia, Eccles (tone or cakes, take your pick), Brunt’s outswinger, Anya’s inswinger, THAT CATCH, the media positivity – social and mainstream – and plenty more besides.
But it’s not my intention to dwell on any of these because you will already have read and heard copious amounts on all of them. And because for all those stand-outs from a tremendous four days I came home with something else that will stick in my memory.
I don’t know whether they had just arrived, or perhaps had been sitting elsewhere up until then, but some time shortly before lunch on Saturday I became aware of people shuffling into their seats behind me. It turned out to be (one assumed) a father and two daughters, I’m guessing aged around 8 and 10, and for the next couple of hours the father – a patient chap, and clearly knowledgeable – took on the task of explaining to his girls what was happening.
We all know how difficult it is to describe cricket to the uninitiated. Where do you begin? And once you’ve begun, where do you end? The game is so utterly bonkers when you set about unravelling it all that even the most seasoned observer will readily admit to learning something new all the time.
But our man did his best, and his best was eminently passable, I assure you. Inevitably, though, the obvious question came soon enough from one of the girls. I can’t be sure – memory isn’t what it was these days – but I think it was after a few words centred on the square leg umpire being called “the square leg umpire.”
Every parent lives in dread of this question, the worst question your child can possibly ask. Worse even than “Are we nearly there yet?” Yes, that bad.
“Thank you for your explanation, father. However, I must inform you that, having given the matter due consideration, I consider it inadequate. Please try again, and do better this time.”
You have failed. In order to simplify things, maybe, you’ve tried to go for the lazy, half-cooked option and hoped to get away with it while she was distracted by that pigeon, or those clouds. But she saw you coming, and she’s not having it. Not only have you failed, but she has now pointed out to everyone around you that you have failed. Please try again, and do better this time. No pressure.
But at the same time it’s the BEST question you can be asked, because the alternative is a child who isn’t interested. And these girls WERE interested. So he did try better, and so the afternoon passed. There was never any hint of boredom, or mischief, just watching and chatting, chatting and watching. At one point even a tentative “Come on, Sophie,” was ventured by one of them, although it was in definite need of an exclamation mark that would have carried it across the Nevil Road ground and, who knows, might have sprung a much-needed wicket to spark an England victory march. Ah well…
Tellingly, when they all agreed to go home at the tea interval, it was the girls who were the more reluctant parties to the agreement. I suspect in the end there may have been bribery involved. We’ve all been there.
I tell this story apropos of nothing really. It’s not especially related to women’s cricket – after all, it could easily have been a couple of lads, and a men’s cricket match (and a mother, come to that). The scenario would have been the same. But the fact is, it wasn’t either of those things. It was two girls watching a women’s cricket match and learning about the game. And it was wonderful.
Follow Richard Clark on Twitter @glassboy68