Nick Ahad: ‘I don’t like cricket... oh no... I love it’ – just don’t ask me why

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Memory’s a funny thing, isn’t it?

A few weeks ago I was a guest on the Yorkshire Post’s Cricket Talk podcast and recounted the story of when I faced Ryan Sidebottom at Headingley – and recalled the inevitable result of me (opening batsman, Craven League Division Four) facing Sidebottom (Yorkshire and England opening bowler).

The Sports Ed, knowing I would find a way to mention it during the podcast anyhow, asked me about scoring (my only) century and who it was against.

My mind went blank (Eldwick and Gilstead) and I just couldn’t remember.

Odd that I could recall exactly how far back my middle stump travelled past the keeper when facing Sidebottom and yet failed to bring to mind the name of the team I scored my one and only ton against.

I guess we don’t really have a choice in what the old memory bank allows us to withdraw.

This is a roundabout attempt to explain something a little complex.

I, obviously, love newspapers. Over the years I have filed away in the memory bank certain articles that are simply stunning and the day I get anywhere close to writing something as good, I will finally sit back and think ‘job done’.

One such piece is Hunter S Thompson’s article on the Kentucky Derby.

Another is Tom Junod’s article The Falling Man from a 2003 edition of Esquire and finally perhaps the most brilliant and heartbreaking piece of journalism I’ve ever discovered, The Peekaboo Paradox, which appeared in the Washington Post in 2006.

Seriously, track them down on the internet – once you’ve finished with Sports Monday, obviously.

Another piece I can’t seem to shake out of the old noggin’s filing cabinet is an article from the Guardian, which appeared in April 2009.

A first person piece, it was written anonymously by a mother who confessed she felt only resentment when her child was born.

What’s odd is that the piece should have remained with me at all.

I’m not a parent, the article wasn’t particularly well written like those others I’ve mentioned, so why ‘I didn’t Love My Baby, by Anonymous’ stuck in my head and remains there is a mystery.

At least, it was, until I solved the mystery on the cricket field a couple of weeks ago.

The woman who wrote that piece, confessing the horror she felt when she realised she didn’t love her child, was something to which I could relate.

And the reason is this: every now and then... I’m fighting back tears at my own bravery here... I don’t like cricket.

Wow. I can’t believe I wrote that.

But really, I don’t.

My one true love, I sometimes think, is a pain in the backside.

There comes a moment, every couple of years, when I look around on a sunny Saturday afternoon and think “What. On. Earth. Am I doing here?”.

Normal people are in the pub, shopping, hanging out with loved ones and I’m chasing a ball around a field or sitting on a bench outside the pavilion, contemplating another personal low score, smoking too much and watching my team stand on the precipice of another disastrous batting collapse. Sometimes I really don’t like my first love. Sometimes, I positively despise cricket.

“But Nick”, I know you’re thinking, “you’re always popping up here in Sports Monday, waxing lyrical about your deep passion for the game”.

True, but let me tell you about the last month.

The first two games of my 2012 season: rained off. Third game, up against a slow bowler on a bog patch, our team bowled out for 29. Fourth game got far too ungentlemanly (see And Another Thing...).

Then, the fifth game.

The morning of the fifth game of the season, the third one we were actually going to be able to play, I got changed into my whites by 11am down at our home ground.

I wasn’t in my whites early because I was keen, but because I had driven to the ground in a t-shirt, was freezing, and I had packed three jumpers with my kit.

As I roped off a patch that was more bog than cricket pitch and frankly not a little lethal to whoever was unfortunate enough to have to field there, I paused for a moment.

I looked around this sodding patch of what sometimes appears to me as paradise and thought ‘I really hope we get rained off and I can go and spend the day in the cinema’.

We ended up playing – another thriller in which the teams scored a combined total of 80 runs with yours truly contributing the square root of nowt – and I hated every moment of the damned game.

I hated the fact that every Saturday of the summer I drag myself to the field of battle.

I hated the fact that it’s now three years since I scored a century and I hated the fact that it was a cold, miserable day and all that lay in store was going to be a cold, miserable match.

At this point the filing cabinet in my memory bank dug out something else and I started to hum a tune.

Then the words came...

“I don’t like cricket... oh no... I love it.”

We can’t help ourselves, us weekend cricketers.

And I realised that, no matter how miserable the game ahead would be, my memory would play its old tricks and eventually I would remember this is another beautiful season.

and another thing...

It’s lovely writing these columns and hearing from readers who tell me I’m not alone in being consumed with an obsession for a sporting pastime when the obsession is not matched by similar amounts of talent.

However. A couple of weeks ago I was involved in a game where this column bit me in the backside. Hard.

I opened the batting for Airedale and from ball one the ‘keeper and lad at cover were wondering, aloud – a very loud aloud – what I might write that coming week. I thought these columns were a way to share the triumphs and disasters that occur on the weekend cricket fields familiar to many, but they were less keen on my wonderings – ever since I called into question the behaviour of one of their lads last season (in my defence I never named him).

After the game one of the team contacted me to ask if I would be writing about my, frankly appalling behaviour, when the sledging irritated me to the point of answering back. The answer’s yes and I take no pride in saying that I was way out of line in responding to the sledging. It’s one thing to opine here that we need to respect the spirit of the game – but I really must remember to carry that on to the field.