Northstand Critic: My second sporting love
A regular contributor to the Football Mail's letters page many moons ago, the Northstand Critic has got back in touch.
Here are his thoughts on his second sporting love...
As Pompey head off to Gander Green Lane to continue their pre-season preparations today, I’m offering a change of direction for the regular followers of this page.
In previous weeks I have rambled on about my first love – association football.
Today, apologies in advance, I will try not to do likewise with my secondary sporting d’amour, although I can already see Mrs Northstand rolling her eyes.
Many football widows abhor the lengthy football season, as their partner’s mind appears distant, while they try to instil some form of reality and perspective.
In my case, you can throw in the odd Grand Prix, all golf majors, international rugby union, the Olympics, the Wimbledon fortnight and cricket into the mix.
Luckily for me, the latter of all these is a passion I share with the very patient and understanding Mrs Northstand.
Today, we will both be making our annual pilgrimage to Lord’s, to see England in the first Test against Pakistan.
It is a day we both look forward to all year.
Ever since my first visit to the home of cricket, back in 1977, the anticipation, excitement and feeling of being in such a special place has not diminished.
Mrs Northstand, during our courting days, had the important job of scorer bestowed upon her – for the motley XI I was representing at the time.
She was exceptional in this role. Knowledgeable, neat, accurate and efficient and also very popular with the team.
She loved to watch the game, especially when I was batting.
Not to admire my array of strokes – I only had three, the forward defensive, the backward defensive and the more favoured exaggerated leave.
But when I was at the crease, so very little happened, it gave my multi-tasking better half, time to help prepare tea.
Meanwhile, back in the Mound Stand – my preferred viewpoint at NW10 – watching the cricket is an experience to behold, regardless of the result.
Unlike the win-at-all-cost ethics of football.
I retain some of my most cherished sporting memories from defeated visits to the sacred St John’s Wood venue.
I witnessed England getting absolutely smashed by the Aussies 12 months ago – yet I still enjoyed another amazing day.
The main reason you are assured of this experience is because you are almost guaranteed to be in great company.
Whether you are sat next to an Englishman, a Pakistani, an Indian or an Aussie.
Regardless of your neighbour’s nationality, they are cricket fans first and foremost.
As a self-confessed people watcher, one of the highlights of my Lord’s visit is to – during the luncheon interval – circumnavigate the entire ground.
Looking at, and listening to, the whole gamut of cricketing society.
The smells emanating from the various Nursery End eateries and the musical accompaniment of the impromptu buskers enhance the special Lord’s atmosphere.
I titter slightly at the many ageing men in egg-and-bacon attire, out-ridiculousing the fancy-dressers.
As I approach the elite, many of whom are busy quaffing Champers in the Harris Garden, I try not to encroach and remain silent, so to avoid recreating my own Eliza Dolittle moment.
I marvel at this Marylebone institution that allows the Northstands and the Boycotts of this world to rub shoulders with the Blofelds and the Majors in one large cricketing family.
I am already looking forward to my 40th anniversary visit next year!