No I'm not having any kind of dig at Mohammed Ali (Cassius Clay) I'm reporting on how things have changed in my past. In fact Mohammed Ali was one of my early heroes as I'm sure he was for many young lads at that time. There had never been anything like him before and I believe there has never been anyone as good since. May he rest in peace.
My father played cricket and I followed him in the 1960s for our local team. It was a very different game from that which we see today.
The first game in which I was involved was an away fixture for the third team. I was eleven years old. We were playing at Washington Chemical Works which was at a small ground, next to the road and close to the offices of WCW.
We fielded first, my father had taken me and was umpiring for our side, and I took a catch and received lots of plaudits from the men in the team. I was the only school-aged boy. It must have been early in the season as by the end of the match it was dark and we were relying on the lights from the offices behind the ground. We lost! I was not out 1 run. An inauspicious start to my cricketing career.
I mention this because in the amateur game there can be a struggle for kit - it isn't cheap. So some people don't have all white boots, socks, trousers, shirt and sweater; they may have to borrow bats or gloves; and, shades of white may vary. The game can look very different from the professional version, with their fancy kit and drinks breaks and so on. As a nostalgic glimpse into the past I visited the old ground where I spent seven happy seasons, practising and playing.
There was a game in progress. The actual standard of play didn't seem to be substantially different but there were a couple of aspects that caused me to smile. The first one was to see jugs of juice being brought out after an hours play.
Drinks breaks have become fashionable all over the world but began, understandably enough in hotter climates where there is a danger of dehydration, however it has become universal. The circumstances at New Silksworth last Saturday were somewhat different. Remembering that the ground is around three miles from the coast and there had been three or four days of chilly sea fret, hot soup may have been more appropriate.
Another aspect of amateur sport, and it isn't confined to cricket, is the dearth of sylph-like, high speed protagonists and a leaning towards the slightly overweight player. I know, I was one of the latter! I admire the people who are like that because they are trying and they love the game.
Sadly, my enjoyment was marred by something I saw by a spectator. As is the case with these small grounds car parking is on the edge of the pitch - almost. I was parked up facing the pitch and enjoying the comfort of my car seat rather than a wooden bench, which was the alternative. A car pulled up a couple of spaces from me and three young men go out and went towards the bar. A little later a couple of them returned to their vehicle and I observed one of the men inhaling something. It could have been anything but I felt that it was a drug, it was certainly a powder. To me it is so sad that some folk can't manage to do something as pleasant as spending a few hours in the sun watching a gentle game without it being chemically enhanced. You could argue that there was a bar there so alcohol was available too and I would agree that it is unnecessary during the game. However, with the bar the idea was to try and attract more spectators and increase the revenue and there were a number of families with children enjoying drinks, but drugs such as cocaine bring it to a different level.
Suffice it to say that my afternoon was marred somewhat.