One English summer many years ago, I was fortunate enough to go with my mum and dad on a caravan holiday to Recluver, a resort perched on the banks of the Thames Estuary. It’s on the Kentish Riviera. Apparently. This was the stretch of the estuary where Barns Wallace and the RAF tested the Bouncing Bomb for the Dambusters raid. If they’d have ever strayed with their bomb aiming devices they were in danger of hitting Reculver itself, at risk of causing at least 7 Bob’s worth of damage. The wind never got up much past a Force 8, and the temperatures hovered around the 10° mark. Fahrenheit.
The rain came down at an obtuse angle and our static caravan was parked between two others. One was occupied by a family from Rhyl who’d come down to try electricity for themselves and to see if the streets of Kent really were paved with bricks; and the other was rim-full with a bunch of soccer fans from Leeds who like mooning out of the window and came complete with their own, hand-designed, hand-carved tattoos on their necks.
There was one concrete shower block with no hot running water. Or cold. The amusement Arcade was closed for refurbishment. A sign in the window said it would re-open in 1974. That had already been and gone a few years back. The corner shop didn’t sell sweets. I was too young to smoke No. 6 and they wouldn’t serve me a can of Ind Coope Long Life pale ale.
For the 6 days we were there, the only entertainment to be had was watching a game (of sorts) taking place on the mud and shingle beach. In lieu of anything interesting to do, and while Dad sensibly went fishing for prime Kentish River Sewage, I went down with my mum to watch it.
A football tournament had been arranged. It was for the over 57 years olds from the surrounding villages and institutions, 14-a-side, with 3 goalies per team and 4ft wide goals. 3 hours each-way and using a medicine ball as a football.
Sadly only two teams had entered, so for 6 days (and often nights) the same two teams played each other for the right to meet each other in the final at the end of the week. Throughout the round-robin stages of the tournament, there was everything to play for, seeing as each of the 8 matches (they played as Home and Away) had ended up in a thrilling 0-0 draw. Lots were drawn to decide who’d go thru to the semis, and then the final.
Sadly for me, the final was played on the afternoon we were coming home, so I never got to know who won. As we left, it was nil- nil and they were playing Golden Goal injury time. If you’re ever driving down the Thanet way, take a look for me will you ?: They’re probably still playing.
Anyway, I tell you this because all of the above was still a more pleasurable experience, was more interesting and entertaining than watching Test Cricket in India. It’s the dullest thing since my marriage (for starters, my marriage was over quicker than this current innings). This opener of a scheduled four 5-Day Test matches illustrates finally why Test Match cricket in India is dying a death. Why the locals are more interested in 20-20, driving at speed on the wrong side of the road, and working for Virgin Media at a call centre. Anything would be preferable to this. Cricket is often described as a contest between bat and ball. This is a contest between bat and boredom. The ball ain’t in it. Even if (and when) the English get skittled for less than 100 – the pace of this game is glacial. No wonder the pyjama game is king on the sub-continent.
If anyone ever offers you two free flights to India, with two tickets to watch Test cricket at Ahmedabad for Five days, all hotels and meals included, do yourself a favour – book yourself in to a static caravan in Reculver. You’ll thank me later (and take your boots, just in case).