I KNEW this would happen!
When the Test is on everyone wants to play cricket.
That’s okay. I can play cricket. Give me a fielding position with the word “deep” in it, like deep leg, or deep cover, or whatever they call it, and I can go through all the right motions.
The intense concentration on my face and in my demeanour as I stand like a coiled leopard waiting to pounce on the ball is almost poetic to behold.
If anyone actually hit the thing in my direction it might be different, but at least I can look the part. And you’d be surprised how many runs you can appear to have scored just by holding a bat over your shoulder and running when the other bloke hits the ball.
Patting the occasional imaginary divot back into the pitch with your bat enhances the illusion.
But now it’s the Australian Open. And tennis is a different ball game (well, obviously, I suppose, but I mean metaphorically speaking).
When the office gets tennis mania I try to be in the lavatory. This year I mistimed it. There are more differences between tennis and cricket than you might realise.
You can play cricket in long pants that don’t expose legs as white as celery sticks. You can, as I say, look like you know what you’re doing without actually doing very much. The shape of the bat hasn’t changed much in the past 50 years.
But in tennis you have to move about. You have to move about a lot! And very quickly, on legs that look like witchetty grubs that are pleased to see you.
You have to endure young people laughing at your wooden racquet in its wooden press (and if you have to ask what a wooden press is then you’re obviously one of the smart-arsed under-40s that I’m talking about).
You have to be able to raise your arms above your head, unless you serve under-arm, and that would be more humiliating than having people laugh at your over-arm serve.
I thought it would be different. I remember tennis. It involved white clothes and girls who giggled when they missed the ball and were happy to let you win and ponce about the court in a masculine way.
But it’s more than just the racquet that’s changed. They changed the psychology. Cricket remains a civilised game with few gender battles because basically only one gender plays it very much.
Tennis, on the other hand, is about trying to kill people. Especially people of the opposite sex. Especially if the opposite sex is male.
It wouldn’t have mattered in the old days when I could move around the court without the aid of stick. Now it’s like a war zone. I am covered in humiliation and round bruises.
If anyone else in the office tells me to take it easy I’m going to kill them.
And if anyone suggests line dancing would be more my style I’m going to kill myself.