We’re floating in space

On Friday I watched almost the entire first ODI between England and Australia. With about an hour to go, I realized something: there hadn’t been any commercials. Not a single one. And then I thought: maybe this is why I love cricket? Or, at least, maybe this is why one reason why I love cricket.

My whole life I have, like most people, abhorred commercial breaks. The blasting, insulting wall of noise that assaults us every five minutes or so. But unlike a lot of people who see the ads as just part of the nature of entertainment, I actively avoided anything with advertising breaks. I chose movies over television (not really the case any longer, thanks to streaming services), I never listened to commercial radio (aside from Twins games, which I still have difficulty with), and I avoided the most ad heavy sports like American football, which continues to find new and inventive ways to jam more commercials in.

And while I love baseball, I still have a hard time watching it on TV. And of course soccer is a first love because of its luxurious 45 minutes of ad-less half, but I am worried that the water break is going to become an ad break, and then the slippery slope has begun.

But cricket, at least yesterday, was something else entirely. I watched the match from around 10 in the morning on my watch until late into the afternoon, and there was not a single commercial. The game just hummed a long, with quiet pauses between overs, no breaks, just one long take of cricket.

Of course, this is not always the case with the game. I have watched T20s where there were ads jammed in over the feed between every single over. And in some cases it was the same exact ad over and over and over again until you start to question whether you even exist any more, or if you are simply a vessel in which the ad enters the cosmos. And even when it’s not that bad, there are still, usually, ads when wickets are taken, and during innings breaks of course. But yesterday as the match seamlessly persisted in some sort of beautiful never ending horizon, I realized that more often than not, there are no ads. Especially in Test matches, but also occasionally in one day games. It’s a treat when it happens, a real treat. It’s almost as if you are at the ground. And in a time like now, when no one can be at the ground, it’s even more special.

It’s also a reminder that while there are breaks hardwired into the game’s format and rules — water breaks, innings breaks — for the most part the game is seamless. And the breaks that do form — the pauses, the spaces — are low lying flood plains soon to be filled in with summer rains. It’s in the pauses where the potential is, the magic, the soon to be, the anticipation. Tossing ads in that mix ruin those moments, removes part of the soul of the game. But yesterday they were restored, and cricket was once again a year divided into seasons, sunsets, sunrises; not into hours, seconds, weeks.

**

This is the time of year when I usually write about the end of summer: the melancholy, the brown lawns, the early dark, the change inherent on the wind which all of a sudden has a bite of chill. But this year was not, and is not, a normal year. And neither was the summer. I had a good summer, despite everything. The weather was pleasant, it stretched on far and long like the summers of youth. We spent a lot of time out doors in the sun with wine in empty parks on blankets. Baseball came back. Cricket came back. If you ignored the world outside as best you could, summer was okay. Despite it all. I am one of the lucky ones, the very lucky in a year like this. But after 20 years of watching summer pass me by, this year it didn’t.

In a couple days England and Australia will play the last cricket of the English summer, such as it was, and that will be that on those shores until next year. A year that might see a vaccine, that might see a full Edgbaston on a Saturday afternoon. And 2020, as awful as it is, could — and might — be slowly forgotten. A speedbump for those of us privileged enough to not be personally touched by the pandemic. But also maybe it won’t, because of how nice the summer was, a summer of cicadas and afternoons on a blanket under blue skies with a thermos of white wine and a book as thick as the day is long.

Summer is ending, I can see it out my window as a I type, the brown leaves on the spindly tree, but unlike so many other summers, it at least was here for a little while first. This morning the cricket is on, later it will be sunny and warm. Let’s get the hammocks out, it’s not over yet.

There are blessings everywhere.

The long summer stretching forward and back in time is like cricket without ads: endless and seamless; the breaks are hardwired but organic; like long slow breathing. It’s not meant to be broken up with trivial matters like other summers are, with the things that we thought used to define our summers, it’s about being outside, letting time drift along to bird song, then a late night storm, dried up before noon by the heat of the day. All one long day, all one long summer, without hesitation or pause. Which of course is how life is: seamless, without end; summer into fall sans melancholy, because fall is just what happens next.

**

I have been thinking a lot about writing about my divorce. It’s been well over two years now. I have written about it a lot of course, but kind of in an askance way. Glancing blows. There are moments that stand out that I cannot shake, that level me, that bring to my knees, that can sill two years later bring my mind, my day, my week, to a grinding halt. I have tried so hard to leave it all in the past, a forgotten time, events that exist on a different plane. But doing that is ramming a commercial between overs. It’s creating fake breaks in time.

Our lives are the seasons. Flowing from one moment to the next. A long day in Manchester under first bright and then dark skies. The pauses are the valleys between eras, and those matter as much as the eras themselves. I need to connect the now of the okay to the times before. Heal the timeline. Remove the ads. I am a different person than I was two years ago, and while I recognize that I don’t recognize the events that shaped the me that is writing this right now.

There are moments that stand out. They are not part of a different timeline. They are my timeline, as there is only one, for all of us. Cricket is one long day, summer is just a space of light and heat, and our lives move through them, without border, without interruption. The sun doesn’t set, it’s just the world spinning. And if I write about the moments that hurt the most, maybe my timeline will no longer be the choppy, brokendown mess it is now. The events instead will become just one ripple in the river; a pebble; a water break; leaning on a bat in the long shadows, waiting for your new partner to pad up, before it all starts up again.

There is yesterday. There is tomorrow. There is now. But there are no barriers. We are a cricket match with only the breaks that were designed to be there.

The Clarendon Dry Pile

I have been able to watch a lot of cricket as of late.

On Friday afternoon I was working but set the second laptop up on the kitchen table and put the first England-Australia T20 on. It looked of course at first like Australia was going to run away with it, but the hosts held their nerve under the lights and slowly choked Australia into submission. It was fun to watch. I was a little sad at how much more fun it would have been if there had been a full Friday night crowd at the stadium — T20, more than any other format, really misses the crowds — but I guess you take what you can get these days.

Then on Sunday after a long bike ride I took coffee into the living room and watched the second England-Australia T20, as the morning hazy late summer sun hit the leaves of the still green trees outside my apartment window; cool, a hint of fall, but still summer. In England clouds marched across the sky like an army off to war, with small breaks of blue and sun. Again, England held their nerve, and saw off Australia, only with the bat instead of the ball this time, there in Southampton, at the bottom of the country at the top of the world. A long holiday weekend, lots of cricket to come, and a day off work to follow. The coffee’s hot; settle in.

Both matches were lots of fun. And both reminded me simply of how much I love watching cricket. All cricket. Men’s cricket, women’s cricket, T20, Test, Championship, CPL, IPL. It doesn’t matter. It’s a great game. It’s all good, it’s all worth at least a little time. This is blasphemy to many of my readers, but as I was watching the game yesterday, I thought to myself: The Hundred won’t be so bad, at least it’s still cricket.

There’s just something about the game. I am not even sure what it really is that draws me in, but something does. The pace of it, the sounds, the spaces in between. Even the shorter formats, which require a bit more of one’s attention, allow the spectator time to drift in thought in those spaces between deliveries, between overs, between batsmen. There’s a break in play, a long shot of the crowd, the hills of southern England in the distance, a bank of cloud. Then a run up and we do it again. Each ball a chance for something special to happen: a wicket, a cover drive; and a long, slow build of momentum until the conclusion which is always somehow in doubt, even when you know in your heart it’s not.

On Sunday I thought about how I didn’t miss the crowd as much. The cadence and atmosphere reminded me of a Monday final day of a Championship match drooping toward a quiet draw, where the only noise is the shout of the players, the murmur of a small dedicated crowd. The silence made it better. Noise would have been a distraction, taken us out of the moment we were in. Made us think of tomorrow, or the day before.

And maybe that’s what the something is that cricket has that maybe other sports don’t, at least not for a mind like mine: it just is. It’s cricket. The game soaks in its own history, and it worries about it’s future, but when it’s the middle of an innings and the coffee is hot and the cricket is on all that matters is each run up, each delivery, and the spaces in between.

It grabs you, and doesn’t let go.

**

Two days ago, Ian Bell announced his retirement from professional cricket. He was last of the Class of 2005 to go. The world moves on, and cricket moves one step further away from what it was. With each member of a generation to retire, the game loses something, and when an entire team goes, something further is lost forever. The loss is painful until we remember the gains. We lose Ian Bell, but we gain the gaggle of young, talented cricketers we saw play these last few days.

But rather than losses or gains to the game, what I thought about when I read Bell’s announcement on Instagram was that he was just like me, just like all of us: the game grabbed him, and didn’t let go.

It was no different than a retirement announcement from any sport, at least on it’s surface, but the melancholy surging with pride, as well as the sincere, earnest love of the game, made it stand out for me. And all of that with an unassuming, almost aggressively humble outlook on what he was able to accomplish on the field.

The last sentence is what brought it all home for me: ‘I’m looking forward to chatting and meeting you all as a fellow fan of the sport we love.’

I am probably reading far too much into all of this, but I read that and I think: he knows. He gets it. There is something about cricket, and something about the people who love it, and because of that he knows how lucky he was to be one of the few who played it at the highest level possible. 22 years is a very long time, no matter the profession, but 22 years doing what you love, for this special game, is like a moonshot. And Ian Bell seems to get that. What matters is growing up a Bears fan, winning trophies with the Bears, being in the dressing rooms with the people he loved playing cricket with, all over the world. It’s a love for a game and a moment and a time that I think we can all, as cricket fans, relate to.

One of the items I read about cricketers a long time ago was how they look like us. Other athletes look like test tube raised supermen, but cricketers — at least up until a decade or two ago — looked like us: graying at the temples, a little slouched, crooked smiles, hair flattened from a hat in the sun, necks pink with sunburn. And maybe that’s true still, from a fandom perspective. It doesn’t take a long leap to think that the cricketers we watch have a similar relationship to the game that we have. I can’t see saying that for other sports.

Yesterday on the couch as the day opened up and I was reminded of times gone by in ways that were not unpleasant; you know those feelings, where you notice the passage of time, but you don’t mind it. Autumn in the air, but still summer. Delivery, no ball, do it again, take the single, come back for two, a long shot of the ground, bring your mind back to the now. I sipped coffee and thought how Ian Bell might be doing the same thing, might have the same warm thoughts of love for the game that I was having, that he might not miss the crowd either, that he might enjoy the quiet space to think. He’s just a fan. And we’re all fans. And it’s all cricket. And it’s all great.

**

Alongside his announcement on Instagram, Bell posted two other photos: one of him in his England whites, helmet off, looking up at the sky, the way cricketers do, as they soak in a moment. The look of gratitude on his face in unmistakable, and familiar, as we see it all over the world from cricketers as they take in the moments they were so lucky to be a part of.

And there was a picture of four of his caps, two England and two Warwickshire. Rumpled and game worn. A part of his past that he obviously holds close, to his heart, in his mind.

He is a fan of the game, he was lucky enough to play it, and we were lucky enough to watch, but we are all still fans. Still people. Take in all the moments, for they are all fleeting, I think that’s what he was trying to say with the final two photos, and maybe that’s what cricket is always trying to teach us. Each ball a universe in and of itself; don’t miss it, magic can happen. A delivery is a blink of an eye, but so is 22 years, let the game stretch out and time will slow down and it’s Sunday morning of a long holiday weekend and here you are and you are alive and the cricket is on and it’s perfect. Tomorrow is tomorrow. But what matters is the now, and he we all are.

Ian Bell set to retire from professional cricket at the end of domestic  season | Sports News,The Indian Express

Compiling

I like to think I came of age during baseball’s last golden age. The first memories I have of the sport are the 1982 World Series, and for the next five years I lived and breathed the game. This was after the 1981 strike so labor relations weren’t a concern, and it was before performance enhancing drugs ruined the sport for a generation. (There were plenty of drugs in 80s baseball, don’t get me wrong, but they were rarely the injections of whatever nasty stuff Roger Clemens and his ilk were filling their arms with a decade later.)

Not only did I get to see young players that would become legends cut their teeth, but I also got to see the last years of the same of the great players from the previous generation. Johnny Bench, Carl Yastrzemski, to name two outfield players, and some of the greatest pitchers to ever play the game: namely Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan. Pitchers that had debuted in 60s when the game was still old, and the mound still high. Grizzled veterans who scuffed the ball up and made it move. Strike out pitchers. Like three Kerry Woods who never got hurt.

All three were first ballot hall of famers. And Seaver’s and Carlton’s legacies are solidified: everyone agrees they were great, and great for a long time.

Ryan’s legacy is a little more difficult. He struck out more guys than anyone ever, but he also walked a lot of people, and the on-base-percentage of people facing him was over .300, which is definitely not the case for most pitchers in the Hall of Fame. There are some critics who say that while Ryan was a good pitcher, he was not great, he was just able to stay healthy and pitch for a very long time. They call it “compiling,” which I have always thought is a little boorish. But in some ways, they are right. If you stay healthy, and if you are above average, you are going to put together a lot of stats, good and bad. Does that make you one of the greats? It’s a debatable question for sure.

**

When I first started writing this blog, I compared cricket and baseball quite a bit. Looking back, it’s a little embarrassing. I wasn’t comparing the two like I do now, talking about the games in a more atmospheric sense, but in a nuts and bolts way, with stats and numbers. After a while it became clear that while the games are similar in a couple not insignificant ways, ways that cannot be entirely discounted, they are far too different in too many other ways to compare and contrast them.

There’s a software I use at work — Salesforce Marketing Cloud, an email service provider (ESP) — and when I am training new people on it I tell them that its biggest difference from other ESPs is that everything is at the send level, rather than at the email level. It sounds like a small difference, but it affects how work is done in every possible way.

After a few years — and I am sheepish it took so long — I noticed the one fundamental difference between cricket and baseball: in baseball, the pitcher is on defense; in cricket, the bowler is the attack. Once I saw this, something clicked, and I never looked at cricket the same again, and I definitely stopped comparing the two from a statistical angle, especially pitchers versus bowlers, that just no longer made any sense to me.

But I am going to do it right now anyway. At least kind of.

When Jimmy Anderson got his 600th wicket, I immediately thought of the three pitchers above, and their long, successful careers. But is Anderson more of a Steve Carlton? Or a Nolan Ryan? What will his legacy be when he hangs up the bowling boots? That of great player with a long career, or a good player who just played a lot of cricket?

Personally, I don’t think there is any doubt that Anderson is one of the best cricketers of his generation, and while, yes, he has played a lot of cricket, and that helped him get to the 600 wicket plateau, you simply can’t label him as a “compiler,” though I am sure there are writers out there doing it as I type this. And with some justification, honestly. His average is 26.79, which is high when compared to the other big haul wicket takers: McGrath is at 21.64; Hadlee 22.29; Muralitharan 22.72, etc. And more than half of his 600 wickets came on comfortable English soil (100 of those at Lord’s alone). And only eight other players have played more Tests than he has. And he has the most deliveries ever by a Test pace bowler.

People are surely calling him a compiler, but I don’t agree with that. Yes, the argument can be made, but they made same argument against Sachin Tendulkar — as he was chasing his 100th 100 you couldn’t turn around without someone mentioning how many of them came against Bangladesh — and I think both arguments are incorrect. Anderson is a great bowler who bowls a lot of deliveries, and gets a lot of people out; and Tendulkar was a great (possibly the greatest?) batsman who scored a helluva lot of runs.

There is no such thing as a compiler in professional sports. The games are too hard, played at too high a level. If you are good, and you have a long career, you are simply great.

One baseball writer wrote of Ryan that the strikes (pun intended) against him are boring to talk about (on base percentage, walks), while the stats in the positive column are interesting and long lasting (no hitters, strikeouts). I think the same can be said of Anderson. In 20 years, people won’t think about how much cricket he played, or how he was medium fast and not fast, they will think about his wickets against India at home in 2011, and they will think about number 600 in a pandemic bubble in Southampton. Anderson is fun to watch, an old school bowler in a brave new world. He just gets people out, and gets them out a lot, and that’s his job. And that alone makes him one of the greats.

And 20 years from now, when I am thinking back on my time as a cricket fan, Anderson will be one of the players that I am thrilled that I got the chance to see play, and not just for a year or two, but for going on 13 years now. And that seals it for me there. I want the greats to not burn out, but fade away, to let us enjoy their brilliance for years and years. Whether they be Nolan Ryan and Jimmy Anderson, compile away, because it’s a joy to watch.

**

Steve Carlton though. Watch that slider move. Unbelievable. Those 80s Phillies teams were pretty special.

Why we play the games

From 2009 through 2018, I played in a co-ed recreational soccer league. We played every Sunday evening, May through October. Up until the last couple of years, it was the highlight of my week, but slowly over time I kind of lost interest in playing. Giving up every Sunday night for an entire summer and an entire fall just became too much of a time commitment.

But before that, those games were something very special. I’d ride my bike up to Rosebrook park by the shopping mall about three miles from my old house. We would kick the ball around for an hour, probably lose, and then cap it off with some beers on the sidelines while watching the later games, all before a quiet ride home through quiet Sunday night streets in middle America, a little buzzed on beer and laughs and physical exertion, then a late dinner and off to bed to start the work week.

In 2009, when I first started playing, I was unemployed. Nine years later when I hung up the cleats, I was divorced and living 15 miles away from that little park by the highway. Those years were packed to the gunwales with events and change, but they passed in a blink of an eye, just like they always do. Those Sunday nights were first highlights, later a melancholy reminder of loss, later a time gone by. I think of those bike rides home along the trail by the railroad tracks, over the interstate, the sun sinking low and fat in the west, and feeling as if all was going to be okay forever. Now I can’t think about them without feeling sad.

**

Today was the last day of the English Test summer. And while some pundits might (justifiably) call the summer “wasted“, I can’t help but disagree. Despite the logistical and financial challenges involved in holding Test cricket matches in the middle of a pandemic, they were able to pull it off. Cricket at a time when we needed it the most.

I thought about this a lot as England played out the useless and unnecessary overs of the second Test against Pakistan. There was no reason to play those overs. The game was gone, simply gone, there was no chance of any result. But out they came anyway, to play the out the game, to finish what was started. Because that’s cricketers do: they play cricket, no matter the situation, they play cricket.

It felt meaningless, sure, but all cricket is meaningless. Just like all my rec soccer games were meaningless. But you still play the games. You still bowl the useless 5:30 p.m. day five overs. You still celebrate when you score a goal on a 42 year old goalkeeper who last put the gloves on in high school. You still play the games, because that’s we do. All of us. Professional, amateur, and everything in between. You find meaning and you go about your day.

Playing Test cricket in the middle of a pandemic was probably a little irresponsible. There are few people who would disagree with that notion. And the reasons the game went ahead had very little to do with the importance of sport, and everything to do with the almighty dollar. But I guess in the end the why here really doesn’t matter. The games are being played, and therefore have meaning. To some, that meaning was distraction when it was needed most, to others it was a chance for cricket to figure out an attack that could win overseas, and to others it was a chance to solidify a place in history.

But for me, they played because that’s what cricketers do. All cricket is meaningless. This summer was no different. But that doesn’t matter. You still play the games, because otherwise there is no meaning to any of if, or anything at all. That is not to say that without sport humanity loses its northern star, but any time meaning of any kind is allowed to leak out of the world, it is a loss, a loss we can’t replace. I took an odd, almost warm, comfort watching day five of the second Pakistan Test. Life was carrying on. It was no different than the joy incarnate to a rec soccer league game and the beers that follow with close friends on the sidelines of a beat up old soccer field. You’re there because you’re there, and that’s all that matters. There is joy in simply participating, and when it comes to professional sports, even spectators participate.

**

This post has been banging around in my head for a couple of days, maybe even a week. There was something about that day five that stuck with me. As said above, there was a comfort in it that I can’t really explain. Watching all the meaningless cricket I would have thought would have left me a little cold, but the opposite was true.

And then I started writing today, at my kitchen table, where I have written for over two years now. And I thought about those rec soccer games, and that maybe there was a connection there, an explanation. Every kick of the ball, every delivery, has meaning, just like every interaction has meaning, weight. Every breath. We get out of bed every single day, an action so simple it happens without a thought, but it’s an action that provides meaning, in this case a hope for a better day than we had the day before. Each kick is a chance to be better, to deliver magic. You have to play those overs, otherwise what’s the point of it all?

But then I started writing and thinking about those bike rides home on those Sunday nights for all those years. May through October. Up the trail past Snelling and the strip malls. Down Hamline by the golf course, cutting through the library parking lot, then west toward home, pulling into a driveway, dusk, lights on in the kitchen.

My life is different now. Perhaps better. But that does not diminish the power of those memories of times gone by, and their lessons on time and its passing. And those memories don’t exist if we don’t play the games.

It’s easy to assign meaning in hindsight, and some might say a little lazy, but I think it’s okay to look back at memories of a house and a time and a dog and a person, at memories worth cherishing, and realize that those memories don’t exist if I don’t play in that silly little Sunday night rec soccer league. We play the games because that is what we do, and later we give them meaning. Just like those overs on day five, which while meaningless, meant something.

Every moment is a chance for a memory. And every memory is a reminder of what has been lost, and that reminder is a cue to open our eyes, and hold on tight to what we have. Many people will not remember much about that second Test match, but I will remember a pandemic, and cycling home on Sunday nights, and a fresh start, and a summer spent realizing that maybe, just maybe, everything will be okay.

‘The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done’

MS Dhoni was a 26 year-old long-haired beast of a cricketer when I first started following the game in 2007. He was almost instantly a favorite of mine. He looked and played like no cricketer I thought existed. For the next 13 years I watched him captain India all over the world. With the pinnacle being — for me, and probably for most — the World Cup win in 2011. To lead India, in India, across the finish line under such intense pressure is one of the greatest accomplishments I have seen in all of sport. That team was packed to the gunwales with some of the best cricketers the world has ever seen — or might ever see again — and he calmly and collectedly guided their ship into harbor. It was a must win moment for Dhoni and his teammates, and he delivered.

Like so many of the cricketers I “grew up” with since 2007, Dhoni was always just there. You watch India playing an ODI and Dhoni is there. Over the years he slowed down, and came under fire, but he was still MS Dhoni, still the general on the field for his home country, dashing in blue, leading them across finish lines over and over again. When Dhoni approached the wicket with his bat you knew that everything was going to be okay for India. Even as he aged, even as this became no longer the case every single time, you forgot about that for a little bit every time he put his helmet on and entered the breach. Only five feet, 10 inches tall but looking like a giant among boys.

As a kid, all my favorite baseball players were catchers. Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Carlton Fisk. And so it would follow that in cricket I would keep my eyes on the wicketkeepers. And Dhoni was simply the best there was. Sure, there were the 10,000 ODI runs, and sure there was the brilliant captaincy, but watching his demeanor with the gloves on was always a joy for me.

I have always thought that once you reach a certain age, having a favorite player becomes a little juvenile. But maybe life is too short for silly rules like that. MS Dhoni — along with cricketers like Cook, Amla and Malinga — is one of my favorite athletes. Whether he is wearing white, blue or yellow, I love watching him play cricket.

His influence on cricket in India, and cricket the world over, has been immense, and it will be long lasting. He was a giant of the game, and cast a long shadow, a shadow that will linger for generations of cricket to come.

**

Last week my company told us all that we would be working from home until at least March of next year.

My last day in the office was Wednesday, March 11. This was the day it all felt like it was coming apart, that the pandemic wasn’t just a flu-like phantom like SARS or H1N1. Or even like Ebola breakouts which are horrifying but on the other side of the world. March 11 was the day the NBA cancelled their season. It was the day Tom Hanks announced that he was positive.

In the mid-afternoon that day I told my boss that I would be working from home indefinitely. The anxiety of the situation was too much for me. Home was safe, a controlled environment. I might be okay there. I packed up my computer and that was it, thinking I would be back in a week or two, maybe a month. I haven’t been back since. Later that day the company sent everybody home indefinitely. Overnight 700 employees — including reporters filing audio stories — were remote.

In the time since then, the company has experienced an enormous amount of change. Shows were cancelled. 19 people took buyouts, another 28 were laid off, and several more were simply “exited.” Someday this will all be over, and I will go back into the office, but it won’t be the same office I left that Wednesday afternoon in March. Joe, the director in the office across from my cube, was one of those laid off. My boss, Bridget, took a buyout. Brandon, Sladjana, Angie: all gone, and those are just the people on my floor, in my little area. I will go into the office again, but it won’t be the same, just like everything else.

**

Yesterday MS Dhoni announced his retirement from international cricket. We all knew it was coming sooner rather than later. The talk was that he would hang on for the World T20s later this year but once those were delayed we knew the inevitable was now truly inevitable. And so when it came we were ready, but it was still a shock, a stark reminder that despite the fires, the world is still spinning, time is still marching along. People may have slowed down, but the world has not.

And it was yet another reminder that when this all ends, when we emerge from the shadows and head back into the light, that nothing will be as we left it. Things will not return to normal, there is no normal any longer. Cricket will one day come back to something like it was before COVID. There were be tournaments and full houses and players will be allowed to once again go home between games. But it won’t be the same.

Yes, Dhoni was on his way out before the pandemic, but we were supposed to be treated to one last look, and he was to receive the send off he deserved. But now, just like so many other things, that was taken from him, from all of us. To say it is sad would be true, but it’s also more than that. It’s the melancholic emotion of watching time pass us by; we reach out for it but it slips through our fingers. And with it so much that we have missed out on, and so many people whose presence we will mourn the loss of once we reach the far shore.

Dhoni was a giant. He changed cricket forever. His retirement is a shock wave. A reminder of our new normal, of that while there might be another side to all of this, that other side won’t look like it did before. It will be very different. When we go outside again, all that we will see will be change. We have sheltered in place, but the world has moved on without us. And when we do catch up with it all will be different.

And when cricket comes back, like everything else, it won’t be the same, for so many reasons, but mostly because it will be missing its captain.

MS Dhoni Retirement News: Mahendra Singh Dhoni announces ...

‘We were on the roof of America and all we could do was yell’

The film ‘Stand By Me’ is beloved among people my age. It’s a story of boyhood and friendship and coming of age. It’s a great, well paced script — based on a short story by Stephen King — and the film is lovingly directed by the incomparable Rob Reiner, who was in his absolute prime (in a six year period starting in 1984, Reiner directed ‘This is Spinal Tap,’ ‘The Sure Thing,’ ‘Stand By Me,’ ‘The Princess Bride,’ ‘ When Harry Met Sally … ,’ and ‘Misery,’ which is an unbelievable explosion of creative content.). It stars a veritable who’s who of 80s film household names: Wil Wheaton, Richard Dreyfuss, Kiefer Sutherland, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell, River Phoenix and John Cusack. There is suspense, drama, sadness, action, loss, humor.

Despite all of this, I don’t really like the movie. And I don’t really like it for one singular reason: I never watched it as a kid.

For whatever reason, for good or for bad, ‘Stand By Me’ appears to be one of those films that one needs to bond with as a child in order to enjoy it as an adult. I was not able to watch the movie when I was young because it was inexplicably rated R, and while I was devastated at the time, I kind of forgot about it until I was in my 20s and when I tried to watch it then I thought it was trite and heavy handed and predictable and a little boring.

And it’s not just films that one needs to bond with at a young age.

It’s true for literature: You have to read Kerouac in your teens because if you wait until you are 25 or so you will think it’s juvenile garbage. And for music: U2 has become a running joke of bloated nonsense but the ‘The Unforgettable Fire,’ ‘The Joshua Tree,’ and ‘Rattle & Hum’ meant so much to me at a very critical time in my life that I cannot join in on the fun.

And of course it’s true for sports.

I followed all sports when I was a kid, I lapped them all up, no matter what they were. From Australian Rules Football to the caber toss (ESPN in the 80s was weird) to the Tour de France to the usual American “big four.” All of it. These days though I mostly only have time for the Minnesota Twins baseball team (I listen to parts of most games, but I rarely watch them on TV) and Arsenal (I confess to watching about 90% of their matches over the last 15 years or so). Soccer is just about the only game — other than cricket, which we will get to in a second — that I will watch without having a dog in the hunt.

That said, with the exception of American football which I tend to avoid unless the home team are having a zeitgeisty moment, I will watch playoffs and finals in baseball, hockey and basketball, with one notable caveat: the two teams participating had to have existed when I was young, and that is non-negotiable.

I will watch the Lakers play the Pistons in the NBA Finals, but I would never watch the Hornets play the Lakers. I will watch the Maple Leafs, the Yankees, the Mets, the Blue Jays, the Oilers, but I will never watch the Marlins, the Diamondbacks, or even the Nationals. I even struggle with having Houston in the American League and Milwaukee in the National League.

The Las Vegas hockey team was one of the NHL’s best stories from recent years, but I had 0.0 interest in it because the team did not exist when I was a kid.

Which brings us of course to cricket.

I never bonded with cricket as a young person. But for whatever reason this has not stood in my way. I will leave the discussion about that to the side. I mean, I want to be able to explain why cricket grabbed on to 30 year old me and hasn’t let go, but I just can’t. Especially since all the evidence above points to the opposite scenario. It probably has a lot to do with quitting smoking, but also with the fact that cricket is just an infinitely more interesting game than other sports (in my book anyway).

Instead I want to write about how when I think about how I was unable to enjoy the Las Vegas Golden Knights’ Stanley Cup run, I think about the cricket fans who I know out there on the internet.

The game is very different from when I first started following it, but at the same time it is pretty much the same. In 2007 all three formats were up and running, and the IPL was not alive but everyone knew it was close. The game has changed a lot, but only on the surface, not in its guts.

But what about those people my age, who bonded with cricket in the 1980s? Or a little older, who bonded with cricket in the 70s or even in the 60s? Is it even the same game?

I turn off the Stanley Cup finals if the two teams involved aren’t at least 30 some odd years old. Even the World Series — baseball is a game I adore — means little to me if the teams are newer than 1985. (One of the great World Series of my lifetime was the 2001 Yankees-Diamondbacks and that still makes me wrinkle nose.) Heck, I even get a little squirrely when a newly rich Premier League club is all of a sudden in the conversation every year.

But cricket?

Older fans are not dealing with expansion teams, or a few up start clubs here and there, or a few rule changes over the years, but the very fabric of the game they bonded with has changed. There aren’t just new teams, there are new leagues — dozens of them even — and new formats and the list goes on and on forever. It’s mind boggling to think of, to try to put myself in the shoes of a lifelong cricket fan my age or older. If I had bonded with ‘Stand By Me’ as an 11 year old, it would be like someone took that movie, made it a third as long, and gave the kids a rocket ship to travel on.

Here’s what I am going with this: there are often times when I or other cricket fans bemoan the traditionalists in cricket. Or, not bemoan, but maybe roll our eyes a bit. No, Test cricket is not dying; no, all this growth is not killing the game; no, pink ball tests are not one of the four horsemen.

But now looking at it through a different lens, I can see their point. If someone took baseball, made it a third as long and created all sorts of new leagues and rules and still asked me to call it baseball and think all was hunky-dory, I would not be okay with that.

And with this news lens, maybe we can all understand the frustration and sometimes even anger the old guard expresses as the game careens down slope toward an undetermined future. Maybe it’s okay to say that the IPL and the CPL and all the others are bastards of a once great game. Maybe it’s okay to call First Class cricket “proper cricket.” Maybe it is okay to worry almost to a fault about the Championship and the Test format and all the other parts of the game that bonded them to it so many years ago. And maybe it’s okay to shake your head when people like me talk about how the game just might be stronger now than it ever has been.

Walking in other people’s shoes is difficult, and it is something I particularly have really struggled with in all aspects of my life. But trying to understand what long term fans of the game have to put up with I think will be helpful for all of us in the end. It’s okay to snub your nose at the IPL. It doesn’t make you a racist or a person afraid of change, it simply makes you a human who fell in love with a game that in a lot of ways doesn’t even exist anymore. Instead I think we should all thank them, for getting this great game through a very rough patch, and sticking with it despite everything it asks of them. Without the old guard cricket fan, we are not here today, talking about this. And to honor that we, too, need to be good stewards of this game. To take over and call out corruption and greed when we see it, and we see it all to often, and to not watch or read about or pay attention to what we see as bridges too far: like The Hundred.

Every generation struggles with the changes happening around them. To quote Abe Simpson: “I used to be with ‘it’, but then they changed what ‘it’ was. Now what I’m with isn’t ‘it’ anymore and what’s ‘it’ seems weird and scary.” But in the game of cricket, there has been so much change, and it all happened so fast, almost all at once in the grand scheme of things. It is too late in so many ways to put the genie back in the bottle, but it’s not too late to listen to the people who know the game best, and try to understand where they are coming from, and work together to make the game great.

We are all, in the end, cricket fans. And that’s what matters.

 

I want to write my words on the face of today

One of my favorite things about cricket — especially Test cricket — is how quickly things can change. The game takes place over hours and hours and days and days. From late morning until early evening for nearly a week. Thousands and thousands of deliveries. And yet the game can change in as little as one session, one spell, one over.

Of course, I enjoy the other side of the game, as well. It’s glacial side. When you watch cricket all day long and it feels like absolute nothing has happened but then you look up and it’s late in the day and one side has slowly but surely built a commanding and insurmountable lead.

But the lightning fast change, in a game that prides itself on how the vast amount of time it takes up creates the most equal of playing fields, is what really blows my hair back.

And we were treated to several such moments of whiplash in the most recent England v Pakistan Test in Manchester, that wrapped up in the late afternoon yesterday, a day early. The momentum swung back and fourth over the course of the four days. Just when one team seemed to be primed to walk away with the win, their opponent struck back, fast as lightning. And even when England seemed a sure bet, needing just a couple dozen runs or so, Stuart Broad fell lbw and while it seemed like it was surely too little, too late, for the visitors, the way the Test had gone, it wasn’t out of the question that Pakistan would hit England for a few more and swing the game back their way again. England saw it out of course, but if Pakistan had played one more slip …

I like this side of cricket because it reminds us that when our team appears to be on the wrong side of momentum, things can change, and quickly, despite the snail like pace the game can employ if it wants to.

The opposite is true, too, of course. A team can be cruising along at 180 for two and then look up 30 minutes later and be 197 for eight. We’ve all seen it. Cricket can come at you pretty fast.

And so can life.

We have all seen the meme of course. Nine pictures, one per month, of a celebrity impersonating what it has been like so far in 2020. January, for most people, seems to have started out with a great deal of positive energy. But then by March bodies were piling up in Italian hospitals, and we were being told to shelter in place. From light to dark in the matter of a few short weeks.

But we need to remember what cricket teaches us, that change can happen at any moment. Right now it feels as if — in America at least — we are staring down the barrel of months and months of death and lockdown and mask wars and people unable to make even the smallest of sacrifices to help the sick and the old among us. But. Change can happen. All it takes is a few well timed wickets. Of course, cricket scores can’t go in reverse. You can’t go from 128 for 8 to 250 for two. But you can go from 128 for 8 to 350 for 9. That’s not the lightning fast change that those well timed wickets can provide, but every ball, every over, every day, every hour, is a chance to make forward progress toward victory. Or, at the very least, a well earned draw.

Life is change. Change is life. It happens quickly and slowly and all at the same time. And cricket reflects this, more so than any other sport it seems, for the simple reason that game is long enough to provide space for that change.

*

A couple days ago I was going through the Notes on my phone and came across one from December the 6th. It was a note I was composing to my partner, almost eight months to the day after it was written did I read it again.

“Liz I am just so sad,” I wrote. “And everything is so screwed up. My life has become this unfixable shitty mess.”

I don’t recognize the Matt that wrote that note. The sadness in the words is almost unbearable to read. I was just so, so sad. And it was all the time. And it was horrifying. And it was awful. I don’t recognize that Matt. but I remember him. I remember how that felt, so be so sad I felt sick to my stomach. To be so sad that it no longer felt like sadness, it felt like something else, something far worse, far more terrible. There was a morning the summer before that December when I couldn’t sleep and it felt like I was coming apart, having an actual breakdown. I got out of bed and it was dawn and I went outside and walked up the street. I remember what I was wearing. I remember what the air felt like. I remember being so scared. It was just about as close as I came to the only terrible solution I could think of.

The one part of those months — years, actually — that was most clear to me at the time was that I would feel that way forever. For the rest of my life, I would be sad. It was a crushing weight on my shoulders. It was really the worst part about the entire god awful shitty mess, that feeling of hopelessness. It was pervasive, it was all the time.

But I had forgotten the lesson that cricket tries to teach us. That change happens. It can come at any time. And before you know it, it is is upon you, and everything is different.

Eight months sounds like a long time, and so it would be easy to describe the change I have experienced over this period of time as incremental. Batting all day, turning the game around. But eight months in what is hopefully a long life of 70, 80, 90 years is a drop in the bucket. The change that I have experienced in 2020 has been a whiplash of two or three wickets with the new ball right after lunch. It’s been eight months but it feels like minutes.

I don’t recognize the Matt from 2019, but I remember what it was like to feel that way, and I feel so differently now it’s almost unbelievable. Yes, I still have hard afternoons and bleak mornings, but for the most part I am okay. It has reached the point where — if you can believe this — I miss the depth of emotion that depression provides. When you miss feeling sad, you know you are no longer sad, and that instead you are hopeful for a future you never thought would come.

Eight months ago everything seemed unfixable. Now nothing does. Nothing.

Missing the pain also means that I don’t fully remember how terrible it was. And so if in the future I feel that way again, if I am lost in those same broken awful mazes, I will not remember that there is a way out, as that’s not how memory works. Our brains don’t operate that way. We are doomed to repeat history not because we don’t try to remember, but because of the vagaries involved in that remembering. How many crystal clear memories of youth do we all have that we know cannot be anything but false? And so since the memory of my experiences won’t help me, I hope I am able to remember a Test match in Manchester in the first week of August 2020. When momentum like whiplash changed the game over and over again. And that I will hear the lesson that cricket is so desperately trying to teach us: that nothing is forever. Not even sadness. One day you will look up and it will be mid-afternoon and Chris Woakes and Jos Buttler will have batted you back into the game, seemingly out of nowhere. If God forbid I am ever out walking at dawn again some day, so close to the edge that I can smell the river below, I want to remember that. Woakes and Buttler batting in the long shadows, reminding everyone that things can get better. Even on day four when you’re five down and one wicket away from the tail, it’s not over, change is on the horizon, just hang in there.

*

If you feel like you are in a dark place, please reach out. To me, to your doctor, to your family, to your partner, to anyone. Life is short, but it is also long, and it is too long to go through it feeling like it’s never going to be light out again, and it is too long to end it so soon, you will miss out on so much. I am telling you this as someone who has been there: there is a way out of the hole you are in. There really is.

Buttler, Woakes lead England to 3-wicket win over Pakistan- The ...

Apple juice, store brand okay

One day this will end.

It might not seem like it right now. And the other side is still a very long ways off. But, one day, some day, god willing, life will return to some sense of normalcy. There will be concerts again, and full stadiums, and restaurants, and we will be able to leave our homes without anxiety and celebrate milestones with our families.

Of course, it won’t be the same. Too much has changed. I tend not to agree with the prognosticators predicting sweeping social change post-virus, but life has gone on as we have been quarantined — people have died, people have lost their jobs, babies have been born, our favorite restaurants have closed, athletes have retired — and so, no matter what, the world we will emerge into will be different than the one that existed before.

But for the most part, it will be the world we knew. People will still want to gather together in person, America will still be a wild mess of partisan politics. And then time will pass like falling leaves. And this time will become, for the large majority of us, a speed bump in a long life. We will never forget these days, of course, but soon they will just be that: memories, like all of our other memories.

And so how do we remember? What relics do we bring with us to the other side? It can’t just be memories, those erode and fade away and are colored with the vagaries of time. And so it has to be something real, tangible, concrete.

I was thinking about this today while waiting out the rain delay in Manchester.

We will have these cricket matches, of course. That’s where my brain first went. We will have these weird, quiet, dystopian cricket matches. First now in England and later in the UAE this fall. All those head bands, and players using the sweat from their backs to rub down the ball. And the camera panning over an empty stadium, and commentators talking of the bubble, and pandemic protocols.  And the “Black Lives Matter” logo on the score graphics. Five, 10, 50 years from now, we will watch highlights of these matches and our reaction will be something like: “Wow, remember the pandemic? That was weird and awful.”

The images will transport us straight back to these weird days, watching on our laptops at home, where we have been for months and months. And for this reason, I am glad sports are back, even the ones that are doing it wrong, or plowing ahead when they should really be dialing back. Sport, like few other things, marks time. We might not remember what it was like to go grocery shopping in May of 2020, but we will remember watching sports. When I think back on Arsenal winning the FA Cup this summer, I will think about the empty stadium, and watching it in my friend’s backyard with two other friends, our chairs spaced six feet apart. The FA Cup will help me remember. Sports will help us all remember. And I think that is a good thing.

I have been, and I will always be, a believer in the power of sports to help us mark time. But in the age of coronavirus, it doesn’t feel like enough. It doesn’t feel like it will do these days — these dark, frightening, mind-boggling days — justice. The whole — the entire damn world, every damn corner — is affected by this, and it’s here and it’s going to be here and there’s simply nothing we can do but follow the protocols and pray. We are already getting used to all of it, too, which means the chance to hold onto something real that will remind us of all of this is slipping away.

Then I thought about the grocery lists.

I have been grocery shopping for my mother since March. Every Tuesday morning, I buy her apples and her bananas and her Hamburger Helper and her popsicles and her instant oatmeal and her bread and her lunchmeat. And the day before, every Monday, she emails me her list, with instructions on what not to buy unless I can get it on sale, and that she’s always okay with the store brand.

Nothing is forever in the digital space, but I will have these emails for a long time to come. And decades from now, when she is gone, and COVID is a forgotten blip on my radar, I will stumble across them, and they will break my heart like few things have. And then I will be transported back to 2020, and the pain, and the sadness, and the fear, they will become personal, and then the memories will do these days justice. I will think not of mask wars, or pandemic bubbles in the UAE, but of driving to the suburbs every Tuesday, the traffic light for a weekday, bringing my mother her groceries, her waiting on her front stoop for me, as I unloaded the small bags of the things on her list into her garage. And her quiet life, her lonely life, spelled out before me in ones and zeroes, on a laptop screen. Our memories of this time need not be sweeping and large, they need instead to be small, private, ours. Then we will remember. Remember not just life during a global pandemic, but mothers, moms, and the insistent whisper that one day they will be gone, and time is like water in our hands, and then they are gone, and all we have left are grocery lists, and we are both thankful forever for them and terrified of reading through them.

Because of how memory works, because we are all context, patterns in the wallpaper, now when I think of cricket during the pandemic — of Stuart Broad’s “don’t call it a comeback” performance against the West Indies, or of umpires and trainers and commentators in masks — I will also think of my mother, and her grocery lists. Another gift from a sport that continues to give them. When we allow our minds to breathe, associations happen. Sometimes we can’t remember why, for instance, we think of an old boss every time we pull laundry out of the dryer. But sometimes we can remember. At some point in the future, I will think of Dom Sibley batting for nearly 10 hours in Manchester one July, I will then think of butter on sale, and my mother’s worried eyes, and being thankful she was allowing me to help, and how hard it was to pull out of the driveway without being able to stay for a while, drink all of her coffee, talk about dad and growing up, because the world was on fire.

I also hope the opposite is true. That when I think of those grocery lists, I will also think of that summer of cricket in England. When all we wanted is normalcy, something that felt like what we remembered, and how, for short bursts of time, here and there, when our minds drifted into the pace of the overs and the deliveries, we were allowed to remember, and it was a gift, and it was thanks to this old game that is surviving its second pandemic, that’s seen three different centuries, that just keeps marching on, urging us to keep up.

Here comes Knight and the Mets win it

“When I was coming here from New York City, it was real cold. But it’s still summer here.” – Regina Spektor, introducing ‘Summer in the City’.

Tomorrow it will be August.

There’s still lots of summer left, of course. August and September and October and even parts of November are lovely in this part of the world. Dry, warm, calm. But they’re not summer. It’s getting dark earlier and earlier already. The other morning I was up at 6am and the sun hadn’t even come over the horizon yet. Fall is still around several corners, but it’s in the air.

Summers always pass us by these days, like water through our hands. It is early June and it’s light out until 10 p.m. and then you blink and it’s August and there’s a chill in the early twilight. And you can’t help but wonder: where did summer go? Where do all the summers go?

I think this is because the summers of adulthood cannot compare with the summers of our youth, when days and months stretched on forever, and the skies were always blue, and there were lightning bugs and ice cream and it felt like fall was a million years away.

One such summer that stands out above all of the others is the summer of 1986. We were living in upstate New York in a little suburb with a downtown near the Erie canal. There were bike rides and forts in the woods behind the house and sunsets that seemed to last forever. The sun was so bright all summer that it almost hurts to think about. “A time of innocence” is a line from an otherwise very sad song, but it works here like no other.

Every day that summer I would play a game of baseball with one of the older kids in the neighborhood, Mark. Mark was special. He could do long division in his head. Everything he said made you laugh. A big mop of black hair underneath a blue Mets cap. It would be just the two of us, with ghost runners and a whiffle ball. Mark would always be the Mets, and I would be some other random Major League Baseball team. Mark won every single time, but I didn’t care, and he didn’t care. It was summer and we were young and there was baseball, always baseball.

Mark loved the Mets. That young, swashbuckling bunch of hard partying outsiders. Gooden, Strawberry, Dykstra. They were one helluva baseball team that year.

In August a “for-sale” sign went up in our yard. Mark and I never talked about it. We just played baseball. Talked about baseball. In September a truck pulled up and movers loaded up our things and we were gone. Mark and I never saw each other again, though a week has not gone by where I don’t think about the lifelong friendship that might have been.

That same October the Mets won the World Series. A year later we moved again. A year after that my dad died. And that was that. I never got a summer again.

In their review of the new Taylor Swift record, Pitchfork talks about how Swift knows she’s had better summers than this one, that we all have, but that she, like all of us, has a hope that better summers are still yet to come. I don’t think that’s true. I think our best summers have passed us by, they exist in the ether of the long past, of childhood and loss. We won’t get those summers back.

Yes, this summer is different, harder, sadder. But virus or no virus, it wouldn’t be the summer we had hoped for, the kind of a summer we remember.

Summer in England in 1986 brought a County Championship won by Essex again. And tours from New Zealand (two ODIs and three Tests) and India (same). England lost both Test series. There were no Twenty20s, fewer helmets, it was a different game almost, nearly unrecognizable to what see out there today.

No matter what, we weren’t going to see a summer like that again this summer.

But. The thing is. This summer is somehow, in so many ways, more like the summers of our youth, summers gone by. The only international cricket in England is Test cricket. There’s no T20 tournaments or rock music and there definitely isn’t The Hundred. And we are all a little bored, and the days go on forever, and the sun is out, and all there really is to do is ride our bikes around, and think about a future yet to be fully formed, but which we hope will be better. In that way, this summer is a bit of a gift, a reminder of those long gone summers of youth.

While it is important to see a silver lining in all this, it’s not worth it. It’s not worth the dead, the sick. And it never will be. So in that regard it’s just another summer of adulthood, full of worry, and the constant reminder that we will never have more than we have right now, as far as the people around us are concerned. All the comes next is loss.

But the past is important for one reason: we can’t change it. It is real, it is concrete, for good or for bad, that’s the reality of the times that have gone by. We will always have those unbroken summers of youth, those can’t be taken away from us. It can be impossible for our summers now to live up to those of our past, and that can create disappointment, disillusionment, but it doesn’t have to. Instead, we can take comfort in that while this summer has been awful, and our future summers will never eclipse that one summer when we were 11 years old and the whole world was alive with cicadas and baseball, at least we had that summer, at least we remember that summer, and nothing can take that away from us.

Life is change, and loss, and an emptying, but that is only because it started so full, for a time, at least for me. I watched the Mets win the 1986 World Series in the front room of my grandparents’ house in Pomeroy, Ohio. I thought of Mark, and that perfect — oh, just perfect — summer, and I always do now.

“Here comes Knight and the Mets win it,” was from game six, of course, but it’s the moment that stands out among all the rest. And even though it was deep into the fall, and you could see Roger Clemens’ breath has he prayed in the dugout, to me it was summer.

It might be cold out, but in 1986, it’s still summer, and it always will be.

New York Mets on Twitter: "Happy birthday to 1986 World Series MVP ...

 

On Stuart Broad: when the world was young

Most of the great cricketers that were active and in their prime when I first came across the game in 2007 have long since retired. Gilchrist, Tendulkar, Pietersen, Flintoff, Amla

Those that are still playing are long in the tooth and a little over the hill. They are paunched and their beards are graying and even though they are years younger than I am, they look already old, already fading away. It’s a stark reminder of time’s passing, the relentless march all of us are on toward old age, and all that comes with it. I am not young enough to call the men I watched play cricket 13 years ago heroes, that would be a misuse of the word, but if I were a child, that’s the term I would use, and we have all experienced the melancholic ache of watching once proud heroes disappear into the ether of old age.

When Stuart Broad was dropped before the first test against the West Indies, I thought he would join that sad parade of aging stars. People who just couldn’t play the way they used to, who had to fight for their spot in the starting XI, flailing like a raging Lear against time itself, doing all they can to push the sun back into the sky.

The difference with Broad of course is that he hasn’t seemed to have aged a day. He is still the lanky, blonde, baby faced kid we all watched come up through the system over a decade ago. When, say, Ponting was nearing the end of his career, he looked the part. But Broad didn’t. Neither did Cook. It just adds to the jarring nature of the passage of time. Like the old saying goes, a 50 year old is just a 30 year old who went to bed one night. One can be toiling along without a care, and along will come age and with it the whiplash message that you are old, that we are all old, that the world is no longer young, and that we have moved on along with it.

But we were wrong.

Broad isn’t over the hill. He isn’t used up, tapped out or a has been. He is a very much right now.

Over the course of the five days in Manchester, as we all know, he batted and bowled like it was 2013 all over again. Shaving seven years off like they were nothing, battling against time and, somehow, winning.

In that victory, we can all find hope. We can all be reminded that it’s never too late, that we all have not just one race left to run, but many races, and we are in with a shout at even winning a few of them.

Life is short, but it also very, very long. And because of that it can seem like life has passed us by long before it actually has. We are in the fight a lot longer than we think we are. Time is opportunity, time is chance, time is room for magic, and we have ample amounts of it. We can feel old, broken down, left for dead, but that doesn’t mean we are.

We are never guaranteed a tomorrow. But it’s still a pretty safe bet for most of us, and even if it’s not we can act like it is. And with that tomorrow comes hope. Comes the space to be better, be more. We have all watched our heroes burn out or fade away, but that’s not how it actually works. Even after the spotlight goes out, long after it does even, life carries on, and in that carrying comes joy. In Manchester over these last few days, Stuart Broad showed us a sliver of that hope, that while all of us have numbered days, those numbers stretch long into the future, and as long as we are still breathing, we can still fight. And still smile. And still win.

Stuart Broad took his first Test wicket in December of 2007. He was 21 years old. Life stretched out before him like an endless horizon. He was young, we were young, the whole world was young, Today in Manchester he took his 500th and 501st Test wickets. He is 34 and until five days ago it felt he was old, that we were all old. But today he feels forever young, in his prime, and somehow so does the whole world.

Manchester show reveals why transformed Stuart Broad is far from ...