Not just cricket

I’ve got a plan. That doesn’t sound like anything so very extraordinary: millions of people around the world have plans, and thousands of them will be far more successful than I in executing them. But for me it is a big thing, as I approach my mid forties, that I finally have a plan for my life. True, it’s pretty vague – my aim is to help grow the sport I love so that the lives of more people across the planet can be enriched by it. Writing is one of the tools in my armoury, so I’m on a mission to improve my skills, get published, build networks and raise my profile.

To be clear – it’s not as though I’ve been sitting miserably in a dark closet for the whole of my life to this point. I’ve done many rewarding and enjoyable jobs. I’ve volunteered with some wonderful not for profits and community groups. I’ve lived in and travelled to many different and inspiring places. I’ve been moderately successful and learned so much along the way and met hundreds of great people. But I didn’t really plan any of it or have an idea of what I was aiming for – I drifted to wherever the current whim took me and made the best of what I found.

In my forty-first year, I discovered the thrill and joy of cricket and a new love affair began. Like billions of people in the world, I used to think cricket was boring: Test cricket in particular was a waste of five good summer days. I can’t explain precisely what happened to transform me into a cricket tragic, or why it happened; but I can pinpoint the exact moment I hit the point of no return.

It was July 2013, the start of the back-to-back Ashes series. Australian debutant Ashton Agar, who was a surprise addition to the team for the first Test and chosen for his spin bowling, scored 98 runs with the bat when his country was on the way to an embarrassing innings total and he was the last batsman onto the field. Supported by the late Phillip Hughes at the other end, nineteen-year-old Agar punished England’s best bowlers, who had just made a mess of Australia’s most experienced batsmen.

How could this sport be boring? One relative nobody turned an international sports match on its head. One unforeseen saviour raised the hopes and spirits of his broken team and their despondent fans. This was something that demanded my closer attention. I set about learning more about cricket after that – read, listened, watched, wrote, volunteered for a club, talked about it with anyone who could tolerate my incessant questions, and even eventually learned to play.

Then in early 2015 I read Tim Albone’s book Out of the Ashes: the remarkable rise and rise of the Afghanistan cricket team. When Taj Malik returned to his native Afghanistan post-9/11 from the refugee camp in Pakistan that had been his home for decades, he had two ambitious goals: to establish a national cricket team, and for that team to reach the Cricket World Cup. He’d learned to love cricket in Pakistan but the sport was practically unknown in Afghanistan, it certainly wasn’t organised or structured. The message he used to gain political support for his ambition, and which has subsequently inspired the team, is that cricket is a way to rebuild the nation’s identity. Albone writes: “The players know Afghanistan has a reputation centred on war, drugs and violence, but they want to play their part in changing minds. They want to show the world that Afghans are civilised, can play by the rules, can integrate and can compete.”

By the time I was reading the book, it was clear that they had succeeded and I was about to see the proof with my own eyes – I had tickets to watch their match against Australia in the 2015 Cricket World Cup at the WACA. This extraordinary story completely changed my view of the value of cricket, and was the catalyst for me deciding that I want to play a part in sharing, or even helping to create, stories of similar belief, courage, hope and transformation through cricket.

Along the way, I will be writing about things other than cricket too. My random ever-changing life is reflected in my eclectic interests: the outdoors, travel, music, reading, sport, keeping physically and mentally healthy, nature conservation, social enterprise, volunteerism, regional development, and anything that helps to make the world a better place. Everyday people with inspiring stories that demand to be shared are a particular passion.

I’m looking forward to this journey, and I hope you will join me.

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