In this case, the anonymous call involved being asked to do a day’s work reporting on cricket for The Guardian – not exactly a lifetime’s ambition, but pretty much the only paper I read and thus something that, recently – especially since I’ve realized the imbalance in my education/employability accounts – had come to appear like being an astronaut or airline pilot does to your average nine-year-old boy. This was the paper of Mike Selvey and Vic Marks, Andy Bull and Barney Ronay, solid blokes like Andy Wilson and Rob Smyth. The only thing was, I wasn’t prepared to ‘do my time’ on the sports equivalent of ‘Cat Stuck Up Tree’ stories in order to get there; you know, non-league football and the like. Because I had no time.
So, off I went to Edgbaston (which has recently lost 7 of 12 days of cricket to the weather, including four days’ international play) in the knowledge that I’d be contributing to The Guardian’s fabled County Cricket Blog as well as having a short report in the Saturday paper, all being well.
But this was Friday 13. All was not well. Perhaps there was something of a clue in the man in the ice hockey mask fleetingly glimpsed as I made the short walk from the bus stop on Bristol Street over to the ground, then up to the fourth floor of Edgbaston’s new stand. The press box, so much busier for the Test against West Indies last month, housed just a single soul, and up there in the Gods we sat gazing at the outfield and the sky’s fifteen shades of grey.
I still had to file brief updates from the ground, and I also posted BTL (that’s ‘below the line’; that’s in the Comments section; that’s…oh, you’ll work it out), which provided perhaps the greatest pleasure of the day: being granted a two-tone blue C, for Contributor, alongside my username, ItsGoingIrish. Sad, I know.
Guardian County Blog: Friday 13 July
As it became increasingly obvious that there’d be no play (it was eventually called off at around 1 o’clock), I tried to think of an angle for some sort of piece for the website later, appearance in the newspaper having vanished along with the Brum skyline a couple of miles in the distance.
With Graeme Swann having sat out the final couple of ODIs against Australia with an elbow injury, a chat with Sussex’s Monty Panesar seemed a good option, asking him if he was ready to step in at The Oval, a turning pitch, and also whether he was looking forward to getting some game time this winter in India, land of both his forefathers and his debut in 2006.
As it was, Monty had left the building, as had Matt Prior, while Ian Bell was otherwise occupied. So, as several players in county tracksuits whose faces I didn’t recognize filed past me in Edgbaston’s impressive reception area, I ended up having a chat with Warwickshire’s 38-year-old all-rounder Darren Maddy about the title race in the County Championship. The result was my first ever Guardian by-line. Decent.
It’s just a shame the subeditors excised my Jungle Book gag at the end, which tied in to the first sentence’s mention of being at the mercy of the weather. It read: “In this light, taking things ‘very much one day at a time, one session at a time, and sticking to our processes’ is not so much a cliché as the only sane way to go about things. It is, you might say, the Bears’ necessity. Now, they just need a favour from Mother Nature’s recipe.”
Darren Maddy piece for Graun
So, debut made. The question now is whether I’ll be a one-cap wonder.