Greenfly, cider and Wimbledon

Like the majority of the national squad players I have been enjoying a few days of rest and relaxation following the ICC T20 although, unlike them, I wasn’t obliged to return straight home for the annual awards night so I stayed on in the UK.

To be absolutely honest, it can be quite difficult to rest or relax here given the traffic congestion and cost of living! But we made a pretty decent fist of it by renting a self-catering cottage on the Somerset-Devon border and kicking back to enjoy the long, summer evenings while the children played with a couple of Shetland ponies in the next field.

They make very ‘traditional’ cider in that part of the world and the first couple of sips were even beginning to diminish the negative effects of being covered in greenfly and various other summer bugs.

Then, from the behind a tall hedge on the other side of the cottage came the unmistakable sound of a game that was first played here well over two centuries ago. I was taken so completely by surprise that I refused to aknowledge what my brain was telling me.

The roads to this place had disappeared at least 15 miles before we arrived, becoming single car ‘lanes’ and then tracks barely wide enough for a horse and cart. We weren’t even near a village – at least not that we were aware of. But the sound came again: “Howzat!?”

Eyes soon confirmed ears. There they were, 22 men and boys making a mockery of the internet and DVD age to play a competitive game of cricket on a Wednesday evening, dressed (predominantly) in white! It was the most glorious and shocking reminder that cricket is not just about administrative power struggles, image rights the IPL and even the Ashes. Its soul and roots go so much deeper than all that.

Then, after Devon, we stayed with friends and watched the Wimbledon final – the real one, on Sunday. What a game. What a champion. Not just the greatest player of all time, but one of the greatest sportsmen and one of the finest human beings.

At 7:20 am on Monday, the day after winning his record-breaking 15th ‘major’ by defeating Andy Roddick 16-14 in the fifth set, when Roger Federer should have been tucked up in bed or, at the very least making his heavily pregnant wife a cup of herbal tea, he was chatting to a reporter on BBC Radio Four’s current affairs programme.

After a couple of minutes the interviewer, too, was struck by the anomaly and could no longer contain himself: “Why did you agree to do this interview?” he asked with a genuine sense of awe.

“Because,” replied Federer, “many years ago I learned that journalists and reporters are merely a link between me and the people who support me and I am grateful for the chance you give me to speak to them.” Bloody hell.

Ironically, just a couple of days before that happened I received an e-mail from Cricket South Africa informing me that the national players were now officially “on leave” and would not be “doing” any media.

Fair enough. But I reckon if they could have a chat to Roger Federer they might be in for as big a shock as I had somewhere near the medieval village of Dunster the week before

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