The toughest part is keeping your eyes open

Neil Manthorp – 04/04/2001

Deborah Kirsten is honest enough to admit that her interest in watching cricket is restricted to ‘…the one-dayers, definitely, and Test cricket, when Gary is batting…or when it’s exciting!’

With all but three members of the squad in Antigua now partnered by wives and girlfriends, there are quite a few more ladies whose interest in the game has had to be ‘manufactured’ because of the job their partners have.

Isabelle Klusener is another who genuinely enjoys watching the cricket and also states a preference for the one-day game (which is understandable given her husband’s job description) but six straight hours of Test cricket is above and beyond the call of duty.

Debbie Kirsten has, for some reason, become a very informal ‘moral’ guide for the other ladies as to how much cricket they ‘need’ to watch in order to be seen as ‘dutiful’. So at each cricket ground, when the wives are on tour, the VIP box set aside for them is usually empty for part of either the morning session of a Test match or the late afternoon one.

“We all do our own thing, obviously, but there’s usually a group of us who end up doing a bit of shopping or exploring in the morning before going to the cricket in the afternoon. Or we go to the cricket in the morning and then the beach in the afternoon!” Debbie says with a grin. Nobody, but nobody, needs to feel guilty about going to the beach in Barbados or Antigua!

Cricket is an acquired taste, no doubt about that, and one that poor Constance Hooper, wife of Carl, is still struggling to attain. On the flight from Barbados to Antigua I sat next to her and Carl junior (who is quite a handful).

An English tourist sitting opposite Hooper caught hold of young Carl as he leapt once again into the aisle and enquired from the apparently single Mum (Carl and the entire West Indies team were sitting a little further behind) where she was travelling and whether she was alone.

“We’re getting off in Antigua for the cricket – I’m Mrs Hooper,” she said, smiling.

“Oh, is there some cricket in Antigua? – that’s nice. I’m Bill Braithwaite…I’m afraid I don’t follow the cricket much. Does your husband like watching as well?”

“Umm, well, he sort of has to watch,” explained Constance. “He’s the captain…”

“Oh, wasn’t there some sort of controversy over that?” asked Bill, tactfully.

“Well, yes. He retired in 1999 and then he came back as captain, so yes…”

“Still, I’m not bothered with cricket,” Bill concluded.

“Neither would I be if I wasn’t married to the captain of the West Indies,” Constance concluded with a grimace.

And the moral of the story is: next time you see the wives and girlfriends sitting together in their VIP box at the Recreation Ground in Antigua, don’t think their life is easy. Some of them are working bloody hard to keep their eyes open and look interested.

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