A big fat envelope pushed itself through a mail slot in my door and fell heavily onto the floor.
I picked it up. Very few people in this world know my home address; as a result, most mail that actually arrives at my home address usually ends up in one of two varieties: (a) junk mail or (b) bills. Big fat envelopes containing either (or, God forbid, a combination of both) can therefore hardly be considered a treat. And – most certainly – are not something one would like dropped at their feet on a Saturday morning.
So, reluctantly, I picked up the envelope and opened it to see which of the two unwelcome mail varieties ended up at my doorstep this time.
But it was my lucky day. As if by magic, my mood switched to festive. I started off by dancing the entire length of my long corridor to the living room, where the dancing got even wilder as the floor shook and the many artefacts of my exotic trips flew off their carefully planned positions on the big bookcase. I then danced back into the bedroom, where the impromptu routine finally ran itself out of breath. Gasping like an old horse, I collapsed on the bed and stared at the glossy papers my hands were still firmly clutching – the very contents of the notorious envelope I had opened a few minutes ago.
“Lord’s”, it read, “The home of cricket”.
No junk or bills, for a change
Earlier this year, I joined a public tickets ballot to see a cricket match – which was not just any cricket match, ladies and gentlemen, but a One Day International (ODI) match between England and South Africa, to be held at England’s most celebrated cricket ground, the legendary Lord’s in St. John’s Wood in London.
And guess what? My application won! I got allocated two tickets to see a real cricket match on the premises where the noblest of games was, well, at home. For once, an unsolicited envelope on my doorstep happened to contain something useful – a pair of crispy cricket tickets with a laconic note that my “application has been successful”. Well thanks, I’d figured.
Now, I recognise that very few of you will go as far as share my excitement. In fact, some will probably open a new tab in their browser and double check what cricket actually is. When I happen to mention cricket to my Russian office mate, for example, all he ever reacts with is an indifferent “that’s the same thing as croquet, right?” Well, not exactly, darling. Trust me though – it’s a fun game.
I glanced at the tickets again. There were two of them. I suddenly remembered that applying for one ticket was not possible; since I never thought my application would go through though, I didn’t blink an eye and requested two instead.
And so I ended up with a spare ticket. Which meant that I had better start thinking which lucky candidate to invite along to share a blissful September Sunday in the company of yours truly, sipping bubbly drinks and watching men in bright “pyjamas” bowl and bat balls back and forth on a world-famous pitch.
A successful candidate will have
The task on my hands – finding a perfect cricket mate – admittedly wasn’t an easy one. ODI matches in cricket typically last for exactly as long as their name implies: a day, or at least eight hours. I’d be spending a whole day in the company of just one person. This needed a careful selection process. Who’d make a perfect cricket mate?
First, I thought, he – of course it’d be a HE – would need to understand the game. On my first ever live cricket match, I would really benefit from some educated commentary. Day to day, I am amazed by how many of my friends claim that cricket rules are “beyond” their understanding. I won’t pretend that I follow every single happening on the field – but seriously, people, basic rules of cricket are ordinarily understood by 6-year-olds here in England, the country where so many of us have the pleasure of residing. It can’t be that bad.
I then imagined how great it would be if my future cricket mate actually came from a cricket playing nation. There aren’t that many: only 10 countries are currently full members of the International Cricket Council, and a mere handful of others are decent enough to compete with dignity. Also, ideally, my companion would have played more or less professionally himself, for at least a few years. Which meant that he had to be quite fit, equipped with a good reaction and value teamwork over personal stardom – the qualities (as I am sure you will all agree) sported by each and every cricketer.
Going over to personality traits, a perfect cricket mate would have to be a good conversationalist. I mean, if we are really going to stick together side by side for EIGHT hours, he better know more than just blunt basics of entertainment. The options here are endless – for example, he could be well-travelled and share stories from his trips. Or have an exciting (read: non-banking, non-legal) profession and tell me all about that. Or, better still, just have the ability to talk knowledgeably – no annoying blabber, please – about everything in the world at pretty much the same time. Without talking too much, of course. And knowing EXACTLY when to stop. Easy, right?
Lose that cigarette. Now.
One thing for sure though: he could never be a smoker. While smoking as such is not allowed at Lord’s anyway, I’d hate to share immediate space with someone whose all thoughts would be outside the venue, dying for a fag. An overnight flight to Singapore with an obvious smoker from Athens was bad enough and is still as vivid in my memory as it was five years ago. No smell in the world is worse than cigarette smoke; between us, a smoking habit might even be my show-stopper of choice. That’s right – rather than dumping anjči outright, just pick up smoking and everyone will go their separate ways and live happily ever after, no questions asked.
But I digress. Already wondering if I had taken the cricket mate selection a little too far, I suddenly thought he’d have to be decently looking and nicely dressed, too. Sitting there at Lord’s in my Sunday finest, I’d most certainly have a right to expect the man next to me to make at least a loose match with my gorgeous self.
Here I turned to the mirror and winked at my reflection. You’re worth it, baby.
Which doesn’t exactly leave an overwhelming choice
And so I had my list. A fit, non-smoking cricket follower (actual players preferred) from a cricket playing nation, with good looks and a decent taste in clothes, comfortable to hold an entertaining, hour-long conversation as well as keep quiet when necessary and make every effort for this silence not to be awkward.
At which point I started getting somewhat concerned. Even in my admittedly wide social pool, there was precisely ONE person that could fit all of the above criteria. He was a fun talker, hot enough to make water boil with one look (well, sort of), always well-dressed and never even to have touched a cigarette – with an added benefit of being a teetotaller. Oh, and did I mention, an avid cricketer, too? As if it was even necessary at this point. I may have just found that perfect cricket mate. Bingo!
Except my seemingly flawless candidate had one tiny problem. He wasn’t a Londoner. In fact, he was not even living in the UK but 5.5 time zones away, in the faraway Delhi – the capital of one billion people’s cricket obsessed nation who’d certainly have no problem joining me at Lord’s – if only they were in London.
Which elegantly brought me to one final criterion I had previously forgotten: a perfect companion would need to be based locally. A long-distance cricket match? I don’t think so.
I looked at the tickets again – and smiled. I didn’t have to take this so seriously. September was still ages away. Perfect cricket mates might have been lining up round the corner, ready to fight for that spare piece of paper in my hand. And, above everything else, it wasn’t a life partner I was running the search for, after all – but a mere cricket buddy for a day.
Or was it?..