Covering a Test Match can sometimes do nothing at all to help you develop a sense of proportion.
Let me explain. I commute to "work", spend something like twelve hours in the press box and then return to Streatham Park - no, not a bench under a tree - and grab something to eat before settling down in bedfordshire. In saying this, I'm perfectly well aware that I could be describing a lot of other people's daily lives, but I'm still struck by how the rest of the world's news becomes a backcloth to my thoughts about the state of Zaheer Khan's hamstring, Stuart Broad's role in England's attack and the use of the DRS system.
Sovereign debt crisis? Remind me what that is again. The American budget deficit? Yes, well, whatever. Comment on other issues becomes the soundtrack to my thoughts about a game. When I do pay attention to other things, they are also likely to be bound up with cricket, like last week's Roses match - if any of you remember that - or games in the Liverpool Competition. Then again, I suppose I should be encouraged that I am even conscious of other events taking place in the world. Cricket attracts enough complete obsessives as it is.
Also, while some people attach far too much importance to cricket, plenty more regard it as entirely trivial, which is just as big an error. In Phoenix From The Ashes, Mike Brearley describes how watching the Ashes Tests of 1981 offered encouragement and cheer to people during a summer when some of Britain's inner cities were being torn apart by riots.
On a similar, if less exalted, note it is pleasant to see that MCC are offering free entrance to the final day of this game to Under 16s and are charging over-65s only a tenner to watch what could be an absorbing conclusion to a Test that has been crammed full of good things. At a time when people are finding it tough to find money for comparative luxuries, that's a fine gesture by an organisation often renowned for its stuffiness.
Who knows how a young cricketer's life might be changed if they take advantage of this freebie? An hour of V V S Laxman's batting could be enough to inspire any promising batsman. As long as they don't attempt to imitate him too closely, they should profit from being ensorcelled by one of the game's true geniuses. If you'll forgive my lack of patriotism, I do hope that Laxman gets runs tomorrow, not least because that will give me another reason to write about him. Lancashire loyalists who remember his innings at Blackpool and the Oval in 2007 will have no problem understanding my views on the Hyderabad master. Indeed, they may share them.
All this is on offer tomorrow, plus the possibility of Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar batting for a while too. Nor should we forget the bowling of a rejuvenated Stuart Broad, or Graeme Swann making good use of a fifth-day pitch. The economic crisis can wait. I'm turning up early in the morning.
Photo (c) PA Images
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