There is not a lot of cricket going on in Majorca – now or at any time. Spain play in Europe’s Third Division. The mainstays of the team are not Spanish by heritage.
In the garden of the house in which I’m staying, in the foothills of Majorca’s gutsy northern mountains, there is what appears to be a cylindrical cricket bat. An omen perhaps? Or maybe a large, broken rolling pin.
For cricketing obsessives, foreign vacations are not what they were. For a child of the Eighties, family summer breaks were interlaced with discussion of how the Test at Trent Bridge might be playing out. Or how, at Headingley, if we won the toss, would we have put the Aussies in, bearing in mind that we’d picked Ilott as well as Bicknell? Then again, would young Athers’ leg-spin transfer from Fenner’s to Lord’s? Walks in the Dolomites were dominated by discussion of England’s likely batting order.
At a Tyrolean pass in the early Nineties we might spy a man in a white floppy hat. An Englishman if ever there was one. “Grüss Gott”, we would say, for good form, before asking him if he had possibly seen a newspaper recently. He had? “Why yes, The Independent from two days ago!” England were batting and Atherton had made 40-odd (no surprise there). We were seven down at the close, as far as he recalled.
This was gold dust. Lord alone knew what had happened in the two days since but we could ponder the permutations and be happy. Happier, indeed, than if we knew the truth.
No such thing now, of course, in this internet age and holidays may be the poorer for it.
Let’s hear it for Pankaj, the genuine enthusiast
All that having been said, I can at least file this column from the stifling heat of the Balearics without telegramming in from the nearest telegraph office. Even better, the internet also brought me the joyful and instantaneous news of Pankaj Singh’s first Test wickets on Saturday.
In a world of often identikit cricketers, Pankaj is a hero. He tries, he smiles in the face of adversity, he bats like Devon Malcolm (minus specs), he has a proper off-cutter. And he has waited a long time for a crack of the whip at the top level. No prima donna tactics from Pankaj. Despite not getting a break, he kept at it for over after over in Southampton, then Manchester. And at last he was rewarded. Twice.
There is, to be blunt, no finer cricketer than Pankaj right now. He already has a cult following and, while he is something of a throwback, many a modern player could learn from his attitude towards and appetite for the game. If things keep going England’s way and M S Dhoni and Duncan Fletcher pay the price for failure after this series, the cry of “Pankaj for captain” must begin.