“Cricket was my reason for living”.
Larwood's utterance isn't an isolated view - the inner thoughts of a ruthless quick whose opinion mirrors many of his contemporaries, past or present.
I adore our great game, there is no room for debate in that, but is it my first love? The one thing that I couldn't live without? Is it that for any of us?
Any utterances I were to make about a player's (international, at least) love for cricket would be mired in hearsay - my experiences as a club hacker don't provide a basis for such lofty assessment. An outside-in view is murkier than quantifying the birthdate of a Pakistani cricketer - I'll leave that up to the paid brigade, especially given their number continues to swell with ex-internationals at the expense of those with a journalistic grounding (that's a subject for another day).
Those who know me understand I played a bit - I dabbled in the lower echelons of representative cricket, a forgotten name in an endless list. My experience was pretty similar at club level - my school report card who have noted that I "showed talent and promise but he'd be better to apply the same effort to his calculus as he does his pursuit of glory on the cricket pitch". It's the familiar story of young men in cricketing nations the world over. I share these stories not as a tribute to self-deprecation but as context, for until my late teens I could see no room for a love greater than whites, willow and leather.
But how many of us, supporters of club, province and country, carry such dalliances into adult life? Don't the realities of "growing up" and a crystallised vision of where our future lies put paid to placing our great game above all else?
As I've aged, though I am by no means a relic, my love of all things cricket has been tempered by my journey into the "real" world - one firmly entrenched in mortgages, nappies, suits and meetings.... I'm living the high life! Whilst I jest, a little, it's a life I'd not change for even a single chance to earn my bread from the game I love - we all change and many of us move on.
Don't mistake me, when my kids are asleep dreaming of Dora and Ele-van, and the bride has immersed herself in following the pursuits of those seeking fame and fortune as a singer or celebrity chef, cricket holds centre stage. However, where it once took the lead, it's now resigned itself to a career as an understudy - just another cog in the supporting cast that sustains the main act.
I have enough Wisdens to have raised my bat to a standing ovation, almanacks from every cricketing corner, autobiographies past and present, and all manner of memorabilia, but they're currently confined to the photographic archives - neither cricket's bible nor a Lara blade mix well with sticky fingers and a curious young mind. There will be time, as there once was, for them to again hold pride of place in a room that went from man cave to nursery, Men in White replaced by Bananas in Pyjamas.
Endless days of summer once spent at venues varied, supplemented by coverage via satellite, have become the exception where once they were the rule. My love for our great game will never die but it is no longer the taken-for-granted comfort of an old married couple, but instead many short and heated affairs - a series of stolen moments when the rigours of life allow. My love hasn't dimmed but it has been usurped - if that makes me a pariah in the eyes of fan boys, then so be it.
England's current tour, and the example of an enthusiastic mother of a cricketing quartet, have shown me the way forward - the love of cricket and family need not be mutually exclusive, one hidden from the other for fear of being asked to choose. There is something special about an England tour - a battle with the mother country, the chants and humour of the Barmy Army and a chance to see who has the better South Africans - as a Kiwi, nothing in cricket rivals it.
The third test in Auckland will be my fifth match of the tour, all an opportunity to share one love with the other. That the bride is a cricket geek helps - she's attended all but one match, allowing me the latitude to make room for both. Master three ventured onto the banks of Whangarei's Cobham Oval to welcome the tour and on Friday he attended his first test - seldom have I seen less cricket in a day's play, yet never has one been so memorable. I hope for a repeat performance when we round out the tour on Tuesday.
If either of my mini-mes pursues our great game, and I can indulge my two passions down the line, then all the better but they will always be the light. Don't ask me to choose, for cricket will finish a distance second. But, and I say this with a naive hope, the kids will leave home in 20 years - retirement may yet be the golden era of cricket.
"When there is time to think about cricket, I think but when there is time to be with family, I try to do justice to that aspect of my life as well”.
Tell me what you think – I’d love your thoughts. How do you find a balance, or do you? We’re all different and I’d love to hear your experiences. As an aside, I penned this on an iPad during the third test - I'll never lose my love of live cricket. Post a comment below or tweet me @aotearoaxi.