I found one of my best friends at university through cricket. At a flat party in Freshers Week we refused the joint that was being passed around and instead talked about our shared love of Mike Atherton.
We ended up living together for a couple of years, and obviously we had many cricket conversations.
These consisted to a large extent of me making predictions firmly grounded in logic and evidence, but that usually turned out to be completely wrong. One such recent assertion was that Ian Bell should be dropped from the England side after the first Test between England and South Africa in the 2009/10 series. This was after he left a ball from Paul Harris that bowled him on middle stump.
I was convinced that Bell had had his nine lives, was mentally fragile, and was this generation’s Graeme Hick. Mike, a Warwickshire supporter, understandably disagreed.
Needless to say, Bell wasn’t dropped and has averaged 74 in the 12 Tests since then.
Another prediction of mine, that I must have made around the time of the 2005/06 England tour of India, was that Paul Collingwood did not have enough quality for Test cricket.
Mike is too much of a gentleman to remind me of my continuing failings in cricket predictions. But I remembered it whilst I was getting rather emotional at Paul Collingwood’s retirement from Test cricket.
For Colly turned into one of my favourite cricketers. It helped that he was Northern, and could score hundreds when he was so out of form it looked like he was holding his bat upside-down. He was a fighter who made the most of his limited batting talent, and you had to admire him for that. He was, also, an absolutely cracking fieldsman.
I felt confident when Paul Collingwood came out to bat when England were 30-3; something I haven’t felt about any other batsman apart from Graham Thorpe. Other batsmen were too unpredictable (KP), too infuriating (Bell again) or too rubbish (Ravi Bopara).*
*Not that Bopara isn’t/won’t be a good batsman, but do you really feel confident with him walking out if England are 30-3? Also, given my history of cricket predictions, if I call Bopara rubbish he’ll go on to become an all-time great.