Saturday, 21 February 2009

Saving the spirit of cricket.

I recently bought my Dad the ultimate DVD viewing combo; the 2005 Ashes box set and the 2003 Rugby World Cup story. He retired to South-West France a year ago to a little surfer's paradise called Hossegor. As well as being home to the legendary Dick's Sand Bar (Chick's Love Dick's according to the strap line adorning the entrance), Hossegor is also partial to the odd storm or two. So, what better way to pass the time than to enjoy 18 hours worth of DVD sporting gold. I must admit, when I arrive in Hossegor this summer, the decision between the beach and an immediate marathon in front of the the telly will be a very tough one. Simon Jones' 5 finger salute, Straussy's catch, Jason Robinson's full length try against Georgia...too many moments to mention. So, where did it all go wrong?

I was lucky enough to be at the penultimate day of the Oval test in 2005. At 10.55am I stood up and belted out Jerusalem (And did those feet...!) with the capacity crowd and rather interestingly John McCirrick, of racing and general chauvinistic fame, standing two seats to my right. It was simply, and I hope this doesn't sound too sad, one of the best days of my life! The action that day was mediocre, Freddie and Hoggy rattled through the Australian middle order (one wicket after lunch I ashamedly missed due to the charming tones of John Inverdale, who was still MC-ing the luncheon chat), and we only snuck in a glimpse of the England top order before bad light stopped play at around 3.30pm (cue Australian sun glass antics). The memory that lingers longest, however, is the passion and love for the game that gripped everyone in the Oval that day. The bad light made it even more obvious, the banter that ensued in the crowd during the break was heroic and the outskirts of the ground became over-run with games of mini cricket, with anything and everything that could be found being used in place of bat and ball. It was an awesome day to be a part of, and one that I certainly wont forget in a hurry.

Fast forward to present day and with English cricket, according to Mihir Bose, in a muddy and murky cul-de-sac, the prospect of the Ashes this summer is a slightly less appetising one. What with the Stanford saga, Pietersen vs Moores and a current side with all the killer instinct of Tim Henman, it's a little difficult to get pumped.

So, it may be a little mis-guided to suggest that The Everest Test can save the spirit of cricket, but in our own little world, allow us to think that it can help. I think cricket fans out there could do with an injection of cricketing goodness to help revive their enthusiasm. So we'll take it upon ourselves to administer a well timed shot before the Ashes kicks off this summer. Andrew Strauss and Alistair Cook are now on board as honorary captains of the two Everest teams, so it's not unrealistic to imagine that they may suck up some spirit from their involvement. When they go out to the middle this summer to face the Australian attack, let's hope they take some encouragement from our high altitude pursuits. Cricket's not for everyone, and those who love it often find it difficult to explain why. In 2005 cricket converted a bucket load of non-believers and hopefully the nation will be gripped again this summer, let's hope The Everest Test can play its part to get the ball rolling again.

As for the rugby...don't get me started. With our best young talent chasing higher salaries over in France and the nation letting out a collective sigh every Tuesday afternoon as Johnson names his latest 6 nations starting 15...deary of sevens on Kilimanjaro anyone?

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

One Rite of Passage to go please!

Practicality was top of the agenda this Christmas. Swiss Army Knives, sporks, altitude lip balm, reflective zinc sticks and foot warmers to name but a few of the incredibly practical presents exchanging hands in the Sharland household this week. It seems that the trip up Everest next April is quickly propelling me into fully fledged manhood a little sooner than expected. I am also now the proud owner of some incredibly supportive hiking boots and have now apparently reached the age at which Scrabble becomes a suitable Christmas gift and, more worryingly, a bloody enjoyable one.

So, due to the lack of any identifiable Rites of Passage in today's western world, and assuming that puberty still doesn't count (if facial hair is a measure, then some may argue that I'm still yet to see the back of that one anyway), I think a world record attempt on the world's highest mountain is probably a suitable alternative. Outdoor gear maketh the man, and a mention in the Guinness Book certainly wont hurt either.

As well as all the practical man gifts and purchases, booze intake is down, training has ramped up, I've taken part in my first public PR stunt (check out Toovey's epic re-telling of The Everest Freeze Mob, I've taken "The Grim Challenge" and "The Survival of the Fittest" in my stride (albeit a very cold, exhausted and weary stride for the most part), I've eventually and tentatively embraced blogging and fundraising plans are developing nicely. All in all, the build up to April's trip has been extremely enjoyable, and it's only going to get more focused, challenging and rewarding over the next few months. 2009 is certainly going to be a big year and I, for one, can't wait.

So, watch this space for updates on training and fundraising progress and my continued transition from boy to man to Everest Cricketer. Onwards and upwards. Hapy New Year everyone!