SURPRISINGLY enough for a cricket fan of a certain age, yesterday was my first ever proper visit to Lord’s.
I went on a tour of the ground, regarded by many as the ‘home of cricket’ many years ago, but had never seen a game there until the Royal London one day final between Notts and Surrey.
I enjoyed it too. It’s not every day, or every season for that matter, that your team wins a major trophy – and I doubt I will ever see a one day innings to match the 187 not out by Alex Hales.
But it was after the match that I actually learnt something.
First of all we had the interviews with the winners and losers.
Surrey captain Garath Batty spoke tremendously well. In true sporting tradition, he congratulated Notts on their performance and their victory. I wasn’t so much impressed with the words but the heart behind them. Despite being beaten at Lord’s for a third successive year, I could tell he is a very genuine man – and a good leader.
Match winner Hales came over well too. He was quite matter of fact and down-to-earth about his achievement, made even more special as it was the highest individual score ever in a Lord’s final.
Here is a guy, I thought, who has known disappointing days and doesn’t get too blown away by the acclaim coming his way.
But, then, far away from the madding crowd, I saw a poignant moment.
Former Notts and England batsman James Taylor walked unnoticed from one stand to another and took a photo of the celebrations on his mobile phone.
It felt both a very happy and a very sad moment to me watching him – I wonder how he perceived it.
For barely a year ago he would have been one of those players the crowd was queuing for ‘selfies’ with. Everyone would have been slapping him on the back and telling him he was a Notts legend.
But, in the quiet minute or so I observed, it was as if he was invisible.
Taylor’s life changed when he was at the very height of his powers – an irony as he was one of the smallest batsmen in the game.
He had graduated from Leicestershire and Notts to represent his country at both Test and one day level and was beginning to do very well.
Then, further irony, during a game between the same two sides last year it was announced he was suffering from a rare heart condition and was retiring from playing the sport he loves, was exceedingly good at and was winning him the sort of acclaim his friend Hales got last night.
That’s a harsh view of what life is like in the public eye.
One moment you are flavour-of-the-month, next you’re a nobody.
Many former footballers walk into the grounds they once graced and no one raises an eyebrow. Very often, they are barely physically recognisable as the athletes they once were.
But the values of the media and of the public generally are not the values that matter.
Not when it really counts.
The only judgement that is truly of value is what a person thinks of him or herself.
That determines, more than anything, the life we lead.
Naturally, the two different judgements – public and private -overlap at times.
It’s easier, by far, to be happy with yourself when others think you’re great.
Not so much when they’re ignoring you – but that remains the challenge.
I’m pleased Batty has a good attitude – that will help him to pick his players off the emotional floor.
I’m delighted Hales has a level head. He’ll need it when he next gets bowled out first ball and the critics are saying he hasn’t got the temperament for the big time.
But, more important than all that, I’m thrilled James Taylor is still alive. That must mean he is bigger than the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and may learn more vital lessons than how to strike a cricket ball.