@RafNicholson @GeekAndWilde I hope Charlotte Edwards and Heather Knight know how much I am counting on them. No pressure
— Peter Miller (@TheCricketGeek) December 29, 2013
Thursday, January 2, 2014
I recently reviewed the past year in women's cricket for cricinfo. That prompted me to reflect on the past year, in both cricketing and personal terms; the following blog post is the result. It's been the most incredible, exciting, and surreal year, so I hope you'll forgive a little self-indulgence on my part.
Right back at the beginning of 2013, amidst the January snow, curled up by the fire, I wrote my first ever piece for cricinfo (though I didn't know that's where it would end up at the time). It was about Sarah Taylor playing for Sussex 2nds (never happened, did it?), and based heavily on my PhD research. Up it went one Sunday morning onto the world's biggest cricket website, and suddenly, the world was reading about the Women's Cricket Association, and my thesis, and I had a voice.
Cricket has been a huge part of my life for the past 15 years, since I realised that I actually enjoyed watching the slow unravelling of a day's play, and that I wasn't just humouring my dad any more. People say that it's just a game, which in many ways is absolutely true. But in 2013 it became a bit more than that for me, I guess. Finding my voice in cricket, somewhere in amongst this wonderful community of cricket journalists, bloggers and tweeters, is what last year was really all about.
It's helped that 2013 was an incredible year for women's cricket, as I tried to show in that cricinfo piece. My diary entries for February are written in exhaustedly messy handwriting, full of 3.30am starts to watch the Women's World Cup matches, sleepy tweeting, and tired sadness when England lost in nail-biters to Sri Lanka and Australia, and failed to progress to the final.
February 8 – “After we had bowled Australia out for 147 I thought we had it in the bag, but no. More misery as we lost our last wicket with just 3 runs required. Payback for Edgbaston 2005, laughed the cricket gods.”
February 17 – “Australia claim their sixth(?) World Cup title. Bugger.”
February 18 – “I am officially nocturnal.”
But it was a fantastically unpredictable tournament, and for what felt like the first time, the world was really watching. My blogging throughout was just one small part of that, and I loved every minute.
In amongst it all, cricinfo launched The Cordon, and there I was, a very visible part of the cricket blogging revolution, and it was terrifying (exciting, but terrifying). I remember suddenly realising that every single one of my tweets was appearing on The Cordon's page, and wondering whether I should stop tweeting about Dawson's Creek or what I'd had for dinner.
I didn't stop.
We had a gloriously long hot summer this year, perfect for cricket – and as usual I watched a hell of a lot of it. Middlesex's championship season started so well, but went downhill. Martin's blog helped me follow the women's county season more closely than ever before. I watched with a group of friends, all of us nursing hangovers the morning after my 25th birthday party, as England bowled New Zealand out for 68 to win the Lord's Test. None of them quite understood what was happening, and I'm not sure I did either. I travelled up to Loughborough to watch England Women play Pakistan, a bit of an adventure. I watched the Champions Trophy matches accompanied by my grandma, who offered wise insights such as “I'm not sure England are doing very well, are they?” And Dad and I spent the most wonderful day at Lord's watching Joe Root copiously acquire runs against Australia, surrounded by glum-faced Aussies (gosh, that feels a long time ago, doesn't it?)
But this was a different summer, and not just for the heat. The wonderful folk at All Out Cricket decided they wanted me to report on the women's Ashes for them: the most exhausting, scary and brilliant few weeks ensued. The press tent at Wormsley during the women's Test was the best introduction to cricket journalism I could possibly have had. I struggled each day to file anywhere near my deadline, and wondered nervously each time if I'd missed something important; I never quite managed the neutrality of the Real Cricket Journo, inappropriately cheering whenever England did well; and there was often a Miles Jupp-esque “fibber in the heat” feeling lingering whenever I entered the press section; but I felt the fear and did it anyway, and it was great.
It was great for women's cricket, too: a new-format Ashes, ticket sales through the roof, amazingly full press boxes, and the TMS guys there at every game.
There were so many moments during 2013 when I found myself amongst the great and the good, feeling like I was floating, and wondering how I ended up there. Twilight in the bar at the top of the Lord's pavilion conversing with Mike Gatting; entering the Lord's media centre for the first time; struggling to think of questions to ask Sarah Taylor when she had hit 77 at Chelmsford to win the T20 for England, while in the background Mike Atherton interviewed Clare Connor, and a group of ecstatic England fans clamoured for autographs. On all those occasions, I've found myself negotiating a balancing act between starstruck fan and professional journalist. I'm still not sure I've got that one figured out.
Has the PhD suffered? In many ways, cricket is the PhD, and the PhD is cricket, but trying to keep up with thesis research while watching cricket all night and reporting on matches is difficult, to say the least. I'm not sure I did too well at it this year. No doubt I should have been writing a thesis chapter when I was writing blog entries, no doubt I should have been sleeping instead of crawling out of bed to listen to TMS, but would I have done anything differently? I don't think so. There were sacrifices to academia, too: I spent the first two days of the first Ashes Test in July holed up in a shed in a remote area of Lancashire, for 10 hours each day, doing research. Wonderful findings and picturesque scenery, but NO WIFI. I had to beg for irregular updates by text to keep me sane (thank you Ben!) So let no one say the PhD does not come first. Some of the time.
And in any case, what I've realised this year is that academia and cricket journalism inform one another, in both obvious and non-obvious ways. Here's one: part of the thesis assesses how press coverage of women's cricket has changed since 1945; I'm now part of that coverage. Suddenly I'm a bit-part player in my own thesis, and it's all a bit meta. And then there was that evening in Cambridge in November, when the university women's cricket team (so I'm told) cancelled their indoor net session to allow members of the team to attend a paper I was giving.
I'm not going to pretend that the year ended well, as far as cricket goes. I remember – and it's crazy to think that this was only a month and a half ago – the excitement and hope of rushing back from the pub, to get home in time for the first ball at midnight, not wanting to miss a second. I wanted to be able to say: “I was there. I watched that ball.” Now I think I'd rather forget this series altogether. But the shared misery of others on twitter makes it bearable, even sometimes amusing, and there's always the consolation of the women's Ashes to come. As @thecricketgeek said to me recently,
That particular series starts on January 10 in Perth, and perhaps the most exciting thing of all to transpire from 2013 is this – that I will be there, in just over a week's time, to see it all, and report on it. The trip of a lifetime, and I cannot wait.
When am I going to wake up from this dream?
I guess what I'm saying is that in general 2013 was an unforgettable year, in both cricketing and personal terms. What have I learned? That double men's Ashes series aren't a good thing, that being a cricket journalist is incredible, that Wormsley is the most beautiful place in England, and that fighting the cause of women's cricket is not the losing battle it once seemed to be.
And one more thing: Twitter is amazing. I doubt any of the best things that happened to me in 2013 would have happened without it. Yes, some people tweet utter rubbish about cricket. Yes, people are often ill-informed and irritating. Yes, I have had my fair share of trolling and the occasional spat with someone who thinks women's cricket should not exist (here's looking at you, Alan Swann). But mainly I've enjoyed talking and joking with some wonderful people, who know stupid amounts about cricket, men's and women's, and keep me on my toes. Here's to all of you, and to one special person in particular (you know who you are), who I never would have encountered without it.
Here's to 2014.