The American lady seemed perplexed by my camera’s firing shutter. She followed the direction of the lens and asked her tablemates what made my subject so special.
“He’s famous,” the man in the ten-seat answered.
“Famous for what?”
The Brits at the table were incredulous.
“He’s famous for cricket.”
I was hoping I wouldn’t hear the next question, but it was inevitably coming.
Indeed, to we Americans, the game of cricket is a bit of a foreign concept. Most Americans grew up listening to the chirping ourtside their windows or baiting their hooks with the insects we call crickets.
From across the table, another Brit smiled and playfully huffed. “It was around before baseball.”
Here, asking what cricket is would be a lot like asking what baseball is in America. And asking who this guy is is akin to asking why everyone is so excited about Derek Jeter.
That folks, is Mike Atherton, one of the most famous faces of English sport in the last decade. I’ll be he first to admit, I don’t follow cricket. A couple of days ago, an English friend asked, “So, what do you know about cricket?”
I could only answer, “I know it takes a very long time to finish a game.”
So, I’m not the best to fill you in on Atherton. Fortunately, there are others who can. A local television network website describes Atherton thusly:
“Enjoyed an illustrious career that saw him graduate from Cambridge University to England captain via Lancashire CCC, accumulating 115 Test caps and 7,728 runs (at 37.69) in the process. A stubborn right-handed opening batsman, he captained England on 54 occasions, being voted the Cricket Writers’ Cricketer of the Year in 1990 and named one of Wisden’s Cricketers of the Year in 1991. Got unwelcome flak for the infamous “dirt in the pocket” incident but stood firm until a degenerative back condition forced his retirement in 2001. It had already curtailed a promising sideline in leg-spin that brought him more than 100 first-class scalps early in his career. Since then he has joined C4 as a commentator and continue to write for the Sunday Telegraph. Awarded OBE in 1997 for services to cricket.”
At this moment, Atherton sits downstairs (right next to Noah “Exclusive” Boeken, by the way) playing in his first-ever major poker tournament. Decked out in PokerStars gear, he’s catching the eye of many in the room.
We’ll keep an eye on him as well.