When I first acquired a Sky television box, I was very relieved man. It meant I could fast forward through those dreary “community football” segments shoehorned into Match of the Day every week.
By showing us some kids charging round a draughty gym in Bolton, the BBC – with its typically patronising overtones – was saying: “Hey, guys, look, it’s not only in the mega-bucks Premier League where they play footie.”
No, you don’t say.
I must have been three or four when I first started kicking a ball around with my dad, a football obsessive and a very good player.
Soon enough, I’d swapped dad for mates and the back garden of our Canterbury home for the massive Beverly Meadow nearby.
So, too, it was with cricket.
Around the age of eight or nine, I received one of those cricket sets with the size 3 bat and the little stumps.
Cricket then became the summer game of choice for all the local kids who enjoyed sport.
Every evening until the sun went down we played on the artificial wicket which used to sit in the middle of the Beverly.
I don’t remember anyone pushing me towards cricket or saying I had to “participate” in it.
This makes it all the more galling that the ECB and Sky are currently basting themselves in gooey dollops of self-worth with the “Participation Test” against Pakistan in Headingley.
Firstly, we didn’t “participate” in cricket. We played it. Secondly, we didn’t need some well-meaning, but condescending adults talking to us about it.
What’s more we grew to love cricket because we used to go to the St Lawrence Ground and watch Kent every day they were at home and we weren’t at school.
And we watched the Test matches on tv featuring heroes like Botham, Gatting, Gooch and Emburey. There was no need for gimmicks.
Alas, that’s all we get these days. Sky’s coverage of the first day against Pakistan yesterday featured an incredibly tedious segment showing children dribbling balls around with a cricket bat.
Then at lunchtime, we were shown a video of amateur women playing the game. Look, you blinkered sexists, women play it, too!
The day before the Test match was the charity T20 match at Lord’s in which Nasser Hussain took to the field with a microphone to commentate – even standing at deep first slip at one point.
And who can forget the ECB’s execrable 100-ball format of the game mooted earlier this year.
It’s one thing after another for cricket’s administrators and broadcasters. They would be well advised to come to the realisation that enjoyment of cricket stems not from stunts and gimmicks, but from encouraging affection for the real sport.
As I said before, it’s time we launched a campaign for real cricket…