Menna Rawlings CMG

Menna Rawlings

British High Commissioner to Australia

Part of UK in Australia

19th November 2017 Canberra, Australia

Geoff Boycott, cricket and me

My first love was Geoff Boycott.

It all started when I was just six years old, and was sat with my Dad watching England play the West indies on our black-and-white TV.

The year was 1973. The test match was being held in Port-of-Spain. I was transfixed by Geoffrey’s batting; and was waiting desperately for the triumphant moment he would reach a hundred and, arms raised, celebrate the achievement of a century.

Boycott being Boycott, time crawled slowly. Very slowly. He edged up through the Nervous Nineties. Then..was out for 99, a run short of his century. I burst out crying, my mum and dad laughed and put me to bed. Still, he came back and scored 112 runs in his second innings, and (Wikipedia tells me) went on to score an unbelievable 261 not out against a West Indies Board President’s XI.

I must have been a strange child, as this all triggered an obsession with Geoffrey that lasted a few years. I was completely oblivious to the controversy that tended to flow around him. Aged 7, I found out his date of birth and pestered my Mum to let me send him a birthday card.

She relented and said we could post it to him c/o Yorkshire County Cricket Club. But I tested her patience when I insisted the card had to have a picture of cricketers on the front; and we spent a couple of unhappy days trudging around the newsagents of Ruislip searching for a card that fit the bill. Eventually, we found one of a village cricket match, and I sent it off with a note telling Geoff how amazing I thought he was, and giving him my address.

Menna Rawlings, aged 7

I hung out by the letter box for weeks, nay months, after that, convinced he would write back to me. Of course he never did, and my obsession slowly died. I think the nail in the coffin was probably when he ran out Derek Randall in front of his home crowd at Trent Bridge in the 1977 Ashes Series.

My love of cricket, however, lived on. My Dad used to take me to watch Glamorgan play county cricket, during summers spent in the Rhondda Valley in South Wales. He still likes to tell the story of when we drove all the way to Swansea to watch the final stage of a three-day match, only to find that Glamorgan had collapsed and were all out by the time we arrived.

And, although I didn’t play cricket at school and never learned formally to play the game, we loved to play street cricket as kids, especially in the Rhondda terraces which seemed designed just for this purpose. That was until my brother smashed a cricket ball right through the window of my great-uncle’s house, showering him with glass as he sat in his chair. He wasn’t injured, but it was a definite ‘six and out’, with play suspended for the rest of the day!

Those days seem to belong to a gentler, slower, bygone era: Test Match Special with its memorable theme tune; the dulcet tones of Richie Benaud, Henry Blofeld and Brian Johnston; days spent in front of the TV trying to score a game ; playing Subbuteo cricket on our kitchen table.

Today, it’s as much about the T20 Blast and Big Bash leagues as it is the One Day Internationals and Test Matches. And that’s fine, if it maintains the game’s relevance to a younger generation and keeps the TV advertising companies happy. But for me there is still nothing like Test Cricket. And, of course, nothing like The Ashes.

So, in the words of Kylie (sort of), I should be so lucky lucky lucky to be High Commissioner in Australia for an Ashes Series – and, even better, one involving both women’s and men’s teams. I can’t wait for the banter (but, please, not too much sledging), those hours of being hypnotised by the sound of bat and ball, punctuated by the doubtful or the definite “HOWZAT!!!”, and – of course – the chants of the Barmy Army (Gawd bless ‘em).

Much has changed since those halcyon days of 1970s (not least my preferred sporting heroes – though Geoffrey WAS one of the greats). But, whoever wins this summer (spoiler alert: the Poms), it is a sport that binds the UK and Australia together. Yes, we will be bitter rivals on and off the pitch; but we speak and understand the same language. The language of cricket. The sound of our summers. A beautiful game.

The Ashes 2017/18

The #Ashes are coming to Australia ? High Commissioner Menna Rawlings is more excited than most, and not just about England taking the Ashes home.The Ashes are an intrinsic part of the UK/Australia relationship and really demonstrate our long history, shared sense of humour and mutual love of sport.England Cricket Australian Cricket Team Southern Stars England's Barmy Army Australian High Commission in the United Kingdom

Posted by UK in Australia – British High Commission, Canberra on Thursday, 19 October 2017

About Menna Rawlings

Her Excellency Menna Rawlings CMG is the British High Commissioner to Australia. Menna joined the FCO in 1989 and has served in a wide range of Diplomatic Service roles. She…

Her Excellency Menna Rawlings CMG is the British High Commissioner to Australia. Menna joined the FCO in 1989 and has served in a wide range of Diplomatic Service roles. She was most recently a member of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Management Board as HR Director. This followed postings to Washington DC, Ghana, Israel, Kenya and Brussels. In London, she has served as Private Secretary to the Permanent Under Secretary as well as in Press Office and the Africa and EU Directorates.