A game of two (beigel) halves

By David Robson, June 24, 2013
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Cricket isn't a very Jewish game. I doubt if Ian Botham, dropping the ball while he was running in to bowl, ever yelled "oy vey" as one of my team once did. The fearsome fast bowler Fred Trueman, who turned out to have a Jewish grandmother, probably never yelled to his teammates: "I'm going to skittle these shleppers and finish this whole bloody misheberuch." Jim Laker, who took 19 wickets in a Test match, married into a Jewish family. His mother-in-law probably said "nu, what was wrong with the 20th wicket?" Chaim Potok's novel The Chosen opens with a 25-page description of a ferociously fought softball game between two New York yeshivot. We can take it there is no such grand account of a Jewish cricket match.

Harold Pinter, the outstanding Anglo-Jewish literary figure of the past century, loved cricket and had his own (largely non-Jewish) team. He said "cricket is the greatest thing God created on earth. Certainly greater than sex, although sex isn't bad either." He wrote a poem about his hero: "I saw Len Hutton in his prime/Another time, another time." He sent it to his friend, the playwright Simon Gray. A few months later, he asked Gray what he thought of it. Gray replied: "I haven't had time to finish reading it." Oy!

My own recent batting performance had a special degree of yiddishkeit about it. It was in north London, at the old boys' ground of Highgate School.

I was the opening batsman and my strategy was dictated not by the state of the pitch or the quality of the bowling but by my concern about what time the beigels would arrive. I had mentioned to my girlfriend that beigels would be good for lunch and she was going to collect some en route to the ground. She chose Beigel Bake at the top of Brick Lane in the East End, a magnificent establishment open 24 hours a day. Their beigels are not only good, they are extremely cheap. Fill your car with them, go to Hendon or Golders Green, undercut the shops there by half and still make a healthy profit.

Not surprisingly there is often a very long queue there. We all know the truism, quip, boast or slur "Jews don't queue" and I treasure the old New Yorker cartoon where a woman is standing at the end of a lengthy line at Bloomingdale's kvetching: "First the Holocaust, now this." I doubt if most of those queuing outside Beigel Bake were Jews; nor for that matter is my girlfriend. She wanted to see me bat (God knows why); she knew I might be batting first but felt it her absolute duty to get the beigels. When play started she hadn't arrived and, half-an-hour later, she still hadn't arrived. It was a limited-overs match, I wasn't scoring many runs but I thought I had to stay in until she came.

Halfway through the team's allocation of overs, she still hadn't arrived. Enough already! I got myself out for the common good. Meanwhile, she had decided the queue was too long. As I trudged back to the pavilion, she arrived without beigels. Cricket really isn't a Jewish game.

    Last updated: 10:45am, June 24 2013