This intermittent 'first eleven' series is, of course, a tribute to the greatest show on earth (in what will be the greatest sport in heaven) ... the World Cup Cricket tournament in the Caribbean.
I could never ever try to rank my 11 most favourite cricket memories but...
What about cycling across Delhi to the Feroshah Kotla cricket ground one foggy morning in 1975 to watch Viv Richards hit his first test century (192*), spiced with five sixes before lunch off Bishen Singh Bedi?
What about, as a relatively fresh lecturer at the Bible College of New Zealand, returning very late to a staff meeting because I just had to watch Martin Crowe - that batting textbook incarnate - get a triple century ... only to have him tickle it to the wicketkeeper on 299? Surely God could not be that petty in singling me out for judgement :)!
What about a statistic to cherish? I love cricket statistics. Of all the bowlers from every country who have ever played test cricket since WW2 and of all the bowlers who have ever played One Day Internationals (and bowled at least 2800 balls in tests and ODIs), Shane Bond has the best strike rate of any of them - in both forms of the game. In other words he gets people out more often than any other bowler in history.
What about popping down to Eden Park for the post-tea session (paying just $5.oo for me + three kids to enter) and being entertained by watching Jacob Oram and Chris Cairns pelt ten? sixes in 90min off those poor South Africans?
What about listening, as a lad in the Himalayas, to the dulcet tones of John Arlott commentating on that first World Cup final in 1975, in the company of my cricket buddie on the staff (who doubled as my piano teacher - his name was F Sharp!) as Clive Lloyd thrashed 102 and Viv Richards ran out multiple Aussies with direct hits? Funny how my piano career never really took off... but then I never shared his admiration for Geoffrey Boycott either.
What about sitting in the 'V" in the stadium behind the bowler's arm at Eden Park with my father-in-law and my 6yr old son for the opening game of the World Cup in 1992 and watching the Aussie 'required run rate' on the scoreboard gradually rise out-of-control , handing a shock victory to a NZ team dressed in beige?
What about driving up from Invercargill to Carisbrook in Dunedin to watch the aforementioned (twice!) Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards be the only person in history to hit a hundred and take five wickets in a one day international game - and watch it in the company of 82 year old Henry Gardiner and my 3 year old son? We were quite a threesome that day...
What about those Air Points gained from a family reunion trip to the USA in 1994 ... 'Now let me see, where shall we go?' ... 'ah yes, the Boxing Day test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground' ... with the pilgrimage now completed, need I say more? Oh yes, there will be more! I have yet to watch a game at Lord's.
What about being stuck in a motel room in Queenstown with guests from the USA who have no (cricketing) soul and trying so hard to be sociable while Richard Hadlee was taking 9/52 against the Aussies on the TV in the next room?
What about watching the NZ team chase down 330+ against Australia at Eden Park just the other day - in the most electric sporting atmosphere I have ever encountered? An Aussie steps on the boundary while taking a catch. Was it a six? It went upstairs to the third umpire. Lots of deliberations and replays unseen by the crowd. Every eye fixed on the umpire waiting for his signal. Up went the arms signaling six and the crowd turned Vesuvian and StHelensian and Ruapehian ... and my daughter and I were part of the lahar that covered the ground that day.
What about (ah yes, I have managed to leave the best until last!) taking all my children back to India (25 years later), standing on a verandah in the quad of my old school, chatting with my coach Brij Lal and having him say - in the hearing of each one of my children - that my bowling was 'unplayable'? Ahh - the joy that flooded my soul. Clearly that 6-14 on a green mat laid down on the gravel at St Georges' was fixed in his memory!
if for some strange reason you got this far in the post ... let me tell you it's been real nice chatting