After years of opportunity to shine, my skills as a cricketer are not so much unrecognized as unrecognizable. Regardless, I found myself in a taxi about to represent Colombia against the visiting national Chile team.
My selection was despite having described myself as the anti-all rounder, without any discernable ability in batting or bowling, and a throwing arm like a confused 10-year-old girl asked to put the shot. It promised to be an interesting international sporting debut.
There were positive signs that I might not be entirely lost, when I heard one of the Chilenos say in a suspiciously good Yorkshire accent: “I’d like an Aguila, that’s a good morning beer.”
Having lost the toss, we honorary Colombians were sent out to field. I strode out attempting to look confident while clad in my new, blindingly white clothes rather than “whites”. My substitute kit seemed more appropriate to an ageing Ibizan Lothario than the summer game.
My attempts to buy a box had been met with bemused looks rather than success. At least I wasn’t wearing jeans, unlike the Canadian in our team (geographically, he was the closest we had to a Colombian; the Chilenos boasted a Yank—their captain.)
The first few overs passed without any conspicuous displays of incompetence: success!
The least I could do was look keen, so when a ball play was played past me, I was off like Usain Bolt’s pasty English uncle. Arms and legs pumping, my cricket hat some way behind, I pounded over the Bogotá sports club outfield. I knew one goal: save the four.
Strong, fast, fit, slip, slide, sodden, bottom, pond. Pond! Clearly there were drainage issues in the outfield and my whites were no longer so white. And it was a four.
Later, I took a catch and opened the batting with the Canadian. He was rather good, better than me anyway. At least I scored one run, after one of my airy wafts finally clipped an edge.
We were making a reasonable game of it, until drinks, when it all fell apart and the Chilenos tidied up our remaining batsmen. All that was left was an afternoon of drinking beer and acquiring sunburn. Stibbs succeeds again.
After some hours, a very elegant Colombian appeared with a tray of whiskys and put them on our table. While he went back into the clubhouse (lined with pictures of the Royal Family), we tidied up the new arrivals. When he sashayed back, he announced he would be leading a tutored whisky tasting.
I could get used to international sport, I thought a little later as I sat on the Transmilenio bus back into town, feeling quite content with my day.
However, I did seem to be drawing an unusual amount of quizzical looks from the dressed-up Colombians on their way out on the town. As I looked around, I was rather conspicuous: the only gringo, radiantly sunburnt, dressed all in white, covered in grass stains and wearing a huge, filthy once-white hat.
What possible context could explain such weird garb? What sort of weird religious sect would take such a man?
I took the stares manfully and thought, these are things I’d do for my country, or at least someone else’s.