The Ryan Bailey Column
Home from home
Do you ever find yourself, when on foreign soil, trying to envisage what it would be like to live in that particular city or country?
Such a moment of deliberation involves making comparisons, or indeed contrasts, between there and home. Seven weeks have passed since I became one of Londonís eight million inhabitants and for a large chunk of my initial days here, those very thoughts preoccupied my mind.
People hurry and scurry past one another here like the footpaths are motorways, there is a battle for position on the underground platforms and wherever you go, there is a queue; if you werenít careful you may just be swept away and never regain your bearings.
Although it will take more than a two-month stay in London for it to resemble anything like home, there is a certain indiscernible aura about the place that engulfs you. Here, time seems to be but a fleeting illusion and while the attuning process to life in the big smoke is a perennial one, it has suddenly become a setting where there is no unfamiliarity about it.
Indeed, London is a city of boundless opportunities and itís been a pretty hectic seven weeks. Since arriving at the back end of May, an unrelenting schedule has brought one thing after the other but the experience of working for the biggest cricket website in the world has been incredible.
On latest count, half of the eighteen grounds on the county circuit have been ticked off my list. Naturally, the Oval has become somewhat of a second home but the smaller grounds around the country are just as alluring for their idyllic backdrop and general ambience away from the drone of London.
Moreover, to see Gary Wilson enjoy such a superlative run of form up close has been brilliant and the fact that heís been so helpful, friendly and accommodating each time I bump into him has been much appreciated.
Whatís become increasingly striking, particularly for someone looking from the outside in, is the levels of professionalism both on and off the field here. The facilities - regardless of the size or success of the county - are second to none and while clubs such as Surrey have a bottomless pit of resources, there is no shortage of infrastructure wherever you go; nearly every ground has a string of impeccably kept outdoor nets and an indoor school to boot.
Yet, there is something beguiling, somewhat inevitably, about the Home of Cricket. The view from the media centre (the big white thing opposite the pavilion) is incredible and the hospitality isnít bad either.
Moreover, the sound of the ball crunching off the bat, vehement spectators equipped with picnics baskets or a glimpse of an MCC tie is a reminder of the intrinsic values of the game in an age when the shortest-format is belittling the sportís true lifeblood.
Indeed, being around cricket for pretty much seven days a week only increases your longing to put on the whites. Itís hard to watch so much of the sport and not feel an urge to get involved and it would be a lie to say that I havenít missed playing having kept tabs on proceedings back home from afar.
As much as there are few complaints one can make about watching cricket for five/six days of the week, the chance to work in a different environment with ESPN has been refreshing. True, the ESPNcricinfo office is on the same floor in the same building but to work with different faces has been great.
As part of the global Disney group, their headquarters in Hammersmith is, as you can probably imagine, a great place to work. Itís an experience being in the office, which is equipped with an unimaginable amount of screens showing every sporting event on at the time from around the world. Iím on the desk at the UK edition which has been pretty busy over the last few weeks with the World Cup, Wimbledon and now the start of the Tour de France taking place in Yorkshire via London.
Having relocated from North London to SW18 last week, Iím but a stones throw away from the All England Club. Although tickets were like golddust, I couldnít resist taking a stroll down on Menís semi-finals day to sample the atmosphere and catch a glimpse of Wimbledon in all its glory.
As much as London is a paradise for great sporting events - another epic final between Djokovic and Federer was followed by the Tour de France speeding in, and out of town - there is of course a lot more to the place.
A couple of peeks from a train or bus window has been the extent of my sightseeing hitherto but with the schedule beginning to relent during my final few weeks here, I will assume the role of tourist once again.
I hope, however, that unlike many of the other wandering visitors, I wonít need a map to navigate my way around.
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