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Mike Atherton

A cricketer’s keen interest in life beyond the boundary

Justin Cartwright | January/February 2015

Melbourne is a great city, and one I have been to many times. It offers a wonderful mix: it’s cosmopolitan and vibrant, with fantastic parks and walks for pedestrians, cycle paths, good public transport, great restaurants and unbeatable sporting facilities. And the wineries of the Mornington Peninsula are only an hour away. It is self-contained and compact in a way that Sydney is not – and less up itself.

Dramatic views beyond the Gateway of India out to the Arabian Sea, and the bustle of Mumbai life just outside the gates, give the Taj an unbeatable, exotic location. It is a plush hotel, having been refurbished after the bombings of 2008, but retains its character, style and sense of history. I walked back there on a memorable evening after India had won the World Cup in 2011, down Marine Drive with fireworks crackling and thousands of people celebrating – it was a joyous scene. Just around the corner from the hotel is Trishna, an unpretentious restaurant that does fabulous curried crab.

Is there a better railway station anywhere in the world? It represents the best of Victorian architecture and the ambition of the age, and its £800m refurbishment is a triumph. As a gateway to Europe it also, now, showcases the best of British: at once welcoming and outward-looking. I love the fact that you can be in Paris in a couple of hours, and Provence four hours later.

At the 1996 World Cup, our base for the first part of the tournament was Peshawar in Pakistan. I asked to travel along the Khyber Pass but was told it was too dangerous and that tribal warfare was out of control. The next time I went to Peshawar, in 2000, things had eased, and a handful of us took a car along the pass. The views down into Kabul are amazing. We stopped at a bazaar on the Afghan side, and, bizarrely, everyone knew who we were. Afghanistan’s subsequent success at cricket hasn’t come as a surprise.

I’m drawn to art that links me to a time and place. Lowry sketched and painted the working-class Manchester of my youth with great sensitivity. His “Lancashire Fair: Good Friday, Daisy Nook” and “Crime Lake” are set-pieces from my teenage running route. To truly understand him, you have to come from Lancashire. If I could own a Lowry, it would be one of his seascapes: they are little-known, but haunting.

A trip down the River Cam on a summer’s day, along the Backs of the famous Cambridge colleges – King’s, Trinity, Clare, St John’s – would bring back some very happy memories. Like most students, I can’t ever really remember punting down the river – maybe once after finals, though the memory is understandably hazy – but this is the most iconic journey in Cambridge and it is an incredibly beautiful scene. I spent three years there, studying medieval history (and cricket), and couldn’t have had a more enjoyable time.

It is hard to beat the beaches of the Caribbean. Crane beach is stunning: a cove set between, and backed by, high-rise cliffs. The sand is a pinkish gold and the water is warm, safe, but rough enough for surfing. The locals flock down on a Sunday, so there’s always a game of cricket or beach football. The glitterati go to the west coast, which is a con. The south has better beaches, more breeze and is cheaper. As a family, we have had many happy late Sunday afternoons there.


Mike Atherton was talking to Justin Cartwright. He wrote about Guyana, his wife’s homeland, in Intelligent Life Spring 2009

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