Pull The Other One

but with cricket pads on

Eleven months ago, I jumped high into the air to catch a cricket ball. When I landed, without the ball in my hand, I ruptured the patella tendon in my right knee. This meant that the top half of my leg was no longer connected, in any active sense of the word, to the bottom half.

I had an operation, and wore a leg brace for twelve weeks, but as a keen sportsman I know the strength to be gained from cliché. It’s how you bounce back. I could return stronger than I ever was.

Yes and no. After Christmas I got myself fit – a bit of running, a spot of cycling. I started the cricket season at the end of May and have been averaging a mundane but not unsatisfactory 30 or so. Yesterday, towards the end of the innings, I set off at a fair clip for my 45th run of the afternoon.

I ruptured the patella tendon in my left knee.

It was no consolation to recognise the drill: the ambulance on the field, the friendly paramedic called Kirsty, the ins and outs of Accident and Emergency before the taxi home at eleven pm after six hours on a trolley with a copy of Grazia magazine.

Rupturing a patella tendon, so the doctors and nurses said (again), is a very rare injury. In seven years the registrar hadn’t seen a single instance, until yesterday when he saw two in the same pair of legs. There is no accepted reason for the snap to happen, so inevitably the brain scrambles for connections – coffee not tea before the match; the ball I should have hit differently in the over before; the greater disaster from which this providential injury, in ways that I can never hope to comprehend, saves me. In six hours, Grazia long finished and forgotten, I imagined many alternate universes.

The over-powering feeling, ultimately, is the dread. Not because of what happened last year, but what would have happened tens of thousands of years ago. My heart knows this (although my brain picked it up from an episode of Timewatch) – the weak and injured will slip to the back of the herd, and are the first to be eyed by panthers.

I’ve seen programmes solving the puzzle of Neolithic skeletons, young in the bone and dying with no obvious sign of violence. With modern forensics, the cause always turns out to be the teeth or the joints. The teeth are bad so the creature couldn’t eat (this also applies to dinosaurs). Look – the knee joint has wasted away. The nomadic tribe does not wait for the injured.

The lions, the tigers, they know. They see me slipping to the back. All they need do is wait, and sometimes they don’t even do that.