England in UAE 2011-12 January 18, 2012

A tribute to a cricket lover

In Dubai the feeling among the several dozen stalwart England supporters was slightly different to the usual "let's act like a child on Christmas day morning because we are watching Test cricket abroad again" syndrome that I've become accustomed to over t

Day one of a Test series is always an exciting time. In Dubai the feeling among the several dozen stalwart England supporters was slightly different to the usual "let's act like a child on Christmas day morning because we are watching Test cricket abroad again" syndrome that I've become accustomed to over the years.

I wrote in my first update about the recent passing of one of our own, George "The Podge" Summerside.

The first time I met Podge was back in 2007 on the outfield of the SSC Cricket Ground in Colombo. I'd manage to convince a couple of security men to let me into the ground despite the fact the gates weren't open for some time yet. It was early AM; at least two hours before the start of play. Sunil, my favourite tuk-tuk driver in the whole of Sri Lanka, had dropped me off at the ground particularly early in order for me to beat the rush for prime "flagwatch" position. Flagwatch is a race against time. The mission is to get your flag in a position where every time the TV camera focusses in on a batsman concentrating hard on the bowler running in, your flag magically appears in the background, giving the watching world a view of your team or town. Basically, anywhere just behind the bowler's arm guarantees coverage every other over.

Podge was the master of this. Everywhere he went, his flag went. And without fail it was always behind the bowler's arm. Despite my rather heavy head, thanks to a night on the local beer, I remember our first encounter like it was yesterday. He shook my hand firmly, before commenting in his unmistakeable broad northern English accent that "I deserved to steal his spot seeing as I was up so bright and early!" He laughed loudly, shaking my hand again before slipping a few rupees to one of the Sri Lankan lads on groundstaff to look after his flag until he got back from his breakfast!

From Ahmedabad to Antigua, a Test match featuring the English wouldn't be complete without hundreds of flags being erected on fences, walls and trees. With the kind permission of Podge's' family, one of his closest touring buddies, Kev, has bought the "Podgy Roker" flag with him to Dubai as a fitting tribute to one of England's finest followers. It was quite an emotional sight to see his infamous flag blowing in the wind today, naturally in prime flagwatch position.

The time was 2pm and back in the UK some four hours behind us in the UAE, his funeral was starting. After some discussions with the stadium management a message was read out over the PA system informing all spectators of his untimely passing and that they were invited to join in a minute's applause celebrating his life. As the whole ground stood to applaud a fellow cricket lover, our very own batsman, Matty Prior and Graeme Swann, showed their respect by looking over to us and clapping too. Several of the Pakistani cricketers also joined in.

Only in a sport as magical as cricket would something like this happen during play. An international match briefly interrupted to celebrate the life of someone who loved the game. After all, you'd have to love the game as much as Podge did to visit places as far flung as Georgetown and Chittagong.

I wasn't there but I knew he was - after all, that famous flag kept appearing on my TV screen.

Richard Kemp is in the UAE on his ninth cricket tour with the England side. Since his first tour in 2004, his love for the game has made him max out several credit cards visiting five Test-playing nations, including three tours of India and all five of last winter's Ashes Test matches. He keeps a travel blog of his journeys here

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  • fanedlive on February 17, 2012, 11:00 GMT

    beautiful piece. enjoyed it. cricket's special when it comes to fans being part of the action on the pitch. the players know about the loyalty of fans. great that players from both teams showed their respects.

  • fanedlive on January 20, 2012, 19:42 GMT

    Nice tribute, Rich, also excellent by the fans (and the players) on the day of the funeral

  • fanedlive on January 20, 2012, 16:31 GMT

    oops.. it was all ok til 2pm ! *heavy hearted*... a good show of respect to the worthy neverthless ! rip

  • fanedlive on January 19, 2012, 20:40 GMT

    Nice writing Rich - Enjoyed reading that.

  • fanedlive on January 19, 2012, 18:38 GMT

    heartfelt comments , the big lad is going to be a big miss to all

  • fanedlive on January 19, 2012, 8:19 GMT

    Well done, sir. You could not have honoured a fellow cricket follower in a finer manner.

  • fanedlive on January 18, 2012, 21:47 GMT

    A beautifully written tribute.

  • fanedlive on January 18, 2012, 16:25 GMT

    As a Pakistan supporter, the fact I loved most about the article was the brief insight on how knowledgeable travelling England fans are. This never seizes to amaze me. For all the stick I give to my own work colleagues, this tribute has given me goose-bumps. If all teams had supporters like "Podge" - the world would be a far more happier place. An emotional but fitting tribute...

  • fanedlive on January 18, 2012, 16:25 GMT

    A fitting tribute from one great fan to another, well done Rich.

  • fanedlive on January 18, 2012, 16:21 GMT

    Excellent piece Rich.

    On the flag front, 2 weeks before that same 2007 tour of Sri Lanka, myself and Stig were trying to get our flag made without any luck, George stepped in and said he and his wife would make it for us. Upon arrival at the SSC on day 1, it was on display for us at the bowlers arm. All he said to us was "your flag is ready boys, you seen it?'. We had never met him at this point, but he took it upon him to find out who we were.

    We met and had many drinks and funny conversations after that. Brilliant guy who will be sadly missed.

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