The opportunity to play for his hometown cricket club was too good for Joe Hart to turn down in 2018 – even if it meant missing out on watching England advance to the World Cup semi-finals.
Having not been selected for the showcase tournament, the perfect opportunity presented itself for the experienced goalkeeper to fulfil a childhood dream.
Prior to his footballing days, Hart played cricket at a very decent standard – plying his trade alongside the likes of Moeen Ali – and could have turned professional for Worcestershire after spending two years in their academy.
Hart, who has 75 caps for his country, batted at number nine for Shrewsbury in their Birmingham League Premier Division match against Knowle and Dorridge on July 7 2018.
In conversation with former England fast bowler Steve Harmison, the Tottenham goalkeeper explained why he opted for a day on the lawn than watching his beloved Three Lions in action against Sweden.
“It was quite an ironic one, that. I’d play for England for probably 10 years, so even the summers were taken up by tournaments or extra football,” the 33-year-old told talkSPORT ahead of England’s second Test clash with India.
“I’d always try to fit a game in, but I’d never been able to do it. I was supposed to play the week before and the weather stopped it.
“And because of it being England’s quarter-final there were a few spaces available, so I just had to take it. If I was required for England then obviously I’d be there, but I wasn’t.
“I sent my best wishes to the boys as I loved that team as I played with them pretty much right the way through to the final. But I played a game of cricket; something I love and enjoy.”
Hart signed for Tottenham on a free transfer last summer, penning a two-year deal following his release by Burnley.
While he isn’t a first-team regular at Spurs, his influence off the field has been evident for all to see.
Interestingly, cricket has also been very popular at the Spurs training ground in recent months. So how did he manage to get his teammates into playing the sport regularly?
“It’s not necessarily a loved game within football,” Hart explained.
“The higher the level you go there are more foreign players, and the south Americans/Europeans that are involved in football don’t really know how much about the game and they don’t understand it.
“The hardest thing to explain is a five-day game. We were taking here [at Tottenham] and the gym is perfect as there’s quite a big space; so we got a mini set in and now it’s got quite serious. We play really regularly.
“They obviously documented that bit [Spurs TV], but that’s only a small percent of what goes on.”
So which of Hart’s teammates have impressed him the most?
“Eric Dier. He claims he’s never played before, but he’s come on leaps and bounds,” he revealed. “So if he is telling the truth he’s exceptional considering his cricket background.
“Dele’s never really played cricket, he’s not bad. And there’s a few of the other lads who you know who have picked up a bat before and they play well.”
Full commentary of the second Test between India and England in Chennai will be live on talkSPORT 2