It’s been an intense week, so let’s switch gears with some light entertainment from Peter Drake …
As cricket fans we all know there are many reasons to love our wonderful game. For some it is the chance to test themselves against a skilled and determined opposition. Others enjoy the sense of history and/or camaraderie whilst for some, the simple fact of being outside with friends is enough to justify the time and expense needed to play the game.
For me, it is all of these and more, but perhaps the most important is the infinite number of opportunities for humour, if not out and out hilarity.
Here are just two examples from many that I have either witnessed or been told about. Readers of The Full Toss will have many more…
Way back in the 1977, the newly elected US president Jimmy Carter paid a visit to the North East. During his stay he was taken from Newcastle out to Northumberland to take a look at Hadrians Wall, that legacy of the Roman occupation of Britain some two thousand years ago. There are several village cricket grounds within a short distance of the wall and as the president was driven past it occurred to him that he would like to see this mysterious game ‘cricket’ being played close up.
Players at one particular ground were amazed when a convoy of limousines drove past the entrance to the ground and astonished to see each vehicle in sequence perform a U turn, and then make its way up towards the pavilion.
‘Alf’ was batting at the time. As a Northumbrian farmer, he was short on sophistication; baling twine held up his whites, and he had a fondness for, shall we say, directness of speech.
The security detail checked out the pavilion for bombs or or potential assassins, then Jimmy emerged from his limo, accompanied by two heavies. He appeared fascinated by the game and asked lots of questions. Anglo – American relations were strengthened.
The captain of the batting side suggested that their guest might like to take a stroll around the ground to better observe the game from a different angle.
Jimmy thought this a good idea and set off with his entourage, pausing occasionally to take in this most English of scenes. The teams played on, indifferent to the presence of their VIP guest.
Then Jimmy Carter, president the most powerful nation on Earth and leader of the free world, made a big mistake.
He walked in front of the sight screen as the bowler ran in.
Alf, on strike, stepped back from his guard as though menaced by a dangerous snake a short distance from the crease. A hail of profanity and an angry waving of the bat followed.
An urgent whisper from the ‘keeper advised Alf who the miscreant was.
His reply was immediate and unforgettable.
‘Aah divvent ****ing give a **** who he is. He doesn’t walk behind the ****in bowlers arm when I’m ****in batting!’
He was right, of course.
There are some things that even presidents can’t do.
Years ago, as coach of a junior team I once had the pleasure of a visit by recently retired county player who gave boys the benefit of his experience and expertise over an evening session.
He was very kind about what he had seen but made the point that any serious outfit would have a couple of sessions on the use of a runner for the instance of an injury sustained during an innings. We duly followed his advice and practiced for such an eventuality.
Perhaps it was a coincidence, perhaps it was inevitable that the next outing of the team saw not one but two injuries that required the use of a runner.
If one extra batsman on the square is cause enough for confusion think what four will do. Add in the fact that the four are excitable under 13 cricketers and you have, as they say, a recipe for mayhem.
It didn’t take long. A push to midwicket was all it took.
In the heat of the moment, our injured on-strike soldier completely forgot that he was hurt and set off for the non striker’s end accompanied by his bemused assistant. On arriving, all four boys realised that something had gone badly wrong and that a run out was very much on the cards. As a result, all four set off, screaming instructions at each other.
Someone said later that it was like watching gazelle sweep across the Serengeti.
By now, most of the gathering of coaches, parents and spectators had started to add their thoughts, mostly at the tops of their voices. Those that weren’t shouting were laughing. It was pandemonium.
Panic had set in and all four were lost to the voice of reason. Back and forth they went. Four times? Five? I lost count. All I can remember is that eventually we ended up with the correct number of batsmen at each end.
As it turned out, no runout happened, the reason being that it is extremely difficult to throw straight when your eyes are full of tears…