Author: Laurence Elderbrook (page 1 of 2)

Laurence Elderbrook embarks upon a career as a ‘cricketer errant’

Previous instalment from Laurence Elderbrook

It strikes me that if I am to become a cricketer errant, I will need a squire. I walk next door and ask to speak to Darron-with-an-O. When Darron appears, I inform him that he is my squire. We immediately depart in my motorcar.

We swiftly settle on a routine. I steer the motorcar and Darron directs me. Whenever we arrive at a cricket club, he exits the motorcar and heads inside to ask whether they are short of a player for the day’s fixture.

We try five different clubs before I am needed. Darron retrieves me from the motorcar and I introduce myself to the captain. I inform him that my name is Laurence Elderbrook and that I will be batting at three. He mutters something about gift horses and curses a man called Alan for dropping out at the last minute. You will not miss Alan, I tell him. You will not miss Alan.

My team is batting first and I do not have long to wait before I am needed. The cricket is of a relatively high standard and the bowler is both fast and accurate. His second ball splays the opener’s stumps. He cannot expect to experience such success with his third ball. It is time.

As the ground falls silent in anticipation, I emerge onto the field of play. Resplendent in my cream flannels, I look immaculate. I take guard.

As the bowler approaches, I ponder the morality of my situation. As a freelance batsman, is it right for me to play to the full extent of my abilities? Would such an approach embarrass my team-mates, highlighting their inadequacies, or is it my duty to deliver all that I can to those who are in need of my services?

Just as I conclude that it would quite simply be a crime to deny the world an opportunity to see what is possible in this great game, I realise that the bowler has released the ball. My lightning quick reflexes immediately kick in, but the area where a player of my standard transcends others is by picking up length early, straight from the hand. My attempted leg glance is therefore a fraction out and as the bat face closes, it evades the ball which sadly goes on to hit my stumps.

I am nothing if not reserved, so I take the only option available to me. I let fly a huge bestial roar and march off the field, whereupon I gather Darron and immediately drive home.

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Laurence Elderbrook finds a new way to share his gift

Several seasons have passed and I fear that if I leave it much longer, my skills might begin to wane. I could spend another summer at my gentlemen’s club, laying wagers and sharing brandies with other Renaissance men, but there will be plenty of time for that later. Now, while I am in the prime of life, I owe it to the world to exhibit my skill at the noble sport of cricket.

But how? And where? Relationships soured at my old club, where I transcended my team-mates to such an extent that jealousy became inevitable. When the framed portrait of myself I had added to the wall of the bar was daubed with an unpleasant slogan, I took the sad decision to leave.

It strikes me that gratitude and appreciation fade with familiarity and this thought indirectly gives rise to an inspired notion. I will become a freelance batsman – a cricketer errant. I will wander the land and bat at three for any pitiful group in need of a calm, undemonstrative, yet domineering top order player with an extraordinary eye.

I look down at my handsome physique. Resplendent in my cream flannels, I look immaculate. But clothes hide a multitude of sins and I am aware that I am not quite in optimum condition. This will not do.

I immediately launch into my tried-and-tested regime. I essay twenty to thirty mad gambols followed by a series of naked frisks. Once complete, I am ready for action.

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Laurence Elderbrook imparts some wisdom

As the overseas professional (unpaid), my influence extends beyond the field of play. I am proud that I have brought a little something to my Australian club beyond my stellar on-field contributions.

I am not just the most important player at the club. I am a role model and mentor as well. I feel that the under-11s team could have benefited more from my expertise, but the youth team coach is infuriatingly closed-minded when it comes to my philosophy of liberated batting.

His loss, but unfortunately theirs too. Offers of private one-on-one tutelage have been firmly rebuffed by several of his brainwashed charges as well. More’s the pity.

But other than that, I have been a shot in the arm for this club. I have revolutionised their ways. As a measure of how far they’ve come, they used to have just the one bottle of gin behind the bar at any one time. Now they keep seven.

Feeling that my work here was all but done, I accepted the offer to sit out the last dozen or so matches of the season to allow some of my protegés a chance. I opt to assess their performance from the clubhouse, still resplendent in my cream flannels and looking immaculate, gin in hand.

In the last match of the season, one of our bowlers is ruled to have delivered a no-ball. As I rain blows down upon the umpire, I wonder whether the message is really going in. I take the only option available to a man in this situation. I throw back my head and let fly a huge, bestial roar.

Another valuable lesson imparted, I stride back from whence I came, pausing only to vomit onto the parched grass with the serene dignity afforded to only the very few. The players are dumbstruck. They admire my restraint. They admire me.

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Laurence Elderbrook gives a lesson in opening the batting

My memory of last night is a tad hazy. My knuckles are wrapped in bandaging and I think I must have thumped a table in delight when the captain announced that I was to open the batting today. For his part, the captain is missing this match after some sort of accident incapacitated him.

I compose myself in front of the mirror. Resplendent in my cream flannels, I look immaculate. I look the part.

Striding out to the middle, I quickly gauge the conditions and size up the opposition. Having watched the opening bowler deliver a couple of warm-up deliveries to a teammate, I can tell from his action that the first ball will be full and straight.

As the ball is released, I get into position and the ball strikes me in the chest. Perhaps I should have been even further forward. Clearly my movements are being impeded.

I disrobe.

The stand-in captain suddenly feels that I have already blunted the new ball and therefore asks several people to escort me to the dressing room.

I disagree with his assessment and take the only option available to me. I throw back my head, let fly a huge, bestial roar and slip from the men’s grasp.

I evade everyone for 10 or 15 minutes, but eventually I trip and am carried from the field by four men who take a limb each.

The under-11s team practising in the nets adjacent to the ground survey the scene solemnly. They admire my restraint in not admonishing the four men for their impertinence. They admire me. They recognise a great man possessed of the serene dignity afforded to only the very few.

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Laurence Elderbrook: all-rounder

Since being in Australia, I have once again been working on my bowling. A prodigiously gifted spinner in my youth, I shamefully neglected my art being as batting was my stronger suit.

However, the hard pitches here lend themselves to my wizardry and it pleases me to see batsmen perplexed by my variations.

Midway through the opposition innings, a partnership has developed. The captain has been trying to encourage some of his younger bowlers, but this is a man’s work.

Handing the umpire my cap, I smooth down my cream flannels. I look immaculate. I take the ball and eye the batsman. I have been analysing his game from my vantage point at deep square leg and I have identified several weaknesses. Now I will exploit them.

I take a couple of paces and deliver the ball, spinning it ferociously. It will pitch, beat the bat and strike the stumps. I can already see it in my mind’s eye.

But I have misread the pitch. Clearly it is much slower than I thought. The batsman leans back and cuts the ball for four. I let fly a huge, bestial roar. The game is on.

A bowler’s duel with the batsman is a chesslike game of cat and mouse and whoever blinks first gets to roll the dice.

I deduce that the quicker ball is what is needed here. I may be a spinner, but I have an arm like a runaway locomotive. I narrow my eyes and execute my plan.

It is a peach of a delivery and onto the batsman in a flash. His reflexes are too slow and the ball strikes him in the face, bringing forth a crimson gush of blood. I may not have his wicket, but I have his number now.

Criminally, the umpire rules it a no-ball and asks that I be removed from the attack on the grounds that I overstepped by 20 yards.

I kick the stumps at him and exit the field of play with the serene dignity afforded to only the very few. I feel I am a role model for the younger players, who, to a man, admire my restraint. Without question, they admire me and want to be me.

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Laurence Elderbrook acclimatises

Having arrived in Perth, I quickly find myself a cricket club. The grade system is meritocratic and I will have to work my way up from the bottom, but that should be no trouble for Laurence Elderbrook.

At my first net practice, few if any of the players appear to have heard of my exploits. Is Australia really so backwards? It would appear so.

Most of my new teammates don’t even dress properly for practice. Resplendent in my cream flannels, I look immaculate, but many of these chaps are wearing short trousers and sleeveless shirts that lack buttons.

I march into a vacant net and take my guard. As the bowler approaches, I wave him back with my hand. Something is amiss.

The bowler looks displeased but I have realised that I am thirsty and the matter needs attending to immediately. I instruct him to bring me a gin and tonic, but he refuses and I am forced to take the only option available to a man in my position. I let fly a huge, bestial roar and hurl my bat at him forcefully.

Some gentlemen who are waiting to bowl react angrily to this, despite the calm manner in which I have delivered the dressing down and despite the fact that it was entirely righteous.

As I am stretchered off by the paramedics with the serene dignity afforded to only the very few, I can see that I have impressed my new teammates. They admire my British grit. They admire me.

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Laurence Elderbrook departs

Laurence Elderbrook is beginning his Odyssey and Laurence Elderbrook will return as king of Ithaca. After an unexpected issue with my flights, I instead opt to travel to Australia by ship, the way all the greats did.

The long hours during the trip give me plenty of time to practise, so I mime drives in the nude in front of the mirror. Devoid of my cream flannels, I still look immaculate.

I find the experience liberating and feel that my technique is improving rapidly. This can only be down to the lack of clothing. Clearly clothing hampers my movements. I make a note.

Later in the trip, I plan an evening of cricket with a couple of fellow passengers. They at first seem reluctant, but I eventually manage to persuade them. I laugh heartily when one chap’s wife says I have browbeaten her husband into it. She admires my keen debating skills. She admires me.

I prepare for the match as I would prepare for a crucial league fixture. I drink gin for several hours beforehand so that I’m good and limber when the time comes to bat.

Glen is bowling. Derek is fielding. I heft my bat from one hand to the other. It feels good. I feel good. Glen’s first ball is full and wide. I aim a drive, but fail to make contact.

I feel restricted. I disrobe.

With the air buffeting my downy pelt and the moonlight glistening on my taut adonis flesh, I am ready.

I launch another drive at Glen’s next ball, but the humid sea air has rendered the grip of my bat slippery. The bat soars into the air, describing a high parabola with its destination being over the side of the ship.

I throw back my head and let fly a huge, bestial roar before exploding from my position. As I throw myself headlong to take the catch, I feel a hand on my bare ankle, hauling me back.

I choose to allow several members of the crew to drag me back to my cabin by my armpits, departing the scene with the serene dignity afforded to only the very few. A crowd has gathered and every last person has a look of astonishment on their face. They admire my restraint. They admire me.

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Laurence Elderbrook takes stock

Despite the captain’s promise following my moment of triumph, I was not called upon to bat at three the following season. In fact, I was not called upon to bat at all.

Having spent the entire season resplendent in my cream flannels on the wrong side of the boundary, I decide to take stock. I speak to Mrs Elderbrook about my cricket career and see what advice she has.

Mrs Elderbrook says I should take the hint. She says that if a team’s happier to pick a wooden barrel than me on the grounds that it can be placed at fine leg where it might occasionally stop a four then maybe there’s a message in that.

I say that she is right, that all the greatest players lose form and that it is how you respond that matters. I thank her for her subtle wisdom and inform her that I am going to go to Australia to play grade cricket. I will claw my way back to glory.

Later on, the lady on the phone tells me the price of a flight to Sydney and I take the only option available to me. I throw back my head and let fly a huge, bestial roar, after which I bellow my credit card details at her.

Mrs Elderbrook looks on with a tear in her eye. She admires my restraint. She admires me.

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Ask the ‘expert’: How do you keep your flannels so immaculate?

If you’ve a question for Laurence Elderbrook, email us.

Suave writes:

I would like to ask how he keeps his flannels so immaculate? Being a fellow suave fella, I need to know these things, so I can look impeccable whilst missing a straight one.

While Jo-Fitz asks the same question, adding:

Is this done by his valet/butler or does he have a bespoke professional service?

Over the years I have refined this process to something of an art. I use a three-pronged approach.

(1) Ensure you possess many sets of cream flannels. I would recommend 400 outfits as a bare minimum.

(2) Carry out a thorough recruitment process to ensure you get the right calibre of loyal manservant.

(3) Regularly admonish said loyal manservant to keep him on his toes. Whether it’s warranted or not, a good bellow in a chap’s face builds character. It’s a give-take relationship. Give bellows to the face and take immaculate cream flannels off him each morning.

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Ask the ‘expert’: Should I wait for an apology?

If you’ve a question for Laurence Elderbrook, email us.

CS writes:

May I start this email by telling you how much I admire your restraint.

After being run out by an inferior colleague who failed to make any kind of call, I left the crease (with my dignity preserved, of course) informing my former batting colleague he was a ‘c*nt’.

So I ask, should I wait for an apology or shall I march round to his house and insist on one?

If I need to tell you the answer to that, you won’t get far in this world.

As the old saying goes: ‘You can’t get a grovelling apology without first letting them know how wrong they are.’

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