A change of venue for the Heavy Rollers Test match jaunt this year; in the absence of a Test match at Edgbaston, we opted for the first three days at Chester-Le-Street. Nigel “Father Barry” White, Charley “The Gent” Malloy and I were the three regular rollers on display. Daisy joined us to make a fourth, honorary roller.
Charley “The Gent” was especially skittish in the evenings. He tried to sell Daisy several lines of bullshit about the Heavy Rollers’ exploits over the years and also took great pride in explaining his persuasion techniques for getting exactly what he wants when booking rooms, tickets, nets etc.
“You have to find the right person in authority and then gently persuade them; it’s just transactional analysis basically…”
By contrast, Nigel “Father Barry” White seemed quite subdued this year. He seemed especially irked when Charley tried to convince Daisy that Nigel is a top rate singer. I had never heard Nigel sing.
When we met Nigel at the ground just before the start of day three, he seemed like a man transformed; pumped even. The first bars of Jerusalem blared through the speakers and Nigel was off, singing Jerusalem at full pelt. Impressive singing too – more “Barry White” than “Father Barry”.
It transpired that Nigel’s mood had been improved by none other than Jonathan Agnew. Nigel had come to the ground very early in order to buy a personally signed copy of Aggers’ new cricket anthology at an early morning book signing. Back in the mists of time, Nigel had played in a friendly match against Aggers and had dropped him on his way to a rare 50. Aggers didn’t remember batting that well, nor the specific drop, but he did remember playing in those friendly games and reminisced briefly with Nigel. Aggers then emblazoned Nigel’s copy of the book: “To Nigel – even Geoffrey’s mum would have caught that,” which amused and pleased Nigel very much.
Charley “The Gent” studied the book and inscription very carefully before saying: “I fancy one of those for my boy. Let’s go to the shop at lunch.”
Of course, at lunch there was no actual Aggers book signing, but a pile of pre-signed copies available for purchase.
“I want a personal inscription,” said Charley to a sales assistant, showing her Nigel’s copy. “Look, he’s inscribed my friend’s copy. I want him to inscribe my copy too.”
“I’m sorry,” came the reply, “but Aggers isn’t coming here again today. He’s in the media centre doing his radio work. He’s coming here for another book signing early tomorrow morning.”
“But I’m not here tomorrow” said Charley. “I’ll be on my way home. Please take my copy of the book up to the commentary box and get him to inscribe it for me there. It’s the least you can do.”
“I’m really sorry, I cannot help you there,” came the predictable, polite reply.
“But it’s for my boy.” Charley cried. “Just a short inscription – corridor of uncertainty, grandmother, stick of rhubarb, something along those lines.” Charley continued to mumble, with decreasing confidence and increasing incoherence.
Nigel counselled Charley kindly. “The metaphorical umpire has lifted the finger, Charley. Tuck your book under your arm and stride away from the metaphorical crease while you still have your dignity.” Nigel then gently guided Charley out of the shop and back to his seat.
Daisy couldn’t stop laughing when Nigel related this sad tale. Charley disappeared a couple of times during the afternoon and evening sessions; we guessed he was returning to the shop to have another go. But Charley was silent about the matter for the rest of the day, so we suspect that his fail-safe persuasion techniques drew blanks that day. Goodness only knows what the shop staff made of Charley “The Gent,” mumbling Boycott Bingo phrases while seeking Aggers’ personal inscription.9 Appeals
Because time waits for no-one. You might think you can dawdle around, taking things in, but you can’t. Time is ravaging you.
It’s a slow process, but it’s happening all the time. Your pancreas is getting wrinkly; your spleen is going grey; your brain is starting to ache in cold weather. It’s already time to move on. None of us can afford to spend a second day discussing the most culturally significant cricketer who ever lived because there are massively unimportant-yet-current things to discuss, such as the identity of England’s third-seamer for the first Ashes Test.
It’s going to be Chris Tremlett.
Now that discussion’s over, we can move onto Shane Shillingford being reported for a suspect action. As ever with the chucking issue, you need to pick a side and stick to it FOREVER. Changing your mind about anything, ever, is a sign of massive weakness.
You’re not weak are you? No, you’re not. Although as explained above, you’re steadily weakening. You should therefore fully exploit what little remains of your life by launching yourself into petty, pointless ‘debate’. Do it with gusto. It’s what life would be about, if it were about anything. Which it isn’t.21 Appeals
Considering he’s been the highest profile player for pretty much the whole time we’ve been following cricket, we’ve missed an awful lot of Sachin Tendulkar’s career.
We went to the match in which he scored his first Test century, but we didn’t see him bat. Then, for a long time afterwards, his innings were broadcast elsewhere and we’d only check in with him once every few years when there was a World Cup or India toured England. Each time this happened, we’d wonder how the hell he managed to average over 50 – not because we didn’t think he was good, but because back then that sort of average meant something.
In more recent years, we’ve seen more of him, but that isn’t to say we’ve always watched closely. Sachin Tendulkar is so massive, such a fixture in cricket, that it never felt vital to watch any particular innings. There would always be another.
He’s never been one for the Brian Lara innings anyway. Not for him extraordinary peaks and troughs. For a man who’s hit more boundaries than anyone, his career is actually defined by accumulation. He’s had dryish spells, certainly, but he’s been playing international cricket for 25 years – that’ll happen. In general, he’s picked up a mid-sized hundred every few innings, regardless of age, opposition or location.
We’ve written before about how Tendulkar’s career is just too much to take in and evaluate. This is the true mark of his genius; that we can have missed the vast majority of his 780 international innings and still be overwhelmed by the information. You can’t boil it all down to a jus and taste it. It is something which can only possibly be consumed over many sittings.
Summing him up
Some career obituaries you read will point to something in particular as summing him up – a particular shot or a particular innings. No. That is entirely missing the point. The point is the sheer breadth of what he’s achieved.
Hardly anyone has been Test standard at 16. Hardly anyone has been Test standard at 40. Tendulkar has been both and more. Between those two already freakish extremes, lies the most freakish achievement of all. He’s excelled at all forms of batting near-constantly against a backdrop of insane expectation.
There are almost infinite scenarios in cricket. Different goals, different formats, different pitches, different bowlers, different fields, different circumstances. You can always find something that needs ticking off, but by any rational measure, Tendulkar has done the job.
This was why we once said that he has been better than Bradman. It was mischievous because we didn’t really mean it as a comparison. It’s just that there’s a temptation to flatter players from the past when imagining what they did or what they would have done had they been around today, whereas Sachin Tendulkar can’t really benefit from this. He’s a known quantity. In 25 years and three formats, he’s come up against a wider variety of challenges than anyone. Mostly, he’s done okay.44 Appeals
We’ve got a Sachin Tendulkar post saved as a draft, but let’s look elsewhere today. Let’s look at the West Indies captain, Darren Sammy, who’s currently having a ‘mare.
We rather like Sammy. Not just because his initials make him DJ Sammy, not just because he purveys genuine medium-pace and not just because he’s forever so ready to smile you wonder whether he’s overmedicated. We also happen to think that he’s a reasonably decent cricketer.
He’s not a match-winning bowler and he’s not a batsman you’d expect more than 50 from, but he’s more than capable of bowling tight overs and hitting handy runs down the order. The problem is that this is pretty much all you can expect from him, so when he’s out of form, there aren’t many great memories to refer to when making a case for his retention.
In the Windies, many people have been baying for him to be dropped ever since he was made captain. We see their point, but at the same time the team’s often been unstable enough that a decent captain would be worth his place even if all he could do were field. It’s not like Sammy’s keeping a Michael Holding out of the side, after all.
But whoever he’s keeping out of the side may just get a game when the Windies play their next Test. Having been given the boot from the one-day captaincy, Sammy’s been under increasing pressure in the longest format. He says he thrives on criticism, which should mean he’s at his best right now.
He is not at his best.
In the first Test, he admitted leading by example by playing a stupid, impatient, entirely inappropriate shot. He said he had to learn. In the first innings of this Test, he gloved the first delivery he faced, concluded that he now had his eye in and absolutely skied the second. Then, when India came to bat, in a classic case of trying to claw yourself back into credit through an ill-judged attempt to ‘take responsibility’ he opened the bowling and was promptly spanked.
Darren Sammy’s job is to play second fiddle. In attempting to play the lead violin part, he’s making himself redundant in more ways than one.19 Appeals
We’ve instead written about writing about Sachin Tendulkar over at Cricinfo.
Within minutes of it being published, it had already attracted insightful comment:
“Now finally great person retirement time will came But We expecting good support for younger with their experience. This Type of great person very low volume coming.”
Translation software may well have been put to use there. Translation software is gash.26 Appeals
The fight to be England’s third seamer is not a classic. It is a pillow fight, at best.
In the warm-up matches, Chris Tremlett has taken one wicket in 37 overs; Boyd Rankin has three wickets from 49 overs; while Steven Finn tops the wicket tally with five wickets in 55 overs. Finn also has the best average of the three, at 51, despite conceding 4.63 runs an over.
You might think: ‘warm-up matches, schwarm-up matches,’ but this does make a mockery of all that talk about competition for places. If there’s competition here, it’s in the style of Go For Broke where the players are competing to achieve the exact opposite of what you might expect.
At present, the choice seems to be between Boyd Rankin’s ineffectiveness and the occasional wicket from the run-haemorrhaging Steven Finn. We’d go for Monty Panesar. Or we’d play Jonathan Trott as an all-rounder. You can’t beat a bit of slapped-back dobble.12 Appeals
As in ‘returned’. He hasn’t got ankylosing spondylitis or anything. Although that would go some way towards explaining why he’s forever spearing balls down the leg side.
We find ourself conflicted about Johnson’s recall. He has looked like a proper fast bowler of late, which is a good thing. However, we don’t particularly want England to face a proper fast bowler. We’d far rather they faced the Johnson of old – a loping bag of meat hanging from a bad haircut with all the coordination of a puppet. That would mean denying the world a fast bowler though and there aren’t many of those knocking about these days.
George Bailey looks set to play in the first Test as well. His one-day form is magic. His first-class record is middling. It will be interesting to see whether there is some monumental flaw in his batting which might be exploited or whether his grown-up brain will get him through.20 Appeals
We’ve just been in Belgium. Our diet’s been very diverse, incorporating all sorts of beers, all sorts of cheeses and both mayonnaise and spiced mayonnaise. We like to think we know what we’re talking about when it comes to sports nutrition and we can therefore confirm that the revelations about the England cricket team’s dietary stipulations are slightly irritating.
Why? Modern Australia’s pretentious eating habits can no longer be ridiculed because the England cricket team have matched them quinoa for quinoa. You can’t very well mock Australians’ love of tofu and mung beans when your sporting representatives are knocking back the agave nectar. A joke has been stolen. There is no greater crime that that. (There absolutely is – don’t use this as part of your defence if you’re being tried for war crimes.)
The other major irritation arising from this almost certainly Ashes-winning menu is that it’s basically given a load of publicity to a certain manufacturer of protein supplements. We’ve nothing against the brand in question. Its just that this legitimises having an official supplier and repeatedly using their brand name where an ordinary word will do as if no alternative exists. We didn’t try and make out that we’d only been drinking De Halve Maan Straffe Hendrik for the past four days, did we? No – our blurred vision takes in broader horizons.16 Appeals
Dandy Dan writes:
The day started well. I got married.
Once that was out of the way, the serious matters of the day came into view. I’ve been to a fair few weddings over the years and in most, I’ve found there to be a ‘lull’ at some point. Eager for this not to affect my own wedding, I asked The So Called Will to borrow a Kwik-Cricket set from his school and to organise a game.
The rules were established. Each batsman had one over to score as many runs as possible. Five runs would be deducted for each loss of wicket. Being the Groom, I went first.
Things started well. Will was bowling to me in a repetition of school holidays circa 1987-1995. A loose, short one outside off stump allowed me to execute a glorious back foot cut over Price’s head for four.
The next ball was flicked off my hips for an agreed two. A drive through mid-on brought four. Will was not enjoying this trip down memory lane. He focused on line and length. The right thing to do, but against a batsman in this sort of form, pointless. He was dispatched for a disputed six over his head.
Another cut brought a further four with a solid block ending the over. The block was slightly exaggerated just to prove the point that I could do it. 20 runs off the over. I was pleased with that.
Will and I swapped places. I opened with some off spin. This immediately brought turn AND bounce. First two balls went straight through the gate but narrowly missed the stumps. The third brought an LBW appeal. Will insisted it was going down leg-side. Knowing there was no way he could now overtake my score (and in the interests of keeping the spirit of the day friendly) I agreed. Not wanting to show off, I finished the over with some medium-fast.
Others came and tried to better my score, but fittingly no one managed to. My new cousin Kieran (age eight) enjoyed fetching the ball for the ‘grown-ups’. This was the first time I’ve ever found a use for a child at a wedding.
My Australian friend Kai (who had come all the way from Sydney for the event) did a pretty good job at being an Australian cricketer. He was rubbish. Mark J adopted the unusual fielding technique of biting on the plastic pint glass so he had two hands free for a catch. By doing this he had impressively kept both priorities at the top of his agenda.
Tanya got involved by first bravely adopting a position at silly mid-off and then later picking up the bat to face some of Gareth’s slow-medium. Ben showed disappointing form with the ball it has to be said. Didn’t see Price’s innings alas, but I know he didn’t score as many as me. My best man Rob was reasonably destructive with the plastic, although at one point he did hit my nephew’s girlfriend with a wild pull. The ball fired straight into the side of her rib-cage. She didn’t flinch. Good girl.
Inevitably, rain stopped play. However, we had to get on and have a first dance anyway so it all worked out well in the end.22 Appeals
Please find attached a picture that seems to tick all the boxes. Found it while going through some old pictures yesterday.
The kitten was called Mandy and is sadly no longer with us.13 Appeals