Brian Close hadn’t heard of flinching

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We’re not really old enough to know Brian Close the cricketer, but we know the legend. He was the youngest man to play for England and he will also be remembered as the bravest.

In light of what’s happened to other cricketers since Close, it isn’t really right to glorify his lack of regard for his own physical wellbeing. That doesn’t mean it isn’t appropriate to marvel at it though.

Quite how a man trains himself not to flinch is beyond us. To flinch in the face of impending physical pain is a basic impulse, but Close played his cricket without this entirely natural reaction. Whether batting or fielding at short leg, he simply took the impact.

The third evening of the Old Trafford Test of 1976 is for what he will always be remembered. He was 45 years old and the West Indies bowling was as quick, brutal and unforgiving as has ever been seen. With no law at the time preventing it, every ball was a bouncer. A fair proportion of them hit him.

When you see the footage, what’s striking – other than his age and the fact that he wasn’t wearing a helmet – is that quite often he simply didn’t bother with evasive action. The relentlessly short-pitched bowling meant that in an hour of cricket, he scored just one run. But he wasn’t dismissed.

“How can the ball hurt you?” he is supposed to have once said. “It’s only on you for a second.”

This steadfast refusal to accept a clear and obvious fact would sound even more ridiculous if the man hadn’t also spent 20-odd years walking the talk.


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    1. I’ve been in the land of six months of sleep deprivation due to a small child living in my house.

      Even so, I got the impression it was Close’s choice to let the ball hit him, rather than choosing to move. I think they call that masochism.

    2. Charley the Gent went through a phase of wearing them on the body rather than moving when, in our occasional charity matches, we came up against slightly faster bowlers, i.e. military medium stuff occasionally sent down a bit short and straight/leg-sideish.

      Charley described it as his Brian Close phase.

      I did not call that “masochism”. I called it “immobility due to advancing middle-age”.

  1. I read somewhere that he could play golf off scratch both left and right handed. When his handicap drifted into positive numbers, he needed one for each side, and would enter competitions as one or the other.

    Being good at one sport is nice. Being good at two is hoarding too much talent to yourself and not spreading it around. This is taking the mick.

    1. Nobody’s perfect.

      I met a lady through non-cricket related work today whose surname was Titmuss. She came from Oldham. I’m considering leaving my wife and child based on these two facts alone. Any advice?

  2. In baseball, getting hit on the body gives you a free base, as long as you’re not deliberately trying to get hit. So it’s generally good strategy to, when the ball comes at you, get a fleshy part in the way and then wear it.

    When I started playing cricket at the age of twenty, I actually found it difficult to unlearn this instinct. Anything short-pitched on the body I’d just stick my upper arm at, get a bruise, and continue batting. At least I wasn’t out (though that usually followed quickly after, since it turns out baseball did not teach me to defend properly).

    1. He’s awesome! He’s the next best thing since sliced bread and should open in all formats, ever!

      He’s terrible! A walking wicket at the top of the order! He should never play for England again!

      My view rests somewhere between these two extremes of opinion.

    2. Reward for failure.

      I’d pick Ian Bell to replace him in the ODIs, then play Bell at 2 and 3 in the Tests.

  3. My XI for the 1st Test:-

    Loath satanic anorak.
    He is relevant and anal, Al.
    Oh! poor jest.
    I am jollier salutary warmth.
    Major wombat anarchist.
    Anti women jerk, badness.
    Oh Jesus! beltch prattler.
    I’m a yellow urine.
    I’m am arid sad lush.
    Crap, just dishonor heart-throb.
    Hint. Fat venomness

    1. Blimey. Erm.

      Alastair Nathan Cook
      Joseph Root
      James William Arthur Taylor
      Jonathan Marc Bairstow
      Benjamin Andrew Stokes
      Joseph Charles Buttler
      Adil Rashid
      Stuart Christopher John Broad
      Steven Thomas Finn


  4. The 2nd one was the trick one, you have to guess which word I meant to type where I put “relevant”. It was very early in the morning when I did this.

    1. It’s got to be Alex(ander Daniel) Hales but RELEXED? There aren’t enough As for the more fitting RELAXED ANAL, AL…

  5. Far be it from me to comment on other peoples games, but where I come from, anagram games only make sense when the anagrams work and are funny.

    Still, hats off to you for having a go, Hussar Uterus.

    1. It was a welcome distraction, Ged, the ultimate futility of which served as a fine metaphor for life itself.

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