MIKE'S MONTHLY MUSES
Welcome to this edition of 'Muses' concerning the on and off the field activities of Consett C.C. together with the writer’s associated memories and ramblings.
Yet another month of frequent hand-washing, sanitizing and face-covering has come and gone. When will it end? Thanks to live broadcasts of rugby matches, League and Union, my Saturday afternoons have been bearable. I particularly appreciated watching the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final played at Wembley Stadium. The match was a great advertisement for the game finishing, as it did, with Leeds Rhinos edging out Salford Red Devils by the narrowest of margins. It was no doubt an entertaining match for the neutral spectator but for this dyed in the wool Loiner it was a proper nail-biter. As I watched the Leeds players holding the trophy aloft my mind wandered back to May 1957 and to the Abbey Inn, Kirkstall, Leeds. Leeds RLFC [as the club was known then] had won the Final several days before. The staff and players had embarked on a tour of the city visiting various locations to show off the Cup to supporters. The close proximity of the pub to the Headingley Grounds made the Abbey Inn an obvious port of call. My father was a huge supporter of both the Club and that pub. He determined that his nine year-old son should advance his education by taking him to see the Cup. That was the first time that I had been in any pub and I was awestruck by the whole event; the number of people there, the size of some of the players, the sandwiches on offer and of course the enormous cup. Bedecked as it was in the Club’s colours of blue and amber it was a sight to behold. However, the coloured ribbons failed to hide the fact that the trophy had ‘seen a bit of life’, no doubt the result of beer fueled celebrations by the players. Encouraged to touch it, I duly gave the Rugby League Challenge Cup a stroke.
Most readers will know that during normal times I spend close season Saturday afternoons watching either Blaydon or Tynedale Rugby Clubs. Of course that ‘pleasure’ has now been denied to me. However, there is something to be said for watching matches in comfort at home rather than in the more primitive surroundings of Crow Trees, Swalwell and Tynedale Park, Corbridge although I miss hearing the advice given to referees by ‘home’ supporters. ‘He was off-side a mile!’ ‘That was forward!’ ‘Are they [the opposition] giving you a lift home?’ Who would be the man with the whistle?
I had to chuckle when I learnt that Indian Test spinner Robin Ashwin had issued a statement that he would run out opposing batsmen without a warning if they ‘backed up’ down the wicket at the moment of delivery i.e. he would ‘do a Mankad’. His statement came during the first few days of the current Indian Premier League. [He had dismissed Jos Buttler in that way during the 2019 competition.] Several noted cricketers past and present commented unfavourably upon this statement with claims that dismissal in this manner was unsporting and should have no place in cricket. What a load of tripe. I have not troubled to calculate how many of Ashwin’s critics are or were batsmen but I suspect that they were in the majority of dissenters. By ‘backing up’ down the wicket the batsman is seeking to take an advantage by cheating. Yes, it is common practice to issue a warning but it is not mandatory. Which other Laws do the critics wish to change. Perhaps a change in the LBW Law whereby the bowler must warn a batsman that although he had him ‘plumb’ he would not appeal on this occasion but give the batsman a second chance? Silly? Of course it is but just as silly as allowing a batsman [or bowler for that matter] to cheat in such a blatant manner. The reason for my chuckle? The incident which occurred during a Percy Main v Consett cup-tie back when I was playing. If you are none the wiser you will find a full report in ‘The Blackfyne Story’.
As I write the Club AGM is only a couple of weeks away. I shall be standing down as Club Secretary at that meeting. My successor in that post will be Stephen Horn. I wish Stephen well in the position and hope that he will get plenty of satisfaction when doing the job. During my fifty years of Club membership I have spent the vast majority of that time in one post or other; Secretary, Chairman or President. I have had a ring-side seat during both good and bad times for the Club. I have made good friends within and without of the Club. Friendships that have lasted for decades. It is now time for me to withdraw and to watch the Club prosper without my active participation.
Take care everyone.
November’s Cricket Quiz
John Arlott:- A legend of Radio’s ‘Test Match Special’.
[a] John Arlott was once a policeman. True or False?
[b] Who was Arlott describing when he said, ‘On a ground where you’ve played some of the biggest cricket of your life and where the opposing side has just stood around you and given you three cheers, and the crowd has clapped you all the way to the wicket – I wonder if you really see the ball at all.’
[c] Which famous England cricketer became friends with Arlott and credits him with his lifelong love of wine?
[d] Whose remarkable spell of spin bowling in 1956 did Arlott describe, with typical understatement, as ‘ a very great piece of bowling.’?
[e] What word did Arlott employ to describe the first streaker in English cricket history?
[f]On which British island did John Arlott spend the last years of his life?
Answers will appear in the next edition.
Answers to October’s Quiz
Aggers and Boycott:- Legends of Radio’s ‘Test Match Special’.
[a] Name the Yorkshire village where Boycott was born in 1940? Fitzwilliam
[b] Which item of clothing does Boycott often claim his mother could’ve caught the ball in? Her pinny
[c] Off which bowler did Boycott strike a boundary to reach his 100th First Class hundred in front of his home crowd at Headingley in 1977? Greg Chappell.
[d] In the 1987 season, which bowling feat did Aggers accomplish? 100 First Class wickets.
[e] Which international tournament did Aggers present for BBC TV? The 1999 Cricket World Cup.
[f] Although commonly known as Aggers, after which USA Vice President is he also nicknamed? Spiro Agnew.
It’s time for a few quotations. Younger readers may not know that there was a time when County cricketers belonged to one of two distinct groups. They were either amateurs or professionals. Amateurs could receive expenses, professionals a wage. It was a time of Us and Them. Professionals entered the field of play via one gate, the amateurs via another. The distinction between the groups was made clear on scorecards. On tour the two groups were accommodated in separate hotels or pubs. An annual fixture was ‘Gentlemen v Players’. This unlikely situation came to the fore way back in the 1800s with the birth of the County Championship. However, to some extent it was in operation long before that particular competition was conceived. I can remember when the Gentlemen v Players match was played for the last time and that, believe it or not, was in the 1960s! Amateurs were referred to as Mr.[or Sir, Lord, Duke etc] whereas the names of the professionals were limited to surnames only. Naturally the pros resented this state of affairs intensely. Although this apartheid-like system ceased in the 1960s, prejudice and resentment persisted long after that time. Here are just a few quotations which exemplify the feelings of both ‘camps’ before and after the advent of all County cricketers becoming ‘players.’
‘We don’t play this game for fun.’
Wilfred Rhodes, Yorkshire and England spinner.
‘Amateurs have always made, and always will make the best captains, and this is only natural.’
‘Pray God no professional may ever captain England.’
Lord Hawke, Yorkshire aristocrat. Hawke captained Yorkshire in the 19th century and led Yorkshire CCC for many years thereafter as its President, ruling with an iron rod.
‘A gratuitous insult to the main body of professional cricketers.’
Percy Fender’s response to Hawke’s ‘Pray God’ speech. As Surrey captain, he insisted that amateurs and professionals passed onto the field of play through the same gate.
‘Don’t be sorry, Barnes, you’re coming to Australia with me.’
An exchange between A.C.MacLaren [England captain and an amateur] and Sydney Barnes after MacLaren had been hit on the head by the professional Lancashire League fast bowler in the Old Trafford nets
‘Bloody medieval most of them.’
Ian Botham, on those running English cricket, 1995.
‘We’re still the lowest form of animal life!’
Len Hutton, in a rare impassioned team talk, before a Gentlemen v Players match at Lord’s in the 1930s.
‘Bad luck sir, you were just getting settled in.’
Fred Trueman to an Oxbridge batsman. After a long loosening-up exercise, he had been bowled first ball.