Here Comes the Sun…

09 Apr

 

At the age of eight or nine, I developed a passion for reading around the same time as my love of cricket. In those far off days when cricket only took place in the summer and overseas tours were divined through the crackle of a transistor radio on the pillow before breakfast and leaving for school, I spent  winter devouring cricket literature: the Playfair cricket annual,  instructional tomes by Jim Parks and Keith Miller, and a coaching guide: “Schoolboy cricket: A Boys’ and Masters’ Guide” by the splendidly named Rayleigh G Strutt. They kept me going till April.. 

However, the cricket book that most affected me was “Out in the Glare’ by G Appleby Terrill. Written in the twenties: the hero was “Fosberry” and the fast bowler “Mr Verlenden”. The whites were cream and no doubt secured with an old school tie, and the caps were definitely of the hooped variety, but the anachronisms faded away for  a sixties schoolboy when compared to the reality of batting conjured up by the author. 

To set the scene - this was the biggest game of Fosberry’s life, the transition from student cricketer to England hopeful. The ground was packed; sat in front of the pavilion the father who never thought him good enough and the mother who saw him as her clumsy little boy. They live abroad and have only ever read of his growing reputation – they can’t quite believe it. Even worse, sitting next to them, is “The Girl” whom he is desperate to impress. 

In the days leading up to the game, he has keenly anticipated his chance to shine. However, as the  time to bat approaches, his nerve fails him, and he becomes sure he is going to blunder, make a fool of himself, and confirm his family’s affectionate view of him as nice but hopeless. Never mind The Girl!

The novel really is about his innings, the first chapters covering the opening overs, ball by ball. I believe Terrill also wrote horror stories, and it wouldn’t surprise me! 

Fosberry almost faints on his way to the wicket, the chirpy comments of the fielders he passes are lost to him; when he reaches the wicket he has difficulty breathing. His fellow batsman is, to Fosberry, unfathomably cool and jovial – of course it’s just another game to him! The umpire’s kindly enquiry “Guard?” is almost inaudible through the beating of his heart. The bowler appears to be snarling at the end of his run, it takes an age for the ball to arrive. When it does it’s a blur of shining red, hazy in the glare of the heat reflected up from the marl of the track. He plays and misses, hears the vicious fizz of the ball as it whizzes past him, waits for the inevitable, sickening, click from behind him. He is already imagining the blush on his face as he returns, first ball, to the pavilion, the shaking head of his father, the tears of laughter from his mother, the perplexity on the face of The Girl. 

After an eternity there is, unbelievably, the comforting thunk of ball in wicketkeeper’s gloves. Fosberry almost cries with relief – whatever happens, it won’t be a golden….

Ball by ball he survives, and dares to hope………

I read and re-read it, part enthralled, part terrified for him, and, sad to say, I realized years later that Fosberry’s innings was a fair prediction of my batting career – without the survival element!

To this day, I can’t stand by a well prepared track, feeling the heat reflected, without a few goosebumps in Fosberry’s memory.

As our season starts, I hope our cricketers will be less troubled than that distant hero, I hope their games will be enjoyable, and hard fought  in a spirit of comraderie.

Most of all I hope they will savour their time ‘out in the glare’ – assuming, of course, that we get any glare to be out in……

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