Sean McPartlin - Dream Dream Dream!
Sean McPartlin - Cricket Scotland Blogger Sean McPartlin gives us his latest instalment as he looks back on a few of his cricketing 'glory days'.
Dream Dream Dream!
I played my first game as a club cricketer as a schoolboy at the age of 12.
I’d arrived in north west England as a 7 year old whose only experience of cricket had been a daily hurl around the Royal High’s Jock’s Lodge boundary in my pram. I was innocent of any coaching, and I had built up my knowledge and expectations of the game from an odd, outdated, and eclectic mix of cricket books at the local library. It was like learning about education from Billy Bunter and Mallory Towers.
But 12 year olds dream big.
Our local club hosted county cricket. I had recently watched Lancashire beat Notts there and obtained Geoff Pullar’s autograph – I was star struck – with the game and with the players (You still are! Ed)
A pal and I resolved to join the club’s junior section, so we could play on the ground and be just like our heroes.
We were completely focused on all that was needed for success. We practised strolling round the boundary, chatting in a languid fashion. We debated whether a skip down the pavilion steps or a purposeful stroll was more impressive? How brief should be our bat raising celebrations when we reached fifty? Should we put our feet up on the balcony window sill when waiting to bat?
What we failed to think about was the game itself, or any of the skills associated with it. We were fantasy cricketers long before my fellow Blogger, Bob.
Come the day of the game, we had hardly slept, such was our excitement. Our captain, his dad a Committee member, said: “Who’s going to open with me?”
My thought process went: “I’m Geoff Pullar!” and I heard myself say: “Me!” I turned to my pal: “You go Number 3, then we’ll get to bat together.”
I marched self consciously out to the square, scanned the empty seats on the boundary, and began to star in my self generated film.
The Captain faced the first over, and it was then that the doubts set in. Although we were on the edge of the square, the pavilion seemed very distant. The ball appeared to be moving quite quickly; it occurred to me that I should have decided if I was a batsman or a bowler.
Then it was time for me to face – the start of a glittering career, perchance.
The team we were playing were from a rural, farming area – and they looked like it – big guys who howked potatoes from the fields on a daily basis.
I took guard and looked up. The scene is burned in my memory – as is “Culshaw”, the name of the bowler. He was marking his run, but, to me, he was pawing the ground. He was six foot tall, thick of neck and red of face. It was an under 14 league, but he looked like he may have bade farewell to wife and three kids before driving to the ground. When he eventually reached the end of his run up, he was so distant I wondered briefly if he was off to the shops.
I stood for what seemed like the better part of a week, awaiting his arrival at the bowling crease. Apart from a snazzy hooped cap, I had bare legs, gym shoes, and no box. I heard a “zizzzzz” sound and then the smack of ball in keeper’s gloves. Apparently, he had bowled.
I became very afraid. I suspect that first ball in competitive cricket shaped my lifelong approach to batting.
The second ball may have been even faster, I don’t know, I never saw it.
The third ball was headed straight for me; I thrust my bat in front of me and a jarring sensation told me I’d somehow made contact. I didn’t even have the imagination to anticipate what would have happened had it hit me.
The urge for survival is strong and primeval. When the fourth ball zipped down the offside, I discovered my instinctive talent for escape. I took one step to square leg and pushed my bat away from my body. There was the joy of an edge, followed by a raucous appeal – I still don’t know if it was keeper or slip who put me out of my misery. I practically skipped back towards the pavilion.
I passed my pal coming out; no longer heroes, we were scared wee boys. He tells me I was white faced, I know that he was. I tried to say something encouraging; all that emerged was a sound somewhere between a sigh and a squeak.
In the quiet of the dressing room, I eventually stopped my legs from shaking long enough to remove the pads. As I stepped out on to the balcony, I saw my pal heading towards me, a metaphorical golden duck at his heels. Behind him the wickets lay spreadeagled as in a cartoon.
“What happened?” I asked as he slumped in the seat.
“I’ve no idea,” he said. “I had my eyes closed.”
Sic transit Gloria!