Ken’s Tales 08

The Skipper’s Nightmare

How often have you dreamed that, already late for a 2:30pm start – you should have been on the ground by 2:00pm at the latest – you have left your boots at home.

The real nightmare, however, occurs all to frequently and has lasting repercussions.

The fixture is an important one. You know that you have neither umpire nor scorer. The problem is immediate. If you win the toss and decide to bat, you will have to ask their Captain to provide an umpire. You already feel inferior. Their umpire has his own bails, paper, pen, pencil, string, scissors and bowler’s marker. His white coat, of the fashionable short variety, dazzles you in the bright sunlight. You also note , with some apprehension, that he is wearing a badge in his lapel. Your inferiority grows by the minute.

‘Sod it’, you say under your breath, ‘we will bat’.

No’s 1, 2 and 3 are told to put their pads on. No’s 10 and 11, already ear-marked by you to act as umpire and scorer, are kicking a football about some distance away – remember, it’s the cricket season – they are wearing disgusting nylon running shorts with a ‘vee’ cut out in each leg, convinced that some intrepid virgin will admire their plumbing.

Their umpire is by now on his way to the pitch. What do you do? The simplest way out is to don the white coat yourself. Two considerations stand in the way of this; first, you want to bat at No.4 today – you have not had a knock for three weeks; secondly, can you trust the remainder to look at the batting order and to bear in mind that an umpire and scorer has to be someone’s responsibility should your stay at the crease be prolonged; this is doubtful.

You have a young player in your side, a very nice person; always willing and a bloody good bat for his age. Being a batsman, however, he thinks that most L.B.W. decisions are ‘not-out’. Nevertheless, you take the line of least resistance and help him on with the white coat – a trifle long and perhaps not as clean as it should be, but then, what the hell. The footballers have disappeared into the pavilion. You decide to score yourself, at least for the time being. The young umpire is soon in trouble. The opening bowler is 6’-2”, powerfully built and very quick. What he lacks in accuracy, he makes up in enthusiasm. He hates all umpires. Three L.B.W. appeals have been turned down in the first over. One ball pitched outside leg stump, one would have gone over the stumps and the third was a ‘bat-pad’ played well outside the off stump. The bowler’s remarks are audible within the score-box. You decide that to change the umpire would be tantamount to admitting an error, and his decisions were correct anyway. He must stay.

The next few overs do nothing to ease the situation. An appeal for a catch behind, quite clearly off the forearm, is disallowed and a run-out at the bowlers end is turned down as the bowler broke the wicket with his knee in his attempt to gather the ball. The young umpire is perfectly positioned to see this.

You are in no way relieved that the bowler takes his sweater. You have been playing cricket long enough to know that it is only a temporary change and that he will be switched to the other end. This proves to be the case.

Time now for a change. A wicket has fallen and you beckon the umpire to come in telling him to change with one of the ‘foot-ballers’ both of whom are still in the pavilion discussing their conquests of the previous night. To your horror you see the replacement walking out to the middle, with the new batsman, resplendent in a rather long white coat, disgusting shorts and trainers. Lack of buttons prevents him from doing-up the coat completely, and consequently, his skinny white legs look like another two stumps. This really is to much for you and you are in despair. You look at the clock, it is five minutes to four. The Tea-lady has not yet arrived, Why does this happen to me?

You put on your pads between taking the score. No. 5 batsman is nowhere to be seen. A runner reports back to you that someone in the ‘loo’ is being violently sick. Further investigation proves it to be No. 5 who was stoned out of his mind at a local party to which he gate-crashed.

He is also suffering a chronic attack of diarrhoea due to an Indian curry, with prawns and lager, eaten to hurriedly. You tell the young ‘umpire’ to take your place at No. 4. Where is the bloody Tea-lady?

You are just in time. Another wicket has fallen and the unfortunate batsman is walking slowly back to the pavilion, turning every other step to glance furiously at ‘their’ umpire. He hurls his bat through the open door and slumps into a deck-chair. His weekend has been spoilt. Not much joy in asking him to score, let alone umpire. The Tea-lady arrives – we have no milk!

And so the scene repeats itself yet again. Repeatedly juggling with umpire and scorer leads to the inevitable. You bat at No. 11.

No, this is not another dream, it actually happened.