The Bedouin Cricket Club

 In this week’s piece I would like to turn my attention away from batting, temporarily.
The thing about bowlers is, like golfers and darters, the very best will hardly ever actually bowl. In fact these guys are so good they are often confined to the amateur game where I play. It’s a toughie having to open the batting against some of these guys with strike rates so low they barely even get their inner thighs’ dirty. Glenn McGrath was one of the few well known quick’s with this type of record. A fine record which suffered after Ramnaresh Sarwan told him about his wife’s affair with Brian Lara’s penis. His strike rate was then in the Pollock, Hadlee range of mediocrity.
Out there in the shires, beneath the shires if you will, lolloping gaily up the slope at the pavilion end on the flat unremembered hills of Albion if I may extemporise here briefly in my mind’s eye; there exists a kind of bowler not in need of Larwood’s dash or Lock’s turn, or Salisbury’s beamer – a man who will beguile with something impossible to describe further in this article.
My wandering side are so short of bowlers that I, The Young Batsman, had to have a twirl last season. I call it a twirl. Some onlookers have likened my action to Derek Pringle. It seems so apt that a misunderstood but brilliant all rounder who writes beautifully should be compared to me.
Anyway, I rolled up to the wicket – and discovered something. How edifying to have one’s suspicions confirmed in three or maybe four paces (I can’t remember). What became abundantly clear to me as I dirtied myself in the grubby ‘third discipline’ of our beautiful game is that bowlers and umpires collude in the most dirty and underhand of manners.
The umpire that afternoon, let’s call him Bert (Albert Trott, 44 High Road, East Grinstead, Sussex  RH19 8UT) had earlier that day mistakenly adjudicated that a ball I somehow misjudged was going on to hit the stumps had it not collided hard in to my back pad first. The only thing he had missed in this sequence of events was that I had taken my eye off the bowler’s arm for one second and noted the man about to deliver had a supreme likeness to Richard Whiteley, the late Countdown host. Inexplicably I had, in the blink of a millisecond, obviously not fully coming to terms with Whiteley’s early passing back in 2008, welled up with moisture in the eye ball region. This rogue tear, this overcoming with compassion so strong that my steely concentration could not keep it out, meant that I misjudged the ball and inside edged it on to my pad.
Injustice? At times like this I think of Nelson Mandela. Anyway, as I worked through my spell that afternoon I realised something was happening between Bert and me. I can only report, with the kind of searing honesty that some people have detected in my batting, a kind of electricity began to flow between me and the man in the coat. Like all really tempestuous congress, our thing that afternoon was fraught with up’s and down’s shall we call them? After I had what I thought was a good shout for lbw turned down (as it dipped, the batter ducked, and anyone with a child’s grasp of geometry could see that was going on to splatter the full set, had his head not got in the way), I ran in next ball consumed with fury.
Somehow, I managed to think on that run up, and pull my famous slower ball out from between the canoe and the train set in the garage of my variations. Down it went, “thlump” said Victim-child’s front pad. Bert stopped me before I’d even had a chance to get down on both knees with a sight I had never ever before taken pleasure from. That of his erect finger.

I was consumed with a sort of sick distasteful joy. I wanted him. I wanted him to do that every time I asked him. I wanted that life. I was glad he couldn’t see, couldn’t hear, could barely even move. No more wondering how he managed to stand up for that long, or whether I would ever have nostril hair that lustrous. I was feeling something weird and sexual about this man.
Walking off later on, ball raised in my right hand, quite loud applause ringing in my ears, I am pleased to say I was feeling myself again. Perspective had returned like a long lost friend, and I was much the better for it. Who would have imagined that the blokes who make it possible for us batsman to bring pleasure to millions, make a pact with the devil? The devils in the white coats.
The Young Batsman
The Young Batsman