Coups and Caps.. 1
February 28, 2012 § Leave a comment
Taken in that order so as to efficiently lay out what is before my readers here.
Coups, of which the day would produce two. Or not. One for sure, of which John ( et moi le recipient ) can vow; the other more a matter of Australia’s boo-boo-coup!
My own then was an award which formed in the minds of my audience and occupied a growing body of applause among the more informed as we reached the tale’s climax. Together. “Coup d’un chapeau! Bravo!” they called. Rare, I’ll tell you, for the Sox Georges as they are commonly termed only ever applaud their own members and then less frequently than a proverbial blue moon’s appearance so as to eliminate favoritism.
Just as seriously I’ll add how the occasion was one of presenting me with a replacement cap croix rouge. Yes, a second one, they having at last discovered my losing the first in the meleé of my debut’s incident. Yea, SG’s historical high point and hero-maker that it catalysed. Once its victim and thereafter the late great Pith took to their cause with renewed vengeance.
But wait.. slow down John.. lest you leave the good folks behind.. and thus miss the wit and wisdom of Pith’s epiphany. Not to mention the coup de crux…
Leading up to Pith.
I’d been in the city a month. Desk bound offices were hot, stuffy, unbecoming an active fellow in early summer. Evenings I’d take invites to net practice, even an odd tennis match with a borrowed racket. One Sunday afternoon a man called Bradlow had come by to watch me toss a few balls down a line and length my coach rated worrisome to batsmen lacking the correct footwork. A stickler for correct I was to go with this over my whole club cricket career. Which is to say that like him I study people I’m up against.
Anyway, Bradlow had a problem. He was GSCC’s club captain. An allrounder, with medium pace bowling and middle order batsmanship under his belt as it were, yet with real talent in the on-field tactician department. His problem, however, was nemesis by name, Front Foot, star opponent at the dreaded next match.
[ Insert: At this point members figured I was having them on, demanding know who FF really was and to quit fooling around with nom de plumes(pseudonyms) etc. No way I told myself, they wanted a reply so they would get one. My way. So happened that the musical Chess was a huge wow at the time. Borrowing from this I lyriced firmly: Now listen you lot, I am the Arbiter and I’ve gotten the floor, this is about your past, present and illustrious future, NOT, I repeat not, a catspaw. ]
To say Bradlow was psyched by Front Foot was a whole understatement. The star had framed opposition line-ups over many seasons and, in at no. 3 a multi-century scorer to boot. Often taking his team to unbeatable score levels in limited over or one day games.
“Okay,” I said after a few minutes conversation, “I’ll play. One thing though—”
“Gotta level the playing field. Like.. you he knows.. and the others.. but me he doesn’t—”
“Gotcha! You’re our ace bowler.. frum.. frum outta town. Heapsa variation.. pace.. total turd to read—don’t worry this mebbe only club stuff but it can beat the aussie art form (‘sledging’) any day!”
“Thinking me, not you, that’s the way we go.. ”
“We’ll put it round.. then well those guys in the nets just now.. first hand.. wot! Mind you, John, he is good. Once he gets away on the bowling… So.. thanks for… Saturday next.. Kew.. rain or fine.. village green, okay?”
“Not the Gardens?” I responded with a warm smile.
“Sight of, but no not the Gardens, John. If our plan works I’ll see you capped asap..”
Saturday came, we strode onto a freshly marked pitch, took in the splendid green, freshly mown: Bradlow lost the toss and all let out a collective groan. He would open the bowling and have the other guy restrict the oppo’s scoring, too. Fine, just fine for six overs( = 36 balls fyi). Then on a good throw from the outfield batsman one walked. Off.
Front Foot came on. A long-limbed fellow, thirties I figured as he took his stance at the crease and straightened up to look us over. Noted: his longer looks to the off-side field. Mental note: expect drives and cut shots, keen and bowling average-observant bowlers obliging with stuff down his leg side. Receiving hooks and pulls when they got it wrong. And the records said just how much southerners had gotten it wrong.
“Okay with the plan, John.? You roam behind me at long on and off for a looksee. I give him an over then flick the ball to you. Anything special.. in the field?”
“Silly mid 0n,” I said. Adding a warm smile for effect.
“Oohh I dunno ’bout that, John, that’s suicide for my ess em orf, and he’ll tell me that don’t you worry.”
“Tell him ess em off does not work.. doesn’t get him out.. and it’s even more dangerous. Besides, we both know what happens when a pull misfires or the notion of striking a fielder gets to work on a run scorer.”
“Okay, so I tellim, but dontcha expect nothin’.. cos our regular ess em orf is atheist..”
We part laughing.
Humor wiped from our faces at the end of the over with more than 30 runs on the scoreboard. And lanky smirking at his eighteen from 4×4 + a two on the last ball.
Despite which, blessim, I muttered to Bradlow as we crossed the field. “He won’t,” came his reply, “ess em is staying orf. You’d better tellim yerself.”
So I did. Right after taking the ball at my turn and pacing out a run-in. Front Foot playing to the pavilion and taking me on – all the blah and levelling off-field hosed out with a rush of blood those five scoring strokes had graced his ‘for real’ game with – asking the umpire reset his stance at the wicket. Interesting, said I to myself, as I took in how lanky with a pronounced stoop over his bat was dumb enough to risk playing front foot from the center stump of his castle (aka 3-stumps wicket). But bowling him was not the plan. The plan was for a man to move.
That man was not the umpire who, after a look to see Front Foot was ready, nodded to me. Then, as I walked toward him, he asked: “Whaddis it?”
“Excuse me, Sir,” said I and walked on by.
Hooking an arm under the wondrous one’s own. And in the strident manner of Dench’s Lady Catherine to Mr Collins declared, “Moove you friggin fart! Over there. Ess em ON! Safer, see. He’s gonna dolly the easiest catch you ever took. Yeah, because I said so. And you’re taking it. Oh yes you are. Else here and now I’m frog-marching you straight off this field—”
Here endeth the first part.. be back soon to find how a coward was persuaded to become a hero through no flaw of his own.. how the fortunes of SG cricket with the most magnificent dismissal in living memory could never wane.. Not forgetting the coup de crux which had this long-held secret reveal itself… ESSENTIAL READING…
ps: waiting for some info before getting down to the seriously serious stuff I’d mentioned earlier.