What was it like opposing your hero – playing against the Great Man – he coming to the end of his career, you just at the start of yours?
It must have been a Tuesday night, just after practice, that I learnt that I had been chosen to play for my club in the local derby and that my hero, the world’s greatest batsman, would be playing for the opposition.
That night I sat on my bed looking at the poster of him still pinned to the wall. Unbelievable, fantastic, I thought. Something’ll go wrong. He’s sure to scratch.
“H’m,” said my Dad. “You’ll cop it if you’re put on to bowl against him.”
“He’ll never know what he can do til he tries,” said Mum.
I always washed and ironed my own whites before a match. That night I washed and pressed them several times. Bet he had someone to do that for him.
On the morning of the match I was up early enough to hear the milkman moaning on his delivery round.
Every ten minutes I checked the clock, but the morning dragged on. Time stopped. I dared not get to the ground too early, but when I did, the first thing I wanted to know was. “Is he here?”
“Is who here?” was the teasing reply from everyone in the dressing room.
They won the toss and took first knock.
When he walked out to bat the skipper said to me, “I’d better keep you away from him. If he starts on you he’ll probably knock you out of the side.”
The Great Man was clad in creamy, loose fitting but well tailored whites. He left the pavilion with his bat tucked under his left arm while he was putting on his gloves. He was slightly pigeon toed in the left foot but he had a springy athletic walk and a tendency to shrug his shoulders every few minutes.
“He’s got that habit from always trying to loosen his shirt from his shoulders when it gets soaked with sweat during his long innings. It’s like a tick now,” said mid-off.
Arriving at the wicket, he bent his bat handle almost to a right angle, walked up the pitch, prodded about six yards of it, returned to the batting crease and asked the umpire, “Two Legs”. He took a quick glance in the direction of fine leg, shrugged again and took up his perfect stance.
Third Man continues his conversation with a great wrist spinner tomorrow.
Any guesses as to the identities of the two cricketers?