Picking up from where we left off yesterday, Doug Insole, three times dropped after a single unsuccessful Test appearance has been recalled again and has enjoyed a successful winter as Vice Captain of the MCC team touring South Africa where he has scored more runs than any of the other players playing in the Test side.
The reward for this winter form is a place in the side for the first Test against the Windies in 1957.
Those who have followed the story so far (Thanks, TM) will realise that this means another encounter with ‘the Ram’.
This time he meets the West Indian off-spinner-with-carom-ball while batting in partnership with the England captain Peter May. After a few balls May helpfully suggests that it might be a good idea to ‘have a go at him’ to knock Ramadhin off his length. You first?
Insole batting number 3, has found the pace attack fairly straightforward but at this point, following captain’s orders, he decides to cut Ramadhin.
When the county championship ended on the last day of August, they used to say, never cut the off-spinner until September. Insole ignoring this advice is bowled Ramadhin for 20. May soon follows caught Weekes bowled Ramadhin for 30 and England are bowled out in four hours with the Ram taking seven for 49. [Thanks Skip.]
Collie Smith, uncharacteristically for him, compiles a careful 161 and the Windies finish their innings at 474.
England are left with two hours to bat on Saturday afternoon. Again going in at number 3, and after playing a few balls from Sobers, Insole finds himself facing the Ram.
Everyman takes up the story, ‘He promptly bowled me a ball just outside my leg stump and slightly overpitched which I tried to force through the mid-wicket area. I failed to make contact and was bowled off my pads. I can think of better things to do on fine Saturday afternoons than scoring ducks in Test matches …’
It is impossible not to feel for him, but TM is afraid to say that it gets worse, or better depending on the point of view.
On Monday morning at the fall of Close’s wicket Cowdrey, who was already known for playing unusually behind his front pad, joins May who has another cunning plan. In the ensuing partnership the two ‘invent’ bat/pad play.
They remain together all day, putting on 265. Insole believed that Cowdrey never did managed to pick Ramadan’s ‘leg spinner’ or carrom ball, but on the last day May and Cowdrey continue batting together until Cowdrey is out for 154 ending their marvellous stand of 411 runs.
May went on to make 285 not out. The spell is broken. Ramadhan had been asked to bowl 98 overs in the second innings. But it was once again too late for Insole.
Although England so nearly went on to win the match with Trueman, Laker and Lock taking seven West Indian wickets in their second innings, Insole was dropped for the fourth time and would never play for England again.
It is no common achievement to play cricket for England as a one time wonder or a nine times wonder, as was the case for Doug Insole.
But Third Man hopes that recounting Insole’s Test career has demonstrated that, in a game that yearns to immortalise the few, Insole’s very mortality and human frailty speaks to us across the years.
He is our representative on the field at the highest level of the game.
We sense in him a universal truth. He is every one of us who has been caught playing that stupid shot of ours, off the bowler who taunts us when we walk out to bat ‘here comes my bunny’, the player who does everything for his captain and his team mates yet fails in all but dignity, humanity and fellowship – those finer qualities.
Cricket had at least one further twist of fate for Insole. As Chairman of selectors it came to him to deal with Boycott when in June 1967 against an Indian attack weakened by injury the Yorkshire opener ground out a selfish and futile 246. Boycotts’ disregard for all but himself was truly ‘not cricket’.
Looking back on it Third Man now realises how appropriate it was that the man, who symbolised Every Man and Woman that has ever taken the field to play cricket, held the responsibility to pass cricket’s verdict on a highly gifted player who put himself before his team. How fortunate cricket was that this Everyman had the courage and wisdom to drop the player for selfish and slow cricket. It could not have been an easy decision.
It is said that Boycott has never forgiven Insole. If this remains the case, Boycott continues to demonstrate his blindness to the true values and spirit of the game and proves that Insole was right.