Lack of recognition

David Graveney, former chairman of selectors, is now in some nebulous and probably unnecessary job, says Ted Corbett in his summary of events.

May 12: We drive 15 miles to Stamford where Geoff Hamilton, a publican, former friend of Fred Trueman and one of those men about cricket without whom the game will shrivel and die is working hard to organise schoolboy county leagues as well as going about his ordinary business of finding the right man to attract a crowd to dinner in his historic inn. The main guest tonight is Sir Richard Hadlee, an old friend and another of the complete team of Test cricketers whose ghost I am at one time or another. It’s been 15 years since we last run across one another but his startled: “I know you!” rings round the dining room as I approach him. Then he calls me John which rather spoils the moment but no matter. Just wait until he comes into the Lord’s Press Box and I call him Archibald.

May 13: Remember glasnost? The Russian moment of freedom, the celebration of a new era? Remember how we think that there will be no more cold war, that the Berlin Wall’s destruction means new friendships between East and West and that the old suspicions will die forever. Well, cricket has its glasnost moment sometime during the winter when MCC agree to accept England and Wales Cricket Board press passes. When the announcement is made, quite casually, by an MCC spokeslady at the annual meeting of the Cricket Writers’ Club there is a stunned silence. Surely not! But she assures us it is true. Now I hear that it is not quite so simple, that the new open door policy is the precursor of a stricter count of bodies wishing to see Tests at Lord’s and that by next summer — need I remind you it is the Ashes year — there will be new chips in the press passes that will count you in and count you out. Perhaps — and who will be shocked — MCC learn about freedom from Moscow where the Soviet dictatorship is now replaced by a gang of oil rich billionaires, all owning football clubs and all wanting to put their own stamp on the new way of life.

May 14: The saddest news of the winter is that Joe Hussain, once of Madras, then of Essex, father of Nasser and tutor to who knows how many young cricketers, dies aged 68. Nasser flies home from New Zealand to be with his father in his final illness and the Essex players wear black armbands in the game against the Kiwi touring side. Nasser’s fighting spirit was a legacy from his father, a feisty man, and the coach who puts a final gloss on more local batsmen than you can easily count.

May 15: How are our heroes fallen and how sad it is to see. One fast bowler, tall and slim as a want, is bemoaning the addition of two pounds — in weight — and I follow another great of 40 years ago down the stairs in our hotel and see that he is, in the hackneyed words of this sport, “struggling” to put one foot in front of the other. May, Trueman, Statham, Lock and Laker all gone, Ted Dexter, whose 73rd birthday it is, retiring in the south of France and here at Lord’s other old geezers — Bob Willis, no longer part of the senior Sky TV team, Steve Waugh, perhaps the most intelligent and human of all the recent captains from any country and David Shepherd, the most dignified of umpires. Still one cricket man in his sixties is still going strong. Mick Jagger, who lives just round the corner, sees the first day’s play and reminds us that in the world of entertainment life need not come to an end at pensionable age as he sings and tours and adds more lustre to his adventurous life.

May 16: A long time ago I play rugby with a lad Pat who is tall and strong and quick but who cannot see the value in giving his team-mates a pass after he ploughs through half the opposition defence. Never mind, someone admires him because he wins a professional contract and plays for five years at the top level although he finds the going tough. Bigger opponents knock him about, he has to take time out for injuries and when I meet him in the street one day he tells me he is retiring, aged 27. A few days later he shows me the reply from the club which says they note his request to quit and they will let him know if there is any way he can help them in future. Not a word of thanks, rather a suggestion he is exceeding his human rights by offering help. Not long after he dies in a dreadful traffic accident and a week later I am the only person even vaguely connected with the game at his funeral. I write a piece about this neglect by his peers and my paper receives a complaint about “this negative report” from his professional club. The letter even refers to his foolishness in dying in this accident. I rarely think of this series of events — even though it results in me leaving the paper — but I remember it today when I meet David Graveney, former chairman of selectors, now in some nebulous and probably unnecessary job. Graveney clearly feels he ought to get more recognition for 10 years’ hard labour. Needless to say I do not faint when his state of unhappiness becomes clear; the sad case of poor, dear Pat, ever willing to run, rarely able to pass, is still too vivid.

May 17: It is sometimes difficult to feel sorry for television commentators and their sidekicks the pundits since poverty is as remote a concept to them as Atlantis or life in the Middle Ages but when there is as much rain around as hits Lord’s this weekend they must talk non-stop. How distressing. Some of them must be chattering away at the rate of no more than a penny a word as the downpours begin.

May 18: We may see the last use of the expression “two men and a dog” to signify an empty ground. Instead there is a new fight over doggy rights. On two separate occasions last summer dogs invaded the pitch at the Rose Bowl. The committee got tough. “No more dogs” is the order. Members write to complain. They say they see no evidence of any such rule when they pay their subscriptions, and either their dogs are let into the ground or they want their money back. The result: a good old British compromise. Dogs will be allowed in for county games but not for one-day matches.