12 March 2011

What if?

Moving my office from one room to another has forced me to venture back into ancient files and make daily decisions about what to throw out and what to keep.

I'd forgotten that I still had this letter from the then secretary of the Yorkshire County Cricket Club inviting me to some Schoolboys' coaching sessions at Headingley. The deal was that, if they thought you were any good, you'd become a 'Yorkshire Colt', which meant that the YCCC would pay for your bus fare when you came for further coaching sessions. In short, we all knew that this could be the first step towards our sporting dream.

Coaches and autographs
When we got there, we had to line up and take it in turns to bat and bowl in the nets, closely watched by the two grumpy looking county coaches of the day, Arthur Mitchell and Maurice Leyland. Every now and then, one or other of them would growl "Next", which was, as far as I remember, the sum total of the 'coaching' any of us received.

Meanwhile, various current and former county players would wander around inspecting the 'talent'. They looked just as grumpy as Mitchell and Leyland, but their presence did at least give us the chance to collect a few autographs. Len Hutton's was the most impressive one I got, but I do remember being quite disappointed that he signed my book 'Leonard Hutton' - if only he'd read Wikipedia, he'd surely have known that he was 'commonly named Len Hutton'.

You'll have gathered, of course, that although I did manage to reach the Headingley schoolboy nets two years running, I didn't pass the Mitchell-Leyland test. So it's all their fault that I had to find something else to do when I grew up.

If only
Thirty years later, on discovering I might need reading glasses, I went for my first ever eye test - which also revealed that I had slight astigmatism. "Is that also age-related?" I asked, to which the optician replied "No, you'll have had it all your life."

Realising that, if only I'd had the right specs in 1955, I might have made it back to Headingley on a full-time basis. I was initially overwhelmed by depression, wondering what on earth I was doing in Oxford when I could/should have been coming to the end of a glorious career playing for Yorkshire. But then it dawned on me that there was quite a big silver lining after all.

The silver lining
Given my age and the fact that one of my specialisms was as an opening batsman, my dream coming true would also have condemned me to years of having to go in to bat as (junior/younger) partner to Geoffrey Boycott (who did have the right specs).

Compared with him, I suspect, even other academics were not only much more congenial as colleagues, but they also liberated me from a career that would have been plagued by the daily fears and frustrations of being run out.

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