Getting older is crap. It’s better than the alternative, no doubt, but you start to lose people and that’s desperately upsetting. Today I lost a brother, a teacher, an icon – a man I played with, drank with, had fun with. It wasn’t unexpected, but then it wasn’t his time either, it was years before it should have happened.
Here’s the thing: his name doesn’t matter to those who didn’t know him, but it does to those who did. And that matters immensely. So I’m not going to name him. Those that know, well you are honoured. Those that didn’t, you have your own people you honour. Tell them.
The bald facts: there are probably no other cricket clubs in the world but his who can work out their statistics back to the 18th century. Not even the MCC can calculate averages back to 1771 – for the very good reason that they weren’t even formed. But this club can. This club knows its first centurion in the early 1800s, this club had the challenge of analysing 200 year old scorecards to try to work out who wickets should go to in the era where only the catcher was referenced. This particular club has a greater statistical record than any on the planet, and oddly enough, barely anyone realises, and God knows Wisden should be paying attention.
Every club has its greatest run scorer, and its greatest wicket taker. But when that record stretches back 250 years, then people should damn well pay attention. Because this guy holds a record that means something. He knew he wasn’t far off, even before it was worked out, but some few had done the history and organised the spreadsheets. The day he broke that record is one that Sky Sports didn’t cover, nor one that the ECB recognised. But for those in the club, and actually those in the county, they knew they were in the presence of someone who had a place in cricket’s history, because he’d done something remarkable, somewhere that had been there long enough to make it more than just exceptional.
He’s not on Cricinfo, he’s not a Cricketer of the Year, but he’s one of the finest cricketers I ever played with. And more than that, he’s one of the finest people I’ve ever known. The reason his name doesn’t matter is absolutely not because it doesn’t matter to me, because I will treasure it forever, it’s because there are equivalents who matter to you. And that is the name that really counts – the one you played with, or watched, or shared a beer with.
They count. They are our fabric of life, and he was part of the fabric of mine. I am ever richer for having known him, ever better a cricketer for having played with him.
I think that’s the tribute I’d want.
1900 wickets @18. A gentleman. And some are truly blessed to know who this is about.