Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Carrying your bat

Last weekend a member of Fantasy Bob's all star Carlton 4th XI (technically X on account of the radical policy of decimalisation adopted by the selectors for this match) faced the first ball of the innings and 45 overs later faced the last ball.  In the time honoured phrase he carried his bat and an excellent effort it was too.  Although FB has often been not out at the end of an innings, he was identified by genetic screening early in life as constitutionally unsuitable to open the innings and so he has never carried his bat in this, the proper classical, sense of the term.
The oldest cricket bat in captivity
- dropped at the crease in 1729
This term is said to date back to the very early days of cricket. Initially it referred to any not out batsman, but is now used exclusively to refer to opening batsmen. The expression comes from a time when a team used to share the bat and the outgoing batsman would leave the bat on the crease for the next batsman to use.  A batsman surviving the innings, would literally carry the bat back to the pavilion.  Obviously in those distant days the clubs did not have junior sections, since the thought of any junior carrying anything or putting any club gear back in its rightful place is sheer fantasy. 

The practice of leaving the bat at the crease also had other things to commend it - it saved many early dressing room windows from imploding as a hitherto reliable but suddenly failing implement was thrown by the returning batter in a spontaneous expression of delight at returning to the bosom his team mates after his lonely ordeal in the middle.  With the invention of plexi-glass, this risk was reduced and players could be allowed to have their own bats.  Dressing room equipment is still at risk however as shown during the recent World Cup by Mr Ponting's vigorous enthusiasm to return his box to his bag showed how the accuracy of his throwing had waned in his injury lay off caused by his broken finger.  There is no substance in the rumour that the authorities are considering regulations to minimise the risk of further damage by making the Australians share a box so requiring them to leave it at the crease on dismissal.

In the days of team kit there was usually a favoured bat that players too stingy to buy their own gear would fight for.  There was no telling why one bat was so favoured and allegiances could change from week to week.  There were many sulks caused by having to take the second best.  Last season FB played against a side whose batters passed a particular bat to each other as the strike changed - a special post run bat changing ceremony was performed with utter reverence.  It was amusing for the fielding side the first time, maybe even the second time but after a third time it lost its charm.  And as the darkness fell, its effect on the duration of the game became positively tedious.

Hey man -
can someone carry
this bat for me
,it's gettin' too  heavy
But to return to the subject, carrying one's bat is a relatively rare occurrence and has been done only 45 times in over 1,900 Test matches.  The first to do it was South African Bernard Tancred in 1889 in the 2nd test against England in Cape Town scoring an unbeaten 26 as his team were bowled out for 47 in 91 minutes. The most recent example is Chris Gayle at the Adelaide Oval in 2009 when he scored an unbeaten 165 in the second innings. In One Day International cricket, the feat has been achieved only 10 times, most recently by Shane Watson against England at the MCG on 16 January 2011.

Carry your bat sir?
FB wishes to believe that in the old and ancient days aristocratic players used to have a servant carry their bat - and maybe even do the running for them  This servant was known as the batman and this term has survived in the military as all officers have a batman to tend to their uniform and various other duties.  But he just made that up - and there is no relationship between this idea and the caped crusader although FB thinks there is a charm in the idea of a superhero appearing from nowhere to carry a weary batsman's timber as he runs yet another 3 at the end of the innings.

In cricket one bat is generally enough - but baseball, being an inferior sport, seems to need more bats.  Players abandon them as soon as they hit the ball.  And in their multiplicity, they present a carrying problem solved by this nifty item the RIP-IT player bat bag which can carry up to 5 bats as well as doubling as a wardrobe.  Excellent - FB commends sports equipment that can double as furniture - he is on the look out for a bag that can take its proper place as a sideboard.

baseball bag and wardrobe

1 comment:

  1. I like the idea of the Dark Knight appearing at the crease with a shiny new Gray-Nicolls and am surprised that the cricket authorities have not considered it.