Saturday, 24 September 2011

You need hands

Max Bygraves
 I wanna tell you a story
For a reason which escapes Fantasy Bob's rapidly declining powers of recall, the merits of Max Bygraves - Singalongamax - arose in conversation recently.  Most of FB's 3 readers will be too young or too cool to have any conception of Max Bygraves, but to one of Fantasy Bob's vintage, his name conjures up memories that might better be left where they lay.  But Max was - and at the age of 88still is - a highly popular entertainer.  An old style song and dance man, a story teller he is associated with a string of songs and a distinctive performing style. 

Why, you might think, is FB rabbiting on about this man?  Has he gone completely gaga?  Perhaps but mention of Max Bygraves brought immediately to FB's mind his long time hit number -  'You need hands to hold someone you care for, you need hands to show that you're sincere..........etc etc etc.... all very life-affirming and sentimental until it reaches the immortal line............. 'You need hands when you have to stop the bus....'  Eh!?! FB has no idea where the editor was at the point this line emerged, but that's another point.

Anyway, it started FB thinking about hands.  This song should have been about cricket.  'You need hands to hit a four through point, you need hands to turn it square...............'    But these are lines that do not feature in the song as the writers do not seem to have grasped the cricketing importance of the general truth they have uttered.  After all, hands are more important to most aspects of cricket than they are to stopping the bus.   FB has stopped many buses with his hands firmly in his pockets.

The softest of soft hands
 by Leonardo
But then FB's reverie advanced - it is not just hands that are necessary, any old hands won't do.  For a cricketer needs soft hands.  Soft hands are the boys, the bee's knees, the dog's bollocks.  Soft hands are fetishised by all commentators.  Soft handed batters and soft handed keepers and soft handed fielders are the thing.  But this is not about moisturiser; this is not about silky smooth skin.  Soft hands can be gnarled and calloused.  They can be wrinkled and blistered.  They can be rough as sandpaper. They just have to be soft.   It is almost spiritual.

Mark Waugh in 2001
 - Leonardo like
It is commonplace now in cricket commentary to hear about soft hands.  Sometimes you hear about nothing else.   But FB first became aware of the term in association with commentary on Mark Waugh - and it is Waugh who in FB's mind remains the epitome of soft hands. 

Waugh was the class batsman in the great Australian sides of the 1990s - he stood out on the shoulders of giants.  It is a surprise that his Test average is as low as 41.81, but he had a reputation for getting out in casual ways - unlike his brother.  20 Test centuries but a highest score only of 153* may say something.  But in FB's memory he seemed always to be scoring classy hundreds - none better than his debut against England at Adelaide in 1991 or against S Africa in 1997.  Waugh was timing, he was grace - his batting was everything batting should be and a bit more.   But above all this he had the softest of soft hands.  He could drop the ball at his feet, edges would fail to carry anywhere near slip, balls would be deflected past gully for four. The softest of soft hands.  Perhaps he didn't actually grip the bat, he barely touched it with his bottom hand.  His hands were also a factor in his catching - he may well have been the best slipper ever - for a time he held the record for the most catches - he took 182 in his 128 Tests.  This has now been overtaken by Raul Dravid.  And the soft hands helped.

So Singlalong with Mark Waugh - You need soft hands to play the spinners easily, you need soft hands to defend the bouncer safely, you need soft hands to take that catch at slip..........

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