Saturday, 21 April 2012

Play in a Day

Fantasy Bob shares the sadness at the passing of Bert Weedon.

FB's first encounter with Bert Weedon's Play in a Day was less than fully successful.  He took up the slim volume in confident expectation, only to find that after 24 hours in the nets neither his cover drive nor his away swinger was showing any sign of improvement.

Some such as Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney and Brian May are reported to have made instant progress with the book. What did they have that FB lacked?  No one knows.

As soon as FB recognised that this manual was about guitar playing and not cricket, he began to make progress.  Painfully slow, but progress none the less. Even so his fingers remained stubbornly reluctant to move easily across the finger board. Then he took his batting gloves off. Get Blisters in a Day might have been a better title for that seemed the only product of FB's first efforts. Nevertheless he has successfully found his niche among the great guitar players and remains a guitarist of 4th XI standard.

FB cannot recall any equivalent coaching manual on cricket from his younger days.  He is sure there were copious such manuals but none came his way.  Such knowledge as he gained about cricket came from word of mouth and risked being confused with knowledge about the birds and bees that was similarly communicated between pubescent youngsters.   All full tosses, bouncers and no balls.

1956 edition
For more reliable technical insight he was probably reliant on such volumes as the Big Boy's Book of Sport - or the Boy's Big Book of Sport or these words in some order.  He recalls some such volume having a full spread picture showing every possible fielding position.  Having memorised these at an unnaturally early age, FB felt well qualified to approach the older boys in the school playground as they were engaged in an enthusiastic pre-school game with many of the characteristics of cricket.  At the fall of a wicket and as the tussle for the next turn with the bat threatened to become a stand up fight, FB suggested loudly to the bowler that the field might, with benefit, be adjusted with an additional fielder positioned behind square on the off side.  The combatants for the bat stopped their struggle.  Silence descended on the entire playground - a silence which FB took as impressed agreement.  Until someone pointed out, quietly but firmly, that the wickets were painted on the school wall, which ran the length of the playground, and was 10 feet high.  This rather eliminated the concept of behind square.  It was another year before the young FB plucked up courage to attempt to join the play again. He harbours a fear of behind square to this day - like swimming in very deep water, he just doesn't know what might lurk there.  If there is a point to this long narrative, it is once again to demonstrate that a little knowledge is not so much a dangerous thing as the scope for positive embarrassment.

By contrast with the lack of coaching manuals to assist his cricket, FB has had the benefit of a vast library of instruction on golf featuring advice from every top player and coach of the last 20 years.  The long game, the short game, the tactical game.  Avoid the sand, save from the sand. There is not an aspect of golf that FB cannot quote several authoritative sources on. FB has memorised, visualised and internalised it all.  He can recount it, analyse it, even draw the diagrams.  At one time he was just about competent on the course with a declining handicap, but all this learning has rendered FB completely inept. 4th XI standard is nowhere within reach. A handicap is a thing of the past. So inept has he become, as tournament player's secrets have heaped themselves on tournament player's secrets, that this year he has finally forsaken golf and declined to renew his golf club membership.  So much time and money spent to no avail; he should have stuck with the guitar.

So farewell Bert Weedon - thanks for everything.  Play in a Day, FB wishes it were so.

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