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Out in the middle

May 13, 2017

You will not recognise us.

Men standing, alone, on the boundary, watching, whilst you are together in the middle.

You may not even notice us, alone – except for our far away looks and happy memories of hundreds of Saturdays – when we were in the middle, and you, in the oblivion of childhood,  were on the boundary.

You are busy in the middle, with your sharp runs and well held catches, your strangled appeals, and perfectly timed drives, while we stand alone, on the boundary, with time for our thoughts and something in our eye.

As you are now, we were then – the nicknames, the inedible sandwiches, the kit we forgot to wash, and the eternal optimism. We marked the same run ups, took the same guard, polished the ball as feverishly, and sought to catch the captain’s eye. And we had the guy whom nobody could stand,  the talent who could have played at a higher level, the enthusiast we never had the heart to drop, the skipper with the room to store the kit.

.In older cars, on less busy roads, we crossed the country, shared our dreams and hopes, told stories of  nights out, and hid our regrets under caps that were often multicoloured.

We were absent from our loved ones, and hoped they understood, and when stumps were drawn and pints were drunk, we took home our tales of almost glory and they welcomed us with indulgent pretences of interest and understanding.

You carry the game lightly, even while you care so much. The tiny routines of play, the adjustment of the cap, the twirl of the bat, the practiced stare at the batsman, the repeated shouts of encouragement, the marking of the run up, – all are measured, all betray your love of all you are doing, out in the middle.

There is nowhere you would rather be, and you will be there forever, you think.

But, when the umpire calls “Over”, and you make that thoughtful walk from end to end, changing your perspective every three or four minutes, seeing the game from different angles – spare a moment to look up at us, men alone on the boundary, looking through you to the past, hearing shouts from long gone friends, reliving the stunning catch, the perfect shot, the uprooted stump, and the reflected heat from the well prepared pitch.

For one day we will be gone and you will be us.

With the speed of a scampered run, the certainty of an edge to first slip, and the inevitability of a late afternoon batting collapse, one day you will be a man, alone, on the boundary, reaching out to the middle, puzzled to be on the edge, dressed in the old fashioned thoughts of former days. You’ll be beyond the boundary but still feeling part of the action, timeshifting dreams and plundering long held delight at moments stored away for reward: the swinging yorker, the tumbling catch, the straight drive for six, the thirty year old hat trick still strong in the senses, the faces of the lads turned towards you in joy when you took the wicket or scored the run,  faces unchanged in your eye, despite the years, despite the losses; the umpire’s strong declaration echoes off the far sightscreen: “That’s Over!”

Just now, you run in the middle, but soon enough, you will walk round the boundary. Enjoy your closeness to the action, but embrace the future chance to reflect from a safer distance.

Carry your cricket like a loved one, in your heart in all seasons, changing to match your progress, always there to remind you who you are.

And, if by chance, you do notice us, men, alone, on the boundary, maybe give us a smile, and recognise the present, the future,  and the past are  closer than you think, and, without the boundary, there can be no middle.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Brian Cummins permalink
    May 14, 2017 10:34 am

    Eh up. Excellent stuff Mr McPartly. I remember your hat trick, I think I caught at least one of them.

    • May 14, 2017 10:49 am

      Thank you. Yep. That was the first. V Leith Franklin – caught at the wicket, lbw and bowled. Got another one the following Saturday v Forestry Commussion . And one a few years later at Bangholm. But that was off balls 5 and 6 and then first of next over, and nobody noticed – and I was too modest to point it out. 😉

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