By Gordon Robinson
In high school, except as domino partners, Gene Autry and I were always trying to outdo each other.
Academically, we were evenly matched. In sports, however, I had an uphill task. He was a champion in all racquet sports and thrashed me regularly and mercilessly. But I knew his secret. The footwork required for those court games didn't involve what I call real athleticism. I knew Autry could neither walk nor run with any coordination, hence he never picked up a cricket bat.
Our school had an annual tradition: a 'gimmick' students vs teachers cricket match. I connived to be students' captain with sole selection rights and decided to play a prank on Autry. I selected him on the team.
He had an impossible choice. He was clueless about cricket. But, if he declined, he'd lose bravado points and open himself to a lifetime of teasing. So, he unhesitatingly accepted with his usual "Hah! How hard can it be?" attitude. I planned to show him.
We batted first. Taking no chance Gene could escape humiliation, I made him an opener. His partner was the school captain (a very successful opener). Gene's bravado lasted until the long walk to the middle.
He subsequently told me that, halfway to the pitch, his partner nudged him and whispered, "You tek de first ball" Imagine that! If the assured, experienced school captain was nervous about facing the opening over, what was Autry, worse than a novice, to think?
Anyway, there was no turning back. If he had, he'd have seen me doubled up with laughter on the sidelines.
The teachers' opening bowler, a fearsome quickie, Spanish teacher Bramwell 'Sheppy' Shepherd, marked out a long run-up while Gene trembled at the wicket, his stance resembling a right-angled triangle with bat as hypotenuse. Sheppy produced a quick delivery just outside the off-stump. Before Autry could lift his bat, the ball flicked off the outside edge and raced between wicketkeeper Eddie Soong and first slip to unprotected third man. Four.
Miraculously, four more deliveries did something similar before Sheppy finally bowled him with a straight delivery. Autry returned to the pavilion with a respectable 20 to his name.
FLIPPING THE SCRIPT
When I reached the wicket, the school's star batsman, Trevor Bertrand, was settled at the other end. I clipped my first delivery wide of mid-on and thankfully set off for the single every new batsman craves. When I arrived at the bowler's end, Bertrand handed me a cup of tea he'd brewed while I was running. By this time, mid-on had thrown the ball towards the keeper.
Incensed, I stormed off to the pavilion. Halfway there, I heard the crowd shouting but I was so angry I didn't listen. Had I turned around, I'd have seen the ball had eluded Soong and skidded all the way to fine leg. I could've made it back to my crease easily before the stumps were eventually broken. However, the scorecard read 'G Autry, b Shepherd 20; G Robinson run out 0.'
I'd one last ace up my sleeve. When we fielded, I asked Autry to bowl the first over. He was so cock-a-hoop he didn't bat an eyelid. Doing his best imitation of a chafed duck, he trundled in and 'bowled' to opener Soong. The ball bounced five times before it reached Soong, who got overexcited waiting for it; essayed an almighty swipe; missed; and was bowled first ball. Autry was the hero.
So, I learned more than 40 years ago that the less time one had to perform at cricket, the better to hide one's shortcomings. T20 'cricket', while immensely popular, doesn't provide any yardstick by which success can be measured.
So, congratulations to the West Indies on winning the recent T20 World Cup. It's a great tonic for a depressed region. But, let's not declare it a world-class cricket team just yet. Not until it has a true 'Test' against a top-five team. Congratulations also to Theodore 'Tappa' Whitmore, the Reggae Boyz and the Jamaica Football Federation for showing all how an independent nation ploughs its own furrow in international competition.
The Jamaica Cricket Association continues to treat Jamaica as a parish of a nation called The West Indies. It's a source of intolerable embarrassment to me whenever our opponent's national anthem is played before a game accompanied by cricketers with their hats off and tears in their eyes. Then comes:
For ten long years
we ruled the cricket world.
Now the rule seems coming to an end ... .
This is an inspirational anthem?
Peace and love.
Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.