A selection of the things we cricketers remember with fondness (or otherwise). If you have any items to add to this list please drop me a line.
Team kit bags
Youngsters may find this hard to believe, but there was a time when very few players actually possessed their own equipment. Instead, they would borrow bats, pads, gloves, etc from the team kit bag. The team bag would be massive (rumour has it that Chrissy Hunt once went on holiday in the Pennington CC kit bag) and only those with a huge car such as a Volvo 240 or a Hearse could fit the bag in the back. Such was its size and weight, it would take two of the burlier men in the team to carry the kit bag from the car to the changing room; that’s if the changing room was actually large enough to facilitate it. The bag would usually contain several pairs of moth-eaten pads (none of which matched), a couple of bats (more often than not an old Gunn & Moore Imperial held together with black electrical tape and a Slazenger Panther polyarmoured with most of the polyarmour missing), assorted gloves which rarely made up a pair (including one with green pimples), and a couple of weathered boxes. It was usually the youngest member of the side’s duty to pack the kit bag at the end of the match, and sods law dictated that, no matter how meticulous your packing, it was almost always impossible to do up the straps, meaning that bats and pads would come tumbling out of the bag as the two burly men staggered back to the car with it. At some point in cricket history players started to buy their own gear and team kit bags slowly died out. I blame Cricket-Hockey.com.
Going back many years, it wasn’t just the ladies who covered their ankles up; cricket umpires too appear to have been obliged to show as little leg as possible. Mind you, this was before global warming was invented, so perhaps they needed the long coats to keep their legs warm. Most clubs would possess two white coats, usually half-inched from the local dairy or abattoir (if it was the latter it almost certainly contained smatterings of blood and animal intestines), and they were always very, very long. So long in fact that smaller members of a team could shelter underneath in cold weather. Nowadays, professional umpires wear all manner of coloured jackets and look more like someone who might point you in the direction of the fencing panels at a garden centre rather than someone who might officiate in an international cricket match. Would Bowden, Taufel et al gain so much respect from players if they took to the field in bloodstained, ankle length butchers’ coats, I ask myself.
Wikipedi claims that the jock strap was invented by an American, although I like to think that it was designed by a Scotsman – hence the reason for the name and the fact that there’s no material at the rear, presumably the result of a cost-cutting exercise. There was no more gruesome sight in cricket than the unwashed, yellowing jock strap lying on the changing room floor, and one wonders how many young players have been indelibly scarred by the image of a hairy-arsed old bloke wearing just a stained jock strap bending over in front of him in the changing room. As I recall, they weren’t even that comfortable and an ill-fitting jock strap could cause no end of chafing problems down below. But at least the ‘pouch’ at the front did prevent the batsman’s worst nightmare… the insertion of a freezing cold box into the underpants, a problem which would result in much hopping around and sharp intakes of breath. Fortunately, these days the jock strap has been largely superseded by a much less revealing pair of lycra shorts with various pockets for the quick insertion of box, thigh pad, sandwiches, etc.
‘Cricket Explained to a Foreigner’ tea towels
Once upon a time it was government legislation that every village cricket club in the land had one of these tea towels displayed in their pavilion. The illustration kind of speaks for itself. Still makes Wobbly Wharton chuckle every time.
While women were burning their bras in the Swinging Sixties, cricketers were burning their caps and replacing them with floppy sunhats that looked a bit like lampshades. Immortalised by John Snow who grappled with a beered-up Aussie at the SCG in 1971 whilst wearing one, floppy sun hats caught on like wildfire and soon every self-respecting fielder was wearing one. Other notable floppy wearers included Clive Lloyd, Max Walker, David Gower and Steve Coltman (who still wears his). As a way of preventing sunstroke they were great, but as a device for keeping the sun out of your eyes, they weren’t so clever. Such was the obtuse angle of the floppy brim, the only way you could possibly shade your eyes from the sun was to wear the hat practically over your nose. This presented obvious problems, especially, in Steve Coltman’s case, when batting against Butch White. This was eventually overcome by the invention of the wide-brimmed sunhat in the 1980s (which, by comparison, was more like a sombrero), and the traditional floppy soon died out, although they can still be bought from the Army & Navy stores in Old Milton for some strange reason.
Long, long before the invention of velcro, batting pads would have to be fastened to the legs by the use of leather straps and buckles. Such was the complete unsuitability of buckles, getting ready to bat could take half an hour on a good day while you tried desperately to fathom out how to get the little pin thing through one of the tiny holes on the strap. It also meant that any batsman out in the middle for any length of time would often end up in agony as the buckles rubbed against his leg. This was fine for the bondage-loving sado-masochist, but not so good for the aspiring Geoff Boycott. They were also prone to squeaking as you ran, although running was often the last thing on your mind once the blood from the chafing began to drip down your leg.
It has long been a gripe of Peter Tapper that not all Lymington cricketers wear the correct, up-to-date, official club kit. Well, take a look at any Lymo team photo from the 1970s and beyond, and you will see a myriad of jumpers of all shapes, sizes and colours. This was because in those days sweaters would have been knitted by grandma, Aunty Ethel or, in extreme emergencies, Uncle Frank. Unfortunately, after a few washes the hand-made sweater would go in one of two directions: a) shrink to the extent that it would take two or three team-mates to extract the wearer from it at the end of the match (see Geoff Renshaw), or b) stretch beyond all recognition resulting in the hemline ending up somewhere near the wearers’ knees with a plunging neckline that Pamela Anderson would’ve been proud of (see Steve Coltman). Quite often, there would be a brave attempt at the coloured banding round the neck, arms and hemline. There was never a set colour or thickness for this, although green and yellow and dark and light blue were most popular. In times of austerity, the choice of colour simply depended on what wool was left over in the knitting basket. You could only feel sympathy for the player whose Aunty Ethel had just finished knitting a lovely pink bonnet for baby Sandra.
Mind you, there were never such problems with the shirts back then as every single player in the team wore exactly the same type, ie. a pristine white cotton office shirt, always ironed and meticulously rolled up to the elbow. (See the photo at the top of this page if you don’t believe me).
Oiling your bat
Whatever happened to the cricketer’s annual ritual of oiling their cricket bat? Every April, batsmen throughout the land would dig out their precious bat from its winter quarters in the cupboard under the stairs and douse it with copious amounts of linseed oil. Some adventurous souls even left their bat to soak in a bucket of the stuff over the winter. But while this would undoubtedly provide the ultimate protection for the blade, it also meant, come the first match of the season, that any contact with the ball would result in the batsman and any fielders within a ten yard radius being splattered with brown sticky stuff.
Another schoolboy ritual – ‘knocking your bat in’ – seems to have died out too, although this was never a popular past-time for anyone who had to endure endless hours of the tap-tap-tap sound of cricket-ball-in-sock on bat. Almost always, this resulted in an angry cry of “Can you f*** off and do that somewhere else!” from someone out on the field.