Wednesday 15 April 2009

Is Vic there?

Frank Keating had a great piece about county scorers in the Guardian yesterday. He described a tendency for some to be 'dismissively peppery'. Ain't that the truth. 

He mentioned Vic Isaacs, Hampshire's famous inker, a man who cast a long shadow. As a kid playing junior cricket for Basingstoke at the glorious and beloved May's Bounty, one of the highpoints of the season was the visit of Hampshire, who used the Bounty as an out-ground for one Championship game and a sunday league match.

The Bounty was the scene of one of county cricket's most infamous deliveries - way before the Batsman's time, I might add - when Andy Roberts put Colin Cowdrey in hospital minus several teeth when he tried to hook Andy's legendary 'fast bouncer'. Well, it was legendary after that.

We saw some great players there, too. I remember Boycott effortlessly stroking about twenty in as many balls in a sunday league match [it was easy to forget that he was way too good for most county bowlers]; Alvin Kallicharran, who was barely five feet tall, hammered a series of sixes back down the ground, over the crowd and into the road, a hit only the most muscley of club players could pull off; A guy called David Rock got his maiden first-class hundred there batting with Greenidge - he looked a million dollars and then he disappeared; the great Jeff Thomson even had a burst down the hill during his season with Middlesex.

Our primary job was to work the scoreboard. The choice task was to sit in a chair outside it changing the 'overs remaining' figure but spells inside the box were also required, which is where Vic Isaacs came in. He was in a tent on the other side of the ground, but a telephone was installed for him to maintain contact. When it rang, it could be only one man calling about one thing: the wrong score. Vic didn't bother with preliminaries. 'It's one five one not one five two' was the average length of exchange, delivered with some tension. 

Things got increasingly 'peppery' as the day wore on and we got worse. It was possible to go home at night still jumpy at the first ring of the phone.

Seeing it from the other side, we were useless of course, far more interested in watching the game and buggering about than making sure the score was right. Such were the ups and downs of Vic's professional life. He retired last season, a Hampshire legend, veteran of at least half a million disgruntled phone calls.

NB: The Guardian's county preview yielded some good stuff too: Joe Gatting, son of Steve and nephew of the lesser known Mike, has signed for Sussex; Imran Tahir has had his jaw broken in three places by a pre-season bouncer; and best of all Somerset's team song is now Blackbird I'll Have 'ee by the Wurzels. Nice. 


Rob said...

Excellent post.

Brit said...

'Dismissively peppery' - yes, spot on.

There's something of the Morris dancer, or the war memorabilia expert, or the stamp collection dealer, about many scorers.

Flasks, beards, largely but not entirely humourless....infallible and unforgiving kings of their own meticulous little worlds.