8:00am Friday 6th June 2014
By John Light
WRETCHED weather has caused a stuttering start to the cricket season. The weather is also showing up the flaws in the first class programme with so many important championship games being ruined by rain.
One other flaw is obvious – 5.30pm starts on Friday evenings! For those of us who live some distance from Bristol getting to the County Ground is a real problem. A perfect answer is on the horizon, however – floodlights!
Thanks to the ECB, finance is in place for these to arrive at Bristol. After siting decisions are made there will be an application to the Bristol planners. I hope they know their duty.
The England selectors should know theirs also and pick Will Gidman. Watching England’s under-achievers makes me wince especially as I know that no England bowler playing has a better career average than Gidman.
The figures are stark and stunning – 180 wickets at an average of 20.52 before this week's game against Leicestershire. They speak for themselves. He may not have the searing pace thought essential for today’s international game but surely his accuracy makes him a fine bet for the 50-over competition. Is it not too much to hope that for once England selectors and Bristol planners come to the correct decision?
When you read this Mrs Light and I will be on holiday on the shores of Lake Garda. I will be short of holiday reading because the books chosen were so good I read them before I left England. The first is The Highlights, Frank Keating (Faber & Faber £17.99), the writings of Britain’s best loved sports writer, edited by Matthew Engel.
Frank started his journalistic career on The Stroud News. He played rugby for Cainscross and cricket for Stroud Stragglers. Nowhere better was there for Frank to realise that sport was all about character, personality and enjoying yourself. These factors flowed through all his writing. He wrote about the players as human beings. Affection, admiration and mischief shines through this book.
Perhaps it is stretching a point but Frank’s journalistic career is down to both me and J V Barnet, head teacher of Cirencester Grammar School.
Having stayed on at school longer than any member of the Light family I had just taken O-levels. My Auntie Edie worked in the bar of the Imperial Hotel, Stroud and therefore knew everything going on in the town.
A message arrived at home informing me of a possible vacancy on The Stroud News. “Surely,” said my aunt, “this is a vacancy for you, after all you are 16. You cannot stay at school forever.”
John Barnet had other ideas. This gracious, thoughtful man had taken mum and dad aside after a School v Parents cricket match, advising them that he thought I had the potential for A-levels and university. Frank Keating got the job.
The second book is Britain’s Lost Cricket Festivals by Chris Arnot (Arum Press Ltd, £25).
Wise and perceptive in seeking out his sources, Arnot reminds everyone what the game has lost. Splendidly illustrated, there are memories of Weston, Hastings, Bath – the list goes on. Quite properly Arnot finds time to praise the best of them all, Cheltenham. It underpins the whole book. All of us in Gloucestershire should be proud of the determination of the County Club to maintain the festival and make it better every year. It is the jewel in the crown of English cricket.
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