Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Getting Boxed

It is the start of the season and on Saturday during my first time out in the middle, I heard a sound that you often hear at this time of year. No, not bat on ball and not the clatter of stumps although I did hear those dulcet sounds. Think of a medium pace seamer nibbling it back in late to the batsman on a green wicket and the early season thud of a ball into a batsman's box. When some people think of the sounds of an English spring they think of lambs bleating, maybe a cuckoo, but not for me? Nothing more exemplifies this time of year than that unmistakeable cadence of cork on cock.

This chap has already had 'no ball' problems

When I was a lad, I was taught by an Australian at under eleven level who told us it was the first thing we put on. He said that if we didn't we would all be singing, The lion sleeps tonight by Tight Fit. The box has come on a lot in recent years being of more durable plastic than the lightweight pink things that were shoved down there in the seventies. They even had holes in them, and if facing anyone quick these tended to force the plastic back and skin through the ventilation causing more misery than if unguarded.

Another coach that I had would get us to put a box in by recalling a game that he played in the early seventies. One batsman wasn't wearing a protector and was hit in the nether regions. He hit the deck fairly sharply and stayed there for a good ten minutes. When play finally resumed and the tears had been wiped away, and he had been offered to retire hurt, he continued. Two balls later (pardon the pun) he was hit in the same place and they had to carry the poor chap off.

Two Accringtonians recall marvellous stories of being hit in such regions with David Lloyd getting hit by Jeff Thomson, who was slinging it down at around 99mph in 1975, and then Graeme Fowler getting hit by Joel Garner at Lord's in 1984. Fowler described this to me once over a pint after a commentary for Test Match Sofa, and I winced and yelped at every sentence. Having been hit by the big man about five minutes before lunch, his box was in bits and he waited for all of his team mates to leave the dressing room before he could check whether he needed to visit the local infirmary. Luckily, the box hadn't circumcised him but The Fox will never forget the day when Garner fractured Graeme's genital guard. I'm still in pain just typing this out and recalling him telling me the story, and no you haven't got your webcam on but I can see every Middle Stump reader wincing as they read this.

Bumble cops one in his Lancashire hot pot

There are different ways though of getting hit and each brings its own pain in various ways. Firstly, there is the spinner. Yep, it doesn't even have to be travelling that quickly to do damage. Sometimes whilst sweeping if you don't get the front pad in the way it can hit you on the bottom of the box, pushing everything up. This tends to be the delayed pain where you think you are ok, and then just as the bowler is trotting in for his next delivery, an overwhelming feeling which is a hybrid of wanting to be sick and needing to have torrential diarrhea takes over.

Then there is getting hit flush on. This can push things back into the body. This is more of an immediate pain than the one before but still takes the wind out of your sails, as the impact of plastic back into your 'Shaun Pollocks' hits home. Then there is the trapping of scrotum which has found its way out of the plastic casing as you have just run a three. This tends to be more of a nipping pain, often causing bruising to ones sac and your protestations to your missus that you did it whilst playing cricket, fall on deaf ears, thus ruining not only your Saturday night, but also your week/month/year/life *delete as applicable.

The thing about getting boxed is you know it is coming. You know that the ball has beaten you having nipped back and you know it is going to hit. All that you don't know is how much it is going to hurt. Sometimes you get away with it, and at other times you don't. Sometimes it is immediate pain, and other times there are delays. Getting boxed is a lottery, like batting at Sabina Park in 1998 or picking a touring squad to Australia in 2013.

Ooooh matron

The acoustics of ball on box reverberate around the ground often accompanied by a Monica Seles type grunt, before slumping to the floor akin to Tommy Cooper at the Royal Variety Show in 1981. Everyone on the pitch thinks it is hilarious apart from the poor sod who has been hit, desperately trying to catch his breath, like an asthmatic at altitude. There will always be some comedian in the fielding side, and no matter what he says, it is never funny.

Getting hit in the box is never a laughing matter.

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