Jim Bennett, November 2020
From a young age, two of my great interests were sport and reading. Growing up in a town (Portlaoise) where there was no cricket, I learned about the game vicariously by reading the wonderful literature and newspaper articles about the greats of cricket such as Don Bradman, Wally Hammond, Jack Hobbs, Herbert Sutcliffe, Freddie Trueman and Peter May etc, and listening to John Arlott and Brian Johnston on the radio. In the early 1960s, the failure of the family business forced my late father, Paddy, to emigrate to Birmingham, and during the school holidays of 1963, I joined him in Birmingham.
The great West Indian team led by Frank Worrell was in England that year, and the first live game that I ever saw was the West Indies against Warwickshire when Frank Worrell got 50 and Gary Sobers scored 100.
A person behind me in the stand said to his son, "you are looking at the end and beginning of an era." There is no doubt in my mind that Gary Sobers was the greatest all-rounder of all time. The Test Matches in 1963 were shown live on BBC, and coming from one channel land, it was marvellous to see the games on tv.
I can still remember vividly the Test at Lord's when Colin Cowdrey came out to bat with a broken arm to try and save the game. The fearsome fast bowling of Wes Hall and Charlie Griffiths, and the courage of batsmen such as Brian Close and Ken Barrington who faced the barrage without the protection of helmets left an indelible impact on me.
Moving rapidly forward, my younger son, James, is of an age with Eoin Morgan, and played with and against him so it was a privilege for me to see the early stages of Eoin's career when Eoin starred at underage levels with the Irish Youth teams, with Rush and CUS, his school team.
On the adult cricket scene in Ireland, it is difficult to imagine anything more wonderful than a summer's day at The Vineyard when having dined on beautiful scones and cream, admiring the great Matt Dwyer, weaving his left-arm magic and his brother, Michael, crouching at the stumps, waiting to effect a stumping and uttering a blood-curdling appeal, how is that one?
This Covid-dominated summer has meant that many of us instead of looking at cricket have had to revert to Wordsworth's "emotion recollected in tranquillity", and I still have a vivid recollection of that Summer of 1963 when I first saw the great, Gary Sobers.