Cricket Diary: Opener books up secure future

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The Independent Online
THERE is life after cricket. It might not seem so to those players about to retire or be sacked, but the case of Philip Slocombe provides some singular reassurance.

He was destined to be a professional. He went to Millfield School, which produces county cricketers like a tree produces leaves, he was in the Somerset second team at the age of 14, he became the first batsman from the county to make 1,000 runs in his first full season, when he was 20, and he was a member of their most successful side.

Slocombe was a qualified coach, he spent his winters playing and coaching in Australia, he set up a cricket mail-order business, he was an advocate of the four-day game long before it was either fashionable or a reality, his life was tied up with cricket.

Since he hung up his bat, he could hardly have got further away from the game. He was an antiques dealer in Texas and is now patron of a country house hotel in northern France.

In neither trade has there been much call for his expert knowledge of the forward defensive prod. For 10 years he has been surrounded by people who have never played cricket and have probably never heard of it.

'Strange, isn't it, I suppose,' Slocombe said last week, speaking at his hotel, Le Manoir du Rodoir in Brittany. 'Within three or four months of packing up the game we had gone to Dallas. No cricket, but I played the odd game of baseball there.'

A life that had been filled with cricket suddenly had none. Slocombe appears not to have missed it a jot, though he tries to follow Somerset's fortunes and those of Ian Botham and Viv Richards.

'Finishing playing can be quite a shock for many players,' he said. 'I'm fairly commercially minded and so is Susan, my wife. The chance to go to America came up quickly and we took it. But I think some players go on playing because there is nothing else to do.'

Slocombe's last game for Somerset was the Benson and Hedges Cup Final at Lord's in 1983. A few second XI games the summer after and he was gone, carrying away a career average of 27, which was probably a disappointment as he had been an opening batsman.

'I'm one of those players who maybe should have done more,' he said in his only concession to the holding of regrets. But then he was off again: 'The golf market's expanding and I hope that cricketing golfers will come here because we're surrounded by seven lovely courses. The French are beginning to eat in our restaurant.'

And Susan Slocombe probably echoed the feelings of hundreds of cricketers' wives when she resolutely refused to be crestfallen at the game being up: 'Life after cricket? I'll say there's life after cricket.'

IT WILL not have pleased the lobby which supposes that anybody still playing after 37 is hindering the progress of some young blade, but Eddie Hemmings will retain his place as England's oldest county cricketer next summer.

He will be 46 in February when he starts preparing for his 30th season in the professional game. Perhaps the only surprise is that Sussex have offered him just a one- year contract.

The number of those playing who are over 40 should stay at seven. While David Graveney has retired just as he was getting into his stride at 41, the Leicestershire captain, Nigel Briers, will leave his thirties in January.

IN finishing bottom of the Championship, Glamorgan have moved into joint fourth place in the league table of wooden spoonists. They have now propped up the others on nine occasions, equalling Leicestershire and Gloucestershire's record.

Glamorgan's unexpectedly poor season thus makes them only the second county to be 18th, Durham having filled that position for their first two years.

The side which has finished bottom most often since the Championship was officially constituted in 1890 are Somerset, at 12 times. They last increased their lead at the top of the bottom table in 1991.

Behind them are Derbyshire and Northamptonshire, who have each finished 17th on 11 occasions, though not since 1974 and 1978 respectively. This is Glamorgan's fourth wooden spoon in nine years.

Only three counties have so far been deprived of the award: Lancashire, Middlesex and Surrey.

PLAYERS of the season are usually a subjective choice despite what the averages may say. Here is one player who gets our nod, but certainly won't be one of Wisden's Cricketers of the Year. He scored his maiden century after 13 years in the game, and followed it with a duck. Soon after, he got another century. He took some stunning catches and confided that his main worry was getting a new contract.

But he will be forever remembered as the man who, when Brian Lara was 18 at Edgbaston in June, dropped a straightforward chance. He turned to the slips and said: 'I suppose he'll go on and get a century now.' Lara made 501 not out. He is the Durham wicketkeeper, Chris Scott.

TWELFTH MAN

Derek Underwood, the great former Kent and England left-arm spinner, was 12th man in the 1974 bowling averages and is now a director of a company selling artificial pitches of the sort on which even he might not have wreaked wet-weather havoc. He said: 'I retired when I was 42 partly because of the physical aspect which meant batsmen were beginning to run twos, and partly because the nucleus of the side was young and the social side wasn't as much fun - I was never one for discos.'

(Photograph omitted)

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