Lord's new landmark – a monument to the unknown batsman

In the outfield
Click to follow
The Independent Online

As you round the Nursery End at Lord's on the way to the Compton Stand there is an unfamiliar sight. It is a handsome sculpture, unveiled on the eve of the present Test match, called simply: "Batsman".

Hundreds of spectators have gathered before the bronze object these past few days, doubtless envying the beauty of the cover drive, and asking one key question: "Who is it supposed to be?" The answer to that one is that it does not represent any single batsman, but rather all batsmen.

Not all batsmen, of course, can play the shot depicted, one knee adjacent to the ground, the bat straight and fully flourished, the unseen ball clattering into some distant boundary board. Its genesis was the great Wally Hammond, whose trademark it was.

The sculptor, Gerald Laing, worked initially from a photograph of Hammond playing the shot sent to him by John Woodcock, the estimable former cricket correspondent of The Times. But the figure is not Hammond, as the face confirms.

"It does not depict any particular cricketer," said Laing. "That was in the brief, though the stroke is certainly that of Hammond. I was pleased when Damien Martyn, the Australian batsman, played something like it in the First Test at Edgbaston."

There was a live human model to allow Laing to get an idea of muscle definition and tone. The chosen one was Glenn Whittle, the captain of Ross County, the nearest team to where the sculptor lives in the north of Scotland. He is not a Scot, however, but a Yorkshireman.

Laing seems to be delighted with the reaction to his work – though he should know that, natural inquisitiveness apart, several of the Lord's crowd have been using the plinth as a luncheon table – which complements the four sculptures of his which are on show at Twickenham.

"It is a huge privilege to have works on show at two of the great sporting grounds in the country. It's really something and I hope that some of my contemporaries can be persuaded to think of the usefulness of doing work which involves the rest of the people rather than just disappearing up our own backsides."

In addition to Twickers and Lord's, Laing has a portrait of the cricket benefactor Sir Paul Getty in the National Gallery and another cricketing work at Sir Paul's private ground, Wormsley. He is about to start on a Scottish family group representing the Highland Clearances, to stand on the northern coastline. But soon, surely, he will have to carve a bowler. Based, perhaps, on the action of Fred Trueman.

Whose Surrey now?

Five Surrey cricketers appeared for England in the Second Test at Lord's. Only two of them, incidentally, have central contracts. As somebody observed, what can be wrong with English cricket when we can put out a club side against Australia?

It was the first time since 1949 that a single county had given England so many members. In the Second Test at Lord's that year, Denis Compton, Bill Edrich, Jack Robertson, Jack Young and the captain, Fred Mann, all of Middlesex, lined up.

The feat came close to being repeated in 1980, when five Kent players were selected in the squad, announced on the preceding Sunday, to play West Indies: Bob Woolmer, Chris Tavaré, Alan Knott, Derek Underwood and Graham Dilley, only for the latter to be left out on the morning of the match.

Surrey may like to know that by the final Test of the 1949 season only two of the Middlesex quintet (Compo and Edrich) were still in the England side, and in 1980 all of Kent's lot had been jettisoned.

The still-tangled web

There is still no firm word on the whereabouts of the long-awaited cricket website Wisden.com, whose planned launch last week was postponed. The delay in getting up and running has not exactly sent them into mourning at CricInfo, at present the world's biggest cricket website.

"We're not unhappy about their teething problems," said CricInfo's Graham McKechnie. "But it's always healthy to have competition and when, eventually, they are available, we are confident that we will keep our lead in the market internationally. We recognise Wisden as a brand name which has been about as an almanack for 138 years. But we have been a website for eight years and in that market are much longer established. We recognise the problems."

Search for a quick fix

The inaugural Cowdrey Lecture was given at Lord's last Monday by Richie Benaud. In the course of 40 minutes or so, the legendary commentator and all-rounder touched on most subjects which have affected cricket these past few years, culminating in match-fixing.

It prompted the great man to use the word, almost to spit it out actually, "bastard". Nobody in the audience blinked an eye. But the most pertinent point he made, and one at which the "hear, hears" were audible, was his point that Test matches were thrilling these days. "It's one-day cricket which is boring." He did not, more is the pity, suggest how one-day cricket could be made more entertaining. It is all well and good to be in thrall to Test cricket, a truly great game, but the world has more time to watch one-day stuff. If it is not entertaining they will stop watching all cricket.