Interview with the Umpire

'Does this mechanistic repetition reflect a deeply held belief that batsmen are on the whole never out?'
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The Independent Online

In the wake of the sad death of Sir Robin Day, I have received many letters of tribute to the grand old man of English rudeness, and I would like to publish a few of them today in his memory.

In the wake of the sad death of Sir Robin Day, I have received many letters of tribute to the grand old man of English rudeness, and I would like to publish a few of them today in his memory.

From Sir George "Gubby" Trotter

Sir, In all the admiring obituaries of the late Robin Day, and in all the grudging ones, too, I have seen no mention of his deep and abiding love of cricket.

Yet for many years, Robin never let slip an opportunity to turn out for his current team, whether it was the Liberal Layabouts XI, the Westminster Wanderers or (latterly) the Inquisition Eleven, the team of political interviewers that he initiated himself after a merry lunch or two at the Garrick.

I first met Robin on the cricket field in, I believe, the late 1940s, when he was an undergraduate and something of a spinner. On one occasion, I remember, he was convinced he had got a batsman out lbw, and when the umpire said, "Not out!" very loudly, Robin rounded on him and said: "You have been saying 'Not out!' to every appeal directed at you this afternoon. Does this mechanistic repetition reflect a deeply held belief that batsmen are on the whole never out, or is it simply your policy to postpone action in the hope that some pragmatic solution will turn up?"

When the umpire goggled at him, mutely open-eyed, he said: "Come along, sir, we haven't got all day to wait for an answer!" To our great surprise, the umpire then changed his decision and gave the batsman out. I knew then that Robin Day had a great future, though probably not in cricket.

Yours etc

From Lord Blagg

Sir, May I add my support for all that the foregoing writer says? Sir Robin could be rude, unreasonable, cutting and waspish, but one thing you could never accuse him of was being unprofessional. I remember, once, he was fielding at extra cover for the Soft Left XI (a gathering of distinguished commentators who could never decide what party they wanted to belong to), and the batsman hit the ball at him so hard that he got it full on the head and was knocked out. The first thing he said as he came round was: "Where am I, and what is the Government going to do about it?" When we all roared with laughter, he said: "Well, we all seem to be unanimous on that one, so it's back to the studio," and fainted again. What a pro!

Yours etc

From Mr Harold Zimperfleet

Sir, You won't know me - I'm just a sound-man who worked with Sir Robin for a while - but I did play cricket in one of his teams, and one thing I noticed was that when he was fielding and got the ball, he always returned it to the bowler's end, never to the keeper, even when a return to the keeper would have got a wicket. I asked him about that, and he said: "Always go for the man who asks the questions, never the man who gives the answers; that's my motto." I often wonder what he meant by it.

Yours and all that

From Mr James "Zeppo" Dimbleby

Sir, As I am the least-known interviewing member of the Dimbleby family, apart from my even less well-known brother Sid "Gumbo" Dimbleby, you will probably never have heard of me, but I, too, can vouch for the utter professionalism of "Sir" Robin Day both on and off the field. I was once standing next to him in the slips when we were playing for his Inquisition Eleven, and our talk got round to the best way of becoming well-known as an interviewer.

"There are two ways," said Robin. "One is to be a damned good interviewer. However, even that is not enough without the other way, which is to have a gimmick."

"A gimmick?" I gasped. "Do even you have a gimmick, Robin?"

"Sir Robin, if you don't mind."

"Do even you have a gimmick, Sir Robin?" I said obediently.

"Why do you think I wear a bow-tie?" he said waspishly.

"I don't know," I said. "In honour of Frank Muir?"

His brow grew black, and he never spoke to me again. But I couldn't help noticing, in the changing-room, that when he put his box on, it was decorated with a large, hand-painted bow-tie. Truly an image-conscious professional.

Yours etc

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