TBS chats to wordsmiths and amateur cricket hacks Messrs Higgins, Edwards and Perry, to explain their newly-released book, The Grade Cricketer.
In the Twitter realm, @gradecricketer keeps followers up to date with the almost daily thoughts and encounters of the unattached, ’20s to ’30s, club-loyal, absurd amateur sports tragic.
We all know one.
Fortunately for us, the Twitter account has expanded into the form of a book – sensibly named The Grade Cricketer – which is available now.
TBS chatted with creators and self-professed amateur cricket hacks themselves, Edwards, Perry and Higgins, to get more info.
Dad and I after he read my book https://t.co/UUN7GaPzHW
— The Grade Cricketer (@gradecricketer) November 11, 2015
TBS: The whole book smells of sunburnt disappointment, the characters are so multi-dimensional. How much of what’s in the book is real, and how much artistic liberty was taken?
Generally, you need to have a glittering career in order to write a sports autobiography. We just thought it would be funny to write a memoir from the perspective of a failed amateur cricketer. And the three of us are unequivocally “failed amateur cricketers.” So while this is technically fiction, we’ve definitely lived this life.
The whole reality of the book – and of amateur sport in general – is that it is absurd. The idea that men in their late ’20s, early ’30s (and beyond), are still trying to chase a dream that they had when they were 10 is as silly as it is accurate and real.
There are a few instances, particularly around drinking and “circuiting” (read: trying to pick up in bars) that were taken directly from experiences we’ve witnessed first-hand, and 90 percent of the criminal activity mentioned is real. Which is probably why it’s so funny. And sad.
TBS: How long have you sat on the idea of this book, and why do you think that the anonymous hacks of the Saturday/Sunday world deserve a voice?
We’ve been running this account for the best part of four years now and wanted to find a way to tell this character’s story beyond the limitations of 140 characters. That’s probably the biggest challenge: making a joke in 140 characters or less.
The book is really an evolution of the account in that respect.
We started to discuss the idea of a book last summer and the writing process began not long after that. As to whether these people deserve a voice? Well, they don’t. But the reality is that there are literally tens of thousands of people out there who have wasted their entire youth, just like us, on a game that has taken away so much more than it has given back. It’s a fantasy world: the lure of first grade (and possible state selection) is just so seductive – it’s a trap that has ruined many a good (and bad) man.
It’s fair to say that this book does not shy away from examining the darker elements of masculinity. The book uses cricket as the setting, but The Grade Cricketer – this anxious, insecure male type – is everywhere.
It’s also given us an excuse to talk about body fat percentages and penis envy.
TBS: Which past and present cricketer do you feel best exhibits the club cricket spirit?
He probably only played three or four Test matches, but you can’t tell me he wasn’t swinging it from left to right on that 1995 West Indian tour (both on and off the field). He was also the first example of a “rig-based” selection on the international scene.
Shaun Marsh is a current player who epitomises the benefits of looking good. It doesn’t matter if you average 15 with the bat; if you can nail three perfectly balanced cover drives every Saturday, you’re a lot more likely to move up the grades than down.
TBS: What advice would you give any young and upcoming mid-’30s account manager looking to take his first steps in the game?
Well, you’ll need to train chest and arms at least four days a week. Squat racks and leg presses should be treated like lower graders. Don’t even look at them.
TBS: If you could choose a fellow batting partner from history – not noted for cricket skill, but would have the necessary jaspers for club cricket – who would you select?
Probably WG Grace. His rig was awful, he had a terrible technique, his bat was rubbish and he’s still regarded as one of the all-time greats. He wasn’t even sponsored! But his facial hair was impressive and he probably had some pretty good circuit stories from the Gold Rush days, so we’d find a place for him in the middle order in third grade. There’s also a story of him refusing to walk off after being given out LBW, telling the umpire: “These people came to see me bat, not you umpire.” Pretty sure he then went on to score a double ton. If that’s not the greatest alpha-ing of all time, I don’t know what is.
TBS: Also, let me ask you this. If you toil all day and knock out a gritty century and/or take five, how much praise do you get a home?
It depends on your living situation. If you’re a young man who still lives at home, you’d at least hope for a “well done, darling” from your mother. In the book, The Grade Cricketer doesn’t really get the recognition he craves when he returns home, but that’s probably because he’s coming on 30 years of age and still living with his parents.
If you’re married or in a de facto arrangement, one should expect minimal praise and maybe even some open hostility for having squandered half your weekend on a cricket field. Your partner really doesn’t want to hear a ball-by-ball account of your gritty half-century after a long day of looking after the kids – and you should consider that.
TBS: Top scores, gents. List them.
Ian: I scored 153 not out in a one-day game in England. That’s about the equivalent of hitting 22 in fourth grade against the bottom side.
Dave: I hit 164 once as a 17-year-old prodigy, but it was all downhill after that. Frighteningly so.
Sam: 202 not out. I win.