Monday, 15 July 2013

Richard Austin

Richie batting

It's difficult really to know what to write, if anything at all – especially on a flippant little cricket blog such as this. But it would be wrong, I think, not to mark the tragic event in some small way. To readers of Cricket Tragics, Richard Austin will be known as a classy batsman, one-time excellent seam bowler before turning cannily to off-spin, an endlessly thoughtful strategist of the game, and a funny and warm-hearted individual, who was always good company in the pub and whose entertaining writings graced these pages from time to time. Of course, his life involved much more than simply cricket (as it does for all of us) and it is his partner Lynne and young daughter Rosie with whom our greatest sympathies must lie.

But it is through cricket that we knew Richie, and so through cricket that we will remember him. The club held a minute's silence for him before our last match and we are privileged to be hosting refreshments in the pavilion after his funeral this week. I'm sure our warm and varied memories of Richie will live long into the future, and many a glass will be raised in his name. 

The last time I saw Richie was in the Plough after we'd been thrashed by Great Gaddesden at the end of June. He was wearing his superhero t-shirt from the Kent 'Invicta' tour of 2010, during which he played a starring role with both bat and ball. It brought back some great memories of his highest score for the club (a dashing and extremely attractive 80-odd). Richie was one of those naturally talented cricketers, who could change a game single-handedly with either bat or ball. He was always a pleasure to watch, to chat to, and to play alongside – whether sending one of his signature pull strokes scorching to the mid-wicket boundary, finding extra bounce off a good length, or, in recent years, deceiving batsmen in the air with his flight and drift away.

Richie bowling

Richie was also a great thinker about the game, and always had a strategy or a plan of some kind up his sleeve. His attention to detail was to the fore when he produced a piece of analysis on the exact measurements of a 6 hit by Sohail in 2012, using Google Earth to compare it to a similar blow struck by the same batsman 3 years earlier. Only Richie would have gone to such lengths for a blog read by about 12 people.

Some of his ideas were less successful than others, however, and it is one such instance that is still one of my favourite things ever to have happened in my years at Hyde Heath. Back in 2008, away on tour at Harvil, Richie was bowling close to his very best, getting the odd one to bounce and really zip through. Frustration growing after repeated plays and misses from the batsman, Richie requested that the short leg be moved to second slip. Much to the bowler’s unconcealed annoyance, the captain, Matt Sims, refused. But what should happen two balls later? Richie pitched one up on middle and leg, the batsmen tried to flick it through midwicket, instead chipping it straight to myself, at the disputed short leg position, where I just about held onto a very straightforward chance. Magic.

Richie was an excellent cricketer, but the great thing about village cricket is that actually talent doesn't really matter very much at all. Richie was a pleasure to play alongside and to know and to call a friend. He will be greatly missed.

No comments:

Post a Comment