Kemp’s life in cricket in this first in a (possible) series of blogs…
Initially, incredibly, I achieved some minor cricketing success in my youth.
A youth, it must be said, that seems as long ago now as the Industrial Revolution.
Now, when it takes me a good couple of rocks to lift me up out of the sofa and the head gleams like a newly boiled egg. But I have my memories.
Memories like the time I was first selected to represent Middlesex.
This obviously came as quite a shock to me. And to my team mates. I was hopelessly out of my depth. I had only really played village cricket before – me: a very keen kid with few friends and an unhealthy obsession with cricket; the rest of the team: world-weary men around the age of retirement who probably just wanted to get away from their wives for an afternoon.
But still, I once went for a trail for the Middlesex Juniors team and, inexplicably, I was selected.
I got the feeling I was only picked for Middlesex as the coach of the under-16s seemed to take a rather curious shine to me. Few of the rest of the team did. The coach once told me that I reminded him of a young Simon Hughes. I imagined he meant I had a bit of pace and zip about my bowling and good cricketing sense, so it came as a bit of a blow when he continued “Yes, he had a habit of irritating everyone on tour too.”
But still the coach picked me. Including that fateful day that I was to bowl at a young Michael Vaughan.
Now, as I said, I wasn’t really good enough to be playing in a team that included the future Owais Shah, and the players would look at me with undisgusied contempt as yet another ball trickled through my legs for four, but I don’t think the coach – a man well beyond retirement age – really cared about all that. In fact, the only advice I ever remember him giving us was one day at Northampton when he stood at the dressing room door and said “Big game tomorrow lads, big game. I want all of you at your best. So…boxing gloves on in bed tonight, eh lads?”
I had to ask the wicketkeeper, who looked to have the beginnings of a goatee beard and seemed a lot more advanced in ways of the world, what he meant by this.
Anyway, we were on tour, playing against Yorkshire in a beautiful field somewhere in the Dales. I spent most of the game down at fine leg, hands in pockets, taking in the scenery really.
When a couple of wickets fell there was a mumur in the mid-pitch huddle.
“Good player, the next bloke in. I don’t fancy bowling at him”
“Me neither. I hear he takes you to the cleaners”
“I’m not bowling at him. Think of my average”
By the time I’d sauntered up from the boundary, whistling away, a decision had been made.
“Kemp, you’re on next over”
So this is how I got to bowl at the future one-time “No 1 batsman in the World”As Vaughan took guard and I rubbed the cherry furiously on my backside, trying to look the part, I noted the field seemed to have set themselves back rather deep. I could hardly see them they were so far back on the boundary rope.
As I peered myopically into the distance, trying to spot my man on the sweep, I did notice something very odd though.
It appeared that Catherine Zeta Jones was sat on a bench out there, waiting to see my first delivery.
I later found out that the Darling Buds of May was being filmed in a field over the way, but the whole thing was really beginning to take on a surreal aspect.
I waved fine leg round a bit. Just for something to do really.
I started my run up- always too long. Trying to impress. I always marked out a run up that left me knackered before I’d even passed the umpire.
I leapt into my action.
Planted my front foot down.
And sent down a PEACH of a delivery. Fast, swinging, just catching the seam and jagging inwards. Vaughan didn’t stand a chance. The stumps were splayed like an over-elaborate flower arrangement.
After an understandable moment of stunned silence, I was mobbed.
Never again would I be so lauded in my cricketing career. Zeta Jones even looked like she was weighing up the idea asking me out on a date.
Life couldn’t get any better.
Fast forward 10 years and my cricketing career had ground to a halt, and as with everyone who fails at playing the game, I’ve started to write about it.
I’ve been sent to interview Michael Vaughan on his appointment as England cricket captain.
I get to Lords and am told that Vaughan is running a bit late. I repair to the Lord’s Tavern and wait for the call.
40 minutes and 4 pints go by, suddenly my phone rings.
“Michael is ready for you now. Hurry up!”
I sprint round to the pavilion, arriving out of breath, over-weight and smelling of the pub.
Also, due to an unfortunate earlier holiday incident where the bald pate had caught the sun and I’d rubbed a cream with a tanning agent into it, my head has turned a luminous shade of bright orange.
I’m again eye to eye with my old adversary (or rather not as Virgil has grown a good foot taller while I seem to have stayed stunted at 5 foot not much).
“Remember me?” says the orange headed, wheezing journalist.
“No? I once bowled you middle stump…”
I suppose, thinking about it, the best way to sum up the look I waa given was probably… withering.