Monday, 26 December 2011

Turtle Doves

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me two turtle doves.

The European Turtle Dove rarely appears in Northern Europe before the end of April, returning south again in September so it is present for the cricket season. Sadly, according to the State of Europe's Common Birds 2007 report, the European Turtle Dove population in Europe has fallen by 62% in recent times.

Turtle Doves are emblems of devoted love. There are a number of cultural references - two turtle doves are mentioned as having been sacrificed for the Birth of Jesus. In Renaissance Europe, the Turtle Dove was envisaged as the devoted partner of the Phoenix and inspired a number of works including Shakespeare's poem "The Phoenix and the Turtle". The Turtle Dove is featured in a number of folk songs about love and loss. But, come on FB, enough of this rich cultural reference. What significance is the turtle dove to the cricketer?

Turtle Doves is Cockney Rhyming slang for gloves.  For many years FB thought that cricket gloves only came in singles - such was the number of random gloves to be found in the team cricket bag.  They had obviously been bought one at a time. One left one, one right one and one with a ............. He has more recently come to realise that they are made and sold in pairs.  Much more sensible.

WG models early gloves
In the modern cricket match there are 6 gloves legally in view at any one time - worn by each batsman and the wicket keeper.  (Since many of these will also be wearing inners, there may be 12 gloves on the field).  Gloves on other players are illegal and a begloved fielder touching the ball would incur a penalty of 5 runs against his side.  But batsmen and wicketkeepers have not always worn gloves.  The protection would have been made necessary when bowling become over arm and the prospect of bounce at pace threatened the batsman's finger bones.  Even now occasionally in lower league cricket there is the lower order batsman  who will eschew the gloves offered implying that merely to touch them would be an insult to his manhood.  Such is the damage testosterone can do to fragile brain cells.

Like all sports equipment cricket gloves have gone through evolution or intelligent design if that is you are reading in certain US States.  The first photographs of gloved cricketers show various arrays of padding attached to fingers and hands.  But the first gloves FB was aware of were poor cotton things with strips of rubber spikes attached to each finger.  FB scarcely believes that even the top players wore such gloves.  So minimal was the protection these offered against even schoolboy pace was minimal, it is hard to believe facing Larwood and the likes with only flimsy rubber spikes against him and broken fingers.
Right hand batting glove believed to have been worn by Jack Hobbs whilst making his 197th century (and last first class century) for Surrey v Lancashire at Old Trafford in May 1934. The green spiked and cloth glove is marked '197th Century 28/5/34' and is signed by Jack Hobbs. The glove also made by Jack Hobbs Ltd. The glove is sold with a letter from R.H. Hobbs stating that Hobbs on completing his innings (and 197th century) threw the glove to A.C. Hobbs, a member of Lancashire County Cricket Club.   Recently auctioned.

The spiked glove fell out of fashion in the 1950s although it still dominated the school equipment when FB started the game.  Nowadays all manner of foam padding is used and no glove can respectably be sold without an array of features including:
Nylon gusset for ventilation
Ergonomic finger and thumb splits
Sponge-padded polyurethane back for better fit and comfort
Extra finger protection reinforced with a thermoplastic polyurethane insert in the first two fingers of the bottom hand
Lightweight and rounded high-density foam finger rolls
Split thumb and three-piece sidebars on lead hand
Leather tabs on fingertips
Extra PITTARDS® leather patch on hard-wearing areas of the palm
Mesh thumb for better ventilation
Polyurethane embossed knuckles
Toweled wristband with embossed Velcro® fastener
FB is tempted to present this to a poetry magazine as found poetry - it describes the SG Hilite as worn by Rahul Dravid - so they must be some use.

Even with all these features there is nothing sorer than the thumb being squeezed against the bat handle, and broken fingers seem no less common than previously.  Some players seem to have a greater propensity for this than others - Nasser Hussain seemed to FB always to have a broken finger.  And notable breaks of 2011 included Ricky Ponting (although broken in 2010 and while fielding gloveless), Eoin Morgan and Dilshan.

Grieg -
 special helmet
not so special gloves
But technology frequently takes two steps forward and one step back.  Mercifully, some glove developments did not last.  There are many things that can be said for and against Tony Grieg. He was in many ways a courageous pioneer.  But he had no concept of propriety when it came to batting gloves.  Crowds would recoil when he stepped to the crease in the 1970s wearing mitt like things with no individual features.  This attempt to revolutionise gloves thankfully ended in failure - not even Kerry Packer could tolerate them.  Why would any player wear anything that made them look like a puppet from Camberwick Green? 

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