PercyDavid Taylor |
Author: Pocock, Pat
Publisher: Clifford Frost
Rating: 3.5 stars
As a long-suffering Surrey supporter, and by nature something of a nostalgic, I often find myself looking back to the players I watched when I first started going to the Oval, and I enjoyed re-reading this very much. It’s often claimed that there few characters in the modern game, but that Surrey team of the mid-1970s had a few: the nuggety opener John Edrich, muff-eared batsman and electric fielder Graham Roope, the gnarled and cantankerous Geoff Arnold, the long-runnng and loud-appealing Robin Jackman; and of course Pat ‘Percy’ Pocock, eternally youthful and ever-hopeful off-spinner. He had a first-class career which stretched from 1964 to 1986, coming into a game with very few overseas players and hardly any one-day cricket, and leaving one very similar to that we know today.
The Welsh-born Pocock, whose nickname, used throughout his career, was given to him by Surrey masseur Sandy Tait, was a rare creature in English cricket – an attacking off-spinner. Graeme Swann is not a dissimilar bowler I suppose. Pocock was happy enough with 3 for 80 off 25 overs, although he could tie batsmen down when he needed to. Early in the book he sums up his approach: “I really thought I could get anybody out … I knew that there wasn’t a player in the game who couldn’t give me stick, but I was certain that there wasn’t a player I couldn’t dismiss.”
Essentially he had three England careers. First picked as a 21- year-old against West Indies and Australia in 1968, he then found his way blocked by the appointment of rival off-spinner Ray Illingworth as England captain between 1969 and 1973. In the mid- 70s he made occasional appearances, the last being the infamous Manchester Test of 1976 (he gives a vivid account of the sustained assault on Edrich and Brian Close on the fourth evening). After the match he asked Michael Holding “tell me, did you get any to turn out there?” but that quip signalled the end of his England days until recalled in the autumn of his career while John Emburey was serving a ban for touring South Africa.
The book, written with the assistance of sports journalist Patrick Collins, is a collection of wittily recalled anecdotes. The fun that Pocock had playing the game is palpable. But my favourite Percy story isn’t there. On one occasion he came out to bat in glasses, to general amusement. “What have you got those on for?” he was asked. “It’s because I’m going deaf” came the sarcastic reply. He was duly bowled a few balls later and as he departed, the bowler called after him – “bad luck Perce … you didn’t hear that one, did you!”
Anyone who wants to track this one down can be guaranteed a few more chuckles.