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Were P. G. Wodehouse alive (an unlikely scenario as that would mean he would be celebrating his 135th birthday in October), I rather think he would enjoy watching Jonathan Trott batting for Warwickshire.
Earlier this week, watching from inside the Pavilion as I hid from the chill of mid-April at Lords, I studied Trott as he reached an impeccable and faultless 219 not out for his county side. In addition to admiring his predatory batting technique, I became hypnotised by the change in character he displayed between the moments when he faced Middlesex’s strong bowling attack.
Rarely can there have been an example of a man showing two distinct aspects of his character, repeatedly, every few seconds, over a period of many hours.
A batsman, during the course of an over may only be in action for a matter of a handful of seconds; for the rest of the time he must find something to occupy himself. Some batsmen sing or hum to themselves in an effort to maintain concentration; others might attempt to engage fielders in conversation, or chat to one of the umpires about the chances of their pick for the 3:45 at Kempton.
Jonathan Trott doesn’t undertake any of these options.
As soon as each delivered ball has ‘gone dead’, Trott strolls, very slowly indeed, towards square leg. Just as you think he must surely have ambled far enough, he keeps walking. Most often the bowler has, by now, returned to his mark to begin a new run up to the wicket, but Jonathan Trott is still moseying.
It is as he reaches his destination, that one thinks of P.G. Wodehouse, or, to be precise, Gussie Fink-Nottle, who pops up from time to time in Wodehouse stories, in order to be rescued from some disastrous engagement by the combined efforts of Bertie Wooster and Jeeves.
Jonathan Trott is a latter day Gussie Fink-Nottle. As he finally decides he has taken enough of the air at short square leg, he suddenly looks around with bafflement, in the manner of Fink-Nottle entering a room with determination to find a book on the subject of newts, only to forget his purpose immediately after crossing the threshold.
Trott looks perplexed, wondering how and why he is about ten yards away from where he should be – that is, ready to face the next, rather fearsome, ball from Stephen Finn.
Returning to his crease, Trott dabbles at the ground in front of him, prodding with his bat as if mimicking Monty Don preparing the autumnal soil for the planting of daffodil bulbs. Indeed, so fastidious is Trott in ensuring the area around his crease is free from the merest speck, I rather think that if he was allowed to take a vacuum cleaner out there, then he would not hesitate to rid the entire square of the tiniest morsels of dust, between every single ball.
By this time, the bowler, anxious to ensure the day’s play finishes before nightfall has decided that enough is enough and he is just going to bowl that ball no matter what. Even still, Jonathan Trott is unhurried, seemingly only remembering his occupation a second or two before the bowler releases the ball.
This is when that most extraordinary transformation takes place. Trott is not a tall man and as he faces each new delivery he becomes very small indeed. In the blink of an eye his stance becomes that of a crouching predator, a lion or a cheetah eyeing up a prey that has emerged into their vision. He covers the wicket with his body and plays each ball with a studied arc of the bat, ensuring the ball hits the ground speedily and firmly, and in these movements virtually rules out being bowled or caught.
As soon as the runs are completed, or he confirms to himself that the ball will reach the boundary for four (no sixes, too risky), he becomes the ‘other Jonathan Trott’ and resumes the meandering to square leg.
This contradiction – the distance between Trott the hungry accumulator of runs and the rather bewildered Wodehousian figure, continues when the day is done.
The design of Lords ensures that any player returning to the dressing rooms has to walk firstly, through a small phalanx of spectators sitting outside the Pavilion, and then through the historic Long Room, all wooden floors, tall ceilings, and oil paintings of W.G. Grace. This can be an intimidating experience for the most bold of men and women.
Perhaps a serotonin high for those returning after hitting a big score or bowling out half of the other team; less cheering for those received in silence after being dismissed after the first ball.
Ushered to walk in first by his teammate, Oliver Hannon-Dalby, and the Middlesex side, Trott took on the disposition of a man on the steps of a dental surgery, anticipating the most painful treatment. As he walked through the Long Room, he made a determined effort to study the ceiling, arching his neck so that he would not have to make eye contact with those of us applauding his efforts. He waggled his jaw as if undertaking exercises to stretch his mouth, reminding one of Margaret Rutherford in a huff, and then he was gone, taking the stairs, two at a time, back to the sanctuary of the Warwickshire dressing room.
Two hundred and nineteen runs and between each plundering hit, a series of routines – the saunter to square leg, the baffled moment of confusion, the digging around his crease. All of which would surely have led to Wodehouse including Jonathan Trott as one of the most eccentric, yet admired members of the Drones Club, very possibly finding himself engaged to Madeline Bassett, before being untangled by the finest efforts of Jeeves.
Terence Dackombe, April 2016.
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