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On The Bat’s Back
by [?]

“Tell me, Henry,” I said, “what’s wrong with this bat?”

“It seems all right,” he said, after waving it about. “Rather a good one.”

I laid it down on the floor and looked at it. Then I turned it on its face and looked at it. And then I knew.

“It wants a little silver shield on the back,” I said. “That’s it.”

“Why, is it a presentation bat?” asked Henry.

“In a sense, yes. It was presented to me by Twyford.”

“What for?”

“Really,” I said modestly, “I hardly like—- Why do people give one things? Affection, Henry; pity, generosity–er—-“

“Are you going to put that on the shield? ‘Presented out of sheer pity to—-‘”

“Don’t be silly; of course not. I shall put ‘Presented in commemoration of his masterly double century against the Authentics,’ or something like that. You’ve no idea how it impresses the wicket-keeper. He really sees quite a lot of the back of one’s bat.”

“Your inscription,” said Henry, as he filled his pipe slowly, “will be either a lie or extremely unimpressive.”

“It will be neither, Henry. If I put my own name on it, and talked about my double century, of course it would be a lie; but the inscription will be to Stanley Bolland.”

“Who’s he?”

“I don’t know. I’ve just made him up. But now, supposing my little shield says, ‘Stanley Bolland. H.P.C.C.–Season 1912. Batting average 116.34.’–how is that a lie?”

“What does H.P.C.C. stand for?”

“I don’t know. It doesn’t mean anything really. I’ll leave out ‘Batting average’ if it makes it more truthful. ‘Stanley Bolland. H.P.C.C., 1912. 116.34.’ It’s really just a little note I make on the back of my bat to remind me of something or other I’ve forgotten. 116.34 is probably Bolland’s telephone number or the size of something I want at his shop. But by a pure accident the wicket-keeper thinks it means something else; and he tells the bowler at the end of the over that it’s that chap Bolland who had an average of over a century for the Hampstead Polytechnic last year. Of course that makes the bowler nervous and he starts sending down long-hops.”

“I see,” said Henry; and he began to read his paper again.

So to-morrow I take my bat to the silversmith’s and have a little engraved shield fastened on. Of course, with a really trustworthy weapon I am certain to collect pots of runs this season. But there is no harm in making things as easy as possible for oneself.

And yet there is this to be thought of. Even the very best bat in the world may fail to score, and it might so happen that I was dismissed (owing to some defect in the pitch) before my silver shield had time to impress the opposition. Or again, I might (through ill-health) perform so badly that quite a wrong impression of the standard of the Hampstead Polytechnic would be created, an impression which I should hate to be the innocent means of circulating.

So on second thoughts I lean to a different inscription. On the back of my bat a plain silver shield will say quite simply this:–


Thus I shall have two strings to my bow. And if, by any unhappy chance, I fail as a cricketer, the wicket-keeper will say to his comrades as I walk sadly to the pavilion, “A poor bat perhaps, but a brave–a very brave fellow.”

It becomes us all to make at least one effort to brighten cricket.