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The Six Million Dot Man
He blocks; that’s what he does.
Ball after ball, over after over, hour after hour, the Blocker remains vigilant, always doing his utmost to ensure that the ball never runs off the wicket after making contact with his bat.
For the Blocker, an innings is a thing of beauty to be cherished, not measured in anything cheap and tawdry like runs scored or even in terms of minutes spent at the crease.
The Blocker does not need a watch to time his innings - his whole game is very much in alignment with the planets and the sun and the moon, therefore a sundial is the only thing that can truly capture the majesty of the Blocker’s stint in the middle. Dots are what matter most to the Blocker, dots lovingly collected before being receipted and filed away to be reflected upon with secret guiltless pleasure at a later date.
Lovingly, tenderly, the Blocker collects the dots with the childlike enthusiasm of a small boy let loose in a sweet shop. In his ideal innings, the Blocker will join as many dots together as he can, always deriving greater satisfaction from being part of a maiden over than disrupting the pattern with an unwanted scoring shot.
To the Blocker, a scoring shot is akin to a teenage pregnancy - invariably unwanted, uncalled for, premature and a source of regret. Such dedication to his craft is not easy to perfect. Any batsman can hit a boundary with a carefree swing of the bat but for the Blocker, joy and satisfaction stems from a ball well blocked. Runs are anathema to the Blocker, a man who frowns upon the merest hint of a scoring opportunity and defiantly goes out of his way to prevent the bowler suffering any damage to his figures. He is, after all, a kind and gentle soul.
Furthermore, the Blocker regards the ball with reverence and compassion. He has no desire to strike it hard with his bat and risk knocking it out of shape or scuffing it. Perish the thought that the Blocker should be the man to knock the shine off the cricket ball, damage a stitch in the seam or even worse, to disturb the gold lettering on the sacred scarlet orb.
To the Blocker, an edged boundary represents the height of bad batting, for it represents a failed defensive prod, a prod that failed to produce its desired result of a dot ball. Indeed the worse the delivery, the more satisfaction the Blocker derives from patting it gently to a fielder to prevent the scoreboard from ticking over, even by a single run.
While most batsmen enjoy nothing more than the release offered by a full toss, the Blocker long ago perfected the art of greeting even the most generous of offerings with a dead bat. Not for him the wanton thrill of scoring a run when he has the opportunity to caress the ball tenderly, almost lovingly, to a grateful fielder.
Leg stump half volleys offer another challenge. However, a vice-like grip allied to a crab-like determination not to guide the ball wide of the fielders ensures that such deliveries invariably go unpunished.
Similarly short-pitched offerings are met with the staunchest of back foot defensive prods, as the Blocker digs in and pats the ball cheerfully back to the bowler who can scarcely believe his good fortune.
Despite his dedication and commitment the Blocker will admit there are days when it goes wrong, afternoons where everything fails to click into place and the metronomic gift of finding the fielder betrays him.
On days such as this the runs flow, not in a torrent, seldom even a trickle, yet flow they do; a single here, a single there, a single almost everywhere.
The Blocker does his best to staunch the flow of runs from his bat, choking his grip ever tighter on the handle, reducing his back-lift, cutting out his follow-through and doing his utmost to ensure that the natural order of things is soon restored and the dots begin to accumulate once again.
To this end he is a natural descendant of some of cricket’s greatest and slowest accumulators and loves nothing more than to pay homage to those who have blocked before him.
It should go without saying that the Blocker owns a life-size painting of Geoffrey Boycott playing a defensive shot. Furthermore he is the only man in the world to own a Blu Ray copy of the never-released Tavaré’s Ashes; How the 1981 Ashes Were Really Won.
Then there is the hard-core stuff.
The inaugural World Cup saw India requiring 335 from 60 overs to beat England. They finished on 132-3, Sunil Gavaskar scoring an unbeaten 36 from 174 balls. Had it not included a single rogue boundary, this would truly have represented Blocking Nirvana. Yet it may be as close to perfection as the Blocker will see; to that end his most cherished possession is a signed and framed scorecard of Gavaskar’s epic innings.
Secretly the Blocker hopes that one day he might out-Gavaskar Gavaskar, and carry his bat through the innings without scoring a run and inflicting even the slightest damage upon the opposition bowling figures.
That is his dream.
It is our nightmare.