I used to play cricket with a guy who only had one eye. He had lost the other one in a motorcycle accident when he was a teenager. He was from a different town, the next one south of us, and after his accident they told him he couldn't play for their representative side any more. He, and his brother, told them where to shove it and for the next twenty years were the two best players we had.
His brother was the quicker of the two and an awkward customer to face because he was one of these guys where all the pace seemed to come from a flick of the wrist. He was just about as quick off five paces as off his long run, and even on our dead home track he could get it to sit up sharply from a good length. Unfortunately, my first game with the town he did himself an injury and I never played with him again.
The town I played for was in the middle of NSW on a major north-south highway and every game one of the teams travelled literally for hours. That first day was an away game and I got a ride home with the two brothers. I sat in the passenger seat and asked what was the deal with all the rocks – the foot well was full of pebbles. They said, “Oh, that's to throw at the Victorians.”
They played a game where if they spotted a Victorian number plate they would ping the car with a rock. The rest of us, all good NSW boys, thought, “Yeah, fair enough.”
The brother I did play with was still a very good bowler. As he got older and lost pace he replaced it with swerve. When he lost the knack he got by on accuracy. And right at the end of his career when even that had been sapped out of him by thirty years in the hot sun, he still took wickets on pure bluff, convincing the other team that he was just as good and just as dangerous as always.
A bloke with one eye being a good bowler didn't surprise me, but you would think without the depth of field to accurately gauge perspective he wouldn't be much of a batsman, but he was consistently our best. Not on style so much, but Jesus he could hit a ball. He shelled them into the trees regularly, making 30 or 40 every time he batted, at better than a run a ball, mostly with boundaries.
He was batting one day when we had hired a bus to take us to the ground. Our skipper was sitting in the driver's seat facing the ground, scoring, the big book open on the steering wheel, the other scorer (his own brother in fact – it was a small town) in the seat next to him.
The fella with one eye smashed the ball high, high and handsome. It went up and up, and arced back down. Straight at the bus windscreen.
I will remember all my life our captain squealing like a little girl, trapped, groping blindly for the door handle whilst still transfixed by the flight of the ball, his eyes popping like a cartoon character, as the ball hurtled toward the glass in front of him.
Its funny because the ball bounced thunk off the glass without breaking it and rebounded almost back to the centre wicket. But we all knew it could have been serious.
One extra bonus that comes with playing blokes in your team that come from a different town is that if you are desperate you can always get them to tap on the shoulder someone else from that town to make up the numbers.
There was one bloke who for a season or so came and played with us regularly. I remember one Saturday I was fielding at mid-on and the fella with one eye was bowling, his mate not there at all. I said, “What's happened to your mate today?”
He said, “He couldn't play today. He's getting married this afternoon.”
I said, “Married? Didn't he invite you to the wedding?”
The bloke with one eye said, “Yeah, I'm supposed to be best man. But you don't get married on a Saturday in summer if you want me to come.”