It was a warm, humid and somewhat overcast Saturday afternoon with just over an hour left to play in the day, as I sat watching from the side line as my eldest son Simon opened the batting for his cricket team. Simon has played cricket for just on fifteen years and for many of those years he was an opening batsmen, but in recent times he has always preferred to bat lower down the order, so to open the batting is now very much out character for him. However, on this day his captain had asked him to do it and he said yes.
He and his batting partner played very well and the team got off to a flying start scoring nearly 70 runs by the end of the days play. As he left the field, I could see that he was very pleased with his efforts and I was also very proud of him.
One of the spectators sitting with me during the last hour of play made a comment about the age of Simon’s bat and almost without thinking I replied that it was over thirty years old and still going strong. He replied that they don’t make bats like that any more, implying that there was a certain quality about a bat that had stood the test of time.
At that very moment my mind skipped back over the years and I recalled snippets in the life of the bat, an SS Perfect Club Model made from English willow by Stuart Surridge. I had purchased it when I was a young man playing afternoon park cricket, and at that time most cricketers used the bats that their cricket club supplied in the team kit. So you can imagine how proud I was to have my very own perfect bat, equally, I had saved up to buy it, so it became a treasured possession.
The perfect bat came with its own special carry bag, complete with a small instruction booklet attached to the bat handle which included advice on how to care for the bat, the need for regular oiling with linseed oil, and the obligatory cleaning of the batting surface with light grain sandpaper to remove the red cricket ball dints and marks.
For over four years I used the perfect bat with moderate success, then work and family commitments took over and my cricket playing days came to an end. My perfect bat remained in the carry bag for around eight years, until I returned to play the indoor cricket, a shortened version of game played under lights. My perfect bat had now entered its second decade in its cricketing life and still looked as good as new, once it had been sanded, oiled and had a new batting grip.
During this time Simon was born and as he grew older he started to play sport, which included junior cricket and I either coached or managed every team he played for over the next twelve years. During the latter part of his junior years in cricket, Simon always had his own cricket bat, so my bat remained safely stored in the carry bag, only coming out on the rare occasion that I played a game of social cricket.
When Simon was old enough to play senior cricket, he and I had the chance to play together in an afternoon competition for our club and it was time for my perfect bat to be taken out of its carry bag, lightly sanded, rubbed down with linseed oil and have a new batting grip fitted. Only this time Simon was using it when he batted and I used his old bat.
I can remember asking him if he wanted me to buy him a new bat, but I was quickly told that he would like to use my perfect bat, as long as I didn’t mind. How could I possibly mind, my son wanted to use my perfect bat which was older than him and had been used by me on and off for well over twenty years. The fact that Simon did want to use it has always amazed me, given that the majority of our team mates all had the latest and most up to date bats available on the market.
It was about this time that Simon changed the way he batted. He became a more attacking batsman who enjoyed his time at the batting crease and many good scores were the order of the day in the innings that he played. The great delight for me was that I was playing in the same team with him and either watching him from the side lines or on the odd occasion batting with him. On one occasion when he did not play, I had the opportunity to use my perfect bat and made my highest score of my cricketing career. As you can imagine the perfect bat got a liberal sanding and the customary oiling after that innings.
I can still vividly remember one innings that Simon played on an extremely hot, humid and very windy Saturday afternoon in February 2003 and he came very close to scoring a 100 runs, which is better known in the cricketing world as a century or a ton. In the end exhausted from the heat, he was out just short of the score all cricketers strive for every time they bat, however, it had been a wonderful innings. Sadly on that afternoon our capital city was hit with the worst bush fires that you could imagine and hundreds of people lost their homes and all their possessions.
Coincidently, it was in the light of Simon’s wonderful innings with the perfect bat and in the shadow of the bush fire disaster that launched my on going passion for inspiring and uplifting stories and messages.
So now the perfect bat has been around for over three decades and it is still going strong, it once was mine but now in every way it belongs to Simon, although I still make sure that it is sanded and well oiled at the start of each cricket season, and a new batting grip is fitted, whenever it is required.
When I first bought the perfect bat, little did I know that it one day it would be used by my son and that I would have the honour and great pleasure of not only coaching and watching him play, but also playing with him and see him make lots of runs.
At the start of this cricket season, Simon decided to join another cricket team, but still play with the same club. Loyalty to his club has always been important to him whether it is cricket or soccer, which is a very rare quality in today’s world. So as I left the cricket ground on that Saturday afternoon, I reflected that whilst I was not playing cricket with him this season, it was both timely and very appropriate for him to being playing with all his friends and mates. Over the last fifteen years we have had many days together on the cricket field and how lucky have I been to have such an experience, as I am sure that there are very few fathers that have the opportunity to play a competitive sport like cricket with their son.
After watching him opening the batting, I also now know that each time that he goes out to bat; he takes with him not only my best wishes, support and thoughts, but also a perfect bat that once was mine, but is now his.
I have decided to rename it Simon’s Stuart Surridge bat and for me the triple S also stands for three decades. It is my greatest wish that this perfect partnership will continue well beyond his first century in cricket, and into a fourth decade.
Inspired by Simon and the perfect bat – written by Keith Ready, a very proud father and semi-retired cricketer.
Keith Ready lives and in Sydney, Australia and is affectionately known as Mr Inspiration. He is publisher of InspirEmail which provides inspirational messages to refresh the spirit and boost the emotional bank account. You can visit his website at www.agiftofinspiration.com.au and he can be contacted via e-mail at [email protected]
Post script from an even prouder father
The Perfect Partnership was written on Sunday October 23, 2005 and the next week Simon went on to score 75 runs and along with his batting partner set a new team record for an opening partnership of 165 runs. On Saturday December 10, 2005 Simon scored his first century with his beloved triple S bat. I had the pleasure of watching him score every one of his 120 runs not out. If you who know something about the game of cricket, you will identify with the fact that he scored his runs in just under 2 hours and hit a six over mid off to bring up the first of what I am sure will be many more three figure scores.
Keith Ready is an Australian based business adviser and trainer whose specialty is working with his clients to improve top and bottom line business performance in a measurable way, through people. Keith is publisher of InspirEmail which provides inspirational messages to refresh the spirit and boost the emotional bank account. You can visit his website at www.agiftofinspiration.com.au and he can be contacted via e-mail at [email protected]