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Two Rooms And A View: 90 Professional Assistance

Robert Owen recalls the arrival of an Indian Test cricketer at South Shields Cricket Club.

Also remembered from the Leeds tour is the evening when Malcolm and I nearly got attacked by the rest of the group. We were all walking back to our lodgings late one night with a planned visit to the local 'chippie' en route. We had done the same the previous evening, so we knew the geography of the area.

Rather than wait in a queue of 16 (Ivor Cannon was accompanied by his wife and son), Malcolm and I decided to do something about it. We lagged behind the group and at an appropriate moment made a quick detour down a back lane to be first to arrive at the 'chippie'. We quickly ordered our two three-penn'orths just as the rest of the group arrived.

Turning to them, the assistant behind the counter said, "Sorry lads, there is nothing left - these two have just had the last of the chips!" We were not very popular and someone accused us of 'pinching the supper out of their mouths.' In the end, we were made to suffer as two packets of chips were shared between sixteen hungry individuals. We didn't get many!

Generally, the tour was a huge success but personally measured by the number of runs scored, it was a complete failure. My three visits to the wicket resulted in scores of 0, 1 and 2. This stimulated a lot of good-natured (I think it was!) teasing on the bus journey back to Shields. One sarcastic colleague argued that I was the most consistent batsman in the squad. Another commented that I shouldn't have got 2 because it came off my pad, and somebody else calculated, that at that progression, I should make 50 the season after next. In fact, I scored 50 the following day, but it was not for Shields!

Not surprisingly, I was not required by South Shields Cricket Club that weekend. Half expecting this and thinking in advance, I had made provisional arrangements to turn out for Reyrolles Second XI in the Tyneside Senior League. I was not officially a member of the club, but it was the works' holiday and they were short of players. I scored 54. Perhaps I had found my level at last?

The knock did not go unnoticed by Andy Landells - the then first team captain. The following Monday he looked me up in the factory and invited me to join the club saying, "I'm sure we could get you into the first team."

I politely said, "No." One of my reasons for refusing was that I was happy at Wood Terrace and I still hoped for greater personal success. Also, while in Leeds, Ken Walkington - the second team vice captain and a member of the club's committee had visited us with some important news. In our absence, the club had engaged a professional for the 1953 season. His name was C S Nayudu, a former Indian Test player. None of us had heard of him, but we were certainly going to!

The following week, under the heading 'Tribute to C S Nayudu', a letter in the Gazette indicated that in his book 'Straight Hit', Keith Miller (perhaps the world's best all-rounder) said, "The Indian whose cricket and personality I most admire is C S Nayudu. As a batsman he rivals Freddie Brown, the English captain, but when he gets his long fingers around the ball, he can really show how useful he is."

The next column stated that, whilst playing as professional for Littleborough in the Central Lancashire the previous Saturday, C S Nayudu had scored a century in 107 minutes. It included 12 boundaries and 3 sixes. As South Shields finished bottom of the Durham Senior League in 1952 - for only the second time in its long history - we looked forward to his coming with great interest.

We were not disappointed. In 1953, the same year that Surrey dominated the Cricket County Championship and Len Hutton, the first professional captain, led England as they regained the 'Ashes', C S Nayudu brought back the crowds to Wood Terrace. His explosive batting and remarkable spin bowling were a joy to watch. More spectators used to come to see him bat and bowl at the nets than now watch the first team play. I am convinced that the crowds would have willingly paid to watch him practise. Clive Crickmer (1985) details C S Nayudu's remarkable achievements from 1953 to 1958 in his excellent history of South Shields Cricket Club.

For at least one of these years he brought his wife and family with him. I remember this because whilst walking along King Street from evening classes one night, I bumped into C S and his brood. He was showing them the bright lights of Binns' window display. Although we had hardly met, he recognised me and exchanged pleasantries He was a marvellous cricketer and a real gentleman.

While Nayudu brought some much-needed changes on the field at Wood Terrace in 1953, the club's new first and second team captains, Bert Land and Ken Walkington introduced some sudden changes off the field. During the last three years, all players practising at the nets always shared the home dressing room. When we arrived for early season practice in April 1953, we found the following notice on the home dressing room door: "FIRST AND SECOND TEAM PLAYERS ONLY."

Everybody else was to use the visitors' dressing room. This was quite a shock because it segregated an occasional older player, many juniors and some good friends. After changing in the visitors' dressing room, my fellow third team players found more changes when we arrived at the nets. Perhaps not before time, one net was reserved for first and second team players and one net for the rest.

My colleagues and I had no argument with this, except there was nobody in charge of the second net and no coaching ever took place. The relative neglect of the third team was further demonstrated by the array of captains between 1950 and 1953. Bill Parker senior was the official captain but was often unavailable when Don Lawson would deputise. This happened so often in 1952 that Frank McNulty of the town's famous shipping family was appointed temporary captain. Then in 1953, Matt Smith, who then had a newspaper shop in Mortimer Road took over.

(With hindsight, possibly the new regulations about First and Second Team Players Only, may have contributed to the Club's improved performance in 1953. The first team rose from bottom of the league to fifth top and the second team won the Division Two Championship.)

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