Allan Watkins: Morbid debut, fruitful life


by Mayukh Ghosh

The Lindwall bouncer hit him on the shoulder. Unable to recover from the blow, he could get his feet nowhere against a Johnston delivery that swung in the air and was dismissed for a duck.
He came back to the dressing room to discover that the shoulder was all black and blue.
He was strapped up but that didn't have any effect on his captain.
“What do you think the bloody skipper did? He only gave me the new ball to bowl!”

Four expensive overs and then the ever increasing pain made sure that he was off the field.
He came back on the field an hour later and was told to take his position at short leg against the leg-spinner.

A bit too much for a debutant!

But then, as the first wicket went down, everyone stood up to applaud the incoming batsman. It was a moment to savour.
The new batsman defended the first ball, to be picked up by this hapless debutant.
Then, next ball, the batsman was dismissed bowled.
Bradman b Hollies 0.

“He had the shock of his life when it bowled him! He looked down very quickly to see what the hell had happened.” 
Had emotion finally got the better of the world’s greatest run-maker? 
“I don’t know, I can’t say that,” he replied, “but I can tell you he was dry-eyed!”

Albert Watkins was an ordinary student who preferred being out playing games all through the year.
He made his first-class debut as a 17-year old.
Some people wanted his autograph and to one of them, he casually said, "I wish I had a shorter name."
"Why don't you sign as Alan?", suggested Wilf Wooller.
He signed 'Allan' and that's the name the press used while writing about his exploits.

The war was not the best of times for Allan and his cricket suffered badly.
As soon as the war was over, he resumed his career as a baker and thought of quitting cricket.
The news reached his former headmaster at school who was, at one point, critical about Allan's studies and his future.
He wrote to his former pupil, reminding him of the sacrifices his parents had made to help with the cost of kit and paying fares for him to reach the matches.
Allan went back to playing cricket.

He did rather well for Glamorgan and did decently for England as well.
It was a strenuous life,” he admitted. “But, as a youngster, it was what I had always dreamt of doing, sport, and that’s what I’ve done. It made me take a lot of pills for being nervous, but I wouldn’t change a minute.”
One of those who gave all they had to the game they loved yet found no one asking them for interviews or writing glowing pieces on them.

Allan Watkins was born on April 21, 1922.