Social media loves nothing more than those daft quizzes to discover which TV character you resemble most closely.
Victor Meldrew, JR Ewing or Inspector Morse? Hetty Wainthropp, Margo Leadbetter or Wonder Woman?
Those who know me well would reckon it doesn’t need an online survey to mark down your correspondent as a blend of Sergeant Wilson, Private Godfrey and (whenever the ECB’s new T20 competition is mentioned) Basil Fawlty.
But recently the chap who keeps coming to mind is ‘Uncle Tom’ (more formally Mr TC Rowley) from ‘Rumpole of the Bailey’.
Remember him? Played by that great actor and performer Richard Murdoch, he was the oldest barrister in Chambers who never landed a case but spent most of the time practising with his putter in the office and making random and unappreciated comments during meetings.
Venerable, harmless and irrelevant. Sounds about right.
But even ‘Uncle Tom’ must have had the odd ambition, and so do I – like seeing another Northamptonshire player named as one of Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Year, and getting to write the accompanying article in the Almanack.
Thanks to Ben Duckett I can pop that one into the past tense.
This year’s edition, published today (Thursday), recognises his achievement last season in scoring the most runs in all cricket – 2,706 – since Marcus Trescothick managed an extra 40-odd back in 2009.
He also exemplifies the ‘new’ batsmanship adaptable for all formats of the 21st-century game, making it onto editor Lawrence Booth’s shortlist as much for the ‘how’ as for the ‘how many’.
And the 22-year-old joins an elite group of players to receive the Wisden accolade whilst on Northamptonshire’s books.
How many, exactly? Well, 13 or possibly 14. We’ll come to that in a moment.
The cricketers’ bible first chose its top men (and, since 2009, women) way back in 1889 – so it’s reckoned to be the oldest individual award in the game.
No-one wins it twice, except ‘Plum’ Warner and Jack Hobbs who earned ‘special tributes’ in the 1920s after gaining a place on the regular list some years earlier.
The quintet is also a closely-guarded secret, to be revealed only when the book is published.
To the extent that, although I was told a few months ago that Duckett had made it (in order to prepare my article), I’m still not aware as I write this who the other four choices are.
Wholly unsurprisingly, the first Northamptonshire player into the Wisden pantheon was George Thompson for his efforts in 1905 – the County’s debut summer at first-class level.
The significance of this wasn’t lost on the good book.
‘Thompson stands in an almost unique position among the professional cricketers of the present day, insomuch as he has brought a new county to the front,’ began its tribute.
‘But for his bowling it is quite safe to say that Northamptonshire would not in 1905 have been given a place among the first-class teams. Whether or not the promotion was premature is a question that need not now be discussed…’
Nothing like a bucket of cold water to dampen the general euphoria.
Another great all-rounder, Vallance Jupp, could easily have made the list in almost any season between the end of the First World War and the mid-1930s.
In fact he got the nod for the 1928 edition – along with the likes of Wally Hammond and Douglas Jardine. Illustrious company!
Fred Bakewell caught the editor’s eye after scoring 107 for England against the West Indies on only his third Test appearance at The Oval in 1933, a season that also saw him top 2,000 runs in all matches including consecutive double-hundreds for Northamptonshire in June.
‘As he is not yet 26 years of age, every reason exists why, given good health, he should in the future become even better,’ noted the Almanack.
Sadly, his career would end just three years later after suffering serious injuries in a car crash that killed his County team-mate Reggie Northway.
Northamptonshire’s status as serious contenders rather than struggling also-rans in the 1950s was reflected in three players – George Tribe, Frank Tyson and Dennis Brookes – gaining Wisden recognition in successive years, with Raman Subba Row following suit in 1961.
At 41, Brookes ranks as one of the oldest cricketers to get the honour: ‘(He) feels he still has a few more years of cricket ahead of him….he may also be able to please the enthusiast who is anxious to see him out for 89, 94, 96 and 99 – the only totals between nought and 100 for which, Brookes states, he has not so far been dismissed.’
That’s Wisden for you.
Most English cricket supporters would have been cheesed off had Colin Milburn and David Steele NOT appeared among the chosen few after firing the public’s imagination in 1966 and 1975 respectively.
Veteran journalist Alex Bannister wrote David’s appreciation, claiming that ‘Test cricket has not enjoyed such a romantic story for decades’ as his entry into the Ashes fray against Lillee, Thomson and Co.
No-one was likely to disagree.
Incidentally, Steele’s fellow nominees that year included Peter Lee – one of several cricketers to figure either before arriving at, or after leaving, Wantage Road.
It’s an indication of Allan Lamb’s early impact on the county scene that he made the list in 1981 after three seasons with Northamptonshire, and before his Test debut for England.
With a batsman of his quality the question was always likely to be ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ his photo appeared at the front of the yellow book.
More recently, India’s Anil Kumble was picked for claiming 105 Championship wickets in 1995 – and Monty Panesar’s first year on the international stage, 2006, saw him selected too.
And Duckett makes 13. Or does he?
Curtly Ambrose was one of Wisden’s five following a successful Test summer for West Indies in 1991 – but he didn’t appear for Northamptonshire that year.
However, the big man was still a contracted player with the club and helped us win the NatWest Trophy the following season.
A ticklish legalistic point. Perhaps a case (at last) for Mr Rowley?