Life Beyond The Airing Cupboard by John Barclay

51IJZnnC9yL._SL500_ Despite May’s hail, it is actually summer or a rough approximation of it. But then cricket is a dry game in a wet land, something that Life Beyond The Airing Cupboard makes clear with its tales of uncovered pitches on which Derek Underwood wreaks havoc. John Barclay was captain of Sussex, an attractive underachiever of a county, sprinkled with the stardust of Imran Khan and Tony Grieg, but generally playing out its professional obligations in Hove, Horsham or Hastings in front of sparse crowds. The book is an (unintended) companion piece to Peter Roebuck’s It Never Rains, which was about a journeyman cricketer’s 1983 season. Barclay even popped up in that one, and here is what Roebuck said: ‘John is a fellow who stresses and strains all day and needs to unwind away from his team in the evening. Despite his Etonian accent and aristocratic façade, he is a tough, rigorous professional.’ Another book to which it bears some superficial similarity is Coming Back To Me, which details the mental health issues that finished Marcus Trescothick’s international cricket career. Barclay would have recognised Trescothick’s desperate plight – and the little reference to stresses and strains suggest that Roebuck may have known Barclay’s secret: that he suffered from bipolar disorder and took lithium to regulate his body’s chemistry. Roebuck, a complex man himself, was a perceptive fellow – although perhaps not perceptive enough to see that his way of life might lead, as it did, to his jumping to his death from a hotel balcony rather than facing police questioning. There are a lot of suicides in cricket but Barclay is not among them – although his brief, bleak description of committal to a Sydney asylum gives some insight into how much he and his family were tested. And how did he explain his occasional withdrawals from society? ‘Glandular fever, a good all-rounder, came to my rescue and for some time became a constant ally.’ Such understatement is characteristic, even when describing, in a few lines, the death of his first wife. But then as he says: ‘If cricket does nothing more for us in life, it does at least prepare us a little for death. The countless days of failure are responsible for that.’

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