What is an umpire supposed to do? © Getty Images
What is an umpire supposed to do? © Getty Images

Of all incidents (real or otherwise) mentioned in the series, this is almost certainly going to be the darkest. Thankfully, the situation is fictitious — though the brilliance of Herbert Farjeon has infused life into it with remarkable ease.

Before I start, let me throw some light on the Farjeon siblings (they were of remarkable descent as well, but let us leave that for now). Harry Farjeon was an award-winning composer. Eleanor, the sister, has a legacy matched by few when it comes to children’s literature.

Joseph Jefferson, perhaps the greatest of them all, was one of the biggest names in the Golden Age of English Detective Fiction. Cricket often played a role, albeit insignificant, in Farjeon’s books. All three loved and played cricket.

And Herbert, younger to all three, donned nearly every hat when it came to theatre. He was also the biggest cricket enthusiast of the quartet, and the most prolific cricketer.

This is from Herbert Farjeon’s Cricket Bag, that posthumously published excellent assortment of essays, short stories, and verse, all on the same subject. It also boasts of an introduction by Joseph Jefferson — a must-read if you are a cricket-lover. Arunabha Sengupta has written vividly about it.

The macabre question

The story (or chronicle) is titled Some Record Catches, where The Man in the Pavilion narrates the memories of a few catches he had witnessed.

This one involved a seriously quick bowler hurling thunderbolts on a fast pitch. In other words, the poor man wielding the willow at the other end was going through his worst nightmare. One of these fireballs took off, hit the shoulder of the bat, and hit the batsman on the temple. Still in no mood to stop, the ball finally found shelter in the big gloves of the wicketkeeper — though the trajectory was presumably loopy.

Obviously, the fielding side appealed and the umpire raised his finger. As for the batsman, he had already collapsed in a heap. Close inspection revealed the worst: he had succumbed to the injury.

This sad but unremarkable story could have ended here, but Farjeon leaves us with two questions that had arisen once medical reports revealed that the blow had killed the batsman almost instantly. This obviously meant that the wicketkeeper had taken the catch after the batsman had died.

Let us encounter Farjeon’s questions:
- “Can a batsman be caught out after he’s dead?
- “And if so, isn’t it pretty rotten for a fellow’s batting average to be lowered after he’s kicked the bucket?”

Herbert could probably have turned to his elder brother for answers. After all, not many had a mind that rational.

But given that he neglected to do that, can anyone provide the answers, please?