Worcestershire CCC will be presenting the new play about the tragic decline of former England and Northamptonshire cricketer Colin "Ollie" Milburn in The Hick Pavilion on Friday, November 4.
'When The Eye Has Gone' is presented by the Professional Cricketers' Association in association with Liverwire Theatre and Roughhouse Theatre.
It tells the story of Milburn's cricketing triumphs but also his life after the disaster of losing his left eye in a car accident in 1969 when he was at the height of his cricketing powers.
Milburn died in the obscurity of a pub car park in his native Durham aged 48 after he drifted into chronic alcoholism.
The play is being staged at all 18 first class counties and is the PCA’s 2016 initiative to promote mental health and well being and they are encouraging all players and staff to attend.
Set in the bar of the North Briton pub in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, the action takes place on February 28, 1990 during Milburn's cabaret performance as "Jolly Ollie" – the character he developed to conceal his insecurities and suffering.
With songs, anecdotes and a large gin and coke, the story swings backwards through Milburn's life as he raises a glass to his glory days, including his first Test century against the West Indies in 1966, and losing his eye three years later.
‘When the Eye Has Gone’ is a one man show that is being written by James Graham-Brown, the former Kent and Derbyshire all-rounder turned playwright.
“This is the next innovative step in our education and awareness of personal development and welfare, in particular mental health and wellbeing,” said Jason Ratcliffe, Assistant Chief Executive of the PCA.
“It builds on a number of initiatives, notably the Mind Matters series, in recent years and builds on the Personal Development and Welfare Programme across the 18 first-class counties and MCC Young Cricketers.
“There have been too many tragic instances of ex-professional cricketers losing their way when their playing days are over. We hope that seeing ‘When the Eye Has Gone’ will help everyone involved in the game understand the issues behind these tragedies and focus attention on how to prevent them.”
Graham-Brown, who writes under the name Dougie Blaxland, said "I thought there was a really big story to be told about the importance of preparing yourself both psychologically and in terms of resources for what happens when you no longer play cricket.
“Colin Milburn’s story was a very public one, the loss of an eye, his comeback and then the decline when he finished playing.
“He fell apart, he had nothing behind him at all. He was 27 but the point is that in professional sport you don’t have to drive off a road and lose an eye for your career to end.
"You can do your knee or do your back, so many players finish because of physical injuries, that’s the nature of professional sport.
“A relatively high proportion just think it’s not going to happen to them. For ‘Ollie’ Milburn the irony of his loss of an eye was it happened just a few weeks as he had established himself as one of the most exciting players in the world.
“He had just scored 139 against Pakistan in incredible heat in Karachi when the rest of the side were falling apart.
“He had also taken Australia by storm playing for Western Australia, scored 243 against Queensland which Don Bradman described as the greatest innings played by an Englishman in Australia.
“He was this amazing man and the most unlikely sporting hero – 18 and-a-half stone, the Burnopfield Basher as he was called and his story and his decline is what really interests me.
“He died in a car park aged 48 of a heart attack after he been singing songs in the pub. The undercurrent of the story is a huge sense of loss of grieving for what he lost, which he didn’t prepare for and which he was ill-equipped to deal with afterwards.”
To book tickets, visit www.ticketsource.co.uk/the-professional-cricketers-association