Cricket Diary: Reflections (Old Stuff)

An old rivalry, old friends, rolling back the years and umpiring! Last but one week of the season.

The Week That Was

Monday: woke up with a headache which took my mind off my poor batting the day before, and after recovering headed down to Edgbaston with parents and Sands for a very pleasant couple of hours watching Warwickshire v Hampshire and having lunch. Two things were apparent: 1) the gulf between County and Test is HUGE, with both Sibley and Vince looking like men amongst boys yet unable to turn that domination into sustained test performances and 2) my body aka knees and hamstring felt the best they have all season after a game! Is a funny thing the body, you can work on something for months and feel like you making small progress then pretty much overnight it is sorted. Well my knees and hamstring are not sorted, but like my hip the other week it feels (fingers crossed) like a big step change!

There are worse ways to spend a Monday afternoon for us allrounders!!!

Picked up a “retired” high quality Puma bat to refurbish, which will be interesting as Puma no longer active in the UK market, and I also received a call from the Sales Director at Masuri which was a little unexpected but more on that later (hopefully).

Tuesday: picking up on the conversation on Sunday about concentrating on opening, and accepting that selection isn’t guaranteed and circumstances may change, I decided that my approach would be to prepare all week to open. Thinking back I actually have never known from one week to the next what my position (and quite often team) will be, and given that visualisation is such a big part of anything I do, I decided that there was nothing to lose. As such I decided that when I net regardless of how long I have to bat, how many bowlers and what level of bowling I would take the approach of “seeing off” the first six balls from each bowler. This would get me in the habit of giving myself time to assess a bowler, build up my concentration levels, and get me used to taking my time before attempting scoring shots. Was a good first attempt, although old habits etc was hard to resist i.e. I failed, attacking the bad ball. For some strange reason as I was early I did some running as well, in the heat, at my age I should know better. All in all an enjoyable session, which involved a little bit of coaching:

Just wanted to say thank you for helping him out with his bowling this evening it’s very much appreciated. He talked so enthusiastically about the session on the way home.

Always nice to receive a message like this from a parent

Selected for Sunday away at Wedgwood which is an old haunt with mixed memories but is very much the Local Derby for Barlaston and fair to say a bit of history between us!

Picked up another retired TON bat to refurbish.

A new addition to all my bats!

Wednesday: the running was maybe not such a good idea! Has planned to go to Edgbaston with parents but with Warwickshire only requiring 150+ to win felt it was all going to be over by the time we would have arrived so opted for a walk with the dogs and and enjoyable afternoon in the garden.

England 2022 Fixtures released: Test Match at Edgbaston and Headingley and an ODI at Edgbaston in the Diary. Am not booking anything next year that is on a Sunday so wont be going to the ODI v India at Edgbaston.

Vitality Blast Finals Day also announced for the 16th July, a LOT earlier than the usual September.

Thursday: Sands in Formby so a quiet day watching the rain so no nets in the evening.

Friday: had planned to watch the Test Match but COVID-19 (or was it India exploiting the situation to get over for the IPL sooner) put paid to that as did the rain re the dog walk, did my stretches and twiddled my thumbs. Then the phone rang …..proving that it is always worth checking last minute. I am a tad old fashioned I guess but once I have made myself unavailable I tend to stay unavailable even if my circumstances change as I don’t like to give any one the “problem” of deselecting someone, telling me I am not needed etc. Put simply it is not the clubs issue to resolve my change in circumstances, but I am always open to a last minute call (in this case from the 2s Skipper at Barlaston who knew I was not going to the test as I had been going with a mate from the club!!)

Saturday: was meant to be at the Test Match! Had planned to go with some friends, and meet other friends. Hotels booked, trains booked, car park spaces booked, pork pies bought …… a shame to waste them all really. Following the previous evenings SOS call to turn out for Barlaston 2s the morning was a bit of a rush fitting in an earlier dog walk, sorting food (well OK I pretty much had that in the bag), an earlier start so it was not my typical pre match preparation. Turned up along with 11 other players so wasn’t needed. Was happy to stand down and let the youngsters play, but then the strange day got stranger: no league umpires allocated so I ended up umpiring. Enjoyable, but tough on my back. Paid £40 as well which was unnecessary, but will be a welcome donation to the projects I support.

Sunday: had been interested to see how it went having spent all week mentally preparing to open the batting, as looking back I have actually not been sure that would be the case in any game I have played. I had anticipated, thought, but never known and whist nothing is certain I tried to visualise it all week and as I mentioned above, used the net session to specifically prepare. Had not factored in waking up with a headache and bad stomach so little preparation done as really was touch and go if I was going to play BUT on a positive not I got my tickets for the New Zealand Test at Headingley next June sorted out!!!

For once we elected to bat first and I felt good opening and was comfortable until the worst decision ever. Batting outside my crease I left one. I was a little unbalanced so the keeper threw at stumps. I got my toe back over the line, watched the ball hit the stumps and could see the umpire still looking towards the slips. They appealed fair enough and umpire looked up and gave me out. Unbelievable!

On the plus side I had by far my best day in the field at slip, covers and mid off. Opposition first teamer very complimentary which made me feel good. Extremely happy that all the hard work has improved my performance.

A quick drink in the bar with parents and teammates turned into much longer one reminiscing and putting world to rights with the two guys I used to play with.

In Other News

For reasons that may or may not become apparent in the months ahead I am going to post here a summary of an approach I was asked to submit regards the core structure for a Development Team, with the not untypical balance of Development being the primary bowlers and the Senior the primary batters.

An opportunity to blend the historic cultures with the modern way regards training, preparation and being a cricketer

Batting Structure

  1. Senior
  2. Senior
  3. Development
  4. Senior
  5. Development
  6. Development
  7. Senior
  8. Senior
  9. Development
  10. Development
  11. Development

No bad thing to have a senior bowler or two that will “take one for the team” if a batter is pasting the ball all over rather than expose a development bowler unnecessarily. It is a fact that youngsters can have more impact with the ball at a younger age as they are assisted by their talent, fielders, pitch and quite often batters so Development Teams tend to have youngsters responsible for bowling and older players tasked with getting the runs.

Availability naturally an issue with good Development and from time to time Senior required in higher level teams but where possible adhere to this stricture and consider “ring fencing” a core of players who play on the 4s BUT worth a discussion about a mutual relationship: guaranteed place in time for guaranteed availability subject to a “reasonability clause”.

Off Season

Saturday Morning Training
Weekly (Tuesday) Indoor Nets

Nets in Season

Tuesday: Senior Batters priority to get used to longer time with pads on. Face match day bowlers, rest of squad fielding practice.

Thursday: fielding drills for all, Bowlers and fringe players bat, Senior batters DO NOT bat.

Match Day: a structured warm up.

Obviously need a Captain, a Vice Captain for the league, but look at specific responsibilities for a couple of Senior Pros.

Development Teams should have an element of ring fencing of players. Some will warrant occasional games higher up, but in higher up teams will always be individuals who can win you a game, with a Development Team it will always be the collective that wins you games, everyone doing their bit, and let’s be honest teams need to compete, enjoy and win (even if the later is only occasionally).

Body Count

Knees: running didn’t help that is for sure, but I am pretty sure the issues are soft tissue and lack of strength related as they have got better and take less time to recover, butI am still slow out of the blocks in the morning and after sitting down for any length of time.

Hamstring: improving and less inhibitive and as with knees the progress throughout the season fills me with cautious optimism.

Finger: still broken, can bend it about the same amount with assistance and a little more with assistance. It is a lot less painful to the touch though which is good.

Right Hip: see knees and hamstring as pretty much the same story.

Abs: this has been the surprise of the season as my abs are pretty strong but my lower abs (running muscles) have really struggled and whilst my running on Tuesday night was better, the aftermath was sore and does not get any better quickly.

Opinion

Last week I looked at what is new since I played last so not a huge surprise that I will have a quick run through what has stayed the same: messy cricketers, dodgy umpires, player availability (or not), drinking, end of season party.

Messy Cricketers: bigger bags, more kit, same sized changing rooms, messy cricketers all adds up to a pretty crowded (and sometimes smelly) environment. For someone that has always been a tad anal about their kit and being tidy this does not qualify as the most enjoyable part of the day BUT I do love the humour and spirit of the dressing room and hadn’t realised how much I had missed it.

Dodgy Umpires: initially I was impressed that on a Sunday at Barlaston we had league umpires, whereas at Penkridge on a Saturday each team provided them, but to be honest I think the players umpiring was a better standard as they at least play the game still. I am not so sure I was that good at 13 when I first started but what I remember most was that each cub always had a couple of umpire coats: long, long since white, heavy, 6 fossils in the pocket and for a 13 year old far far too big!

Player Availability: was always a bit of a nightmare but in all honesty this seems to have got a lot worse. Holidays, Birthdays and Funerals were the accepted reasons back then, not parties, days out, family visiting, got the garden to do, dog sitting, shopping with partner to mention just a few that I have heard this year.

Drinking: no getting away from it, drinking still is (and should always remain) a huge part of playing cricket but it may be a COVID-19 thing, or playing most of my cricket in the development teams but it seems that very rare that teams stop and have a drink with the opposition before heading home. Glad to say that a number of us “old boys” still try and do this.

End of Season Party: I am not best placed to comment on this as I avoid parties like the plague (or is that phrase now replaced with COVID-19) so I was not to unhappy that the Penkridge one fell on the day of the Test Match and the Barlaston one is scheduled for T20 Finals Day. One thing I will say is that the format appears to have changed! No longer jacket and tie and a dinner they seem to be a themed p*** up these days? Penkridge opted for anything under a £5 from a charity shop and Barlaston for s*** shirts. If there is one thing I dislike more than a party it’s a themed party.

Thank You

Gray-Nicolls are generously supporting this diary and my return to cricket for the 2021 Season.

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