The end of my third season since the ‘great comeback’ in 2020 aged 57 following a 33 year break from the game, and this was always going to be the one that told me most about my cricket and where it can go from here. Headlines then that I am very pleased with: 508 runs at 28.22, 174 overs with 25 wickets at 27.84 and an Economy of 5, 12 catches, 2 run outs and for the first time in the three seasons, have ended the season without an injury!
The lack of any serious injury is huge, and testament to having worked hard on my fitness and rehab. In my first year I finished the season with badly torn stomach muscles and in my second year I sprained ligament in my knee, which meant that in both years it took me until the New Year before I could do any training at all.
This year I have a full off season to prepare for next year (more on that later).
During this season:
- I made nine debuts (Staffordshire Seniors First Team, Staffordshire Seniors Second Team, No Boundaries, Birmingham Unicorns, Church Eaton First Team, Church Eaton Second Team, Runs4Research, Save Village Cricket and the XL Club).
- I played in twelve Counties (Staffordshire, Shropshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Cheshire, Lancashire, Yorkshires, Lincolnshire, Worcestershire, Hampshire, Hertfordshire and Dorset).
- I scored 65 4s which was a personal objective to develop that side of my batting.
- I undertook my first coaching role with the Birmingham Unicorns.
Overall I was really pleased with the season. My bowling in all honesty was a big plus. I had discussed bowling the occasional over for Staffordshire Seniors Second Team, but to have become a main bowler for all the teams I played for was very rewarding, if not a little painful as my arm/shoulder was really sore when bowling, and a downside was that the bowling left me with next to no throwing arm. I didn’t get as many wickets as I would have liked, or indeed deserved, but the reality is that as a spinner you are very dependent on stumpings, caught behind and catches in the deep, and these were not areas many of the teams I played in were strong in. My economy rate and control though were very good.
I made a decision before the start of the season that I needed to bat lower down in a more ‘power hitting’ role as my fitness and issues with hips meant that there was no way that I could consider batting for long periods of time. To that end the season was a success BUT my lack of experience and lack of patience meant I failed to close out a few games that I know I should have won.
My fielding was much better than in previous years, with the exception of my inability to throw, but I was more agile, mobile and stronger and that gives me something to work on.
As I write this I have started my off season schedule:
- I am doing nothing other than walk the dogs until the end of September whilst I give my body a chance to rest.
- In October I will start on two specific projects: rehab of my neck/shoulder/arm and my glutes/hip/knees which will entail three rehab sessions a day as I work on both soft tissues and some ligaments/tendons. The second project during this period will be to work on my posture and general body alignment which has never been great but has got worse over the years.
- In November (rehab permitting) I will continue with the posture and general alignment but will start fitness training (strength and cardio) as well as start to lose weight (6 kilo minimum, 10 kilo ideally).
- In January I will continue with the fitness training but will start Cricket Skills training. Unlike previous years I am not planning on any indoor nets (see below) but will be concentrating on some specific drills at home and at Church Eaton, and then later in some one to one sessions with a friend.
- In April I will focus only on Cricket Drills until the season starts, with a couple of NBCC pre season games planned for 6/7 April.
I am going to Spain three times during the winter to take a break from the above.
I am planning to play a lot more golf! One reason I started playing Cricket again was to regain the mental toughness that I used to have. This has worked well so far, especially with the efforts I have put into fitness, rehab and training, but I want to use golf to develop two specific things: concentration and maintaining body shape during my swing as both of these are areas I need to develop in my cricket.
I have no plans (or desire) to do any indoor nets this winter: I find them too hard on my knees and shoulder (too much bowling/not enough batting) and I find they are not good for developing specifics.
I am currently talking to two clubs about coaching them over the winter. IF these happen they will probably not start until January and if that is the case part of the coaching will involve facing some bowlers so I will get some net time, and if they start earlier than January …. well I have no intention of picking up a bat or bowling as the priority is rehab – fitness – mental approach.
Previous winters have been great but I think too much netting and not enough technique and approach.
As for next season then I can’t see any reason to change what I have established this year (much):
- Staffordshire: I had thought this would be my main cricket but I am not so sure really moving forward. I intend to be available every game (Tuesday) and would prefer to play a full season in the 2s where I would expect to bowl every game and would like to move up to 4 in the batting order to give me time to build longer innings. I suspect though that I will bounce between the 1s and the 2s which is no problem at all, but I don’t think I would bowl or bat as much in the 1s.
- Church Eaton: I intend to play every Saturday, although again not sure for which team. I would like to grab a place in the 1s where I think I would hold my own bowling wise, be a solid contributor in the lower order and be a safe pair at hands at slip. If I play for the 2s I think it needs to be more as a batter (would like to open) to give some early momentum to the innings and as a death bowler primarily.
- Birmingham Unicorns: regardless of whether I coach or not I would like to play a couple of Sunday’s each month to help them continue to develop and am relaxed as to my role with bat/ball although it would probably depend on how much I had done on the Saturday. I would also like to play in some of the mid week T20’s, primarily as an opening bat.
- No Boundaries Cricket Club: I don’t think we will play more than 4 to 6 games again and my focus with these games is more off field and ensuring everyone else gets a good opportunity. I will, however, try and play a handful of ‘guest’ games to promote what we do.
- XL: no plans to play in these games next year. It is a 40s club so picking a 60s guy just means they are really short, and I don’t need to turn up to help, yet not bat or bowl, or for the captain to apologise to the bowler because they are having to ‘hide’ the old guys!
Discussions are ongoing over a couple of coaching roles next year, both if which are attractive, and I think I could accommodate both, so next season looks like it should be a full one!
Which is why I am doing nothing other than focus on family (Sands, Parents, Pets), health (moving from vegetarian to vegan and all but tea total) and fitness (physical and mental) over the winter.