Last month was a very mixed month with the focus being on rehab and getting my mind around my future cricket.
To that end August saw me sign up to The Barmy Army, as part of the No Boundaries CC plan, and the XL Wandering Cricket Club partly as part of NBCC but also to expand my playing options. It was also a month of working on my fitness (found my way to the gym again), and started two very targeted programs QiGong (a yoga like activity) and the Athlete Trust Group which is about training your knee to go over your toes to strengthen the knee in positions which tend to incur injuries, and technique (thanks to the Staffs Seniors Teammates for some excellent coaching and nets). No huge surprise I also went to a fair few games and surprise surprise I even played some games!!!!
In the Nets ….. Bowling wise I worked on a more consistent three step approach, with more energy and rhythm through the crease. To date I have sort of shuffled to the crease and predominantly used my arm and upper body rather than using my whole body and driving through the delivery. Batting wise I have done away with the slight back and across movement of my right foot which I did to open my stance and trigger raising my hands higher. I am now more stationary so take my guard with my right leg further back and across. This ensures the open stance I need and that I have my weight leaning forward. I start very upright with my trigger now being a double bend of the knees and a small double pump of hands at the same time to raise my hands. I find this gives me a more solid base, one less thing to think of, and I focus on the ball better. I have also adopted a leg stump guard to try and reduce the leg planting and subsequent LBW and to trust my eye and hands more outside off stump. Fielding wise I have been taking it easy running wise but focussed on the catches I would expect in the positions I field most regularly – slip/gully, mid wicket & boundary.
Have really enjoyed the net sessions with a couple of the Over 60s regulars. It is good to bat and bowl regularly against peers, the coaching is useful and mutual and I am benefitting from working on some specifics. Much talk already about next season which is enjoyable but as ever availability will probably take preference over plans and form. What I am enjoying and really appreciating is the work they are putting in with regard a specific role and batting position they want me to fulfill and how they like my bowling.
On the pitch…… Little Stoke at home for the 3s. Lovely hot day, felt good to be back in Masuri Creams and whilst my legs felt heavy my knees felt OK. Lost toss but we were put in which was a welcome decision and batting 6 I scored 23 off 26 including 4 4s, with three being ‘over the top’. Was really pleased with how late I played the ball, how comfortable I felt and that I had more power in my shots. Fair to say it surprised a few team mates which was a nice feeling. 160 never felt enough but we bowled and fielded well and secured a great win. Fielding wise I was OK. Not really tested but nothing hurt too much and apart from dropping a very catchable one in the slips I felt OK. Would say I am 75% recovered and about 65% of what I think my eventual fitness could be.
Next up was a friendly for Staffordshire Over 70s at the lovely Milford Hall against Leicestershire. I am now eligible for Over 60s but as they already have the permitted one 59 year old playing for them it was only right that he continued to be selected for the knock out games. This is the first season for the Over 70s and I can play as they are friendlies. Is a weird (and daunting) feeling to be the youngest in the team with the expectation and requirement to do the most running.
Was incredibly hot which not great at any age, but less so when the majority on the pitch are over 70! For some weird reason we won the toss and fielded! Bowled a tidy 8 overs, 1 for 32 (Caught and Bowled) which included 2 dropped catches, a missed stumping and a LBW decision reversed on DRS – well the guy told the Umpire he had hit it. Little strange as the batter was an Optician and he later told me he had done the Umpires cataracts a couple of weeks ago! Chasing 190 was always going to be tough and being a guest it was only right that the regulars batted first. Went in at 7 with 120 still needed and 26 overs to get them in. Plenty of space and time for singles but as I mentioned before it was hot. Went the more direct route: 31 off 23 balls including 5 4s and a 6 before one rolled under my bat! Not the most fluent innings as was a tad over excited I think and struggled for timing and some poor selection but really pleased overall that the recent works in nets is paying off: 23 off 26 and 31 off 23 since I came back from injury.
Took my non Club cricket batting average up to a rather impressive 38 ….. for now!
The first ball duck against Alsager for Barlaston brought me back to earth. Am far from convinced it was LBW but the fact is I reverted to old habit: planted foot and missed the ball. There is something about playing for BCC which I haven’t cracked yet. I feel under more pressure and that I am constantly trying to prove myself. A few off field events and comments in particular have accelerated my thought process regards next year. On the field we scrambled to an under par 168 and then held on for a rather dramatic tie.
Maybe I am just old but I don’t feel comfortable with the way umpires are often treated, or indeed the opposition. We rarely see teams socialising together after a game.
I also struggle because of my personality with the way many clubs/players/teams approach the game. Maybe having had 33 years away from the game has made me even more single minded than usual but the fact is with 60s and 70s cricket I have 15+ years ahead to try and play to the best of my abilities and so I need to be in teams and with players that also want to develop their game.
I do think too much! My knee is far from better and my general fitness and mobility has been affected as well but it feels better each week. I will continue to be available for Barlaston this season but am relaxed if required. I have a couple of NBCC games in the planning stage and a couple of friendly Staffs games and charity games. Will then take some time off before a hard winter in the nets and gym.
My knee and general fitness are the priority as without confidence in them I will never fulfill any playing potential I have. The playing side will take care of itself. I am happy making myself available at Barlaston as long as they want me, but two other clubs have said they would welcome me so as they say “what will be will be”. The current situation with knee and fitness is that I can do more on the field now but it hurts more afterwards. This is in part the fact I am using knee more because I can so it is sore afterwards, and part general stiffness from being able to do more on a body that has not done much at all this season.
Played for a local club as a last minute “stand in”. All rather depressing: club has 70+ paying members but struggles to put out 3 teams on a Saturday, and plays on a rented ground with no club house, no changing rooms, no score box and no sightscreens. Throw in no umpires and it is not hard to see why so few people are enthused by these type of games. No surprise ‘we’ got hammered but I did OK with a rather frantic 26 batting at 7 – bit of a theme this and a steady 3 overs, before they knocked them off in 15 overs! A thought from this: a little surprised that clubs still strive to play so much weekend cricket when availability is such an issue but is very little adult white ball cricket mid week. Maybe a few more people would be available for a mid week shorter game with a BBQ and a Beer afterwards. I can also see that having played your club cricket at your own club stepping down to play at rented facilities would not appeal.
Bignall End, away. Knees feeling best have done since injury, blister still sore, sun shining, hadn’t picked a bat up all week …… batted first, batted 7, going in in the 38th over (of 40). Single, four, caught deep long off. Fielded for 40 overs for a draw – they held on 9 down. Didn’t have much to do. Knees felt pretty good. Blister very painful and restrictive.
Not a bad month, better than last month, but far from fit enough. Are three BCC games left in September but think only available for two. Have one Staffs Seniors friendly arranged and possibly two more, and looking to arrange a NBCC day to include games against Ukrainian refugees and woman and girls in partnership with HerGameToo.
As far as watching Cricket, more than originally planned! I have no interest in the Hundred either as a concept or a spectacle. I think it has been great for the womans game overall but many of our home players who are not internationals are not getting much of a game if they play at all, but is a totally unnecessary, vaguely insulting, confusing, rushed, mediocre and overhyped as far as the men are concerned that will do more harm than good. I caught an occasional ten minutes or so but didn’t watch one innings never mind a whole game.
Fuel prices, time, general apathy and the fact Yorkshire played non of their RLC games at Headingley meant no trips “back home” this month but did manage a few games at Edgbaston which were pleasant days out as ever – spoiled by the branding for the Hundred all over the ground and the rather bizarre fact that you couldn’t buy an ice cream inside the ground when it was over 30 degrees!
Went to Lords for the last day i.e Day Three to watch a thoroughly impressive South African team smash a thoroughly arrogant and contemptuous England team. Lords was in great condition, putting all the other grounds to shame with padded seats no queues and comparable prices. Highlight was opportunity to visit the media centre and watch the journalists and pundits/commentators do their stuff but overall the feeling that I have is that paying for live cricket is just not worth it so think will be doing a lot less next year.
Old Trafford with mate was an excellent day. Much better cricket with a hint of proper test cricket emerging. Unfortunately Old Trafford looks awful. Ugly, disjointed and more corporate venue than cricket pitch. Not a venue I plan on returning to.
Off the field ….. I am still battling with what will work best for me. Is a little ironic given the decision last season to focus on Sunday but if I am playing regularly on a Tuesday for Staffordshire then I really need two days to recover/prepare, which means focussing on playing on a Saturday. I accept this may limit my games, but it will be for the best as my most competitive games and my focus is Staffordshire. I am confident that there will be enough options with NBCC, XL, Fossils and guesting for other clubs if Barlaston don’t require me on a Saturday. Netting on a Tuesday will be a limited option with Staffordshire playing on a Tuesday, but a Monday night warm up with the Staffordshire Guys would be very useful. No decision yet and would not be saying no to playing on a Sunday if required, but I need to listen to my body, and I would not be the first of last to have limited availability. One thing that is very clear is that my focus can only be on playing. It is increasingly clear that at my age and having been away for so long integrating into a club socially or indeed at committee level is not going to work. Too many established relationships and ways of doing things. Too many games played together. Combined with my natural aversion to group events I think fair to day that ship has sailed for me. No issues with this on my side, I am a complex old bugger in many ways, and I have no issues at all with the state of affairs that exists. It is just a fact that we (Sands and I) have faced all our lives as we have rarely been in one place for long (the longest by far was Spain) and a reason we moved back to UK when we did was to give is some active years to build relationships.
Playing is a difficult balance, and as I have said before not one only I am struggling with. As a senior player it is important to me to help develop the juniors but with my personality and circumstances that has to be in a structure I believe in and that also accommodates my need to develop my own cricket. For many seniors who had a ‘full career’, retired and then came back to help develop the juniors turning up when required and doing what they can is enough (and why wouldn’t it be?), but for me who ‘lost’ 33 years I want to try and play through my 60s and into my 70s so I really need to ensure that whatever I do has that objective as a priority. It has been interesting yet depressing how many other Seniors are saying their clubs only see them as making up the numbers to allow the emerging Juniors to get a game. Several I know have taken a similar view: they aspire to play into their 70s and to continually develop their games and if they not doing this in club cricket they will concentrate on Wandering Cricket and Charity Games.
The growth of both development cricket and seniors cricket is brilliant, unfortunately just not complimentary the way they are currently structured and delivered.
Club v County, who would have thought that would be an issue facing me as I face life as a 60 year old next year.