Last month ended on a high, albeit a painful one, so I carried a couple of bruises, sore knees and stiff legs into the first game, my second for the Sunday 3s at Barlaston.
Before that though I had two days at the Test at Edgbaston with various friends I had made from Barlaston, Staffordshire Cricket and Warwickshire Cricket. All people I have only met since our return to the UK and my return to cricket, and a good indication of how beneficial cricket can be to life in general, and a personal indication that things are starting to get established for us post our return and post COVID-19 – although I am not sure we will ever be post COVID-19 as more and more people seem to be getting it again. Both Sands and I, triple vaccinated have had it, but it was fortunately no worse than a 3 day heavy cold earlier in the year.
My sense of belonging, or my own personal Whakapapa (please check out the new cricket charity I have been involved in setting up for an explanation) was highlighted by a request to play in a BBC Invitational Team. Unfortunately I had to decline as was already playing for Barlaston, but selection for an Invitational team against a touring team from Dubai and the first fixture confirmed for No Boundaries Cricket Club (see above) showed that my cricketing options are expanding.
So I entered the first game unsure as to my role in the team, or indeed my best position. I still feel that batting 6 and bowling my off spin is where I will contribute most, but if I am playing across a range of teams regularly I am less concerned if required to bat higher up, although I think 4 is as high as I would choose. Gives me time to get into the pace of the game and if we batting second to get some rest and massage into my legs.
Burslem at home then and I can’t say I went in with much confidence: seem to have no momentum batting wise and very little confidence in my legs – knees sore and injured and muscles generally fatigued and tight. Truth be told it all feels very flat following the last few games in 4s. I never thought I would not look forward to playing but that has become the case unfortunately. Fielded adequately. Didn’t have much to do, but did it all competently included one catch. Batting though I just felt stiff and leaden and lacking any cohesion, so no surprise caught for 0 playing a nothing shot to leg. I have no rhythm and little confidence and am not playing the ball late enough. My stride has become too long again and I am planting my leg and reaching for the ball. This is a result of lacking confidence in my body: I am reaching for the ball rather than waiting for it.
Reality is clear: I should really stop playing until fully recovered and fit and spend time working again on technique although the problem is more time in middle as practice wise I feel good and keep eye on ball well.
Had just said as much to Sands from my position on sofa with ice packs on my knees when two WhatsApp invites came through – to play Over 50s on Wednesday in the League and an Invitational on Thursday in a friendly against a touring team from Dubai!!
Declined the Over 50s as already had plans, plus my leg really not up to that standard, but agreed to play on the Thursday as a friendly and with no games scheduled for me for the next two weekends I wanted one last game before taking time out to sort my knee out.
Eastnor Castle has to be one of the best grounds I have ever played at. Beautiful track (they had just played a three day minor counties game on it), lovely grounds, setting and clubhouse. We were playing a touring team from Dubai. Throw in a proper old style tea and plenty of sunshine and you get about as perfect as it can get.
Batting number 7 and going in at 270 for 5 (3 of which were retirements as one century and two fifties) with 5 overs left only really two things to achieve: get the team over 300 and bag a red inker. Achieved both and felt more comfortable in the middle. Bowled a tidy 6 overs and spent most of the day in the slips. A thoroughly enjoyable day highlighting that mid week invitational games will always be an option and that my network of contacts is growing, but also that I really do need to bite the bullet and take time out.
Bullet bitten: messaged skipper to say unavailable for rest of July, which in effect is one game due to a rescheduled weekend for a club charity event and not being in the cup.
Two days later the WhatsApp I was dreading: could I play for Staffs Over 50s. Was actually a relief to realise had a Governors meeting that evening so wasn’t an option as my immediate thought had been to say yes and hope the weeks rest had made enough of a difference!
By way of symbolic determination I decided to put all my cricket stuff away. Out of site, out of mind as they say.
First weekend not playing through choice was nowhere near as difficult as I thought it might be. Again, an indication of the damage done to my desire to play by recent events, but also acceptance that it was the right decision for my body. A Sunday comprising of a IT20 and Wimbledon on TV and my parents over for a BBQ was a great alternative, and I can already feel the thought bubbling up again that playing Saturday and mid week is probably the best option to aim for. This may offend, and that is not the intention, but Sunday Cricket still feels like Friendly Cricket from back in the day whilst Saturday Cricket remains the day for Serious Cricket.
With no cricket planned for the month set up a pretty intense schedule of rehab and osteopath and felt pretty comfortable with my decision, so much so that I actually talked to Sands about calling it a day for this season.
Best laid plans and all that! WhatsApp from 3s Skipper checking if I could play on Sunday.
To be honest I was in at least two minds. I feel more positive having not played, but am reluctant to play until can do myself justice. It is actually tempting to stop playing this season as I have pretty much proved what I needed to this year: 57*, 4fer, fielded better than last year, made debut for Staffs Seniors and done well, and concentrate on netting and training.
On the other hand as my knee/legs after the best part of three weeks rest and some intensive rehab felt much better and the Osteopath is pleased with progress but thinks should give it another two weeks to strengthen and stretch, but doesn’t think playing will do any further damage, but may delay full recovery.
For better or worse I made myself available partly because I don’t want to let the 3s Skipper down as he has been very supportive and also because I couldn’t resist the temptation to see how my rehab had worked.
Having not picked up a bat for sometime and as a means of giving me an indication as to what I would be up against knee wise I organised a net with a Staffs Seniors Coach ……. which was rained off so off to Ashcombe I went having had no practise for three weeks and no test of how my knee was. Only thing arguably in my favour was that I made my debut for the 3s at Ashcombe last season and top scored with 22 off 40 balls with four 4s.
My education/confusion/willpower was tested once more before the game with an invite to play for Milford 3s on the Saturday as they were short – good job I am not offended by being on the “who else owns a bat” list – but sensible head, and loyalty, meant I declined. Tempted I have to admit as they are close to me, have a lovely ground, I know the Chair and Vice Chair well and 3 teams on a Saturday is of potential interest.
Ashcombe then ….. rained off. Again mixed views. Would have been good to play especially as we had probably the strongest side out I would have played in: Captian of 1s and 2s, 4 players from the 1s, 3 from 2s inc 2 superb juniors and 2 of us “oldies” although AB is really a long way off that. On the other hand part if me was happy that with no game scheduled for the following week another two weeks to work on my knee was not a bad result.
On a positive note started nets with some of the Over 60s guys. Brilliant? Really like the fact that thoughts have already started regards next season and roles withing the team and batting 5 and bowling a few overs seems to sit well with everyone so have started a pretty focussed net regime based on this. As I said, brilliant, really enjoyed sessions and feel a few things have slotted into place. Plan is for two net sessions a week, then one during the winter weather permitting, with some fielding practice thrown in!
Off the field it was busy month watching cricket, which only highlighted how unstructured and clueless the administration of English Cricket is:
- Test at Edgbaston over the first week
- IT20 at Edgbaston the second weekend which was NOT worth the £90 they cheekily charged ie that was the price for the original South Africa ODI
- Finals Day on the third weekend
Seriously how are people expected to fund three major events in one month!!??
Throw in the T20 Quarter Final and a rather random Home County Game after Finals Day and is hard to see how players or spectators alike have a clue as to what is going on and which format to prepare for.
- Oh yes, I also went to Old Trafford for the ODI against South Africa.
Development Cricket continued to dominate discussions amongst us oldies with a common theme being resentment at lack of playing time. Being used to make up the numbers has a certain symmetry for many of us that started out playing Senior Cricket long before clubs had junior set ups, but unfortunately for those still wanting to play Senior County Cricket this is not enough and more and more the discussion is around not playing Club Cricket and playing more Charity/Wandering Cricket. I have joined the XL Over 40s Club, and several of the Staffs guys have said they would like to play with NBCC.
So, three games which at best were average, but lots of rest and rehab on knee (now have a very intense strengthening programme for two months). Osteopath happy for me to play and see how it goes, but ideally shouldn’t be playing on it. Batting and Bowling are fine. Running between wickets not too bad, but fielding still uncomfortable.