It's now more than six months since I moved to Oxford (or, to be more accurate, I was moved by parents due to my broken bones rendering me unable to drive). I think now, for the first time, I'm reaching the stage where I'm beginning to feel part of Oxfordshire, rather than on-loan from Devon.
I can find my way around increasingly large parts of the county without sat-nav (we'll pass over the rather frightening incident on that roundabout on the A422 in Banbury), and I can hear the names of cricket clubs and villages without instantly thinking "where on earth's that?" Charlton-on-Otmoor, for example, is now longer simply a place mentioned by Marcus Berkmann in Rain Men. It's a place mentioned in one of those interminably long committee meetings, when you're reduced to wondering quite why these things require three hours to discuss what could easily be done in a sixth of that time.
One thing I did discover in the course of said meeting, was that my club are planning to run a fantasy cricket competition for the season, based on its own players. I was, hence, most intrigued to discovered what I would be classified as, and how much it would cost to add Neil Pickup to a dream team... Turns out that I'm a "bowler", and my value to any team would be two fantasy points. I think I was last selected for a side based on my bowling abilities in 2001. We shall see how that turns out once term ends in July and I actually get a go.
Another pleasing development is an increasing efficiency of coaching points. I'm getting a heck of a lot quicker in pinpointing the cause of an undesired effect, rather than flailing aimlessly at the effect. "You're backing away" is now "your weight is too far back when you begin your shot with the result that you have to move your right foot backwards to keep balanced". Being faster to find the root of the problem also means I'm faster to find a cure.
I wonder if, whether with an improved understanding of the game, there will come an improved understanding of my own game? There's not much evidence from this week to either support or undermine this suggestion: I've bowled three or four overs of flat offies and played two straight drives off ten-year-olds. Time shall tell.
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Neil Pickup is a schoolteacher from Oxford, England, and has been writing for Cricket Web for six years. His highest cricketing achievement is keeping wicket for Thorverton 1st XI in the Devon Cricket League for nine overs, before being forced to hospital with a broken finger.