The January DiseaseNeil Pickup |
Welcome to the first of one of Cricket Web’s new regular blogs, Completing the Square, exploring the end of the game that the glare of the world’s media leaves well alone: the layers of the game hidden well beneath the latest scandal about betting, bias or bigotry. The game as played, for love not money, in the backwaters of Oxfordshire.
I’ve been living here five months now, since finding a school that not only was both willing to take me, but also one that I liked the feel of from the moment I set eyes on it for the first time. There’s also the small matter of free house and free food – but enough of my life story. There will be enough time for that when I’m spending summer Saturdays building sandbanks against the River Cherwell, hoping against hope that the clouds break and we get to see a handful of overs.
There is little point, after all, in making grand plans after the summer of 2007. Rain stopped play countless times across England, turning New Road, home of Worcestershire, into a swimming pool in the process, and forcing its occupants to decamp to Kidderminster. Not only that, but the echoes of the downpour against the roof of my school twice reached levels so deafening that I could no longer hear my own voice, never mind those of the children.
For someone whose wicketkeeping was described as being that of a “gobby little bloke in glasses”, that level of volume is some achievement. As of now, pessimism is the easiest insurance against disaster. I’m yet to meet a January whose first winter nets weren’t awash with a generous dose of reality – and the water that comes up around your ankles if you place so much as a toe on the sports field doesn’t help matters.
Having seen the range of potential batting on show to compile my summer charges, the Colts (Under-11) B team, however, rain might prove to be a palatable alternative. Perhaps my perception’s being skewed by a unfair comparison against the last guy I watched bat at close quarters. Unfortunately, the person in question was me, the venue the playback screen on my camcorder, and the performance suggestive of what Chris Martin might do if faced with Harold Larwood. The singer Chris Martin, at that.
But it’s only January. Last summer I began my winter in trademark fashion, but somehow April found me being held responsible for one of the first lost balls of the year, having pitched one pull shot on the road outside the ground. Last summer saw one 12-year-old begin the season losing his off stump every other over in club games, and end it with a crucial 40 for my district side on a two-paced pitch in the New Forest.
During the week, I found myself reading about Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as Winter Sickness – a condition causing depression-like symptoms due to the lack of sunlight in the winter months. Perhaps this has got something to do with it. Perhaps it’s that I hadn’t picked up a bat in anger since tamely scooping to midwicket for 3 in mid-August against Woodbury. Yes, I do remember the fine detail of each dismissal. I can often remember each ball of an innings: these tasks can frequently prove to be one and the same, however.
Perhaps it’s not all bad. Perhaps I should be dwelling more on the Under-10 leg spinner whose action would pass as an imitation of Anil Kumble, were it not for his baffled exclamation of, “who?” when the idea was suggested. Or, perhaps, I should give more credence to the Under-9 who can bowl as quickly as any of the older children. Perhaps I should remember the way I latched onto a slog-sweep at the first possible opportunity, and the fact that a strip of rolled mud on the River Thames’ flood plain won’t have half the bounce of the Edgbaston indoor nets. Perhaps I should turn Mr Brightside up to full volume and remember that, five years ago, I had a patchwork of GCSEs and a batting average of 2.36.
The days are getting longer. I’m on the verge of finding a new club outside Oxford. My new wicketkeeping gloves are due to arrive next week. You can buy Creme Eggs in the High Street. Here’s to Summer.
Oh, for those of you wondering just why I picked that particular title, it was the closest I could get to combining the cricket field and my daytime home, the mathematics classroom (have a look here) whilst avoiding frightening people off with a mention of the m-word. That, and the other idea I came up with was Magic Numbers.