“Baseball has the great advantage over cricket of being sooner ended.” GB Shaw.
A sure sign of Spring, men dressed in white, including several sweaters each against the Baltic temperatures, skipping or strolling out onto the cricket grounds of England. It’s the first day of the season and – at least in England – the professionals are plying their trade in front of empty seats.
Here in Jersey, where Covid restrictions are being lifted apace, the amateur leagues will soon be getting underway. The general standard of the game has come on in recent years both through a very good coaching programme and the regular exposure of the Jersey team to international tournaments. Yet the number of players overall has fallen away somewhat. Fewer social/bog standard players are willing to devote the best part of a Saturday or Sunday to the game.
I was once one of those willing but limited participants. Years before I moved to Jersey I joined my local club in the Birmingham suburbs, Marlborough CC (they have now merged and play as Sheldon Marlborough CC), where I spent an enjoyable couple of years cricketing around the Midlands with David Genge, Stan Redding, John Green and others presumably long gone now* – this would have been around 1970. On leaving school I joined a rather posher club, Aston Manor CC who played (indeed they still do) in north Birmingham. There I scored my one and only century, 104 not out as we recovered from 29-2 to 231-2 dec. A couple of weeks later I was out for 96 but I assumed that the years ahead would bring many more centuries. If only I’d known. A few names from those days* – Tony Thane, Roy Cutler, Billy McDonough, Bob Lawrence, Malcolm Hayward, Peter Tucker, Barry Holbutt, Dennis Cottrell**, Arthur Hodgetts, Keith Forman, Brian Mason, Peter Bilton, Gil Secker, my schoolmates Phil Bragg and Colin Prentice [and, via the comment below, Dave Lowe, Bob Rogers, Iain Woods, John Dymock.] A good bunch of lads with whom I enjoyed playing on many of the Midlands’ most picturesque grounds and always with plenty of beer to follow, win or lose.
Moving to Jersey in 1977 I hooked up with St Ouen CC and played with them until about 2004. Along the way I played evening cricket with the legendary Jersey United Banks RFC who provided not only intra-match beers for ourselves but also for that evening’s opposition. By now, limited overs cricket was becoming the norm with little chance of settling down to play a long, steady knock. Instead of improving I regressed until one day, in the middle of a match, the penny dropped. I was no longer enjoying the game and I packed it in at the end of that season to concentrate on my work with Jersey Spartan Athletics.
Now I can’t even be bothered to turn my head and watch a match as I pass by, something which would have been unthinkable 34 years previously.
*= names may be added as I remember them 🙂
**= One afternoon Dennis was opening the bowling and I and another young player were fielding in the slips. In a short space of time, two or three edges had eluded us to Dennis’s loud frustration. After consulting with the skipper, two more experienced players were moved into the slips and us two were ordered, in disgrace, to the outfield where we could do less damage to our team’s prospects.