On venerating your child

Image result for adil rashid

Our youngest child was selected for the Cleveland Schools’ cricket squad in the last week. In addition he is coming to the end of his second close season spell with Yorkshire Pathways Bronze level; that puts him in the top 80-100 children of his age group at cricket in this county. He bowls leg break & googly (if you don’t know what that is, look it up! The picture above, of England’s Adil Rashid, gives some idea of the contortions neccesary) , which is the ‘holy grail’ of bowling; at one time it was as rare as hen’s teeth. It is notoriously difficult to master and when he is on song, it is a beautiful thing to watch as the ball swings one way through the air, pitches and then moves the other way. At times I have watched him in the nets & seen good batsmen frequently flailing at thin air in frustration as they cannot ‘read’ him.

Of course, with sport, it could all end at any time. Teenage years kick in, injuries happen,the selections get tighter and someone doesn’t ‘make’ it, academic pressures become more intense etc etc, but at the moment, both children have a combination of academic ability, opportunity) and sporting gifts that I never had.

I could go on for longer; naturally I am proud, but at the same time something in me doesn’t feel right to talk in this way. In the same way, when our oldest child did better at GCSEs than we expected- in fact did really well- I did not post the full details on social media; it doesn’t feel right to crow in this way.

I’ve had this passage underlined in a book for a long time:-

‘The problem for someone like me who desires that his children lead successful, competent lives, is knowing that the cost of this may at times be insensitivity to others, that in urging them to do well I may be urging them to be inconsiderate, lacking in thoughtfulness about others. In other words the Christian values of community and equality are not the easiest standards to hold up when you’re also interested in perpetuating your privileged situation in society through your children and your own behaviour’. (Robert Coles in Hirsch & Hirsch  (2010) p163)

There is a temptation in those of us who have faith to live lives of ‘practical atheism’; as long as you do your ‘religious duty’ the rest of your life is your own business. I exaggerate of course, but when I hear discussions among middle class believers about finding a ‘good church’ (which is what exactly?) the words of an old Divine Comedy song come back to mind:-

‘The cars in the car park were shiny and German,

Distinctly at odds with the theme of the sermon’

which puts the point rather more succinctly.

No answers at the moment, apart from trying to avoid the ‘competitive dad’ huddles as parents jockey for position, teaching your children to be proud, yet not to crow,  look down on others or be envious of those who have more gifts,being a bit more thankful when you are tempted to whinge at life and realising that all of this is temporary and could grow or cease at any time and lots of good, wholesome things like that. etc etc

Yet at the same time thoughts dog you; is this enough? Have you got it right? Or are you really doing anything differently to anyone else?

…maybe not…

One thing from the end of the season

The season ended yesterday with a friendly match.

The day before we had our last league match, which we won. For the first time the experiment with me opening the batting worked (I am one of nature’s tailenders and that is on a good day). 6 may not sound good, but for me it was a score. I helped put on 37, wound the best bowlers up (the best ones come on at the start), used their overs up so the real players could feast on the lesser ones and quietened down the on field chatter (a sign that the psychological battle is being won).

I was talking with our captain between deliveries (he was umpiring) saying how much I- a below average player had enjoyed the season, but really wan’t that good.

He said something like:

‘You have improved and it is hard to get you out-you have a sound technique. Some more practice and we can use you in this spot’.

From that moment on, I believed that I could do it. Maybe he is right and maybe he isn’t, but it struck me that it is not rocket science, management/leading people. You are honest, affirm people and then give them a goal that might be achievable.

Perhaps I am wrong- but I have worked in so many places where the subtle (and sometimes unsubtle) message is ‘You are no good- I could do better. To even get a tiny improvement, you need to be threatened/told off/belittled/undermined…and then need to overwork, because really you will never be good enough.

If I play next season, maybe the holy grail of double figures is not far away…

Friday Music

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I have had this song before; I think last year.

I could play it every year around this time: today is the last day of the first class cricket season. Tomorrow and Sunday- if the weather holds- will be my last outings this season for Hutton Rudby cricket club.

Even though this has been in effect my first season, who knows? I am 50 & any day there will be younger and better cricketers. I am also carrying injuries and those injuries take longer to heal (this week I have laid off running to allow my leg strain to ease). Plus, my children are getting much better than me and will improve- I merely face a gentle decline.

This song is about cricket, but not really: it is about mortality: John Peel wanted it playing on the radio when he died. Listen, swallow hard and rage against the dying of the light.

Thank you

If the weather holds I will be playing again today. It is possible I might play in the last match of the season next week. I have played more matches this season than I have in any other season in total in the whole of my cricketing life.

I am 50- I have loved cricket for years, but I have no real ability (although I am stubborn and I can keep a straight bat. Occasionally this can be useful). My local club is very friendly; they have inspired my children and they are desperately short of players….so I get my children to play and I make up the numbers.

Yet they stay faithful to me- and once or twice I have been picked when others are available.

I suppose I have got a little better- but not much- during the season. I can read what the bowler is doing; even though I can’t do much about it and I am learning to call correctly when there is a chance of a run. But I am still not good and at 50, I doubt I will even be passable.

However, I have enjoyed myself immensely, found a new community and have had a lot of fun. I’ve also spent more time with my children who are far better (and getting even better) than me.

And I am grateful.

Thank you.

In June & August I did two separate series of 5 posts on village cricket. This is the 15th and last post in another series of 5. 

Bad fielding

You know that your fielding is ‘lower than average’ but you hope that the opposition will not notice. You try several things during the course of a match to conceal this:-

(1) You stretch repeatedly to make the opposition batsmen think you are some youthful tyro ready to sprint and not a 50 year old in his first full season who can only reach max speed after 5 or 6 seconds.

(2) You make athletic leaps at balls that are just too far away: you hope that this deceives the batsman into thinking that if he aims one at you, he is dead.

(3) When a 4 has gone through your hands, you wave at the bowler nonchalantly. The clear message here is ‘I am really very good- this is an unforced error’. You hope that the batsmen does not do it again.

(4) You sprint after a certain 4: see (1)- it looks like you are good and would stop anything else. You never do.

(5) If you are placed at mid off against a mid/low ranking batsman, you creep in closer and closer, hoping to intimidate him. This means that should he hit it past you, you don’t have to run. Also, if he whacks it straight at you, no sane human could ever hope to catch it- you can look brave (and hopefully not die).

NB: I caught my first catch on Saturday. Admittedly, it went through my hands, left a seam imprint on my arm and bruised my chest before I eventually caught it. My teammates were not fooled. However, the batsman was furious, so I guess I did well.

In June & August I did two separate series of 5 posts on village cricket. This is the 14th post in another series of 5. The last one is on Saturday.

Endless reanalysis

You didn’t move your feet, you closed both eyes and made a wild slash at a yorker and you were bowled. You trudge disconsolately back to the pavilion, crestfallen.

By the time you get there it has started in your head: maybe you were just unlucky….perhaps the ball moved a bit in the air…hang on; it must have- in fact you were sure it did. You pick up a bit of gossip from other team mates: ‘He was moving it a bit today’, ‘I heard he once had a trial for Yorkshire’, ‘By ‘eck, he’s fast’. Suddenly you realise you did not sin; you were sinned against.

Then you start to think about what you did: why, your feet moved beautifully. Also the bat was not horizontal, but straight- you were merely late and deceived by the change in pace.

Yes; you actually did ok and you live and learn. And next time you face the same bowler (the captain’s 8 year old grandson) you will master him…

In June & August I did two separate series of 5 posts on village cricket. This is the 13th post in another series of 5.

The scorer

Image result for the cricket scorer

At the level I play at, the scorer is a pressed man; a member of the batting side who hasn’t been asked to umpire (also pressed, but slightly less so: you have the opportunity to inflict psychic pain on your teammates), has failed to avoid the captain’s piercing eyes (‘Does anyone want to score?’ said in the kind of tone that a Fascist dictator would use for the phrase ‘Does anyone dare oppose me and live?’) or convince said captain that despite a 1st in Mathematics is innumerate.

The scorers- there are always two of them- sit side by side with glazed eyes. If they are below 25,  you will see them smoking heavily or taking frequent calls/texts from a bewildering variety of female acquaintances whilst the despairing umpire tries to get them to acknowledge his flailing arms (often to little avail).

If they are over 25, they will either sit, taciturn, nurturing a deep hatred of the captain and wishing that wickets will fall so they can pad up and stop scoring. Alternatively (like me) they are cricket obsessives and will keep up a monologue that would rival ‘Test Match Special’ of all the matches they have seen, obscure stats they know and how they once saw a county 2nd team player in the pub 3 villages away. They will also nurture a deep hatred of the captain and wish wickets would fall.

Under no account should you pretend to enjoy this task- even if you do.

This perhaps goes part way to explain the accuracy of scorebooks (see yesterday’s post).

 

In June & August I did two separate series of 5 posts on village cricket. This is the 12th post in another series of 5.

The scorebook

30 years ago, I was the official scorer to Leicestershire under 19s. It was my only brush with cricketing fame.

From that I developed an idea that the scorebook was accurate, erroneous and a reminder to future generations as to what had actually happened on a cricket field. How wrong I was.

Later that season I scored for a friend’s village team and I was introduced to village rules: ‘I think you missed a 4 or 2, scorer’ (usually from a batsman who had been bowled first ball), ‘If you add it up again, do you think you can find us another run?’ (I have heard this, this season from a nameless captain) or ‘I’m sure I got a couple of maidens (you bowled 3 overs of rank long hops and we lost the ball after the 5th 6).

I’m sure when I do a scorebook it is accurate and true: unless the shouted instruction from the outfield to my request of ‘Bowler’s name please!’ is misheard (often) and ‘Ted Clutterbuck’ becomes ‘Albert Singh’ . There is also  a captain I know who has people in the team under a variety of aliases for ‘mysterious’ reasons….

Which is why I still have an unreasonable desire to prove that my best bowling this season of 3-18 is not 3-16 as the corrected version states, but my personal recall of 3-14….

In June & August I did two separate series of 5 posts on village cricket. This is the 11th post in another series of 5.

The one who makes the numbers up…

You have got 10 players and you desperately want 11, but none of the regulars can make it (real life often intrudes upon cricket and people have lives…). Actually; 10 would be good- you’ve only got 6 and league rules require 7 otherwise you have to ‘throw’ the match and lose points.

You’ve tried everything; extortion, passive aggressive texts, appeals to people’s better nature and simply bursting into tears, but to no avail. Then you hit upon a plan: you need someone-anyone-to make the numbers up. It would be an advantage if they could hold a cricket bat, know the basics of the game or even run in a straight line, but this is not crucial.

Finally you have a brainwave: you need the one who will make the numbers up. They know more about cricket than is normal for even a devoted fan, they can talk the jargon, but put a ball in their hands or a bat in their shaking grasp and it all goes to pieces. However, they are willing.

…and this, dear reader is how I got to play so much cricket this season…

In June I did a series of 5 posts on village cricket. This is the 10th post in another series of 5.

Larger than life characters…

When I first started watching first class cricket, back in the early 80s, there were ‘characters’ : proper ones who did not adopt styles of dress or modes of behaviour just for affectation. I won’t list them here; if you know cricket, you will be able to name some.They played the game well, they just bought a whole host of personality in with it.

As the 80s dragged on, the ‘character’ was being phased out and replaced with an identikit superfit sportsman. This sportsman had blank, staring eyes, an absence of any visible humour and barely any noticeable hinterland. I guess this trend has continued and interviews with cricketers, just like most sportspeople tend to be full of vacuous cliches: ‘He put it in the right areas’, ‘I knew it would be there or thereabouts’, ‘the team are a solid unit’ etc. Cricket has got more exciting but I miss the characters.

In contrast, village cricket is full of characters; especially in the lower reaches where I lurk. A few weeks ago, I played against a team where 9 players apparently shared a combined age of 530 years and most of those had a sporting regimen, cigarette and alcohol intake that made it seem like a miracle that they could actually move without serious injury or death.

Regulars have played against each other for so many years without number, with the result that they have ‘lost’ their original names and are known only by nicknames or abbreviations. Also, the vast majority of half decent cricketers at this level have basically only one shot that they specialise in or a variety of bizarre physical tics when attempting said shot or when they bowl in a particular way.

But there is a sadness and poignancy in this: the character has grown with time- at 50 I am still relatively ‘young middle aged’in this league. Whenever I play, I muse on the fact that I may actually be just part of a glorious fading autumn…

In June I did a series of 5 posts on village cricket. This is the 9th post in another series of 5.