Sunday, 13 February 2011

A Mushroom Cloud Laying Motherf***er

It had all started so well...

I got to nets slightly early this week. One of our local rivals has the nets for the slot before ours, so after a couple of minutes they left and I had time for two or three practise balls before the first batsman had padded up. My bowling today showed some steady progress on last week. I bowled a good, more consistent line, got more spin and the batsmen were playing me with more respect. A new run-up seems to be emerging, but it wasn't consistent. One encouraging thing was that even though my last few steps were a bit tangled I was still bowling reasonably straight, so maybe the accuracy is coming, and perhaps some of the work I've been doing in the gym is starting to pay off in terms of my muscles working in a more co-ordinated fashion. Overall, I'm pretty happy with the progress I'm making with my bowling so far, so fingers crossed I should have some good overs to contribute this season.

I had a bat towards the end of the hour, and again it seemed mostly promising. I was trying out a backlift I'd been working on during the week and it seemed to help a lot with my timing. I wasn't bowled once (if you discount one which dribbled off my thigh-pad and bat back on to the stump) which is pretty much a first. Again my leg glance seemed to be my best shot, and given this perhaps I shouldn't look to leave quite so many leg-side balls. I did bat pretty seriously, no silly slogs, but the one really black mark was that my footwork was, not for the first time, virtually non-existent. I'm finding it extremely frustrating but it wasn't for lack of trying, my legs just don't seem to react fast enough. Anyway, despite rather more edges than I'd like I am continually improving how often I manage to get a good hit on the ball. With my pads off I went back to bowling for a little while, but with about 5 minutes left I bowled a very nice ball and decided to call it a day on a high note.

Then we had our fielding session, and the wheels came off a bit.

We started off with something we'd done last week, in pairs about 5 metres apart throwing catches to each other. First with two hands, then right hand only, then left hand, then catch with left and throw with right, then catch with right and throw with left. All fairly straightforward, and for me very valuable practise, but after a couple of minutes we then had a race to see which pair could be the first to string 20 passes together. This pressure to be the fastest inevitably caused a few slip-ups, and behind me was a recess where mats, gym horses and other equipment was placed in a rather untidy fashion. So three people, of which I was one, would find any slip-ups punished by a journey into the deeper recesses of this area to find the errant tennis ball while in the same situation everyone else simply waited for the ball to come back off the wall behind them. Needless to say this very quickly became rather tedious.

After doing this for a few minutes, during which me and my partner (but mainly me) struggled to keep the chain going, we went on to a different exercise where four stations were set up as in the picture to the right. One person would stand at the stump at 'A', roll the ball along the ground so that the person at 'B' would go directly towards the other stump, intercepting the ball on the ground and throwing underarm to that second stump. The person at 'C' would back up, retrieve the ball and throw it overarm to the person at 'D', who would then throw the ball to the person at 'A', a different person this time as after each completed action the person moved to the next station.

We were split into two teams, one of which had a disproportionate share of senior players, and again it was set up as a competition to see who could get the most hits in a given period of time. For me this was torture. I was bound to get something wrong, and in particular I found it very difficult to give the person at 'B' a slow enough ball for them to intercept. Now remember, we were using tennis balls, whereas all winter I've been tossing cricket balls between my hands, so my hand and arm is naturally more used to the extra force required to accelerate a heavier ball to the same speed, so virtually ALL my rolled balls here were too quick. Then I'd shy at the stumps and inevitably miss, not a single one of my attempts actually hitting although some were agonisingly close. Then when at 'C' any direct hits would bounce off and you'd have to go and retrieve it from wherever it went.

On one such occasion I was backing up (and already getting gradually more miffed at my regular failures) when a direct hit deflected the ball quickly off into the empty corner of the room. I chased after it, couldn't quite reach it, and as I slid towards the wall the ball went straight into a tiny gap between the wall and a mat that was propped against it at exactly the same time that my forehead made contact with a wooden bench. With a bang on the head to add injury to the insult of that bloody ball again seemingly taking the piss out of me, I got up, furiously tossed the mat aside and retrieved the ball before channelling all my pent-up irritation into a very fast - far too fast - throw to the opposite corner. I was absolutely fit to pop.

From then on (thankfully there wasn't long left) I'm afraid I was powerless to lift the red mist that had descended. At the end of it we all sat down to discuss exactly what had gone awry but I was far too mad to speak. One of the senior players complained along the lines of "how hard can it be to roll the ball along the ground slowly", at which point I was sorely tempted to walk out, but didn't. It infuriated me that the suggestion seemed to be that some, probably meaning me, hadn't been trying hard enough. I was.

I can't help it that my hand-eye co-ordination isn't great. It never has been. Virtually every physical activity I've ever undertaken has been performed in spite of my body rather than in unison with it, driving being the exception that proves the rule. The problem with all these competitive exercises is that they reward the successful deployment of skills that I still lack, and don't in any way reward the hard work I am putting in to develop them. If you set up a competitive situation involving catching and/or throwing, it's no surprise that I end up in the all-too familiar role of runt of the litter, and I really don't need to spend an extra hour every Sunday reminding myself how inadequate I am. All I can do is practise and work as hard as I can, but if that practise leaves my bereft of confidence, what's the point?

Above all, I really shouldn't feel this way when I play cricket.


MPA first eleven said...

I don't know what to suggest other than chin up and keep plugging away. Tonight I had nets and when it came to batting I was bowled 4 times consecutively by a fast bowler and then 5 times consecutively by an off-spinner. At one point I looked up and all the seam bowlers that I'd sussed and was managing to block were suddenly replaced by 3 off-spinners and a leg spinner all trying to massage their own ego's. When it comes to batting I'm dog s**t bad, I'm about as good as a one legged bloke in a bum kicking competition, but I hang in there in the belief that at some point something will click and make sense and I may beat my long standing record of 7 runs scored in my first ever cricket match.

I suppose the answer must be in just being more active, doing a range of different sports perhaps? With kids I get dragged into doing all sorts of stuff I have no interest in, but I see it as opportunities to -

1. Maintain and develop fitness and stamina.
2. Improve and maintain eye to ball coordination.
3. Maintain and improve overall body coordination.

I end up playing Badminton, Basket Ball, football, swimming, Baseball, tennis and even skateboarding. For me it's dual purpose exercise in that I want my kids to be good at sports and to be agile, so I never deny them opportunities to do and try a whole range of things and at the same time it keeps me in the game.

Pencil Cricket said...

Thanks Dave, as always I really appreciate your comments.

I don't mind plugging away at all, and I don't mind being terrible at what I do as long as it's a talent issue rather than a lack of effort - I'm sure it's the same for you. I think what bothers me is so far in these fielding sessions I'm being set up in competition with everyone else including the first team when plainly I can't hope to compete with them, and some of them struggle to understand how it's possible for me to find it so hard to reliably perform skills they find so easy. If I turn up I go away feeling I'm wasting everyone's time being there, but if I don't go I can't improve, so its all a bit Catch 22.

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