Sunday, 31 July 2011

Blinded by the light

Stuart Broad seems to have had a dramatic return to form, and this weekend I have too, with my best ever bowling figures - and they could have been even better.

We were playing Wooton at Waterhouses, which is very much a bowler's wicket - last year we were all out for 57 when 80ish would have been competitive. Today it was a little less sticky than last year although it was still slow, low and occasionally lively and the outfield was still VERY slow. After a slightly fraught journey to the ground thanks to some truly hopeless navigating by my team-mates, we won the toss and chose to bat, although I thought that may have been the wrong decision as it was sunny and the wicket could only get better.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

A few new bits of kit

In the past few weeks I've been on something of a spree, buying the odd thing here or there to either replace worn items (such as batting gloves) or else to upgrade to something a little more to my liking.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Sheer joy!

I was going to write a post utterly jam-packed full of bitterness at the way that, yet again, my captain didn't pick me on Saturday and gave me no explanation as to why, but I can't. Not today. Headquarters is a-buzz and packed to capacity, England have a very good chance of taking first blood against the best side in the world, and Tendulkar is at the crease hoping to make his century of centuries. The 2,000th Test is proving to be worthy of the title and my heart rejoices at just how magnificent it is to be a lover of cricket on a July day such as this. Test Match Special is blaring out of everything in the house capable of producing sound, if the atmosphere at Lord's is even 10% as good as it sounds it must be mightily impressive, and I'm making some pretty large sounds of my own every time an appeal goes up! It's lunch, we're six wickets from the win and we've got the best bowling attack on the planet. There's simply no way I could be in a bad mood today.

Monday, 18 July 2011

One good ball

Saturday's game was a strange affair for me, I could have sworn we'd be rained off but in the end we managed a completed game. We were up against Aston on the ground at Alleyne's School, and when we got there the cover was still on and the wicket hadn't been mown, so it was a good half an hour after the scheduled start before we were able to get underway. I half-wish the game had been rained off.

Aston's leading batsman was back after being suspended, apparently because Aston paid him to play in a strictly amateur league, and he reached his century pretty quickly, scoring at more than ten an over. As the innings wore on past the drinks break and we edged ever closer to declaration territory I wondered if Sam was ever going to bring me on to bowl, and with a typically bizarre rationale he told me I'd come on once Jamie, one of the juniors in the side, had completed his maximum six overs. As we were in the middle of a match I relented from explaining to Sam that Jamie gets plenty of match overs in the U15s, and that 6 overs is more than Sam's given me all bloody season, and I did a truly outstanding job of not showing how absurd I thought this whole situation was.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

A long-overdue update

I must confess, the fact I haven't updated this blog in a month is not a coincidence. I've had a bit of a mid-season slump for a variety of reasons, so let me go through each one in turn:

Poor captaincy - I'm afraid Sam hasn't really done much to inspire me of late, and while the jury's out on his ability to lead men, I think it's fairly clear he struggles to understand what it takes to captain spinners well. It's now over two months since he called on me to bowl in a match, which is strange considering that on that occasion I took my first wicket. Granted, against Porthill I did tell him not to bowl me as my shoulder was playing up, but the game at Onneley was a classic of the genre. He brought Azar on to bowl who proceeded to deliver an awful over that went for 18 runs. Sam said he'd bring me on later but wanted to give Azar a chance to find his rhythm. Azar bowled two more overs before, with the 9th wicket falling at the other end, Sam told me to warm up. It turned out the opposition only had 10 batsmen so the innings was over and I hadn't got a bowl. This wouldn't have bothered me so much if Sam hadn't been in quite such a rush to take me off after I went for 18 in my first over earlier in the year, but then Azar bowls seam-up... Saturday was another strange example, as I was left out of the team but was asked to act as sub for most of the innings for a player who had to go home to sort out his dog. The question has to be asked - if I'm available all afternoon and he isn't, why is he in the team while I'm not? Of course the usual caveat applies to Sam - he's still only 20 so I don't want to be too hard on him, in overall team terms the league table shows he must be doing something right.

Other spin options - I must be honest and say that in most conditions there are better spin options available to the fourths. Harry, who you may recall I was watching with interest in pre-season, has turned out to be a very good bowler of leg-spin, with at least two five-fers at a reasonable economy rate. It's hard to believe this is his first year of bowling leg-spin, and if that wasn't enough he's also an excellent lower order batsman and fielder. Don't get me wrong, I'm delighted that Harry is doing so well, and it's great for the club to have a promising young leg-spinner developing at such a rate, but sadly (for me at least) he's been keeping me out of the team. He's now been called up to the 2nds so hopefully he'll be able to make the step up and establish his place there, but then there's Amar, a reasonably good off-spinner who takes the odd wicket and rarely bowls badly. He's very much a containing off-spinner and this probably suits the captain's temperament better than my "buy a wicket and don't haggle too much" style.

Annoying club-mates - I'm sorry to say a small number of the other guys at the club have had a very negative impact on my enthusiasm and motivation, as they seem hell-bent on winding me up at every available opportunity or are at least uninterested in how their behaviour affects my mindset. I don't mind people having a bit of a laugh, but when things are pursued well beyond the point where it has gone from being funny to being just plain tedious I must admit I am less tolerant. Karl for example seems determined that whenever I bowl at him he will, as a matter of routine, come down the wicket to take the ball on the full. Every ball. Now Karl is 2nd team standard, so I doubt he learns too much from it, and I learn precisely nothing - it's just a waste of my time and effort bowling at him. Likewise by the time it comes around to my turn to bat all too often some of the better bowlers (who I've bowled at when they were in) have gone over to use the slip cradle so I don't get to face their bowling. Add to that all the general chatter that goes on during nets, which disrupts my concentration pretty regularly, and I struggle to make the most of what precious few hours of net practise I get.

Injuries - My body has started to fail me in a couple of ways, firstly it was tendinitis in my right shoulder which required a bit of rest, and since then my right knee is struggling to cope with the stress it is subjected to as I follow through. This latter problem is now the principle limiting factor on how long I can bowl for, so sooner or later I either need to strengthen the knee or change my action.

Diminished effort - For all these reasons, I have to say recently I have not been working on my bowling as hard as I should. Given that I haven't been getting a bowl in matches this is a classic downward spiral that leads ultimately to my bowling suffering terribly. In the last few days I've started to really force myself to put in the full amount of practise hours, but it's a real struggle to stay motivated when I'm bowling badly and it would be all too easy to just jump in the car and go home.

So, where do I go from here? I suppose I just have to reboot and start again trying to get back to the work rate, enthusiasm and motivation I had at the start of the season. My fielding has continued to consistently improve although I'm still not yet at a level I would consider good enough. My bowling has plateaued a little in its overall quality although I am making progress on my flipper - I've got a decent action and now just need to develop some consistency and control. My Batting has also plateaued and I'm afraid I really need to go back to the Janet and John level and work back from there if I'm to make any real progress.

I do definitely have a game at the weekend, and as mentioned above Harry is now in the 2nds while other bowlers have gone on holiday, so I should get a few overs. It's against Aston, the same team I had a disastrous game against earlier in the season, so I shouldn't struggle for motivation. My mindset is simple: F*** 'em. F*** Aston, f*** the captain who never picks me, f*** my annoying team-mates and f*** my fragile shoulders - I'll show them...