Friday, 28 October 2011

Winter reading

The winter months seem cruelly long for a cricketer, and they're all the longer if, like me, you're a devotee of Test Match cricket and no amount of ODI yawn-a-thons will quite fill the gap left between the end of August and the middle of January by some idiot of a scheduler. So, the only thing to do (short of setting out for the southern hemisphere, which I can't afford) is settle into a comfortable chair with a good book.

As such there's a towering pile of cricket books for me to get through over the next few months, even before I get the inevitable extra book or two for Christmas. Here's a little list of what awaits me:

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

New stripes

With last Thursday's Special General Meeting following the presentation evening the previous Friday, this week could be said to be the point at which the 2011 season properly ends and next season begins. A Special General Meeting sounds a little bureaucratic and pretty far removed from anything that happens on a cricket field, but it is in fact the meeting at which we as a cricket section choose our captains and committee for the coming season.

The presentation evening was a good night, with everyone having a good time. I took my girlfriend along and she enjoyed getting to know all my team-mates. Each captain in turn gave their review of the season and selected their player of the season. I got an honourable mention as "most improved" for the 4ths, while Shaun got the award (quite rightly) for his batting and keeping. I had a little cameo on the microphone as I gave a brief review of the tour, and it seemed to go down well. There was a little bit of fun at the end as we had a "True or False" game (there's several rounds, each round you each guess true or false. If you're wrong you sit down and the last person standing wins) where two of the questions involved me - firstly did 4th team captain Sam register more ducks this season than me? (he did) and secondly did Wilko take more wickets than me? (he didn't).

Thursday, 20 October 2011

"Let's have a warm hand..."

A couple of weeks ago I was in Waterstone's, inevitably browsing the cricket section of their selection of sports books, when my eyes alighted on a table of gifts and I spotted something that every spinner should have: hand warmers. They're very clever thingies. From having studied chemistry I'm sure it's some sort of reversible reaction that's highly exothermic one way and endothermic the other, with the upshot that when you press a little clicker inside the pouches, the gel quickly crystallises and heats up. Once they've given their heat off, you pop them in a pan of boiling water for five minutes, the crystals dissolve back into a gel and once they've cooled down they're ready to go again.

I first became aware of them when Steve Smith used them in the Australia 'A' game against England at Hobart (they were hidden in his pockets but they showed up on HotSpot). Next to a wet ball, I can't think of anything more debilitating for a spinner than cold fingers, so they should be a nice little gadget to keep in my kitbag for those "multi-jumper" match-days.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Prayers to St Parasceva

Today is the feast day of Parasceva of the Balkans, the patron saint of spinners.

Yes I know, they probably meant people who twist fibres together to make yarn, but there is no patron saint of cricketers, at least not yet, and there are a fair few spinners who would look rather silly praying to the patron saint of athletes, myself included. As such, since Parasceva is listed as the patron saint of spinners, and I'm a spinner, she's my patron saint.

She is described as an "ascetic" saint, and ascetic is derived from the greek word ask─ôsis, which means practice, training or exercise. "Originally associated with any form of disciplined practice," says Wikipedia, "the term ascetic has come to mean anyone who practices a renunciation of worldly pursuits to achieve higher intellectual and spiritual goals for himself." Given the time and sacrifice it takes to develop a decent leg-break, that's pretty apt for a leg-spinner if you ask me...

Not being a Christian myself, I'm unfamiliar with exactly what one does to celebrate a saint's feast day, but I'm given to understand that emulating some aspects of the saint's life is the done thing. Since Parasceva was known for having given her expensive clothes away, I'm going to take a bin bag full of clothes to a charity shop today. And I've got a little prayer ready:

Oh pious St Parasceva, as your parents could not comprehend your charity, so I pray that my captain is more understanding of my own generosity. I humbly ask you to pray for me as you pray for all spinners. Assist me by your intercession that I may face batsmen long on ego and short on sense, and that, through application of what talent God has given me and what skills many hours of dedicated practise has honed, I may offer unto the heavens a ball most fiercely spun and accurately pitched, so that I may swiftly and mercifully dispatch them on their way. Amen.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

No more Brigadier Block

If there's one aspect of my game that has disappointed me this season, it's my batting. I did manage 8 not outs in 17 innings, which was satisfying, but ultimately I only scored 18 runs in total, my highest score was a paltry 5* and my only real contribution was to help the other guy score.

Now I'm not totally disregarding the value of that role, but having thought about it a bit more, I think I need to be honest with myself and admit that it's a bit of a cop-out by me. Hang on in there, block everything, help the other guy score and then I can protect myself from ever finding out just how ineffective my own batting is. It's safe, and it's weak.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Long-term ambitions

It's well established that setting achievable goals provides a useful spur to improved performance, and this year's target of 10 wickets certainly helped me to take those 10 wickets. My other two targets - 100 runs and 5 catches or run-outs - weren't met, and for different reasons: I didn't make 100 runs because that target was far too ambitious for my level of experience, and I didn't contribute 5 wickets in the field because I was never in a position to do so. Even if I'd taken every catch I was presented with this year, I'd still have only taken 3 catches! The targets I've been thinking of for next season are a bit more open ended - a bowling average of under 32 (my waist size) and a batting average of over 9.5 (my shoe size) - and I think they're realistic, but I think it may also be helpful to set out a few long-term aspirations that go far beyond next season. Some of them may be a bit far-fetched, but as long as they focus my mind on the future they may be of some use.

So lets start with the most outlandish ones first...