Thursday, 17 April 2014

And so the campaign begins

All the waiting is (nearly) over, and so on Saturday I start my first season as a team captain with the new 5th XI. The Thirds have had a few problems with the ground they're renting and their game is off this weekend, so my selection's been relatively easy with a few more players to choose from than will I imagine be the norm. The team's got a good mix of core 5th team players, juniors and a smattering of 3rd XI experience and we should at least be reasonably competitive.

For me personally pre-season has gone pretty well. I haven't had to entirely re-learn my bowling action and I've been able to find a good length more often than not. My batting is what it is but my bat just keeps getting better - I'm not sure it was properly knocked in before but the ball's been really flying off the blade on the few (but increasingly frequent) occasions when I've found the middle. I'll probably place myself at about eight in the batting line up, and hopefully I can get the team to bat through its overs more and I'll be able to look to score some runs this year. There's still issues, particularly a tightening of my right bicep that's throwing my bowling off occasionally, but I'm feeling confident enough and that's tended to be the main factor towards whether I bowl well or not.

As for my captaincy, I'm starting to believe that I am just about ready for it. I've had a decent four year apprenticeship in the fourths and especially towards the end of last year I was starting to really feel as if I was reading the game well, particularly on those two or three occasions where I unilaterally positioned myself right underneath catches, even if I did drop them. One great thing about being captain is I'll no longer have that nervous feeling as the overs tick by of wondering when, or even if, I'm going to be brought on to bowl, but I'll have to take care not to inflict that on others. There's a lot for me to learn and a fair amount of "fake it 'till you make it" in terms of being vocal in the field and giving off the right physical messages with my body language.

I found an apt quote today, and given the team I'll be leading will probably lose more often than it wins I think I'll make it the team motto. It's from Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics:
The important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle; the essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well.
In my view what I need to get right is to get the team really playing as a team with everyone knowing their role, keeping everyone happy and seeing if I can make the whole greater than the sum of its parts. Ultimately I'll know if I'm doing a good job based on how easy it is for me to find 11 players each week. It's going to be a really fascinating challenge.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Some advice for you Dave

Regular readers (hello to both of you) may have heard of Dave Thompson, an obsessive leg-spinner who blogs at and who I've been in contact with pretty much since I started. By astonishing coincidence, he has also found greatness, i.e. captaincy, thrust upon him by his club's elders this season, and he's written a couple of posts about some of the challenges he's facing. All very familiar to me, but since his blog doesn't seem to allow me to post comments I'll have to give him my advice in a place he's bound to find it: Here.

He's identified two issues that may cause problems with a team that, like mine, is pretty junior-heavy: scoring and umpiring. So here's my advice for Dave.

In the first place, get hold of a copy of Tom Smith's Cricket Umpiring and Scoring. It is the definitive text on how to umpire and score and gives a very good, if perhaps rather long, explanation of the correct way to fill out a scorebook. Secondly I'd add two rules:
  1. the captain needs to watch the batting without distraction so he knows how everyone is playing and can give appropriate advice and instructions, so he needs to have someone else do the scoring if at all possible.
  2. The scorer needs to be focused on the scorebook, so someone else needs to be keeping the scoreboard updated (unless he's in a scorebox that's designed to allow scorers to operate it from the inside). It doesn't ultimately matter whether the scoreboard is correct or not, but it very much DOES matter that the book is correct, and the laws specifically state that this is the scorer's duty, not anything else.
Tom Smith does have a very comprehensive description of umpiring but it's probably not the best teaching tool. For this you need to find a copy of "You Are The Umpire", which is a beautifully illustrated book with a whole host of scenarios designed to test one's knowledge of the laws. It should be a good book to pass around while the team is batting and gradually your team will learn what the laws say and how to interpret them.

Hope that helps Dave, and best of luck. It's funny we've both been handed this same challenge at the same time, but there's plenty of examples down the years to show that slow spinners make the best captains!