Wednesday, 1 August 2012

The loneliness of the long distance club cricketer

A few weeks ago we published an article debating whether it was time to end Lord MacLaurin’s experiment with ECB Premier Leagues at the top end of the club game. Last week’s article "Oppo speak" also appears to have struck a chord with club cricketers across the land and was even debated on cricket writers on TV by Lancastrian Legend Walt Allot and the Lord of Lords Mike Selvey. Now Thorpster is back with more…

Before the advent of the Premier Leagues and the influx of overseas players, which in my opinion led directly to the now regular practice of paying players at club level, the club you played for was largely one of the locals. A bit like Trevor Brooking or Tony Adams in football, your club was your club. It sometimes led to players being big fishes in small ponds but back then it was an amateur game not striving to be professional. As stated in the aforementioned articles the warm up was a couple of pints before a competitive game starting at 2 o'clock and a competitive game in the bar starting when the 20 overs after 6.30 had finished or earlier if the game went short. Sundays were all about local fixtures against familiar opponents and again a few ales and maybe a curry, and in general a good time was had by all. The game on a Sunday was secondary and one local team Chaseville used to go beserk if the common practice of winding the clock back following a late start was observed, for them it was all about getting in the bar.

Following the start of the Premier Leagues and players being paid, local mercenaries began to spring up, the cricketing equivalent of a Tevez or Nasri attracted by a few quid or a pound a run in some cases. Local clubs attracted benefactors who stuck their hand in their pocket leading to Premier League standard players having more clubs than Jack Niklaus as they change allegiance more times than Zlatan Ibrahimovich in chase of the Yankee dollar. League cricket sprung up on Sunday along with various cup competitions meaning yet again more miles on the car, more time away from Mrs and kids and more sore ears.

A good old fashioned game of Sunday cricket

A few years on and Sunday cricket is basically dead, with sides that got 3 or 4 elevens out on a Sunday struggling to field 1 team. Being a cricketer at the top end of the club game and maybe playing rep cricket now means a lot of travelling. This combined with perennial problem of limited participation time means many players being lost to the game prematurely. I can testify, as a former top order batsman, that over two days of cricket you can easily participate for only 2 minutes. You turn up after an hour and half in the motor (at today’s petrol prices!), field/stare at the sky for 3 hours and then nick off for nought. Repeat the same on Sunday and you have spent 24 hours out of the house for 5 minutes participation. Go and play golf and no matter how long you spend looking for your ball in the trees you get to play another shot.

One of my mates and old club buddies and a good friend of Dan & Liam of TMS, Matt Fitzpatrick put this into context for me. In 2000 he scored lots of runs for us in Herts Division one and after being sawn off on 93 after putting now HCPL side Harpenden to the sword he was called up to the league rep eleven where he acquitted himself well. Come the next season he had moved to the Hertfordshire Hollywood - "Borehamwood la, la, la" and thought he would have a go playing for Radlett of the HCPL. Anyway he was picked for the ones early on and was told he was playing at Beaconsfield away on the Saturday, with an 8am meet at the club- Just about managing to drag himself out of his pit at 7am after a Friday night on the lash- he found himself batting at 7. Radlett stuck the oppo in and Matty fielded for 65 overs and then found himself coming in during a run chase. After being called a village idiot for being the only batsman not wearing a lid he was run out for nought. After the game he asked where he was playing on the Sunday and was told Hastings away in the National Cup with a 9.30 meet. Yes, you guessed it- batting in the middle order, he soon felt the outside tickle before being snaffled by the waiting South coast gloveman!

From pitching up half an hour before, having a laugh and a few beers with his mates and some fun cricket in between, he has found himself starring in 'The loneliness of the long distance cricketer....'


  1. It all depends on what your motivated by.... Go play with a bunch of clowns and bully bad bowling and get a few wickets then go get drunk floats your boat, have fun with that. Want to go test yourself try and win things and remember your playing career scoring runs of good bowlers and getting good batsman out is to me a more enjoyable day. And if your bothered about not getting drunk after the game belive me Ive played at Radlett and those boys love a good beer, play tough cricket but they regularly have that 8 pint jug floating around their club. Go play mickey mouse cricket where the people that your playing against dont even respect you because they also know your too good to be playing on that pitch, or go play the best cricket you can and improve your game play on good pitches and have great teas, so be it good or bad at least you stepped up to the plate. Again whatever your motivated by

    1. Danny - thanks for the comment, the article was supposed to debate the merits of club cricket at the differing standards. Hows your season going at Cockfosters? It does as you say very much depend on what motivates you and also at what stage of your career and life you are at. I remembr when I used to moan about the likes of Nick Rodgers at the Adelaide when se said he wanted to play for the 2s rather than 1s so he could bat and bowl. Also I remember some of the dire Sunday games with us rattling up 250-1 in about 40 overs. When I was in my 20s I used to advocate the likes of Hale playing higher up the leagues rather than bashing 2,000 runs for the Adelaide so I can see where your coming from. Another big chnage is the fitness element at the top end of club cricket. I remember Hash Dave being a statue at slip in the old days. Everything changes some like it some don't, thats the beauty of cricket I suppose. As for the 8 pint jug at Radlett, I remember getting stung for a ten pinter after getting a fifty v Southgate Sunday 1's in 1996, that was harsh on the pocket.

  2. The thing I can't work out is why your mate only found out he was playing at Hastings on the Saturday night after the game. And why was he lonely - did his team not share lifts?

    Slightly less facetiously, it always seems to me that the social side of cricket is better at Premier League clubs - at lower levels people seem to disappear off straight after the game due to having families, demanding jobs etc; the very reason why they struggle to make the time commitment involved in training and travelling to Premier League games in the first place

    1. Joseph - in all honesty I'm sure he did know before Saturday night. I agree re lower levels at premier league clubs. Lower down they have more strcuture who below first eleven level can become a little ragged. The demands are much higher in the first team and now it is much more a young mans game at that level.

      Thanks for the comment.

    2. Joseph - sorry I was trying to type too quickly above. What I was trying to say is that below the first team the bigger clubs do have more structure than the smaller ones, so when first eleven players drop down the cricket and social side is still there to be enjoyed.

  3. Thorpster- after having to proof read your work I have no doubt you type too quickly! Another top article. When Dan goes on hols make sure you take my email. You are turning into a cultured writer!

  4. I think the main thing that is apparent with the Premier league set up, is that it is now going the way of the Australian District (Grade) Cricket. The big clubs 1st XI's playing all day games are now the preserve of the young aspiring cricketer rather than the club stalwart who has played there for years.

    A positive effect of this (as some of the people above have said) is that the teams are full of younger players who, without numerous domestic responsibilities, have the time and inclination to socialise for longer after games.

    However, the negative is that (as in Australian Grades) once a player realises that he's not going to make it to the higher standard he reviews the level of commitment he wants to give at a weekend and starts to balance his life between playing cricket all day and other activities. As a consequence, players then choose to drop down an eleven or two for afternoon games or move to a club that doesn't paly all day. In Australia this means going back to sub-district games or in the UK moving to maybe a club in a strong non-premier league.

    Unfortunately, there is no black & white solution, it depends on the individual as to what the best solution is.

    To answer one of the comments above, Danny Fitz - some of what you say is valid but it does miss the point that a player can improve the standard they play and not have to commit to playing all day in an ECB Premier league, as you yourself have proved by moving to a club 2 divisions higher than you were playing but still playing afternoon games.

    Just to finish, again a top article Thorpster!!

  5. As most of us have said, it really depends where you are in life and what is important to you at any given time. Whenever I pitch up I notice how much younger top first eleven's are. This was particularly evident at the recent Stortford v Adelaide game, with N Watts, Flack and M Fitzpatrick "starring" for us. Clyde - are you still sticking the whites on? There is no doubt the dynamics of club cricket have changed since the 80s and 90s as have the ever growing demands for flexibility from employers. As I have said another big factor in my opinion is that the nature of cricket is that for a big input in terms of time, a minimum gaurantee of participation is offered. What kept players going in the past was the banter and team spirit which fades if teams are constantly changing in personnel terms. Fitness is now a big part, thank god it wasn't in my days in the first eleven.

  6. Cockfosters is going really well thanks, narrowly missing out on a return to the County Cup Final on the weekend.... A tied game so it went to amount of wickets taken. GUTTED!!! We seem to be holding our own in Division 1 after getting promoted last year another couple of wins in the next 4 games should see us in the same league next year.
    I get what your saying with the games being too long in the higher leagues and having to travel some distances to away games, it also seems to be a bit of a nonsense starting extra early causing ridiculous meet times, having 2 tea breaks just to bowl more overs in the day. Especially when the scores achieved by both teams are pretty much the same as a 50 over game that you can fit in over the course of a Saturday afternoon.
    However the blogs title the lonliness of a travelling cricketer whilst making an example of a young cricketer trying to make his way in an unknown level of cricket picking out his failures, reads to me that you are making a mockery of someone trying to improve on his playing career. If anything Matt deserves credit for giving it a go..... And I`m pretty sure when his kids grow up he will tell them that yes I did play in the HCPL for Radlett and many of the stories he will tell his kids will be from those many games he did play for Radlett..... As already said Thorpey its what your motivated by and what it is that you ultimately WANT to do ;)
    Great Blog it has made for an interesting debate especially where can you purchase a 10 pint jug from? How do you pour it as Im pretty sure the tap dispenser couldnt hold it.... Sounds like a 2 man job or would you just leave the jug on the floor and fill it up from there... If you have any pointers that would be great as I`m more than happy to give it a go ;)

  7. Danny I would love to see you do a 10pinter. What I'd love even more is to see you pay for it! Ha, glad everything is well at Fosters. Have you played Knebworth Park yet, my bro is playing for them...