Saturday, 19 November 2016

The Cricket Club Dog

With the current Test match at Visakhapatnam being interrupted by a dog and with Christmas being just around the corner, I thought it would be give me another excuse for a shameless plug of my new book, The Definitive Guide to Club Cricket. The book is about the characters that inhabit every cricket club across the UK with 57 chapters covering various individuals. Virtually every club has a resident hound. Cricket clubs are great environments for our four legged friends and here is a chapter on the dog and a few other animals that are associated with club cricket. The book is available via Amazon at;
With a foreword by Yorkshire's Jack Brooks and proceeds helping Melanoma UK it will keep every club cricketer going over the festive period...

As Jack Brooks mentioned in the foreword of the book, cricket clubs are wonderful environments to raise children in. However, virtually every club across the land has a resident dog. My dog Moses is a chocolate Labrador and has raided many a tea that an unsuspecting player has put on the ground. His finest hour – taking an ice cream out of the hands of a toddler – didn’t exactly endear me to the parents. He is terrified of our tea lady who shouts at him whenever he goes anywhere near the kitchen and just longingly gazes at the goodies that have been put out for the players.
Dogs come in all colours, shapes and sizes – a bit like us clubbies – and their feeding habits are also of a similar nature.
Once a year I visit Hertford Cricket Club to play a game in their cricket week and there is a resident chocolate Labrador there who roams the outfield. Brilliantly, this dog has been trained not to cross the boundary rope, although I did spot it once wandering across the sightscreen behind the bowler’s arm.
Another dog, a Border Collie who spent time at our cricket club in the 1990s, used to catch cricket balls in his mouth that its owner would hit 40 or 50 yards with a cricket bat. The clunk of the ball on tooth enamel as he caught it would send shivers down the spines of most veterinary surgeons and, on closer inspection, a front row of chipped teeth adorned this canine’s mouth.
One batsman I played with used to hit boundary flags or anything else that was close by on the way off in a show of frustration at a poor shot, although I noticed that he didn’t do this at one Hertfordshire ground that had a sleeping Rottweiler next to the away dressing room. His water bowl remained intact.
A cricket dog can have its uses too. A ball that lands in the middle of a patch of stinging nettles is not one that many fielders will volunteer to search for, but the dog has no fear. He will go and retrieve it far quicker, thus not holding up the game for long. That is, if he decides to give it back. Retrieving it is one thing, but giving it back is a completely different kettle of fish for the cricket dog. A cricket dog can also be useful if the ball does get lost. A quick chew from a Mastiff on one side of the ball and you will find that reverse swing suddenly comes into the fray. Man’s best friend and definitely an opening bowler’s.
It isn’t just the dogs that inhabit the clubs. Neighbouring gardens can be the worst nightmare for a clubbie fielder who has to venture into them to go and collect the ball. One of our number was once chased out of a garden by the might of a Jack Russell but on hearing the bark of a larger dog, many clubbies will give up the ghost and call for a spare ball instead.

A common sight for club cricketers
Other animals have been known to reside in cricket clubs, too. Unfortunately one poor hedgehog died having got stuck in our netting and having been part of the food chain of a variety of North London’s fauna, none of the boys wanted to take responsibility for untangling poor ‘Sonic’ and putting him in the bin. Eventually he rotted away, and the option of recycling him as one of the elderly members’ batting gloves was not taken up.
At Highgate Cricket Club in the 1980s the groundsman would save his energy and instead of mowing the pitch, he would employ his three or four goats to keep the outfield short. At Bayford CC, I pulled out of a delivery as a darting swallow whizzed past my head. Meanwhile many clubs play host to angry wasps’ nests that tend to ruin the post-match lager. In wet weather it isn’t unusual for ducks to become resident on the temporary lakes of cricket grounds and even this season after a ball went into bushes for a boundary, it was followed by a squawking moorhen and her young family running off at speed in the other direction. Foxes have been known to raid post-match barbecues, and all clubbies who play at a ground near water will have been bitten by cricket club mosquitoes.
A cricket club dog might be responsible for holding up play by running across the pitch, or causing the groundsman to remove one of its turds from on a length, but dogs and cricket clubs go together. It is a safe environment for them and they are part of the summer.

Long live the clubbie hound.

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