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Some cricket club changing rooms look like a sale in a charity shop – which, ironically, is where you will be able to pick this book up in a few years’ time priced at 30p. A charity shop that is, not a cricket changing room. Cricket changing rooms can be messy places at times with clothes strewn everywhere, wet towels lying on floors, discarded shower gels stolen from hotel rooms on tour and empty cans of deodorant.
A lot of cricketers have one thing in common – an all-consuming obsession with kit. You will find many jokes and japes amongst players, but kit is reasonably sacrosanct and joking around with other people’s equipment is deemed out of order. Saying that, I have had shower gel in my batting gloves before and Deep Heat in my helmet, which after 10 minutes’ worth of sweating made my eyes a tad sore. Generally though, kit is not to be messed with.
Bats can be fiddled with, messed around with, tinkered with and ruined. An extra grip here, shaving a bit off the bottom there, sanded down, over oiled, not to mention those woodpeckers of players who spend their days knocking in a new bat with a mallet and ruining the peace for all and sundry. There will always be one player in every team that people take their stuff to. This chap will have scissors, spike tighteners, razor blades, cones and a host of other implements. Not only that, he’ll also be able to roll a grip on to a bat handle quicker than he can roll his own foreskin back. One search of this man’s kit by the boys in blue and he would be looking at a long prison sentence for the selection of offensive weapons in his kit bag.
Bats now come in all shapes and sizes and there are far more options available with the advent of hand-made bats from small, independent bat makers. The days of Stuart Surridge Jumbos crashing the ball around have long gone. About 30 years ago the only bats you ever saw at club level were Gray-Nicolls, Gunn & Moore, the garishly coloured orange and black Newbery, County, Slazenger and a plethora of Duncan Fearnley Magnums. Adidas were sticking to tennis gear, although some clubbies would use a pair of their Stan Smith trainers occasionally. The more cunning ones would even rip the Velcro fastener as the ball beat the bat in a bid to try and con the umpire that the striker had nicked off to the keeper.
I have always preferred Gunn & Moore as my stick of choice after a Slazenger V12 I had only struck the ball about as far as cover (if you really timed it). I’m not saying it was a bad bat, but it was the best one that I have ever had for playing the spinners with a host of catchers around the bat, as the ball would regularly just plop down at my feet.
Then you have to carry your kit around. Long gone are the days of sticking your bat into the side pocket of a small bag. This would end up making the rubber of the bat handle ride up showing string at one end and leaving you to have to chop the other end off due to excess grip at the top. Many clubbies of this era could have doubled up as rabbis. Oversized coffins became de rigueur amongst the cricketing fashionistas and were the cause of many a stubbed toe on your way in and out of the showers, but now the bag with wheels seems to be the luggage of choice.
Cricket kit is a strange thing. It can be lovingly looked after by some and scattered everywhere by others. You can tell a lot about an individual just by changing next to them. You can tell what sort of a person they are and in many cases how much money they earn. Some players even leave their kit all over the dressing room to return the following weekend to dirty whites. Others fold their clothes with neatness and order.
Cricket kit isn’t cheap. A brand new, top-of-the-range bat can now cost over £500. For a whole kit bag of top-notch gear, you might need to take out a small mortgage just to get onto the field of play. Cricket equipment has changed. There’s more choice, but the cost has gone up vastly when compared with what the average clubbie was earning 30 years ago.
Boots used to be fairly standard. Winit Worcesters were the cheap choice of the clubbie and you would see these in every club. The only problem with them was that the heel would come away from the sole. If you bought them new in April, by September you’d see a host of clubbies chasing balls to the boundary making flapping, clapping noises as they did so. I’m sure that counties don’t need to give away clappers at T20 games like they do now but instead just need to recycle a load of Winit Worcester boots from the late 1980s! Now boots are better made and come in a variety of colours. The steel toe which saved many a batsman from crushing Yorkers also seems to be a thing of the past. These would double-up as great wear on a construction site for many a builder clubbie. On the down side, any clubbie who wore his Winit Worcesters to a night club on a Friday night would have been instantly refused entry.
Wicketkeeping gear is another thing that has changed. Pads would simply be batting pads –all keepers would wear them. Keeping pads of 30 years ago were wider than batting pads but with money being tighter back then, many clubbies would use the same ones they batted in. Even at club level now you often still see keeping pads that have been shorn off at the knee. Keeping gloves were generally just red in colour but now come in a multitude of shades. Our current 1st XI keeper has black, shiny ones that wouldn’t look out of place on a dominatrix (although I have yet to see him take the field in a gimp mask with a gag ball in his mouth). Who knows what may happen in the future, given the way things are changing?
The helmet is a regular sight now in club cricket and are generally sported in the club colours. The days of Alec Stewart white ones are gone and they don’t even get the comment ‘Here comes Neil Armstrong’ any more when a clubbie comes to the crease in one…
Gloves have become better and stronger and pads have become lighter. Shirts have become standard club ones with a badge on, often with a sponsor’s name emblazoned across it and with some colour on the sleeves. The days of fielding in a Lyle and Scott top with a white, wide-brimmed sun hat seem to be a thing of the past. Baseball-style caps are now the ‘in thing’ and to see a Harlequin-style cap is as rare as a team staying behind after a match for seven or eight pints.
The contents of a cricket bag are constantly evolving and will no doubt be out of date by the time that you read this.