Saturday, December 13, 2014

Review of my first year as captain

(pictures to be added - I'm watching the cricket at the moment)

I was intending on writing a regular blog on the subject of my first year as captain, but work got in the way and I've had to focus on my photography education blogs. (Battlefield 3 didn't help if I'm honest). So that plan didn't pan out, it also felt like as though, if had did gone ahead with it, I'd be moaning for much of the time and I didn't really want to do that. So, anyway here's my review of the year.

It transpired that over the winter 2013-14 our club lost many players, someone at some point said that we'd lost as many as 20 players, so the club was in trouble heading into the 2014 season with regards to getting four teams out every weekend. Prior to the start of the season there were a series of meetings where the issue was discussed and it was proposed that the 4th XI, who had incidentally won promotion should be scrapped. Parents and players alike who had a vested interest in the 4th XI were up in arms.

The 4th XI in the 2013 season was captained by Erskine Peters,
Erskine Peters Captain 4th XI 2013 season
who'd marshalled a very young team for the most part, through the year into a position, whereby they were promoted. Erskine, in the meantime was one of the casualties of the 2013 exodus of players and the perception was that with only 3 teams being fielded for the 2014 season, the victims of a 3 team set - up, would be the younger kids that had been brought on as players in Erskine's winning 4th XI team. The situation was in flux as the season approached and factions within the club were arguing that, the good work that Erskine had done with the younger players needed to be continued and could be, if a captain was found. No-one was coming forward to take that position - possibly as they may have had more of an idea as to how the season might pan out.

My name apparently was thrown into the mix as a suggestion for a potential captain. My older son Ben, (14) had been introduced to adult cricket under Erskine and like so many of the Under 15's had done really well with his confidence massively boosted and his cricket playing developed. So, like so many of the parents of youth team players, I wanted to see Ben carry on playing 4th XI adult cricket every weekend. The idea of me being the captain struck a chord with some of the parents and the blokes that had trained the current U15's. One by one they approached me, suggesting that I took up the role! Considering I'm almost certainly the least experienced adult player in the whole club and having never played a game of cricket until I was 47 it seemed a bit risky, but something I should at least consider? Add to that madness, I never really watched cricket either until Warne came on the scene and even then my knowledge of many aspects of the game are still very limited, I was an unusual option.

Eventually I was approached by senior officials in the club and was asked if I wanted the role, saying that if I did, Basildon would go into the season with 4 teams and they'd see how it panned out. So with a little cajoling and some offers of support from the people that mattered I said yes.


So, the team having gained the promotion under Erskine, I was hoping that the 4th XI, despite the loss of players over the winter would be populated by familiar faces - primarily, the sons of the people that had petitioned to have me as the captain. It didn't pan out that way. Every week the initial selection held promise and then as the weekend approached, the depleted 1st, 2nd and 3rd teams drew players from the teams below... Needless to say - the 4th XI was decimated. It soon became apparent that the U15's who'd done so well the previous year with Erskine were now needed in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd teams.

It was now time for even younger players to step up and be counted...

 Joe Thompson (12), Harry Hodgson (12), Mohammed Baig (12), Abdul Baig (14), and Liam Harms (15). These younger players were joined by Ben Thompson (15) and Tim Brown (15) from the previous season. In addition to the younger players a number of players came out of retirement to help out - Gary Savage, Tony Harms (ex Pegasus), Stuart Munday and Tim Edmonds. The only regular 4th team players from the previous year that made regular appearances were Lee Dutton, Frank McLeod, John Bedford, Jamie Britton (keeper) and myself.

Almost every week we played with 5 players who were under 15, all of whom see themselves as bowlers. Frequently we had 1 or 2 under 13's players and on the odd occasion we had more than half the team made up of U15's and 13's. Having moved up a league, the outcome of this team set-up soon became apparent.

Pretty soon with no captaincy experience and listening to the more experienced players discussing our options on winning or losing the toss, I soon deduced that this season would be best viewed as an opportunity for the younger bowlers to learn their art at the tough end of the scale. So where possible in order to make a day of it, we'd bowl first. Opposition captains on seeing our team and looking to maximise their points tally did the right thing too and put us in to bowl, probably thinking that their batsmen would be able to fill their boots. This wasn't always the case.

The younger players as far as their bowling was concerned did exceptionally well, we came up against some decent batsmen that were hitting the ball hard and clean, often playing their shots in the areas that they wanted to. Bowling was tough and the under 15's on most occasions bowled out their full allocation of overs.

The retired players that came in, did us proud, particularly Stuart Munday, Gary Savage and Tim Edmonds later in the season, who all, despite the fact that we lost game after game remained positive and optimistic in the field, encouraging the kids and giving praise where it was due and not dwelling on the mistakes when made. This aspect of their involvement was a massive asset and if one person was to be singled out it would be Stuart Munday, his contribution to the team as Mr positive was very welcome from my point of view and that of the kids.

I therefore think that despite the fact that as a team it could be looked upon as a pretty depressing year, from the point of view of getting kids into adult cricket early and building their confidence, this year can be seen in very a positive light. Some of the younger 12 year olds took wickets and caused good batsmen problems, others held catches in the field and contributed in other ways. The under 15's did well too, Liam Harms hardly put a ball down all season and took wickets with his bowling.

My older son Ben, 15 years old done exceptionally well all summer. I've always managed to be just in front of him with regards batting scores, neither of us showing any particular flare with the bat. But, I've always felt that Ben's got far more potential than me and that he tells himself that he's no good and constantly opts to bat way down the order, so never really gets the opportunity to play a decent innings. But at the end of the season he scored a quick 25 in the last game of the season, hitting a number of 4's...
My own PB with the bat from the 2103 season was a 16 and Ben smashed this easily, so I've got some work to do! In addition to the PB with the bat in the previous week he took his first Michelle. Again, something I've never been able to achieve, 4 consecutive games with 4 wicket hauls when I was at Grays, but never a Five-fer.

So it was no surprise when at the end of the season the awards were give out that Ben got U15's bowler of the year and the Under 18's player of the year. Hopefully GCSE's, mobile phones and girlfriends aside he'll have a good year in 2015. I know the club are eyeing him up for playing in the 3rds, but he's undecided as to whether he wants to yet, I think another year in the 4th XI would be a better option as he'll get increasingly more confident with the bat. We'll have to see how it goes, but he's given up on a couple of things this year already because of other things going on in his life which I'm gutted about, so I think I and the club have got to play it carefully otherwise we could lose him. Neither of my sons are driven cricket players, they never watch it (Especially Ben) and by my reckoning it would only take a small thing to make them turn round and say 'Nah you know what you can do with your cricket'...

Ben hitting his 25 in the last game of the season v Upminster 6th XI
 Ben receiving one of his 2 awards off of Bob Ayers
 Proud Dad with Under 18's player of the year and U15's bowler of the year 2014 Ben Thompson
 Ben on hearing that he'd scored 25
Tim Brown, Ben Thompson, Dave Thompson (AKA Someblokecalleddave) Chris Debond
My younger son Joe, who for much of the season was only 12 years old (Birthday in July) bowled exceptionally well. I put him in to bowl against the Billericay Openers when we were all bowled out of the game for around about 60 runs as I recall, and he held his own almost getting a wicket or two as I recall with balls not quite going to hand, and causing the bats to take a far more cautious approach than you may have expected. I guess his abilities, attitude and the fact that he's ready to stand up and be counted have counted for a lot, as he's been put forward to trial for the South Essex team in his age group in a couple of weeks time. He's recovering well from his accident in 2014, and has lost all the weight that he put on over the initial recovery period, alongside that he's grown about a foot and has the physique of a bowler. I wouldn't be surprised if come next spring when he's still only 13 he'll be bigger than his older brother! I reckon the season just gone contributing to the 4ths has made a massive difference in his confidence and abilities.
 Bowling figures for the last game against Upminster 6th XI. All 3 of us bowled. Bad day at the office for Ben with an average of 6 and no wickets, maybe that was the incentive to hit the 25 runs? Joe did okay with 3-0-23-2 with an average of 3, but I came out on top on this occasion with 10-0-23-2 and average of 2.3.
Joe at an U13's game at Orsett earlier in the season.

Harry 'Bat' Hodgson U13's and 4th XI player.

I also had a chat with Harry 'Bat' Hodgson's parents recently... Harry is another one of my sons friends that we've introduced and encouraged to get involved in cricket and two years in succession has come away with awards for being best all-rounder and fielder in his age group. I had to pull Harry into a few of my 4th XI games the same as Joe and he too was only 12 years old and did fairly well. Harry, who is very polite and modest doesn't say a great deal, so I never knew whether he was enjoying his success or not, or whether he came along to the 4th XI games because his parents said 'Go on... get on with it'. But they've recently said at a dinner party that he in fact loves it, it's one of the things that he does that he really likes, I always had him down as a football player, but they both said "No, given the choice he'd play cricket any day of the week, he far more prefers it to football". They then went on to cite all of the things I don't like in football as being the reasons he doesn't like it despite the fact that he's one of the better players in his football team. He's looking forwards to playing in the 4th XI this coming summer.

Other things that I've tried to do is get the kids scoring and learn how to do that myself which meant that much of the time the scorebooks were a real mess, but the opposition captains were always pretty good about that which helped. Umpiring, with such an inexperienced side was always going to be a problem and proved to be so with some decisions being met with some unnecessary reactions from some quarters given the situation.

I was never going to be an Irskine Peters or anyone else for that matter, and I knew it would be a struggle. I have learned a little and I'm grateful to those that acted as my on-field strategists, we came close a few times and while I was away on holiday we won a game!!!  Somehow, miraculously we managed to scrape through the season and not drop down a league despite all the lost games. Given all the difficulties we faced, I think the main core of players that were there on a consistent basis still enjoyed being part of a team that blooded so many young players. All of the young players that were involved in the 4ths,  I'm confident that on returning to their own age group they did so with far more confidence and self belief.

One final mention - my lovely Wife Michelle. Everyone who had the pleasure of sampling her teas agreed that they were of a very high standard and I'd like to thank her for taking on that role.