As some of you know I used to be a keen if less than gifted cricketer playing nightwatchman in my village’s 4th XI. At no point in my painfully drawnout cricketing ‘career’, if it can be called such, did I set the scoreboard alight with my strokeplay. I played each ball on merit – sadly my version of merit rather than that of the delivery. My forward defensive was indistinguishable from say a hook in the general direction of square leg.
In 2012 I retired from cricket. Then again in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021. And all points in between. I made more comebacks, if they amount to that, than a person who has made a very large number of comebacks. Each one was largely unnoticed. Even by myself.
My most recent retirement, on medical grounds was clearest. Having had electrodes implanted deep into my brain (yes, really – they don’t call it deep brain stimulation for nothing) and a battery pack in my chest, I was advised by my neurologist that playing cricket was tantamount to suicide. I thought he was commenting on my batting but he actually meant what he said. A direct hit by a cricket ball on my battery pack – and with my limited ability to read the delivery leaving the bowler’s hand, that’s a very real possibility – might rupture the cell and fill my chest with lithium. Not good. “And if that doesn’t kill you, I will” he said. “You are not to play cricket”.
“So, reading between the lines” I said, “you don’t think I should play cricket?” Even so, I don’t think he should have called security to have me removed from the building. I can take a hint.
So last season, following retirement number 10, I set out to find new ways of enjoying cricket from the sidelines, occasionally venturing onto the playing surface to bring out gloves or squash during the drinks interval, sometimes even discreetly helping myself to a slice of unsupervised fruitcake or a sandwich or two. Sometimes I took my camera to games and, occasionally got some good shots. My way of being involved as much as I could from the sidelines.
But this season I have discovered club fantasy cricket. Okay not the same as playing cricket but it does involve playing cricket. Specifically others playing cricket. Basically you enter a hypothetical team (derived from real players at the club itself) on a given budget. It’s all a bit IPL-ish. Each week points are awarded to the players on the basis of the runs they score, the wickets they take along with stumpings and catches. I shan’t name names but here are my 11 players.
TT – batsman. Started out as a spin bowler, much like his elder brother but has become a talented batsman.
AB – batsman. Son of one of the BYJ’s legends. Volatile and aggressive bat.
R LD – batsman principally. Fairly consistent scorer. Good anchor.
AW – batsman. Perhaps a gamble but could be a fair bet.
VP – all-rounder. Guaranteed to take wickets and guaranteed to score heavily and quickly. Probably in everybody’s fancy team.
JH – all-rounder and captain. Lovely batsman to watch, beautiful timing and can be relied upon to bowl some overs if needed. A wise head on relatively young shoulders. The obvious choice for captain.
MHC – wicket-keeper. Replacing previous keeper who has broken his toe. Loves his cricket. Good egg and team player.
GS – bowler. Club legend. Say no more.
DO – bowler. I would have put him in the all-rounder category to be honest. Always likely to get wickets when called upon.
CM – bowler. Can also bat a bit if needed. Elegant bowling action reminiscent of Jeff Thompson to me at least.
TM – bowler. Another one who can bat a bit. Probably the most complicated bowling action I’ve ever seen but seems to get wickets.
After one week, my team’s lies 12th out of 33 teams. And I have high hopes for the season. In the spirit of the IPL I have named my team “Jon’s Joyriders”.