Bob Lethaby-Leader of Men
Posted on May 14, 2012
The rain backed off for a couple of days this weekend meaning I could lead the Oakley men’s Sunday XI in to combat for the first time this season against the might of Farleigh Wallop. To be nominated as the captain of a cricket team at the age of 44 is a proud moment, even if you do take in to account that there were no other candidates for the position. I can officially make a promise to anyone thinking about taking on a task of this magnitude, that although it may seem a piece of cake, you have ten other players who have given up their Sunday afternoon to play for you and all of them need entertaining. As a captain, you are torn between wanting to win the game and making sure that everyone goes home feeling like they have made enough of a contribution to make them want to come back next time. Fielding eleven players is a semi-modest achievement on a sunny May afternoon, to entertain them enough to want to do it every week until mid September is something worthy of an MBE.
Farleigh Wallop arrived as friendly mixture of young bucks and beer guts, a team that certainly had experience but looked beatable, so, fielding first, I took the decision play an experienced bowler (Sam) alongside a new member and two of our colts players who had not bowled since last summer courtesy of the recent wet weather. As a consequence, Farleigh raced to 75-1 off 13 overs, leaving me to ponder whether I should have opened with our best two bowlers to start with before bringing these young lads on later in the game. However, my problem was that they had both opened the bowling for the Saturday first team the day before, so to bowl them against a Sunday team was, to use a rather apt term…. just not cricket. This it seemed, was to be the first of many dilemmas that I would face this summer. What was I to do?
Sod it, I bought them (Tommy and George) on to stem the flow of runs, but with more devastating consequences than I could possibly have imagined. Within what seemed like a few minutes 75-1 turned in to 93 for seven with George bowling five overs, conceding no runs and taking three wickets whilst Tommy at the other end was proving a real threat to the teeth and testicles of the batsmen who until now had taken runs like candy off of kids courtesy of byes and a few wides. Of course, the opposition then began to tut tut a little bit at the reason why we had fielded first team players in a Sunday game. This captaining lark puts you in a no win situation, but if I have learnt one thing already, it is to ignore the opposition chirping. I decided to take Tommy and George off, thus denying them a mention in the Wisden book of cricket records, but in doing so, I allowed the opposition to reach 134, not an insurmountable target……or so I thought!
Clash of the Titans: Oakley versus Farleigh
My stoical openers Julian and Mark went for nought and two respectively and after a brief flurry of fours from Bradley and a patient but disappointing two from George, I found myself walking to the crease. Bradley was out no sooner than I had arrived, leaving it to me and Tommy to go on a rescue mission at 20 for four. I batted for over an hour for eight miserly crafted runs, an innings that at best could be described as turgid, at worst, downright depressing, but in my own defence, my job was to hold up my end and let Tom, then his brother Sam, do the hitting. If we batted for forty overs we would win, though I must admit, I was going at a rate that I would have to have been in for over six hours to reach the maiden fifty I have always yearned for. When I was eventually out to a ball that hit the ground at about four miles per hour before slowing down and rolling on to my leg stump I nearly threw up. It was a major vomit inducing moment to get out in such a shocking manner, my desperate look at the umpire for a no ball was a desperate look wasted.
The team fought on, but with Sam and Tom back in the hatch our number was up, making me wish I had been more flamboyant in my stroke making rather than doing a fine impression of a corpse with pads on. We lost the game, but at least everyone had batted and bowled, no-one could go home saying that they hadn’t had a fair chance and most critically, there seemed to be a genuine desire to come back next week, something that is vital when trying to keep a Sunday team together. Could we have won the game? Yes, quite easily, if I had bowled George, Tommy or Julian for ten overs each right from the start it would have been carnage. Would have that been the right thing to do? Not in my opinion no, new and young players have to be given regular opportunities to step up and hopefully develop in to Saturday league cricketers, otherwise they will just give up and go somewhere else. However, there is nothing worse than doing your shift as an umpire (especially when you are captain) when the opposition are being really chirpy and doing ludicrously unfunny impressions of each other just because they are about win. I hated that, I really did.
So for marks out of ten, I will offer myself a seven, mainly because everyone played their part, we took money in the bar afterwards and no-one got hurt. The one thing I could have tried to do is stem the run flow earlier, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. At a mature age, perhaps I still have a lots of things to learn, losing being one of them.
One final question that needs answering.
Am I the most boring batsman ever to play Sunday cricket?