Fantasy Bob : Captaincy
The latest installment from our blogger, Fantasy Bob!
First Published 11 March 2013: Captaincy.
There are many aspects of cricket in which the experience of the Test player, the county player and even the SNCL player differs in important respects from that of cricketers who form the bedrock of cricket in the lower leagues. Perhaps none is more stark than the approach to captaincy. Fantasy Bob investigates.
It seems to be Mike Brearley’s fault that captaincy is deemed an art, a mystical combination of psychology and tactical acumen. Modern conditions also require skills at press conference and managing the fall out from Twitter. International captains may be born but they are also groomed – thus Alistair Cook was ready at the instant of Andrew Strauss’ retirement. Michael Clarke had been hier apparent to Ricky Ponting for many years. They are surrounded by support teams and advisers. Even so for most of the top players captaincy depresses their averages. The pressure they say, is relentless. The expectation. The limelight. They do not know the half of it.
For in the lower leagues, captaincy certainly remains an art. Exactly which art is open to question with the surreal or the absurd the most likely candidates. But at the end of a gruelling day of press conference and massage sessions a Michael Clarke might look down from his Mount Olympus and think that a lower league skipper such as Fantasy Bob has the best of all possible worlds. Why then does the man look tired and haggard. Why does he twitch? Why does he constantly mutter under his breath ‘The b......s’?
What Clarke does not see is the reality of lower league captaincy. For captains in the lower leagues are not born, few achieve it. They all have it thrust upon them at club meetings at which they are absent. They spend the season in the hope that they will lose the toss for it is too difficult to decide what to do when it is won.
So the poor wretch that Clarke watches has had to chase around until just after midnight to find his eleventh man; after an troubled sleep feverishly wondering if he will bat or bowl in the unlikely event that he wins the toss he wakes exhausted to find a succession of text messages. The first team’s wicketkeeper’s wife’s gone into labour three weeks early; the two’s opening bat has woken with a return of his sciatica; and the three’s fast bowler was last seen in a nightclub on Thursday. After another 2 hours phoning all morning he’s had to call in that 10 year old that was hanging around nets earlier in the week. The 10 year old’s great granddad has also volunteered to turn out.
He likes to get to the ground early but with all the texting he’s already behind schedule and when he gets there he finds he's left the pavilion keys at home. Half an hour later he is finally in the pavilion but beginning to sweat. So much to do. He marks the wicket but there is a calamity with the whitewash – he has seen green wickets, he has seen brown wickets and all shades in between. But he’s never seen a white wicket……….he hopes the opposing skipper will put it down to local soil characteristics. His thumb is already aching with RSI from the texting but as he sets up the scoreboard he makes sure it will throb all afternoon as he crushes it with the heel of his shoe he uses to hammer the hooks back into place. His yell of agony sets all dogs within half a mile barking. When he lifts the box with the numbers, the bottom gives way, out fall the numbers badly bruising his foot. Another yell of pain and dogs a mile off join in. He checks the dressing rooms and having removed three mouldy sandwiches and several dangerously volatile socks he finds the toilet's flooded. His long experience of bad language unexpectedly comes to the assistance of his plumbing skills; he's remembered to buy the milk for tea but has left it in the car in the sun where it’s curdled; he suddenly remembers that he has to send a text reminder to the team of the new junior seam bowler's allergy to nuts, fish, eggs ,cheese and chicken – he suggests they all bring cake for tea – his thumb now won’t bend at all; he's had to rummage in the kit store to find the 6th stump and even then he's not sure they are a matching set, in fact one seems distinctly shorter than the others, he’s survived 10 minutes of frantic panic searching for the scorebook, he finds it soggily wrapped in his still damp towel at the bottom of his bag. His heart rate has only just comes back to within normal range but goes nuclear again as the tea urn blows a fuse when he plugs it in. He sets out to give the wicket a last roll but the engine seizes at the far end. He manages through the sheer power of bad language to push it off the pitch and he collapses into a seat thinking he just about has everything under control when the opposing skipper phones wondering where he is. He takes the fixture card out of his pocket. He can’t find his specs but the microscopic text shimmers briefly into focus but long enough for him to detect that what he has taken week as H is in fact A. !!!!!! A mad dash to the opponent’s ground leaves traffic mayhem behind him and he finally joins his hand picked team as they casually practice dropping catches in a corner of the outfield. 'Where the hell have you been skipper?' they ask, solicitous as ever after his welfare. 'Did you remember the wicket keeping gloves? ****!
Tired? Haggard? After all that, facing Dale Steyn would seem like a rest.