Better late than never
It will come as no surprise to regular readers of this column to learn that I have been a lifelong cricket tragic, and that I can't remember a time when I wasn't watching cricket. But, when it comes to playing cricket I am a late bloomer, and not the healthiest plant in the garden. I played my first game of club cricket when I was about 27, which was far too late to pick up the muscle memory and ingrained skills that are required to be any good at the game. This also meant that I had only ever played for one cricket club (aside from a few invitational XIs) throughout my playing career—until this season.
For a number of reasons, the club that I started with isn't continuing this summer. This left me in the interesting position of looking for a new home. In the end, I decided to follow the bulk of our players to another local club. I attended my first training session last week and played my inaugural game for them—happily kicking off my new allegiance with a win. It has been fascinating starting again at a new club, and comparing the differences between the old and the new.
Words to live by
The first shock was turning up to my first training—which was combined with their season launch—and there being 68 guys in attendance! Coming from a smaller club where we were lucky to see six players at any given practice session it was a little overwhelming. As part of the season launch, the club invited the coach of a local football club, (Aussie Rules, not soccer, for my international friends) to come and address the assembled players. I wasn't sure what to expect, but what he had to say wasn't just relevant to cricket as well as football, but to life in general.
Culture is not just for yoghurt
This coach had the credentials to talk sport—a bag full of premierships and a winning record—but that doesn't always translate to wisdom outside the arena. But as I sat back and listened I took away a lot of things that really made me think. His big emphasis was on building a culture where players put the team before individual glory. His theory was that when everyone did that a team achieved more, and could deal with setbacks much better, than when it relied on moments of individual brilliance.
Reflecting on this, I realised that this was just as true at work, or at church, as it is in sport. Everyone comments on the sermon, but a healthy church depends on more than the person up the front—it is everyone pulling together, often behind the scenes and relatively unnoticed.
Talking behind your back
Another point he made was that it is easy for people to praise you to your face, but it is what they say about you when you are not around that reflects their true views. While this may sound a bit cynical, people do tend to take the easy way out and save their real opinions for when there are no consequences.
When our former captain moved to the new club, he was asked to give an honest assessment of the players he was bringing across with him. It wasn't intended for our eyes, and had a frank outline of our strengths and weaknesses. However, I ended up getting a peek (shhhh) and I have to say his rating of my athletic ability was fair but unflattering—but his comment that I always gave 110% meant a great deal to me. That's the sort of player I want to be, and I'd rather that's how others thought of me than as a brilliant cricketer who didn't care about the team.
All it made me wonder how I was regarded off the pitch, and whether I was modelling the sort of person that I wanted to be perceived as. I'd like to think so, but it is always worth taking a step back and thinking about it.
Living the lesson
Of course, talk is cheap. On Saturday I was given the chance to apply this motivational lesson to my own life. Playing my first game for my new team, I spent the day fielding without getting a bowl, then waited to bat, sitting there padded up when the winning runs were hit. The captain approached me after the game and told me I'd get a bat or a bowl next week, and that he hoped I didn't mind that I'd missed out.
It had been a long day, after the off season I was feeling fat and old, rusty and sore. I could have complained. But I remembered the lesson from that coach's speech and smiled.
"We won, that's all I am worried about. It's a team game, after all."
That's how I want to play cricket—and that's how I want to live my life.
David Goodwin is a freelance writer based in Melbourne. He is a cricket tragic, having run a cricket club and a cricket association, and attempts to hit sixes and bowl legspin as often as possible
David Goodwin's archive of articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/david-goodwin.html