Another cricket season has come to an end, and with that comes a period of assessment where I look back on the year pastâand happily I can take a great deal of pleasure in the season gone.
As I have mentioned in my column before, I came to cricket very late. I've been playing for about 11 years now and, until this season, it was all for the same club. That all changed when, with more than a little sadness, I moved to a new club, following a group of guys from my old team.
I have to be honest and say I was pretty nervous. I had no other experience than playing for my old club, and I had no idea what to expect. It meant meeting a bunch of new peopleâsomething that I find quite nerve wrackingâand going from running a club to being just another player. And, I am not a very good cricketer, and I had no idea how patient my new teammates would be with my failings. It was kind of like the first day at a new school.
However, this season has been my most successful ever on the field, and my experiences off it had made me feel like choosing this club was the right choice.
Towards the end, our old club was really struggling for numbers. Every week, the captain and I would start ringing around everyone we knew who had ever played for us, or played cricket back in the day, or once mentioned cricket favourably in a passing conversation, trying to get a full eleven for the weekend.
The association rules were that you needed to field six people on the day for the game to go ahead, but when you are short it makes things so much harder. When you are bowling, there seems be so many more gaps in the field, and when you bat every player has to score more runs to compensate.
Often we would play short, with nine or ten players, and the captain's young children filling in the field. And that also meant that the few of us with experience had to be either umpiring or scoring while not batting (the batting side providing those roles at our levelâno paid umpires for us). This meant you could never relax.
This year I found it incredibly refreshing to simply be able to turn up and play. I didn't have to worry about finding extra players, or organising morning tea, there were stretches where I could just sit and watch the game, or chat to my new teammates and get to know them. And with this sense of freedom came the ability to focus on the game itself, and my results reflected that.
I am the first to admit that I am not a very good cricketer. And, to be honest, I was nervous about playing with a new team and how I would fit. In my old club, I felt that my contributions off the field made me valuable to the team, even when I couldn't match that on a skill level.
However, from the moment I turned up at the first training I was made to feel welcomed. The club was massive compared to my previous experiencesâover eighty people at that first training night!âand ranged from guys who had been playing cricket all their life at a very high level to cricket tragics like myself who just loved the game.
Making My Own Way
The group of us who had come across were split amongst the eight teams, but we were playing with at least one person we knew. But, most of our team mates, and the captains, had no idea of our abilities. I found this fresh start meant that I was able to forge my own identity separate from the expectations of others.
I didn't magically turn into a wonderful cricketer overnight, but I found that being what was essentially a fresh start revitalised my cricket. I was never made to feel bad at my clubâquite the opposite, in factâbut I had fallen into the role of a not so good cricketer, almost convincing myself that was all I could be. But now I had a chance to start again. I took wickets and catches, and turned in at least one match winning performance.
I've always tried to put the team first, and the team winning was more important to me than my individual performanceâbut it felt good to contribute, to feel like I was a valuable player on the ground, too.
A Sense Of Community
But, the biggest thing about the new club for me is the sense of community I have found. My old club had no money, no resources andâmost importantlyâno home. We had wandered from ground to ground over the years, but there were no club rooms to go back to after a game. That meant that there was no hanging out with the guys from the other squad, no getting to know what some of the other players were like off the ground.
But at my new club, people from across the eight teams would come back to the home ground and the club rooms. Player's wives and kids would sometimes join us, and there was a huge amount of support for the junior teams from the seniors. And, retired players would drop in to see how things were going, and be welcomed warmly, their past contributions to building this club still valued.
All this created a sense of community, of being part of something bigger, not just a group of guys who turned up to play for a few hours and then went their separate ways.
Gone But Not Forgotten
I will always hold a soft spot for my old club. I am proud of the work we did there with under privileged men and recovering addicts, giving them a place to play. I will always be thankful for the opportunities I had there and the friendships I made. But, I am also thrilled with this new sporting home I have found, and I hope that my readers who play the game have found something similar at their club.
And, now I am already looking forward to next year!
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