This was first published back in 2011, but as we’re rebuilding the website we thought you might like another read…
I could have been a contender…
That’s always the way isn’t it? Everyone harbours at least one secret little hankering that if this, that or the other had been different then probably, possibly, maybe, things would have worked out so they could have made it. you know as a model, a writer, an actor, a Spaceman, anything other than the be-suited nine to five drone than they actually became.
It doesn’t often make for a good start to a story, does it? What usually follows is more whining donkey than Raging Bull and a story wrapped more in self loathing and fear than missed opportunity and any sense of empathy. So I’m going to try and not bore you with any of that crap.
Mainly because I’ve no idea how good enough a cricketer I could have been and that’s what this story is mostly going to be about. I do know that I enjoyed playing cricket though; between the ages of about ten and sixteen I probably didn’t enjoy anything more. I just never did anything about it.
Nothing except for playing with friends, practically every day over every summer, practising against a wall when there was no one to have a game with and, one year, cultivating a wicket on the school field next to our house, yes, a wicket, yes with a mower and a roller, no it wasn’t test match standard and I’ve no idea whose the equipment was, it was just left lying around, honest.
The nothing that I specifically did was going and joining a club. My Dad worked shifts and my mum didn’t drive so I didn’t like to ask, a call that was supported by all the tales I’d heard of this club or t’other which usually concluded with the statement, “well, it’s [where ever], they’re all up their own arses there”. Needless to say though, self doubt played a part, I was never a cocky or confident child, if I had been or if there had been a few less dreams about swinging punches that never landed, then I may well have pushed the issue.
But this isn’t a story about my childhood and it’s not some self help project. As you’ll find out in a minute, if I had pushed the issue then, I wouldn’t be writing this now. But before we leave the past behind, let’s just leave a line on the crease just so that we can see how back (backward) we’ve come.
I’d have been about 18 or 19 when I left playing cricket behind. It had been a few years then since I’d played with any regularity, a couple of games at college, a couple of pick-up games and some inter-hall thing at Uni would have been about it. As with most lads of that age, I’d found other things to do between football seasons. Hell, sex and drugs and rock’n’roll had even started to impinge on my winter Saturday’s so what chance did anything else had.
Fast forward about 20 years, and my nephew has taken up playing for the local under 11s and the odd Friday after work watching him (with a pint, obviously), followed by increasingly regular Sunday afternoons watching the grown-ups got the spinning finger itching and the front foot creeping forward. So I bought a bat (a cheap one) and I made my four year old lad bowl at me in the back-yard. He loved it, before you start on the accusations of cruelty, if you want to go there then he’d already started at Latics by then.
But that wasn’t enough and that August Bank Holiday, watching the club’s annual sixes tournament, I found myself resolving to enter the next one. Yes I was a bit pissed, but, by the end of the evening, I’d convinced a team’s worth of mates to sign up too. They hadn’t spent all day drinking and at least one of them was always going to pull me up and remind me twelve months later, not that I wanted to forget about it. The day was a laugh and it would be a great excuse to do something I’d used to enjoy, but was probably too old to try and do anything proper about.
Fast forward again, I’ve just had a few extra quid from work and I’ve been out and bought some (again cheap) gear to kit out our team for the approaching sixes. Rather than sitting in the shed waiting for the Bank Holiday, it’s got me a bit giddy and I’ve already chucked my name in the hat for the (Wigan Athletic fanzine) Mudhutter C.C. team. And it’s another sunny Sunday, and I’ve had another few ciders and I’m talking to the Fourth Team captain.
“Who do I need to speak to about coming for a net?” says I,
“Oh, so you fancy a go do you?” comes the reply.
Fast forward again, just a couple of weeks this time and I (or someone who looks very much like me) am trudging back from the wicket to the changing rooms with a big fat duck next to my name. No, not a big fat duck, a big fat golden one, I’d managed to get dragged into a proper game. Without a net, without a chance to find out how good I might have been and how much toll the intervening years had taken on my eyes and my reactions.
Not that it would have mattered. What undid me was a simple rush of blood to the head, a hoike at the nippy fifteen year old that I’d found running in at me and the fact that he’d managed to get one on target. Still, I’d had a reasonable afternoon in the field, so embarrassing myself in front of my kids was nowhere near enough to put me off and I knew before I’d reached the clubhouse steps that I wasn’t going to be beaten. Just as much as I knew that I’d only missed the ball by a bit and if I’d been a bit quicker, it would have gone for a four (honest).
And that’s just about where this story ends. There were another three games in the season, but they’re start of another story, that I hope to tell you one way or another. Suffice to say for now that there was a double figure average in it for someone at the end of the season, I never made the sixes tournament (it’s just not the done thing for playing members to join in, plus we had a game) although my mates valiantly struggled to the wooden spoon without me and that I trudged up in January for winter nets.
And I’m looking forward to next season, which at the age of forty will be my first season of proper competitive cricket, playing for a fourth team in the Liverpool and District Cricket Competition 3rd XI (Sunday) 1st Division (East). It could be an absolute car crash, but I’m intent on enjoying it either way, I’m going to be a contender!