With apologies to the ORTCC continuity department, here’s a piece that first appeared in the May 2016 issue of the Mudhuts Football Express when it was indeed the end of the football season…
Yes, the football season is still going on and Latics are doing their usual thing of keeping it interesting to the bitter end (can we get our request in for a relatively quiet, boring, fair-to-midtabling season next year now) but time waits for no man. The clocks have sprung forwards, people are moaning that it’s colder than it should be at this time of year and massive bags have started appearing all over our house which must mean that it’s the cricket season.
If you’ve ever shown an interest, had a child who played at a club or had the misfortune to drink with a regular player, you’ll know that teams are always on the lookout for unsuspecting victims adults to help out. You probably told them to eff off, but they’re a persistent bunch are cricketers and chances are they’ll wear you down at some point and you’ll be thinking about playing, if it wasn’t all so damn complicated and intimidating.
Well stop worrying your pretty head because here’s the Mudhutter’s guide to blagging those blokes in white that you’ve always been one of them.
You might be tempted to nip down to your local sports discount store and stock up on gear, after all, Slazenger used to make decent cricket stuff, right? Well maybe, but kitting yourself on the high street is going to mark you out as a right whopper. There’s only to ways to go here, and both involve a bit of work…
Option 1 is to do your research, get the latest and obscurest brand bat you can find, buy two of them and digest all the technical blurb. Be ready to give chapter and verse on pick up, edge sizes spine height, ping and willow density and then add matching pads, gloves and a helmet made out stuff they’d usually use on a space shuttle. If you’re any good then no one will mention it, if you mess up then you might hear someone mutter “All the gear and no idea” which is just their way of saying “I wish I had all your stuff”.
Option 2 is to go retro. If you can, dig out the stuff you had at school, if you can’t beg, steal, borrow or ebay a get-up that tells everyone that you took it seriously back in the day, but you’ve had better things to do since then. Ideally, your bat will have the patina of David Dickinson after a week on the Costas and your jumper either on the skinny side of snug (if you can carry it off) or so stretched and misshapen that you stand no chance of taking a catch without tripping over it (at least you’ve got a ready made excuse).
You’re going to get abuse either way, but it’s better than the silent pity you’ll get if you’re decked out in Sports Direct’s finest.
Yes, sledging is part and parcel of the game at all levels, but the lucky thing for you is that it’s not compulsory so you can keep out of that until you know where you stand in the pecking order of such things. There’s nothing worse than telling the batsman he’s only got one shot, only to find out that he plays it ten times better than anyone on your team and is more than capable of scoring a hundred with it (also see “he can’t hit it off the square lads” shortly followed by the ball whistling past your ear for the third of four consecutive boundaries).
What is compulsory is encouraging your team mates. And here are some key, essential phrases to keep the bowler going:
“Pitch it up” – basically, the stock advice to any bowler, if you’re not sure what’s going on, just say this every other ball and no-one will notice.
“Use the facilities” – most bowlers don’t pitch it up because they’re not good enough, repeated encouragement to try is going to lead them to produce bowling that only bounces somewhere behind the keeper. The facilities in question are that bit of ground in front of the batsman’s feet.
“He misses you hit mate” – to let the bowler know that he’s done that rare thing of actually bowling a ball that would have hit the stumps, had the batsman not cream it straight back past him
“Let’s get it outside off” – the stock response when the bowler responds to the challenge of bowling straight by firing one three foot wide of batsman’s arse.
“Back on it buddy” – If you’ve already used the other four phrases this over, the bowler is being a bit erratic and it’s time to pull this phrase out, basically translates as “you’re bowling shit, stop it now or I’ll annoy you to death by calling you buddy for the rest of the game”
and so the fielders don’t feel left out…
“good chase” – a handy encouragement for the lad who just failed to get anywhere near stopping that four, but still managed to run full on into the fence behind the boundary
“good arm” – if, by some miracle, he manage to stop the next one if he manages to through the ball back within 20 metres of the stumps.
“good try” – when the next ball in his direction comes down with snow on it and hits him in the face in his attempt to catch it
“That’s the standard boys” – when he trips up running to field, falls over and the ball hits him square in the bollocks
And finally, you only need to know two things about encouraging batsman…
If you’re not out on the field then you just need to get the most out of a single word. It’s amazing how different the word “shot!” (as in ‘good shot’) can sound when expressed with excitement, amazement or sarcasm. Basically, if you chose the right tone then you can get away with it after every ball, just follow the lead of your fellow non-batsmen.
If you’ve had the misfortune to find yourself out there with the £400 bat that you’re scared of breaking and the £100 pads that you don’t want to get dirty. Then you’ve got the tricky situation of having to talk to your batting partner. Don’t worry though, he’s probably as scared as you are about it. Don’t worry about forming any intelligent cricket conversation, try talking about Eastenders, the football.
Failing that just mumble things like “keep going”, “keep working”, “new bowler, let’s have a look at him first” and “dig in”, to be honest they don’t mean anything but they’re better than asking questions about what the ball is doing or how the bowler is doing, because no one is paying enough attention to answer those questions anyway.
So you already know that sledging is acceptable, but best kept away from if you’re inexperienced. But cricket is a game for gentlemen so obviously there are plenty of rules that go with it but there’s two that will see you safe through to the end of your first couple of games.
Lapping. It’s totally acceptable, ney essential for adult members of the batting team to circle the ground whilst the games are on. Firstly, it stops the joints ceasing up after all your exertions; secondly it keeps you away from any juniors who no doubt will be extolling the virtues of WWE, discussing the exploits of YouTubers and actually giving a shit about Premier League football.
However it’s important to only ever walk anti-clockwise around the wicket. It’s not a sign of anti-establishment thinking but a simple superstition “right means runs” you see and if they flow on your first lap then you just need to keep going. Me, I’m lucky if I make it three quarters around without having to sprint back and put my pads on because of another batting collapse, but that’s Sunday cricket for you.
And then, the away team must always eat first at tea. It doesn’t matter how hungry you are, how good the food looks, how much farting about they’re doing in the changing room or even if they’ve stepped aside to let you in, you wait and you let all of them past before you even start to think about who’s pies they’ve got. Anything else and you risk the wrath of the club stalwart, WAG or hassled mum who’s given up their afternoon to butter bread and toss salad.
And there’s an extra tip for free, you can get away with pissing a lot of people off in life, but there’s two that you should never, ever upset if you want to get on in cricket, number one is the umpire, closely followed by the tea lady.
At the end of the day, for all the talk about the spirit of cricket, the fact that it’s a competitive sport and all the work that goes into maintaining the grounds and facilities, a cricket club is judged on one thing and one thing alone. The quality of its teas.
Get it right and players will forget all the crap you’ve given them for the last few hours, the fact that your opening bowler was offering their opening batter out on Twitter last night and all those LBW appeals they had turned down, umpires will be happy, will give you decisions in the second half of the season and club officials will be less pernickity about other aspects of your behaviour because they want to come back.
So what makes a good tea? It’s a matter of preference but plates of home cooked meat, crusty bread and something warm (hot pot, chili or the like) always goes down well. A thrown together barm per player, a multipack of aldi crisps and a mini roll, less so.
Woah, hang on, it’s only tea. Drinking during the game is frowned upon by most serious cricketers (although a captain did once suggest I have a couple of glasses of red before I went out to bat to boost my confidence – I was too hungover to give it any serious thought). You can only have your first pint when you’ve got changed, and you can only get changed when the game’s finished (sorry, I didn’t mention that sooner, file it with waiting for all the juniors to disappear before you take your kit off).
Luckily there’s not much etiquette in this area, the captain is expected to get a round in for the visitors, and you’d do well to remember that he picked you and is in control of your batting position and bowling opportunities. But apart from that, this is where club cricketers can really match their professional counterparts, and the final rule of club cricket – all good cricketers have big thirsts.
Drink, drink and be merry… oh and enjoy your summer.