Six Things You’ve Forgotten by the Start of Cricket Pre-Season
In my experience, you don’t really realise how cold and dark winter is until, despite your common sense, you head to your first hit of cricket pre-season.
And it’s raining. And it’s dark. And you’re parked sixty rows back in the parking lot, in the first available carpark, miles away from the entrance to the indoor nets. You’ve forgotten the five bucks you need to chip in for net hire, and worst of all, you’ve come straight from work without your runners – which means you’ll be running in off four paces and bowling full-tosses in your Windsor-Smiths.
The ridicule will be uncompromising.
Despite all this, you head inside. Because maybe, just maybe, if you take pre-season seriously this year, then you won’t be bowling beamers and playing-and-missing til after Christmas.
You ended last season like any other cricketer: you felt like you were finally getting into some form. But cricket isn’t Million Dollar Minute. There are no carry-overs from day to day. Your form doesn’t resume as soon as you strap on your pads and pick up your bat.
Here are six things you’ve forgotten by the start of cricket pre-season:
#1: You’ve forgotten where you stored your kit.
You’ve looked everywhere – under the bed, on top of the cupboard, in the deep recesses of the garage. And you can’t find it anywhere.
“Oh, jeez,” you murmur, considering the worst: “Maybe it’s been stolen!”
And for a second, you seriously consider this, until you try to picture it being pilfered:
“Quick, grab the cricket bag!” says one burglar to another. “We can sell it at Cashies and make some fast money!”
The other burglar cocks his head, considers the lumpy bag in front of them, and responds, “nah, this bloke’s got a Slazenger bag with Michael Clarke on the front. And his helmet has fabric on it. I doubt even an op-shop would take it.”
That’d be right.
And then the logical conclusion of this hunt is that your cricket kit turns out to be where it always is: the attic/crawl-space/spare room, covered in cobwebs. Your girlfriend knows this – she’s a keeper, that one. And speaking of things you hold on to:
#2: You’re gonna get “one more season” out of your bat / gloves / helmet / bag…
…no matter how battered they are. No matter how chipped, or beaten-down, or smelly.
Are you being nostalgic? Maybe. “I hit the winning runs in a premiership with this bat!” But more than likely, you’re being stingy.
And rightfully so. Just like golf, cricket is a sport requiring expensive, custom gear.
I mean, you could get a brand new Woodworm bat, with maybe some new Kookaburra pads and a shit-hot new Albion helmet. But you’d also have to explain to the missus why you had to re-mortgage the house.
Nah, you’re better off getting one more year out of the gear you already have. Even if there are grass-stains, beer-stains, or cigarette burns – they’ll still cost you far less in street cred than they would in dollars to actually replace them.
Besides, even if your bat is practically broken in half, it’s not worth replacing for pre-season for the pure fact that:
#3: You’ve forgotten how to deal with leg-side bowling.
You’re a batsman. It’s pre-season. It’s supposed to be a confidence-booster for you. And, hey, if you take some scalps with you – so be it, they’re bowlers, they’ll live.
So – whack! Whack! Whack! You deal with anything on-or-around off-and-middle with pure, unmitigated, pre-season violence.
They used to say that Bradman batted like classical music – and at pre-season, you’re batting with all the subtlety of hiphop-infused hardcore metal funk-rap, feasting on half-volleys and brute-forcing yourself in to form for the remainder of the season.
You feel great.
That is, until, you get a few deliveries on your pads, and self-preservation kicks in:
- On-drive? Hell no, I’m getting out of the way.
- Pull shot? Hell no, I’m getting out of the way.
- Clip off my toes down to fine leg? Hell no, I’m getting out of the fucking way.
Expect to hear the dispiriting sound of your stumps being clattered down regularly by any leg-side bowling.
But no matter how bad your first hit is, don’t get too downtrodden. The tables will be turned when you realise that:
#4: You’ve forgotten how to bowl.
This is one I personally lived through only last weekend.
I turned up to pre-season training in my Vermont Cricket Club hoodie, my 2009/2010 vintage Vermont Cricket Club top, my black Nike running shorts and my “I mean business” ASICS runners. I looked like a Pure, Unstoppable Cricketing Force.
And that’s about as good as it got.
Things were shaky enough when I was marking my run-up. “How many steps do I make to mark it? Ouch – did my glutes just twinge?”
I can remember standing at the top of my mark, looking at the batsman, holding the cherry, and thinking, “now I send this down… there?”
The pitch looks like twenty-two yards going on sixty meters. The stumps are tiny. And I can’t remember fucking anything about bowling.
“Which foot do I start on? What does my left arm do? Which way do I swing it?”
“…Did I EVER know how to bowl?”
Dead-set, at the start of pre-season I could be convinced that I’d never played cricket before in my life, and that all my cricketing memories were just fever dreams my mind had concocted over a long winter.
And yes, for those of you who were wondering: my first ball made Steven Harmison’s 2007 offering look like a Glenn McGrath stock ball.
But it’s not all bad for bowlers. Things will get better. After all, if there’s one thing that EVERYONE forgets, it’s that:
#5: Cricket balls bruise.
Long after you’ve remembered how to bat, this lesson will last the longest.
Traditionally, cricketers spend each season building up an immunity to cricket balls. Catching drills that started lazy at the beginning of the season end up being brutal. Bouncers that were ducked and avoided are being hooked and pulled with no regard for personal safety, because you’ve built up that tolerance.
Unfortunately, that resistance has all but diminished over winter.
It’s cold. I’m cold. The nets are cold. And these cricket balls are so fucking hard.
But don’t be disheartened. All that this is reminding you of, is the number one thing you’ve forgotten during the off-season:
#6: You hate cricket.
Bruises. Cooked hammys. Rolled ankles. Plays-and-misses. The uber-talented kids, one third of your age, who’ve rocked up to pre-season training in droves, just to rub in how over-the-hill you are.
Cricket’s a prick of a game.
But you’ll play anyway.
Because of the blokes you play with. Because of the beer. Because of the tantalising prospect of finishing top-three in the major reverse raffle.
And because maybe, just maybe, this’ll be your year. You’ve got a good feeling about this one…
…until you realise you’ve forgotten where you’ve stored your whites. (Hint: they’re unwashed at the bottom of your bag, and they stink to high heaven.)
Is there something we’ve forgotten that we forgot at the beginning of the cricket season? Leave your comments below and let us know!