Six county sides are beginning pre-season trips to Barbados, where they’re competing in the Barbados T20 Cup – and AOC’s roving reporter James Buttler is joining them. Here’s the first in his series of blogs on one of the toughest jobs in cricket…
It’s A Tough Job
My first blog finds me in the departure lounge at Manchester airport watching the Yorkshire team popping in and out of duty free shops. Dressed in blue tracksuits bearing the famous White Rose they hunt for bargains to pass the time before their plane jets to sunnier climes.
We’d left Headingley at 8.30am to avoid road works on the M62, which meant we arrived at Manchester airport at 10am for an 11.30am check-in time. There’s nothing like being keen. High spirits and banter littered the trip, with topics as varied as ‘which animal has the smallest brain’ (a couple of Yorkshire players were suggested) to someone being photographed going for a sneaky wee in the jungle only to see a lion’s head in the photo developed later – a close call. Whether the weather was wet in Barbados was a constant theme as iPhone forecasts suggested a 50 per cent chance of precipitation. Then I heard Yorkshire’s new 2nd XI coach, Paul Farbrace, telling Yorkshire’s new 1st XI coach, Jason Gillespie, about being on the bus attacked by terrorists in Sri Lanka. The airport couldn’t arrive soon enough.
Pre-season is an exciting time for any cricketer. Whether you’re hunting around the loft hoping you remembered to wash your socks before you hurled your kitbag away in a September huff, or whether you ironed, cleaned and archived your whites in an OCD haze, it’s time to get yourself sorted.
You may have already found your gear in a stinking, fungal infested mess or have been casually opening large brown boxes of the latest cricket delights delivered to your county club by kit sponsors. Whatever the state or standard of your preparation and at all different levels of the game, hope manifests itself in various guises.
When I played club cricket I hoped my winter gut, unfortunately now a perennial feature, would permit my left elbow to travel unhindered from back-lift to graceful follow through when driving. I calculated in which year the annual drop of 5mph off the speed of my once lightning fast inswinging yorker would result in the ball not making it to the batsman at all.
For all of us, regardless, this pre-season period is one of hope, optimism and anticipation – hope that practice has made perfect, optimism that fortune favours the brave (and you might be brave enough) and anticipation that your name will feature on the first team sheet of the summer.
This could be the year when it all clicks together. You might become an important fixture in your club team, or one of these Yorkshire players, currently buying new earphones in an airport electrical shop, might – just might – find that all the winter fitness work, all that effort, the self analysis, the disappointments of 2011, the hours of training – might – just might – result in an opening day hundred or a hatful of April wickets, and see their careers soar faster than a Virgin Atlantic Barbados bound Boeing.
Six foot 8 inch fast bowler Oliver Hannon-Dalby led the charge to secure seats with more leg room and Yorkshire are airborn, with me tagging along. The Tykes are the first of six English counties heading for the Caribbean during the latter half of March. They are joined by Derbyshire, Hampshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire – all of whom have that same hope that 2012 will be their year.
The mission I have been set by All Out Cricket, which didn’t take me too long to accept, is to bring you the sights, sounds and atmosphere of spending two weeks in Barbados with six teams of county cricketers.
It’s a tough job, eh?
Click here for this week’s Caught On Camera.