Thinking of being daring this summer…? Michael Cooper and his mates gave it a go, and they’re loving every second.
The idea to set up our own cricket team was born via a combination of alcohol and mild sunstroke (the same combination that inspired Flintoff to hop on that pedalo…) whilst on a weekend trip to Barcelona. We had grown weary of the cold, wet mornings of Sunday league football and yearned for something with a more gentlemanly pace and etiquette: cricket seemed like the perfect choice. Despite the fact that none of us had ever played cricket before, we didn’t let a little thing like that deter us from going ahead with our plan.
Once the hangovers subsided, it was time to get to work. Fortunately for us, we knew enough people to be able to get a side out, so that was the first box ticked. The next task was to sort out fixtures for our inaugural season and after speaking to our local county cricket contact we had a list of cricket clubs to help get us started.
Despite our fledgling status, we managed to arrange 10 fixtures to kick-start our cricketing careers. Now we had a team to field and teams to play, it was then a matter of practice, and fine-tuning a rag-tag group of former footballers into a lean, mean cricketing machine. The first few sessions weren’t our finest work, my own bowling was all a bit Steve Harmison first ball of the 06/07 Ashes. After an intensive three-month winter training programme, though, we were ready for action.
On Sunday April 25, 2010, the Kent Ramblas made their debut against Wickham Park and despite a spirited effort that saw us restrict our opponents to 218-7, we were skittled out for 49, losing by a mere 169 runs. The remaining nine games of the season followed the same script but among the defeats there were some highlights. The first half-century in Ramblas history was scored, the first maximum struck and a few bowlers even managed to keep their economy-rate below six an over.
Our first two-and-a-half years saw us improve on the field as well as grow off it. We managed to secure a home ground as well as sponsorship so that we’d at least resemble a proper cricket outfit. However our record in that period stood at 29 games played, 29 games lost…
The biggest challenge of those early years was motivation. As much as we were having fun learning our craft, keeping everyone’s spirits up during heavy defeats was tough. Securing the home pitch was a key moment as it allowed us to host teams that were nearer our skill level, ensuring that we were involved in more even contests, even if they still resulted in defeats. Our excellent teas were also pivotal in keeping the players happy and keen to turn up on a Sunday.
The breakthrough came on Sunday July 1, 2012, when we beat Kidbrooke CC by 104 runs to record our first victory. The sense of relief was palpable, proof that the last few years of work had been worth it. It would take us 364 days to win our second game, but sandwiched between those wins was an epic last-ball draw that reminded us we could provide entertainment and drama as well as victories.
Another key challenge has been maintaining a squad of players to ensure that we can fulfil our fixture list, which isn’t to say that we haven’t occasionally taken the field with fewer than the required number of players. Hell, we even managed to win a game last season with eight players. Thankfully those moments are few and far between and for every player we lose to the joys of parenting or trips around the world, we have managed to entice another to the Ramblas cause. The fact that a lot of our new signings are actual cricketers is very much a bonus rather than a prerequisite.
After winning only one of our first 46 games, we have now won 26 of our last 60, a turnaround akin to that of the England ODI side after their World Cup debacle. And one of the great joys of the Ramblas renaissance is that it’s something that we’ve had a direct hand in. For all the administrative headaches, struggling to get a side out or scrambling for a last-minute fixture when your opponent pulls out on a Friday afternoon, being out on the field on a Sunday with your friends and playing cricket for a team that you have helped create is an unbelievably rewarding experience.
For anyone thinking about setting up a team, go for it, the positives far outweigh the negatives. And if you need any advice or a fixture then the Ramblas will be happy to help.