Musings From The Padded Cell

Guest Article – The True Spirit Of Cricket by Martin “Molly” Molyneux

“I think we judge talent wrong. What do we see as talent? I think I have made the same mistake myself. We judge talent by people’s ability to strike a cricket ball. The sweetness, the timing. That’s the only thing we see as talent. Things like determination, courage, discipline, temperament, these are also talent.”
Rahul Dravid

Another one bites the dust.

As I dusted off my cricket bag, brought down from a winter in the loft in anticipation of another season, I looked forward to nattering to those spectators that had survived the dark months. Dotted around the boundary edge they sit and stand. In between my allocation of 15 overs – unless I’m getting some “tap” on a Saturday, my mind often wanders back to how it all began.

My Grandad played for Denholme as a young man and was a left arm spinner – I remember his huge fingers. He must have been a fair player as there was a sepia picture of him in the tea tent at DCC and I have a gold medal of his at home for winning the Bradford Central League in 1927. His job as a weaving overlooker curtailed his cricket career though.

My Father also loved the game, played at Keighley Boys Grammar and scored as a youngster to earn a few pennies. Once again Saturday work as a television engineer curtailed this but he did run the juniors for years and umpired when ill health caused his retirement from work.

Headingley…not bad for a fat lad.

I remember the old bugger giving me out LBW in a game; as I wobbled to the safety of the non-striking end for an expectant leg bye, he told me to carry on running home and “get t’tea on!” Sadly the old lad died very young so was not around to watch my odd good day and eventual deterioration over the years.

Bizarrely my first senior game was at Bolton Villas in 1979. I was scoring for DCC 2nds and received the princely sum of £1 although I had to chase whoever was captain to get that sliver of paper after packing the old leather kit bag.

Anyhow, as I loitered outside The Bull for a lift, a delightful old boy called Jack Farey announced “so and so” was not coming, could I play and he would score? As I always carried my gear (Dad’s instruction) I was in but recall nothing of the game; little did I know that All Alone Road – home of the Villas – would play a massive part of my life.

Scarborough too.

In the widely acclaimed Critics’ Corner (How kind! Ed) a chapter is devoted to the make up of Denholme’s sides back in those days. But that was typical of the majority of the village sides of the time. Mates playing with mates against mates for the love of the game.

Yes it was played in a hard way but there was none of the shite spouted these days and certainly no money or “packages” on offer. Boot Money/Talent Money was the domain of The Bradford League or over t’hill in Lancashire. You paid for your tea and tipped up a match fee.

Never a batter though.

On a rare good day a cap was carried round if a batter hit a fifty or a hundred. Likewise, if a bowler got a “six-fer” or a hat-trick the same cap made the rounds. However, you were expected to get the lads a pint out of your winnings but seeing as my first pint of Green Label cost 29p that would not have been onerous.

I have played for 38 years now and the game has cost me £000’s but I would never change a thing. Over the last few years I am sickened to see how the amount of under the counter payments made by clubs has increased; now distinctly average players are demanding a “package” simply to play.

Champions 2016

No doubt they also get free kit and training gear supplied by gullible sponsors but I have yet to see Sky TV or BT Sport rocking up for live coverage of a local league game.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with a club sorting an air fare to give a young kid a chance from the other side of the world, especially if that opportunity is reciprocated. God I wish I had had the opportunity as a youngster but where do you stop?

You never hear of Old Fred getting paid for mowing the field or Elsie and Norah who do the teas each week. They are happy to get a free pint or a port and lemon at the end of season bash. Yet as long established clubs hit the buffers and either fold or just field one side the situation continues unabashed.

Modelling not a career option.

Player loyalty is terrible in some quarters. I have had 2 clubs and am 52; some are not even 20 and are on their third or fourth club .Thankfully our league is looking at ways to arrest the decline in participation although they acknowledge that “brown envelopes” are nigh on impossible to police. But how much longer can it continue?

It is nearing the completion of my spell now and it won’t be long before I pull on my sweater and slink into the outfield for the last time.

I would love to think that I have played a small part in the protection of our beloved game having played with some and against some outright nutters as well as making simply hundreds of friends.

The future?

For the young guys who roll up expectantly at our junior training sessions – come rain or shine – what does the future hold for them?

I can say that there is no sport quite like it.

Martin Molyneux

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