Musings From The Padded Cell

The Ultimate Test

A few weeks ago we got an invite on behalf of the cricket club to take eight of our juniors to the second day of the Headingley Test match with England seeking to bounce back after a bruising defeat by the South Africans at the Oval in the opening rubber. If it was going to be a monumental task for England then equally to have to spend a whole day trying to control eight hyper-active kids and also stay stone cold sober at a test match for the first time ever presented several new personal challenges. The highlight of the day was an invitation to play cricket on the hallowed turf at lunchtime.

As we approached the day, my fellow coach Sam & I were tormented by suggestions from several of the lads at the club that, as coaches, we would be decked out in some brightly coloured, ill-fitting gear from head to toe rivalling the fancy dress offerings on the Western Terrace; at six foot and plenty, Sam had visions of looking like a walking banana. Fortunately, the free gear on offer was strictly junior size which was a big plus as Asda’s corporate green would have made Sam a very Jolly Green Giant. So it was that eight sets of parents entrusted their precious ones with us for the day; truly a case of the blind leading the blind.

Girl Power

To their credit all the kids were on time for a very early set off from the Villas on the Friday morning although one final selection poser meant that my leg spinner, a very frightened nine year old Aneeq, had to endure all three girls in my car with Sam getting the all boy contingent; that will teach him for getting precious stating his preference for BMW over Vauxhall. We were barely out of the gates when Lucy piped up “put Capital on, Dude!” Never having heard of Capital I offered her Classical but this was a forlorn hope and soon my ears were adjusting to the din in equal amounts from the seat next to me and the radio.

Another half a mile and this time “Nokia…that’s an old man’s phone!” said the little angel at me side, face screwed up in some juvenile taunt, as she dropped my phone in disgust. At this point I now understood why Lucy’s mum, Jayne, had a wry smile on her face when she dropped her off; all the years of my smug, child-free existence were now looking poor preparation for the day. In the back Aneeq already looked as if he would rather be at school or, indeed, anywhere, as Ella and Molly jabbered away about all things girly. Molly was especially worried as the midgies had attacked her the previous night and, aged ten, she was very worried about how she might look if she made it onto the big screen.

Are We There Yet?

Behind me I sensed Sam was having an easier time of it with Ben, Jack and the two James both almost mute at the fear of bowling in front of such a huge crowd; meanwhile Lucy had now plugged her iPhone into my car. After a promising taster with a couple of tracks I actually recognised – “that’s my dad’s music, its really old stuff…soooooo dull!” – I was not sure which I preferred my ear drums being perforated by – the music or Lucy. Aneeq slipped further down in his seat and, inevitably, was the first to ask “are we there yet” whilst Ella promised to show Molly her new trick of drinking a can of coke through the grille of her cricket helmet thereby ensuring a new Villas shirt next season; not so dumb these kids!

BVCC Junior Shirt

Finally we were there and the kids were free to blow what spending money they had set off with on a variety of souvenir goods. A quick briefing in the cricket school and all now had bright green caps and t-shirts courtesy of Asda and were duly branded for the day. We were inside the ground around half past nine and to watch the best in the world prepare was a real eye opener for Sam and I. No rolling up here twenty minutes before the start with a can of coke, a burger and a quick fag.

jacqueskallis29

For the kids endless pursuits of illegible squiggles on their newly acquired bats commenced although as anybody in a uniform seemed to do there was a chance the G4S security lot may have been woken up and called to sign a bat or two. There he was, the best player in the world, Jacques Kallis, almost unflappable on the cricket field whatever the situation with barely an expression ever on offer. And then there was Lucy screaming “oi Kallis Dude, give us your autograph” and I swear I saw his eyebrow twitch and a trace of a furrowed brow. Finally, England had a way to get to Kallis!

Slog it?

Our youngest member, Jack, a livewire on the dullest of days, was like a continuously shaken fizzy drink and at times his head looked like it might pop off with the excitement of it all. Lunchtime approached with our main part of the day about to begin. Sam kindly reminded James C how he had been that nervous before his under thirteen debut in front of three men and a dog at Saltaire that he had thrown up; so how was he looking forward to twenty thousand plus? Poor James looked ashen whilst the younger James S simply laced up his spikes determined to hit a good length from ball one.

On we walked, with the veteran announcer Johnny English uttering surreal words “…on the pitch juniors from Bolton Villas CC” although he could have added “led out by two coaches clearly bricking it!” The instructions were pretty simple although contrary to everything I had been trying to coach all summer. As Steve from the YCB said “just slog it into the crowd as far as you can and see if you can hit somebody” but my lot can be slow on the uptake sometimes and so started with some competitive bowling and studious defence almost as if it was a five day test.

Headingley 2012

Ironically, the best cover drive all summer sent the ball flying towards the test match wicket with Jack flying after it oblivious to being in the middle of the arena, dodging hoards of security. Fortunately we were well away from the Western Terrace so barracking was limited and Aneeq finally launched one into the seats which was the signal for everybody to join in.

Sleep Please?

Even though we had warned the kids the allotted twenty minutes would fly by the time really did seem to vanish although a final skied catch ended with a mass collision and captain Ben prostrate on the ground and a stretcher looking a possibility; my main man out for the season, please no? Running off the ground as instructed the urge was simply to walk as slowly as possible just to savour the last scraps of a unique and hugely fortunate experience.

Inevitably the rest of the day petered out as an old fashioned, attritional test match battle unfolded on the pitch in front of kids weaned on biff-bash, twenty-twenty slog fests. Normally this is the best part of the day as the early morning beers take hold, the sun shines down, eyelids droop softly and the head gently slips sideways. On this one day there was no earthly chance of this and, as my eyes closed albeit ever so briefly, a jab in the ribs woke me and there was Lucy once more reminding me “you are so, so old, Dude!”

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