First-class ducks

I’ve been accused by venerable Corridor readers of being something of a duck fetishist, although I suspect there are more specialist websites for that. However, for the sake of consistency, it would be wrong to overlook the misfortune of Thomas Poynton, the new Derbyshire gloveman, who this week got a pair on his first class debut. But at the age of 17 years old, he will have better days and do one heck of a lot more in his career than me. In fact, he already has.

Hopefully he will be smashing the ball about in an England shirt before long, although with the recent form of English keepers, he has a lot of frogs to leap. Foster, Ambrose, Mustard, Read, Nixon all in the runs, putting pressure on Prior. Good to see.

Essex finally win a Twenty20 competition

Essex look almost certain to win the Pro40 this year, and as they cruised to victory in the Twenty20 Floodlit Cup yesterday, it was easy to see why. Derbyshire did well to contain the Eagles to a total below 200 after Irani and Pettini made 60 in just under six overs. However, the game dawdled to an end when Phantoms wickets fell to insufficient cost to challenge their target.

Whilst the result was predictable, I had forgotten how much I liked visiting Derbyshire. The former Race Course Ground is some 11,000 seats light of my usual haunt, and its team are often viewed as the minnows of county cricket, but the friendliness found from fan to steward to player gives the place a strong community feel. A Test ground might have a superior square, year of tradition or impressive facilities. But you can’t tell me there is anything purer than watching a game from a chair you’ve had to pull from a stack and place at the boundary yourself.

Is too much cricket really never enough?

With all this media blather about over-worked cricket, I might as well put in my 0.02 cents.

Look, in one sense, it’s a bit rich for cricketers to complain that they are over-worked. Yes, Australia have played eleven Test matches and 18 ODI’s since October, but it is April, now. That is 70 odd days work in six months. Hardly the most onerous of work loads. And Australia have got a few extra days off in that lot by defeating opponents in Test matches in pretty short order. And they get paid literally millions. And they get the best groupies, as you might have noticed if you watch the Allan Border Medal night. So, you know, it’s not that hard a life being an international cricketer.

But on another level, it IS hard work. Adam Gilchrist is not only a fine keeper, passable stand-in captain, mighty batting hero and all round good guy, but he’s usually quite particular about his appearance. I’m not accusing him of being a metrosexual or a wannabe David Beckham, he’s just normally a neat and tidy guy. But in the First Test, he gave a fair impression that he was dressing like a flood victim. Overdue for a shave, too. Miss Zainub would NOT have approved.

Because it is what they are doing on those days off that really tells on the players. English domestic cricket is far more demanding because you are playing cricket day in, day out for months on end. However it takes far less of a toll on the players because they don’t have to travel nearly as much. For a player in a midlands county, away games are just a shire away. None of this intercontinental travel stuff. If you are playing for Derbyshire, half your away games are in driving distance. I’ve had daily commutes longer then the distance between Headingley and Old Trafford.

But for the international cricketer, it is a way bit tougher then that. The cricket is more intense, the pressure higher, the distances are further, and the time away from family is more crushing. Away from the field the temptations and distractions of fame slowly become a burden, the aches and pains dull the senses and it is a wonder that players stay as switched on as they do.

I’m not sure the current surfeit of international Test cricket is entirely good for the fans either. I think something is lost from the anticipation point of view, and that takes away something of the ‘specialness’ of the occasion. Test Cricket, like caviar, should not be indulged in every week of the year. It isn’t good for the players or the fans. When the players identify with Bob Segar, we know we have a problem