Captain’s Log 2020

Published November 3, 2020

My 4th Season as Skipper
Back in January, during the nets at Lords I was looking forward to my 4th season leading our talented, but sometimes underachieving squad. Well the virus arrived in anger and ‘lockdown’ came, but I’m pleased to say that we played some cricket this season and a lot of it was good.

Covid Cricket’
For many people, a resumption in outdoor sport was going to be an essential component in coping with the ‘lockdown’. My other sport golf, resumed at an amateur level on 13th May under sensible restrictions to maintain social distancing and remove those items from the game where there was a risk of transfer; no rakes in bunkers, leave flagsticks in the hole, no shared equipment and no swapping of scorecards. For recreational cricket there were more challenges; the number of people involved, more shared equipment, the proximity of players to each other and the so called (by our PM) ‘vector of disease’, the cricket ball itself. However, it feels like the ECB took their time in challenging the government’s default position and presenting a workable set of ‘new rules’ under which the game could resume. It was not until the 12th July, two months after golf had resumed, that the Bushmen were able to start their season with a trip to Newdigate. The new ‘Covid guidelines’ included; no sweat or saliva is to be applied to the ball at any time, hands and the ball should be cleaned at all breaks in play and every 6 overs, wicket keepers and slip fielders to stand at 1m+ apart, no shared equipment and batters running in lanes, away from each other and the bowler. Personally, the most important element of a Sunday social cricket fixture that was ‘lost to Covid’ was the cricket tea. Matches were all bring-your-own-tea and I missed that important time between innings to sit together as a team, whilst I decided on who would open the batting, or take the new ball this week. All in all, twelve fixtures were cancelled before resumption (including the Dorset tour) and another four after – the Suffolk tour was another victim and not surprisingly our overseas tour to Croatia (but more about that later).

In our early fixtures the demand for places was high. Chris Ancil was on point, liaising with fixture secretaries to confirm that they could accommodate us under the new regulations and Tom Roles masterfully navigated his way through a ‘firm but fair’ selection policy, which ensured that thirty-three Bushmen (and friends) played some cricket this summer. We even had enough player demand to replace the cancelled Suffolk tour with an ‘inter-club’ match. Rob Fanner kindly prepared us a wicket at Northwood Town, where he both plays and performs groundsman duties. On Sunday 26th July, twenty-two of us turned out for a Captain vs Vice-Captain match. My squad included a young, one-day to-be Bushmen, James Morley, son of David. James bowled miserly spells in both innings and batted with resilience when given his opportunity, which earned him the man-of-the-match award. The format, a two innings 20-20, gave both skippers the chance to rotate batting and share out the bowling duties. It was a great day for the club and in the end Dabby’s Dymanos beat Whitehead’s Wildcats by 15 runs over the 2 innings. For me as club skipper it was a win-win. Having led by 33 runs after the first innings, I distinctly remember standing on the boundary whilst two ‘opposition’ Bushmen (George Dabby and Luke Hastings) smashed their way to half centuries. I was thinking “they are playing themselves into form for the rest of the season”. This turned out to be a very prescient thought for one party and I’m convinced it would have been true for both of them, if Luke had not unfortunately torn a knee ligament whilst bowling at Oakley a week later. We look forward to his return to full fitness next season.

The Tours
I’ve already mentioned our two cancelled domestic tours. For the end of season this year, I’d planned for us to travel to the island of Vis, just off the Dalmatian coast near Split. The Sir William Hoste Kriket Klub has a tradition that goes back to Napoleonic times, so I’m sure there’ll be chances to play there for a few years to come! There ensued some very valiant efforts led by Lyndon Jones to find a replacement destination nearer to home – a ground in South Wales and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales as opponents were both confirmed. But unfortunately, again the wider situation intervened and led to us to call off the tour. It was a shame as the weather in South Wales that late September weekend turned out to be at the better end of expectations.

The Players
I must not write anymore without mentioning the retirement of a much loved and valued member of the squad. In late June fearing the prospect of “no meaningful cricket this year” and “now that Lockdown has been replaced by Darwinism”, Clyde Jeavons informed us that he was retiring from active Bushmen cricket. After 20 years’ Bushmen service we all wish Clyde well in his (cricketing) retirement. We will, when times are better, persuade him out on to the cricket field one more time. Personally, I will miss Clyde’s guidance, kind words and reliable bowling – with that unerring ability to frustrate many a good batsman into a fateful mistake.

We welcomed a number of new faces this year; Akash Rajput, Harry Low, Nirav Shah, Patrick Cowling and Ravi Bajaj. They all made contributions with bat or ball, in particular Harry, who’s 99 at Chrishall should have/could have been a century. If only Harry had known he was one run short of his maiden Bushmen century and not danced down the wicket…. I hope to see you all again next season.

The standout batting performances of the season came from vice-captain George Dabby, 335 runs in total (at an average of 47.9), pipping Naman Paropkari by 2 runs. George’s tally included centuries in wins at Groombridge and Hartley Wintney. Roles were reversed in the bowling stats, with Naman’s 22 wickets (at an average of 14.7), being 12 more than the next bowler, George. In the fielding stakes the spoils were shared between Naman, David Morley and Gerry Tucker, with 5 victims each. The latter two providing the majority of the glove-work this season.

The Results
As trailed earlier (if you remember) our results were good this year. Overall a winning season (excuse the Americanism). For those interested in the details they can be found here . We won 5 and lost 4. The wins came at Newdigate (the first time I’ve won there as skipper), Groombridge (our oldest surviving opponents, with the Bushmen expertly skippered by George in my absence), Steep (against a very young and energetic team), Hartley Wintney (our 3rd win in 4 years, last year’s fixture being cancelled!) and Mynthurst (our 2nd visit to these highly hospitable opponents with a very attractive ground).

Thanks to the sponsorship of Naman, we presented a new Man-of-the-Match trophy each week. Some thought Naman would win his own trophy every week and he did win more than once, but there were other notable performances from George, Gerry Tucker, Harry Low, Kishan Changlani and Chris Ancil, that earned them this new ‘most coveted’ award.

And Finally
My thanks to all Bushmen and in particular the key individuals that make it all happen and allow me the privilege to skipper on Sundays; Chris for the fixtures, Tom for both finding eleven players every week and ensuring they know where/when to turn-up to play, Andy for his ever presence with the tea-jar and his scoring skills and Howard for always being prepared to umpire. Here’s to what turned out to be a good season of cricket in 2020 and to a much more normal one in 2021!

John Whitehead
BBC Bushmen

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