Dons ’04: (notes towards) the Chairman’s Report.
This is a brief and partial report, not only because we make a huge amount of information available on the website, but also because I am missing the last month of the season. Even so, I could not resist putting down a few thoughts about the season and about the problems we face in the future.
The club is now operating on such a scale that it depends who you are whether you thought it was a good season or not. It was one of the worst seasons for weather for many years, but we managed to dodge most of the bad weather in league and tour games if not in others. If you went on tour and played in the “Killer Bs” promotion run and managed to play as well for the 1st XI in their cup win then you probably thought it was a tremendous season. In fact only Mike Allison did manage all of these.
But the season certainly had its downside. I boasted last year that we had successfully won a cup and turned out a team to beat Horley on the same day. Well, I must lament that though we succeded in winning a cup again we failed even to turn out a side against Horley on the last Sunday in July, a direct consequence of having a 2nd XI and needing 22 players every Saturday. It was sad that Robert Pettifer felt it necessary to resign as Sunday captain over the issue, but we must accept that there are issues of values and priorities involved which affect most cricket clubs and divide many of them.
The 1st XI’s mid-season run of defeats which put promotion out of the question was another downer, but it did not stop them finishing in the top half of Division 1, which might fairly be called “consolidation”. I also had to send out a memo covering the issues of lateness, dissent and bad language, so there would seem to have been some fraught cricketers on the field.
Still, if you’d said a few years ago that we would be celebrating a third promotion in as many seasons and two cup wins in two years you would have wondered if we were talking about the same club.
This was a cracking tour, one of the best for many years. In a major piece of weather dodging all four fixtures were fully completed resulting in three wins. What made this tour was mostly the existence of a “Round Robin” played Fri-Sun between Aberystwyth Town, Aberystwyth University and ourselves which we won. The one-run victory over Aber Town was as dramatic a game as we have played. We have tied games before and won by one run, but surely not by getting the last man out off the last ball with the scores as high as 208-207? But the rest of tour was good, too, including a good victory over Worcester Fossils and, at the other end of the age scale, a second defeat to Aberdare’s youth policy. An innovation here is that the home side included a more than competant female player, Stephanie Davis. It would be very gratifying if we could add Ms. Davis to the list of full international players who have played against the club.
And traditions were maintained; there was a sweep, a curry, two visits to the Gadlys Arms, etc. An innovation was a spectacular hill-top round of golf on the Saturday. But there was no sea bathing! Are we going soft?
If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, they say, but I’m afraid that doesn’t apply here. It worked this year, but the structural problems surrounding tour are as bad as ever. It worked this year because we were incredibly lucky with the weather, because we had exactly the right number of people and only one injury and because Richard Moore-Colyer on behalf of Aber University went out of his way to accommodate us, even postponing a cup game (ironically against Llanidloes) in order to do so. Also because our 2nd XI were in a league of 9 and were able to ask for a bye on that Saturday. It is highly likely that none of these conditions will be met in 2005, R. M-C having resigned. So, though we should count our blessings about 2004 it is really back to Square 1, with at least the following options:
Option A: the original 5 match, Weds-Sun tour. But we would be looking for new fixtures on Sat & Sun.
Option B: the 2004 model. A minimum step would be to find out the attitude of the new Commoners’ captain/secretary.
Option C: the Tues-Fri 4 game tour. Keep the Thurs & Fri as they are, Fossils would happily switch to Tues apparently and we could look for a Weds fixture within striking distance of Brecon. Would have the advantage of allowing us to turn out full-strength league sides on the Saturday.
I leave it with you.
Life with the Bs
It is Steven Cammiss’s job as captain to appraise the 2nd XI season, but I can’t resist a few observations since I was (I think) the player who made the most appearances. There were plenty of doubters and I think our sole ambitions at the start were to get eleven players on the field and to avoid relegation, especially as we had been promoted before we started by being placed in Division 4 rather than 5 of the SNCL.
The obvious cliché for our season, especially given the contrast with life in the same division in 2002, was that it was right out of the comfort zone. This was a team lacking the excellent players, now mostly part of our 1st XI, with whom I had spent most of my cricketing life and distinctly short on batting. Virtually every game was a tough, competitive struggle. I must compliment Steven Cammiss on his ability to get eleven men onto the field – I failed on one occasion – and there were times I began to look on that mobile phone of his as a kind of magic lamp which only had to be rubbed to produce players.
Although this is 40-over cricket run rates were almost never relevant. Bowlers dominated and, as David Storey often argued, the side that stayed in would win. There was enormous satisfaction in eking out some of the victories, the away games at Boddington and Woodford Halse being my favourites. There was pride, too, in defeat in that we were never remotely “stuffed”, but made oppositions who beat us fight all the way. We had great team spirit despite being often something of a scratch side. I fact I think we would have won the league as well as promotion if Steven were not such a pathetic tosser: in several close defeats we lost the toss and had the worst of the wicket.
I think the phenomenon which saved the Bs from the factors feared by the doubters was the “motorway argument”. Just as it is now accepted that motorways create traffic, so the existence of a 2nd XI created players. We have to make this work again next year: the argument does not work if nobody knows there’s a motorway!
September may change things, but this was a poor year both in terms of cancellations and results. The matches against Nuffield College and Aston Unity disappeared to the opposition’s lack of interest, Old Ashfordians and Coventry Architects at home to the weather and County Council at home to Euro 2004. We lost away to Kenilworth, County Council and Cov Architects, in each case with reasonably strong sides out and on gloomy evenings. We did revenge ouselves on North Leamington School when we had 8 players at 6pm, but Cam rubbed his magic lamp and we fielded 11 by 6.15. But the aggregate picture was very disappointing since generally we had lots of players available. My aim next year would be to look for 6 to 8 reasonably secure evening fixtures and the same for the day games.
I won’t attempt a full agenda, but at least the following must be very seriously considered:
1.TOUR: needs work and decisions.
2. RECRUITMENT: given an ageing core, one-year wonders and some crucial contingencies we must recruit more players than we ever have before. But we CAN do this. Compared with other clubs with whom we compete we have vast resources in the graduate students and the WGA.
3. CUP GAMES: like the “Freight Rover”, “Carling” etc in football these are great when you win a final, but feel more like a damn nuisance early on. There is a distinct danger that we will find ourselves with two cup games, a league game and a friendly in one midweek. We must anticipate this.
4. SNCL: Do we want to have more influence? Perhaps 2pm starts, a better bonus system (worthwhile incentives for not being bowled out or for bowling the opposition out) etc.
5. GROUNDS: We still have problems in this area; I think it is generally admitted that there has been a “chain of command” problem between ourselves, the Sports Centre and the Estates Office. However, interviews are shortly to take place fpr a Grounds Superintendant which could change everything. I suggest we put the past behind us if an appointment is made and invite the appointee with Terry to our AGM.