Dons 2010 – Warwick University Staff and Graduate Cricket Club, Chairman’s Report.

 

       It is customary in politics and business to deflate expectations as far as possible in order to meet those expectations and to declare yourself to be an under-the-circumstances success. Naturally, it isn’t always possible to manage expectations: a major party might be able to do it in respect of local elections, but not in a general election – and “blue chip” companies are usually expected to make profits and declare dividends. Some sports clubs must define success in terms of trophies while others don’t have to.

       All of which is the prolegomenon to the question of whether we had a successful season. We lost more than we won – which didn’t use to happen – but we are playing at a more challenging level. We didn’t win anything, but we did maintain a place in the SNCL Premier Division and reach the cup final of that division. The total number of our victories, 30, was the best for some time as was the total of ten Sunday victories. On the other hand we had implemented the greatest retreat in our history with no Saturday 2nd XI and no tour and under these circumstances we would have been very disappointed not to improve our Sunday record. So there are some ambiguities, but I will cut through them with the personal opinion that this was, on balance, a successful season and that we have a great deal more to be cheerful about than we had last year, particularly in terms of the quality of games and the spirit of the club.

       Two main issues emerge from our current condition. Very much the minor one is the question of our “cricket festival” to replace tour as a major event in the club’s calendar. Our first effort at this was hit by a double blow – though to some degree the blows cancelled each other out – of the Fireflies’ withdrawal and 36 hours of rain. In the end the “festival” consisted of one re-arranged intra-mural game and one social event. But there was no problem about availability and enthusiasm and all the views expressed to me were in favour of doing this again.

       The major issue concerns recruitment. We are not short of players: more than a hundred played for us or attended net practices. What we are short of is stalwarts, by which I mean members who are with us indefinitely and who are capable of holding offices, raising and captaining teams, scoring and umpiring and providing teas for home games and transport for away games. By “stalwart” I also mean players who are very regularly available throughout the season. We know from experience that South Asian graduate students, at Warwick for one season, cannot be expected to perform more than one or two of these tasks and have erratic availability because of dissertations etc. To solve this problem we have negotiated with the Director of Sport that we will be allowed to have further “Associate Members” of Warwick Sport to add to the three we already have, members who would not otherwise be allowed to join WS or play for us. (Please note that new technology has been introduced which will be used to check the validity of users of the outdoor facilities!) There is no fixed or maximum number of these players and they will have to pay for themselves which means that they will be paying considerably more than most members. Players given this status must be well-established and, crucially, we must be able to argue on a name by name basis that the existence of an associate member will enhance rather than diminish the prospects of cricket for current members of staff and graduate students. This argument might refer to all the tasks listed above or to roles we could create for the recruitment and assimilation of particular sources of member. Equally, since we currently lack a fixtures secretary a player might be offered associate membership if he agreed to be fill this role. This will have to be discussed in great detail, preferably before January.

       Finally, let’s celebrate the season just past. In some previous annual reports I have bemoaned the lack of great games, but this time there were some splendid and memorable victories, especially on our high quality Sunday fixture list: a nail-biting low-scoring win over Isis; chasing down 230 to win at Wellesbourne; an extraordinary recovery at Hunningham from 40-odd for 5 to a winning target of 205-8 inspired by a brilliant Ajit century.

       But I’d like to highlight two very different victories which were excellent in themselves, but together illustrate the variety of cricket we play. One was a very modern and high-scoring game, the semi-final victory over Marston St. Lawrence. It was one of the most exciting 20-over games I have ever seen, won by a single run, 142-141. Had Honest Ken or any other shrewd bookmaker been present he would have been shifting the odds over by over then, in the latter stages, ball by ball. Highlights included Nicky Sandhu’s dismissal of a Durham UCCE player hit wicket and his brother’s sensible gallop from the boundary off the last ball to make sure that, though they could run three, they couldn’t run the four needed to tie. The good form continued into the first innings of the final with us fielding, but was followed by a batting display which is best forgotten.

       If that was a very modern event our victory at Blenheim was a deeply traditional affair: a declaration game, played on the lawn of a stately home, tea under the trees, the Duke said to be present for the last few overs, both teams drinking and bantering together afterwards and a “jug” bought by the game’s outstanding performer – our skipper – possibly at record cost. I was just entering my 41st year with the club and if I had wanted to show our younger, mostly South Asian, players what cricket was like “in my day” then I couldn’t have staged a better event. The actual score – 112 all out plays 43 all out – doesn’t sound all that exciting, but it actually felt quite different. At 12-4 we seemed to be on the way to an easy and early defeat, but the tail wagged consistently to get us into three figures. In the field there were two magnificent performances: a 5-7 spell from skipper David Wilson and an outstanding catching performance in which the only six chances (including some which were merely half chances) were all taken. How often does that happen? Even then, because it was a declaration game we had to overcome two further obstacles to secure victory – a sharp shower after tea and the obduracy of their lower order.

      It is days like these that make the efforts we put into the club worthwhile. Let’s hope there are lots of them in 2011.

 

 

 

 

                                Lincoln Allison