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The Man In The Middle

posted 30 Jun 2015, 12:47 by Mike Madden
It was an interesting game for the seconds at Offerton on Saturday, and made all the more entertaining by the presence of JJ Smith as the umpire. For those that do not know him, JJ sets the standards by which all umpires are judged (well, maybe not, that depends if the umpire score sheets ever get a) submitted, and b) published). Anyway, JJ is a stickler for the rules and the etiquette of the game. You have to tell him if you wish to leave the field, even at drinks, and you have to tell him what your bowling action is, even if you've already had one spell. Its all about standards. And if no one maintained standards where would we be? Now, I'm not saying he gets every decision right, in fact I thought my lbw on Saturday was a shocker, but he is the umpire, it is his decision, and the game would be a lot worse off without the man in the white coat. However, JJ is virtually unique, certainly in 4th division cricket, in insisting on these rules. Other umpires not only don't mind who leaves the field and when, often it is they themselves that decide that they need to answer the call of nature. Other umpires freely admit that they don't know all of the rules. The point is that the players get used to this for 9 weeks out of 10, but in the 10th week, all of a sudden there is a culture shock!

And whilst on the subject of umpires, I note from the league that there are still conversations ongoing with certain clubs about not being able to fulfil junior fixtures. Astonishingly, the same set of minutes commented that junior games should be umpired by men (or women) in white coats. Well, when I have marked out the boundary, prepared half time drinks, brought out the scoreboard, found a scoresheet, made sure the kit is in place and that all of the youngsters have correctly fitted pads and helmets, made a few last minute phone calls to round up the Sunday morning stragglers, found stumps and bails appropriate for junior cricket, warmed up the team and talked through our tactics, the last thing on my mind is to find a white coat that inevitably won't fit, probably because it has shrunk in the previous week's rain! And I am sure there are other junior managers throughout the league who recognise the above scenario.

There has been no suggestion to remedy the fact that Under 15s and Under 17s play just 5 games each, and I have heard no explanation why certain teams are allowed to field junior teams at apparently arbitrary age groups (avoiding the ubiquitous fines) whilst the rest of us stick to the rules, but if the league deem that umpires wearing white coats is a priority, don't be surprised if other men in white coats turn up to take appropriate action!

The league are looking to recruit, and Stalybridge St Paul are set to replace Buxton next season. On the plus side, the next relay will not have to start at Buxton, on the negative side, Stalybridge could send us a long way off course.

The sins of the father shall be visited on the son, or so it says in the Bible. Now, I know that many of you will not have read that particular tome, but I used to be an altar boy, and it was the only way of distracting the priests, but I digress. The principle of the lesson can be applied in many areas, and if you have the responsibility for looking after your sons, your flock, your team, and, by inference, your club, you may want to look at your sins more closely! Of course, there are those that will see glory in stepping beyond the spirit of the game, but do their followers see it the same way? Or does it just become tiresome, as it was when a certain bowler used to throw abuse at the opposition when things did not go his way.

I could not end this edition without mentioning Nathan Hunter. Nathan is in our heroic Under 11s, and when we needed  to chase 288 against a very strong Hawk Green I suggested that all it would take would be for one partnership to get us half way there, and for one of that partnership to hit six fours. Nathan thought very briefly about this, and then said that he knew that he would not be the one to do that. A little defeatist, perhaps? No, it was actually very logical. "I have only scored three fours in total, and I have been playing for three years,' he explained.