It’s time to get your kit bag out of the loft and blow the cobwebs off your batting gloves. Winter nets are here! New faces are welcome, but who’s going to turn up this year?
Oh, great. Another one from “the polytechnic”. He says he’s been training with the university squad and they’ve encouraged him to join a local club. It’s the same story each year with these student types. He’s just using you. Using you for your sweet, sweet net sessions. He won’t be around come April. And, even if he is, he moves out of halls at the end of May and will more than likely disappear back home. Back to his actual club. Back to Rutland, or West Midlands, or whatever ceremonial county he claims to be from. “What are you studying?” you politely enquire. “Media Studies and Philosophy,” is his chipper reply. Yeah, good luck with that…
He’s always there is Steve’s mate. On the boundary edge, pint in hand, ready to offer you some ‘expert advice’. You vividly remember his “biscuit fingers” quip after you dropped that catch at long-off last season, and it still haunts you every time you fancy a cup of tea. This year, however, he’s putting his money where his mouth is and joining the team. He borrows Steve’s pads, straps them on and awkwardly waddles into the net. This should be a laugh! Infuriatingly, somehow, he’s rather good. He murders his first two balls through extra-cover and then slog-sweeps your spinner for a towering six over mid-wicket. He has the hand-eye coordination of Roger Federer coupled with the immaculate timing of a Japanese rail network. It’s sickening.
It’s safe to say the bloke’s a bit rusty. He’s not just been out of the game for a while, but out of the country, too. He’s spent the past 10 years working at the Googleplex – Google’s corporate HQ in California – which coincidentally is also the name of the confused facial expression batsmen pull when they haven’t picked a leg-spinner’s wrong ‘un. His first couple of deliveries hit the side-netting, but he insists that in his younger days he played first XI at school, had county trials etc. It all sounds a bit like the origin story of an underwhelming superhero whose special ability is bowling wides. Still, it’s probably best to keep him around. He might be able to fix your laptop.
She’s come along with her mate and you’re intrigued. “I haven’t ever really played cricket,” she says, “but I play a lot of tennis when I’m not on the golf course and I used to be quite handy at rounders.” You’re suspicious. She looks like she should be professional at some kind of sport and that makes you feel uneasy and a bit intimidated. She tries to bowl – it’s fast, but wild. You can live with that, you haven’t lost your place just yet. “Why don’t you have a bit of a bat?” you say, stifling your laugh as she puts her pads on the wrong way round. But, what’s this, she’s really good. The bowlers are suddenly unwilling to run in for fear of sustaining an injury when the ball whizzes back past them. She’s taken to this too well. It’s just a shame she can’t take your No.5 spot because it clashes with rowing. Nightmare…
THE GUY YOU’RE NEVER GOING TO SEE AGAIN
This lad looks useful. Skiddy, probing medium-pace, a solid defence, good off the back-foot. You get all the registration forms ready but next week he’s nowhere to be seen. He doesn’t show his face the week after, either, nor the week after that. Was it something you said? Maybe you came on a bit strong? What if he just isn’t into quoting Will Ferrell movies? No, it can’t be that. Everyone loves lamp. You treat his disappearance with great (perhaps too much) interest. Maybe he’s been snatched by the Demogorgon and taken to the Upside Down, maybe he’s been framed by the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department, or maybe he’s become part of the infamous Medellín drug cartel? Or maybe you’ve been watching too much Netflix…
THE GUY WHO’S FAR TOO GOOD
Has he turned up at the right session? You don’t remember signing an overseas. It turns out he’s just emigrated from New Zealand and is looking for a club to join. He used to play for Otago under 19s and holds a district schoolboy record for most wickets in a season. You don’t have the heart to tell him that you got relegated to Division 4 last season. You’ll do anything for him to stay. You can’t pay him, mind, but maybe he’ll stay for the company. Let’s not introduce him to Steve’s mate just yet.