Brem06's Cricket in Scotland Chronicles

Alright – Blitz has become increasingly negative, and at times aggressive and confrontational about the performance of our beloved Bombers of late, so in an attempt to provide some content which is free from football (maybe) and light-hearted and entertaining (hopefully), I thought I’d take the time to document a season of cricket in Scotland.

As background. I’m 38, and haven’t played any sport competitively since an outstanding 7 games of football for Bullioh FC reserves in the Upper Murray Football League in 2018. We went undefeated and won the flag – and I managed to convince umpires to give me 7 votes in the league B+F count. This is likely due to my physical appearance being not unlike that of our captain Benny, who was an absolute jet.

In Feb 2019, off the back of a divorce and then subsequently meeting a lovely Scots lass, I upped sticks and moved to Scotland. Scotland? Yes, Scotland. I was born in Scotland and moved to Australia a couple weeks before my 4th birthday. Well, my parents moved. I was left with little say in the matter.

Now – there are a few things you should know about Scotland, if you’ve never been here – and perhaps that’s material for another time, but for the sake of this journal (or whatever it is I’m doing) I will share one thing:

People who like cricket are almost non-existent.

(By the way – I mentioned football. If we think the pressure on coaches is bad here, spare a thought for poor old Neil Lennon, who got sacked from Celtic for finishing second in the league, the season after winning the league and two domestic cups four years in a row. I believe they call that a quadruple treble…)

Anyway… what was I talking about? Oh right. Cricket. So, like many folk, I have added some insulation to the rig thanks to Covid-19. Now, restrictions here have been far tighter and longer-lasting than what you’ve had to deal with back home. It’s been much the same with regard to the steps put in place, they’ve just been in place for an increased duration – as such, I’ve not seen the inside of a gym for 12 months. When I arrived in Scotland, I was actually in the best nick of my life – 180 cm, 84kg, strong, and a decent aerobic capacity. I won’t embarrass myself by telling you exactly how much weight I’ve put on from sitting on the sofa over the last year, but I got to my ton quicker than Virender Sehwag (google him, kids) and I now have the agility of… Virender Sehwag… if he ate said sofa. I am still 180cm though, so that’s good.

So… (and yes, I know it’s poor writing to start a sentence with “so” but I don’t care) I thought I’d better do something about it, given that we’re looking to move back down under later this year or early next. I got in touch with East Kilbride Cricket Club back in February to see if they needed players, and sure enough – I got a message back to say training begins Thursday April 1st, but the guy Steven says he’s going for an unofficial net session on Tuesday March 30th and I was welcome to join.

Obviously, I went along. There was just the 4 of us – so not unlike a Tallangatta training session the week before Christmas. I remind myself this is an unofficial session, and Josh tells me that once the season gets in swing they get 50-60 at training. Nice.

Player Profiles

Steven – I’m guessing mid-40s, pretty sure he’s the president of the club, and the guy I’ve been in contact with. Club stalwart, tall, accurate outswing bowler with the occasional straight one, and might have been reasonably sharpish 20 years ago. Reckon he’s taken quite a few wickets in his day. Chooses not to bat. Nice fella. Bald. Kids play football nearby.

Josh – All the gear… some idea. Maybe early 30’s. Neck tattoo. Club website says he’s an all-rounder. I say he’s a handy bat with good timing, and bowls accurate off-spinners that don’t spin. He tells me he spent some time in Adelaide playing cricket back in the day. Spent the first 15 minutes setting up a bowling machine which we didn’t’ use. Nice fella. Drives a Dacia.

Mohammed – Ah Mohammed. Great beard. Significant bald spot. Looks like comedian Joe Wilkinson.
Joe-Wilkinson
Quietly spoken with an English accent. Bowls leg spin so slow he could run down and keep to himself. Also, doesn’t throw the ball back to the bowler on the full when batting in the nets. I hate that. Limited batting ability - will score most of his runs through slips/gully. Somehow hit his own wicket trying to play a cut shot off my bowling. Asked him if he had a nickname, he said I could make one up. I didn’t. Not falling for that one.

So that’s that. Pre-season training one done and dusted – my right shoulder feels weak and heavy, my back feels like I’ve been kicked by a horse, and I have a rapidly developing bruise on top of my left foot. And somehow I have to front up again tomorrow night.

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That’s a quality paragraph, Brem.

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Cricket in India is a phenomenon that has to be witnessed to be fully appreciated. On my first trip to the region l found myself in Keh, the capital of Ladakh, which is reached though Kashmir. Hovering over the town is one of those Buddhist monasteries that seem to grow out of the side of a mountain, this one dominates the skyline, inviting climbers to explore the inner workings. At one of the upper openings l looked out over the town and a cricket ground unlike any other l have ever seen. India is known for having dust bowls for pitches, and in this case that is exactly what the ground was, as there was not a single blade of grass on the entire field. There was however mats for a pitch. l settled down to watch an over, bowling from the monastery end. Pitched up, outside off, too full a length and driven through extra cover. The ball was some 5 m from the bat, before the sound of the shot being played reached me, as Leh is at an altitude of 3.500 m. Fine edges going through to the keeper would be a nightmare to adjudicate.

On my second trip to South Asia, l went to Sri Lanka, that was in 1994 or 95. l watched kids playing cricket in the shadow of Galle Fort,leg spinning the ball prodigiously. l resisted the temptation to tell them that l sort of knew Shane Warne. On a trip to a local bank to change money in Nuwara Eliya l met a teller who gave me the latest cricket scores for the Australia tour of the West Indies. Talk about a dedicated cricket fan. This guy took the train 70 km up the mountains each day to work. At night he would go home and listen to cricket all night. All this for two countries that weren’t even his own, in a match on the other side of the world.

A third trip to the region, saw me return to Pokhara. In the shadows of the Annapurna range l watched some other kids playing cricket. l took a photo, but l no longer have it. In the background breaking through the cloud cover was the peak of Machapuchare, the Matterhorn of the Himalayas, almost 7000 m high.

Cricket. What a game!

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Thanks @brem06 and @Captain_Jack for taking the time to share. I hope we hear more exploits in the future. Really enjoyed reading those.

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This could be the Blitz Sports Thread of 2021.

I look forward to learning more about my new favourite team.

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I can see myself huddling in this thread through a long, cold winter. Occasionally stumbling into a game day thread before running back here, shaking backwards and forwards. “It hurts! Make it go away. Make it go AWAY!”

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Just got home from pre-season training two. Decent turn out (15-20) on what was a sunny but bloody freezing (or in the local vernacular, “pure Baltic”) evening. I believe snow is forecast for next week so really looking forward to that!

I suppose at this point, a little look at my new home ground, Torrance House is in order:

Nets:

Ground

I got through a few random fielding drills on the gently sloping and sightly damp surface, relatively unscathed, and then got the chance to pad up first and have a bit more of a look at our bowling attack tonight.

To be fair, the standard is higher than I was expecting. If I was to compare it to Cricket Albury-Wodonga, based on what I’ve seen, we’d struggle to make finals. In second grade. Maybe that’s why I feel right at home.

We have a couple of sharpish medium pacers, and quite a few spinners. I’m hoping we have a quick or two tucked away somewhere, but who knows, on a damp sloping greentop, maybe we need more Reiffels than McDermotts. (Yes kids, that umpire was a decent bowler once)

Again, got through unscathed, batted reasonably well despite my eBay kit…

Oh yeah right, my kit. So I dropped the princely sum of £63 on a full kit of SS gear off eBay. It’s absolutely crap and reminds me of the gear I wore as a 13 year old. Still, no point spending a fortune at this point. I’ll be giving it away after the season before I move back home to my Kookaburra Ghost. The bat is Kashmir and hasn’t been knocked in, so I refrained from using it, and found an absolute plank in the club’s kit room. Tinny AF all over, but a sweet middle. Surprisingly, I was timing the ball quite well. The young South African leggie did manage to get one past the outside edge though.

Then it was time to try and roll the arm over. It’s been in pain since Tuesday, but I managed to get a few down reasonably straight before the skipper (we’ll get to him) asks me if I wouldn’t mind bowling in the other net. With the 15 year old Indian girl. And the 50 year old bespectacled Indian man. To be fair, they were both quite handy, and the young girl had a really smooth bowling action. All sarcasm aside, she’s got the potential to be very good.

So I ended the session doing my best Nathan Lyon impersonation, and having a chat with a couple of the younger players. I think I can offer some wisdoms as the season goes along. Plenty of learnings maybe…

Player Profiles

Stuart - Captain my captain. Tall medium paced bowler, managed to hit me on the pads once and then proceeded to tell me he’d found my weakness. Idiot. My weakness is Tennents, pizza crunch and Benson & Hedges Blue. Anyway, has an interesting leadership style of making people responsible for their own learnings, and has already asked me for “training ideas”. I get the feeling he’s in over his head as a captain. Left handed bat. Not that good. Will probably average 10 and fluke his way to one big score for the year. Will take his fair share of wickets and likely over bowl himself. Healthy ego.

The Doyle’s, David and Cammie - South African. David is 38 and a compact left handed bat who bowls off spin badly. Has played at provincial level in South Africa back in the day. Whatever that means. Cammie is his son (I think), an 18 year old slightly rotund leg spinner who gives it a good rip. Some talent there. Good blokes.

Gavin - ginger, keeper. Maybe mid-late 20s. Loves a dart. Not much ability with the bat, but could possibly talk ■■■■■ for Scotland. I like him. Let me borrow his batting gloves. Sound.

Virat - may not be his real name. Indian. Jet in the field, has decent pace, and is a stylish left handed bat. Looks like former Indian fast bowler Sreesanth. Quietly spoken, but carries himself with a confidence. He’s good and he knows it. Nice fella.

Neymar - I presume I’m spelling this wrong. 15 year old Indian girl who is not a Brazilian footballer who falls over. Beautiful bowling action, doesn’t bowl a bad ball. Polite and friendly. Probably won’t play senior cricket this year, but future prospect I reckon.

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Does playing on a sandbank in the Ganges count?

One of the outfielders grew old waiting for a catch, though.

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Turn 90 degrees to the right for the free way to watch Test matches:

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Back in Edinburgh circa 2003, I became friends with a local who was also a fellow Villa tragic. A few years later, I discovered he was a cricket fan. I found it funny that as a proud Scot, who knew all the tartan army chants, he had a penchant for the English cricket team.

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Also in Galle, l watched another impromptu kids game from the top of the light house.

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Brilliant, brem! Best piece I have read for a long time.

Hope you stay well and have fun there! Looking forward to future updates.

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CJ, amongst your VERY many posts to BB over the decades, this is your very best one! It is so good on so many levels. Thanks for posting.

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Concur. Looking forward to following your journey, Brem.

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I’m keen to see what the grounds and decks are like, also the pavilions or lack thereof. Love how over there you’ll potentially see a half oval boundary at one end that almost morphs into a polygon at the other due to size restrictions with a tempting cow corner. All the visiting team’s bats arrive at the ground for the first time and their eyes light up. Might not be as much of a problem in Scotland though.

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4 degrees. Snow. That was the forecast for training tonight. And to prove I’m not making that up, here’s a screenshot I took earlier in the day.

image

And here’s a photo taken by the groundsman and shared to the group chat earlier in the day:

image

At least it’s dry I suppose. The forecast for the rest of the week does not look promising.

Anyhow – speaking of group chat – I’ve been added in to 3 of them now (EKCC Selection / Training; EKCC 1st XI; EKCC Talking Balls 2021) and so far the highlight has been the messages from JJ (neck tattoo) – who I’m now assuming is the vice captain. Not sure why El Capitan Stew hasn’t sent anything out actually, and I’m starting to wonder who calls the shots, and whether there’s going to be a power struggle that could become annoying/troublesome. I’ll quite happily back JJ in - he talks less ■■■■■ than Stew.

Anyway – just to let you all in on the inner sanctum - here’s a quick summary of the JJ messages (what I suppose passes for a pre-season strategy meeting) – and my take on it…

  • Good numbers, so a healthy fight for places this season (we’ll probably be struggling for numbers for the first three rounds)
  • Nobody picked only to field, everyone will have a job (absolute lies – I’m pretty sure some youngster will be batting at no. 11, fielding at fine leg/mid on, and not bowling – it’s just the way it goes.)
  • Looking to fight and get back to Premier Division (it appears as though we were relegated in 2019, and Covid wiped out 2020.)
  • Possible intra-club match happening (might wanna get the fkg snow off the centre wicket square, and roll a decent wicket then…)
  • We’re notoriously bad at getting through overs (How on earth with 19 spinners and 4 half-rat power medium pacers are we bad at getting through the over rate? I’m going to guess captain Stew changes fields far too often. I bet he’s a ball-chaser. I’d put a tenner on it.)

So that’s the team focus… I’ll share a few things that I’ve been kicking about my brain.

  • Early season – a lot of the wickets will be underprepared due to weather/groundsman ability or lack thereof. In these cases, average medium pacers can become nightmare opponents. There’s a reason every England team of the 90’s contained at least one ■■■■ medium paced all-rounder like Craig White, Mark Ealham, and Ronnie Irani (feel free to post others below, and let’s all have a laugh at England’s expense).
  • With the slowish wickets, defending with soft hands is imperative, as is playing late – under the eyes. When I attack, I need to ensure I commit, as I don’t want to spoon a checked drive to mid off. Sometimes, you’re better trying to hit over the top than along the ground on a slow wicket.
  • Our straight boundaries are short, our wicket is clay based, and dries out. Double D (the older Doyle family member) said that playing back is fraught with danger at Torrance House, so I’m going to look to get on the front foot and play in the V as often as possible, and put my favourite cut and pull shots away. Easier said than done I fear.

@Socks_and_Sandals Here’s the edge of the centre square with the pavilion/sports club in the background:

image

What you can’t see in this photo is the whizz-bang electronic scoreboard which sits just to the left of this photo. Very impressive little scorer’s box actually. To the even further left are the rugby fields – the local team wear yellow and black hoops, but I don’t know if they have a nickname.

Directly behind the building you see is the tennis club, where kids dream of becoming the next Andy Murray. Directly behind me is the golf club, where kids dream of being the next Colin Montgomerie. Finally, off to the right are the football pitches, where kids dream of Scotland actually qualifying for a World Cup. Surrounding it all is Calderglen Country Park, a four-star tourist attraction which has a “Zoo”, Ornamental Gardens, Nature Trails and Walks and a Courtyard Café (where I once bought a really decent coffee). I believe they also filmed a few scenes from the TV show Outlander somewhere in the park.

As far as training itself goes – we had a decent turn out of around 10 – myself, the Doyles, Stevo, Mo (who doesn’t know who Joe Wilkinson is, so my nickname of MoJo was wasted on him), El Capitan, JJ, youngsters Tommy and Blair, and one other whose name I forget – a stocky Scotsman (aren’t they all though…) who’s never played before and has a real good biker’s beard on him. Only about 5 foot 2.

Not a bad turn out given it was a pre-season Tuesday, snow was falling, and it was absolutely baltic. There’s a good feeling around the club and guys seem committed, so I’m quite hopeful we’re set for a pretty decent year. Promotion? We’ll certainly give it a shake I reckon (not that I know anything about the other teams in the competition…). East of Scotland comp starts May 23rd(ish), so I reckon we’ll be around the same timeframe over here in the West.

Player Profiles

Tommy – returns to the club after not playing cricket for 7 years. Good on him. Reckon he’ll be the Second XI wicket keeper. Quiet. Not a good trait for a keeper. Where’s the bloody chirp mate? Anyway – he went in and did a really long session of keeping while we were all bowling – moved pretty well and he has fast hands. I might take him under my wing and share my wisdoms with him teach him how to sledge.

Blair – tallish skinny kid of maybe 19 who’s got a real bit of Jasprit Bumrah about his bowling action. He doesn’t chuck it, he just looks like he’s about to fall over every ball he bowls. God help him if he ever has to bowl up hill into the wind. Confident. Nice kid. Stew reckons he bowls big hooping inswingers to the right handers. Stew reckons a lot of things.

Showers forecast for Thursday, however the mercury is expected to surge to a balmy 9 degrees… taps aff!

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Slips catching practice will sting.

I used to hate it on those first Sunday mornings of practice, often after an elimination final loss.

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This is why, despite being 38 years old and moaning about it for the last 10 years - I may actually enjoy keeping wickets. Those gloves will come in very handy!

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That’s a nice collection of buildings there flanking what looks like a corner, I’m counting four separate rooms. You know what suburban grounds are like here, generally dingy 60’s almost Brutalist block with steps and a permanently locked toilet. Unless the club is established, it’s South Yarra’s Como Park or the council has pumped millions into a flash community centre.

Outfield looks as if it could bobble a bit, maybe a bit of a gradual slope across it. Hard to tell from photos. Middle appears a little raised, which will probably annoy the opposition quicks. Everything annoys quicks though, part and parcel.

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