All good things must come to an end; Dutch dominance of European club football, Zimbabwe’s steady progression in international cricket (although an almighty comeback appears closer than ever), Aberdeen Football Club’s start-of-season winning streak (we managed to string together an imposing two victories), the glorious years of being able to consume lethal quantities of alcohol without suffering from a slight tenderness in the domal region the next day (how I envy those student scum). As distressing as those all are, the items on that list all pale in comparison with the single most miserable date in my annual calendar – the end of the cricket season.
The end of the cricket season is always a strange sensation for me. I generally look forward to it with some satisfaction, mainly due to my customary end-of-season dramatic collapse in form. It is usually when I start contemplating whether to buy the latest Predators or stick with the Total 90 boots for the coming football season during my run-up that I know I have drawn a mental conclusion to the cricketing period. In fact a neutral observer could probably be able to tell what month of the summer it is by judging my reaction to an edge for four through third man: if I aim a barrage of expletives and personal abuse at that bat-wielding scumbag, odds are it’s the start of the season, probably the first few weeks of May, but if I simply shrug my shoulders and whistle on my way back to my mark, it’s safe to say that autumn may rapidly be approaching. Those are the endpoints on “Rene’s Scale of Batsman Abuse”, which contains a large variety of manners in which to respond to being hit for a lucky boundary, each representing a different month of the summer.
Of course you will now be wondering why on earth I feel so sad at the end of the season if I seem so indifferent in the weeks running up to it. That is because, without fail, in the very last game of the season I, or any cricketer for that matter, will at some point have a moment of cricketing enlightenment that will make you remember why it is such a brilliant game. This moment does not have to be particularly significant in the context of the game; it does not require any personal milestone such as a five-for or ton or even a fifty. It could be anything, from a perfect cover drive that pierces the off side for four (or in my case the perfect chinese cut that pierces fine leg for four), a diving catch at slip, a single delivery that nips back and sends off stump cartwheeling, or even just a bouncer that the batsman wears in his ribs. Anything that would give a reasonable sense of personal satisfaction in any other match is significantly enhanced by at least several factors in the last game of the season.
These are the moments you will remember and cherish on those miserable, dark, cold, wet winter days (NB: the Aberdeen Tourist Board has “encouraged” me to add that Aberdeen is beautiful at winter time and offers, among other things, splendid views of the frozen rivers, stunning grey architecture, and
death-traps roads artistically decorated with potholes).
It is always during the last game of the season that you realise you don’t need to score runs by the truckload or take buckets of wickets to enjoy cricket (although it obviously doesn’t do any harm). Rather it is those small, seemingly insignificant moments of personal satisfaction that give us amateur cricketers the ammunition we need to take enough enjoyment from a nine-hour session in the blistering cold to be inspired sufficiently to come back and do the same the following Saturday.
All is not lost however; there is a silver lining that comes in conjunction with the end of the British cricket season, and one that will undoubtedly have Cricinfo readers rejoicing. You will no longer be forced to sit through the ramblings of yours truly as I will be too busy hibernating next to my highly inefficient, and only sporadically operational, electric heating. I hope to be along wasting your precious time again next spring. Till then.