August 8, 2013

Time for some positive thinking

Leicestershire are bottom of Championship Division Two and out of the T20 competition but there are one or two reasons to be encouraged

Two months left of the season. T20? Out. Championship? Bottom. Star overseas player? Not due until the end of the month. Oh the joy of life as a Leicestershire supporter. Even the rain has given up saving us. A hardened optimist might point out that there have been flashes of competence in the 40-over competition; with a game in hand on two of the teams above us, qualification is still possible. Even if we do go through, it would be in a format that won't exist next year. Those still retaining hopes of the semi-finals should note that the game against the Unicorns, originally scheduled for Thursday August 15, has now been moved to Sunday 18. Post-T20 Finals Day hangovers are now irrelevant.

It would be fairly simple to compare the situations of Lancashire and Leicestershire after the latest Championship defeat and complain that it's the fault of the system, not the county. Lancashire, despite making a financial loss recently, are once again playing host to income-generating Test matches. They can afford to buy Leicestershire's top wicket-taker from the last couple of seasons, Wayne White, and not play him, while including in their side three players who don't qualify for England but can guide young English players; Ashwell Prince, Simon Katich and Andrea Agathangelou.

While most members are prepared to celebrate the fact that we're continuing to promote young Englishmen, rather than the ageing South Africans of a few years ago, the lack of a senior batsman is really beginning to bite. A senior batsman who can (at the risk of sounding Boycottian) occupy the crease, lead by example in building an innings, rather than cracking it to mid-on in the first couple of overs, and encourage loud and clear calling to avoid people being run out by ten yards. The faults just mentioned have been mentioned before; they're not a fault of the system.

Fans of Derbyshire might recognise the desperate justification of a youth policy; what we have to hope is that, like them, we can keep a group of young players together and encourage them to learn from their mistakes in such a way that in three years' time they form the sort of unit that gained Derbyshire promotion. Those of you up the M1 might like to let us know whether you now think all the effort was worthwhile, as you bask in your defeat of Sussex.

In the midst of this gloom and despondency, there have been some positive notes. Firstly, some tactical genius upstairs has remembered the existence of an archaic fielding position. Perusal of mouldy documents in the county's museum has confirmed that this position was known as "third man". Older members inform me that it was once a standard sight in Championship matches, saving up to a thousand runs a season. Nobody seems to be able to explain the recent decline in its use, but given its success in this most recent game, I would respectfully request that it be used more often in future.

It's easy (in fact it's been very easy this season) to be critical when things don't go well. What we don't do often enough is think about what an appearance in a game can mean to individuals. Tom Wells made his debut against Lancashire, taking a wicket in his third over of Championship cricket. Fantastic for him, not least because, by his own admission, he was struggling to pitch it on the square earlier in the season, but also fantastic for everyone who coached and played with him at his first club at Houghton-on-the-Hill. As former Leicestershire favourite Adrian Pierson trains his under-10s there this week, he can justifiably encourage them to think that in 10 years they too can be playing the game at the top level. If the Foxes can match Houghton's happy knack of league promotion over the last couple of seasons, we'll all be even happier.

So, new month's resolution - positive thinking (where's Paul Nixon when you need him?) Dear old Grace Road, as Aggers would say, will see in the next couple of months all or any of the following: more explosive batting from Josh Cobb to gain qualification for the YB40 semi-finals; continued spot-the-difference competitions as Niall O'Brien walks his small, yappy dog around the outfield; third man; a victory in the Championship; Ramnaresh Sarwan scoring some runs; excellent Victoria sponge. At least we can guarantee the cake.

Tessa Cooke combines watching Leicestershire with the study of Olympians ancient and modern at Leicestershire University. Bowls off the wrong foot