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Pro or no pro?

No one wants to watch a top-flight player slaughter his way through a league far below his level


Among the unsavoury side effects of having pros in the opposition ranks © PA Photos
 
For as long as I can remember our team has “benefited” from the services of a professional cricketer. Many a lazy Saturday afternoon has seen me doze about on a cricket field contemplating the major concerns in my life (i.e. the state of Dutch football) whilst a cricketing demi-god from the southern hemisphere does our dirty work with his triple-figure batting average and single figure bowling average (my anti-clone). The following game occurred last season and is a prime example of cricket at its most pointless.
The opposition are on about 60 for 0 after 10 overs (thankfully I am not the only bowler having a bad game; an off day is a thing best shared), so we bring on the Pro to change things up a bit. The Pro is described on Cricinfo as gentle right-arm-medium, which in our club-cricket tongue roughly translates to “right-arm-probably-going-to-crack-amateur-cricket-skulls”.
And so our Pro casually sets off on his six-pace jog to the crease and lets one go that cannot be seen with the naked eye, shoots past the batsman’s ears, and is taken by our keeper, standing at the boundary, eyes firmly shut and wearing eight pairs of inners. The batsmen have a chat in the middle, encouragement from the non-striker can be heard in the form of “Just get forward, no one is catching anything off this bowling. If he can’t bowl you, you can’t get out”. Now at this point the reader may think, “Okay, but what about lbw?” in which case I politely refer you to paragraph five, line two of my first blog.
The next ball is a fullish delivery that sends all three stumps cartwheeling. The batsman, having initially taken guard on middle and leg, gradually shifted more towards leg during the bowler’s run-up, so that by the time the ball was released, he would have been in a perfect position to play an elegant cover-drive, assuming the ball had been bowled five feet wide down the leg side.
Well, I would like to think that this wicket was the culmination of my initial hard work opening the bowling, but we all know that would be a complete and utter lie (this fact, however, didn’t prevent me from claiming otherwise in the post-match alcohol-fuelled analysis). At any rate, a short hour later the opposition are bowled out for a respectable 110 runs (about par score this far north), with the Pro claiming five wickets for a negligible amount of runs and our young leggie taking four (a leg-side wide stumping, two full-tosses and a half tracker – damn spin bowlers).
After tea our innings commences to great excitement among the onlooking masses (two stray dogs and a bunch of kids playing football at deep midwicket). The Pro has decided he will bat at No. 3, having been told by his coach back home that it would be good batting practice for him (apparently dispatching kids and pensioners bowling 20mph long hops for six over cow corner is a good way to prepare for the New Zealand State Championship). Our openers scratch around for 20 runs off the first 15 overs before potential hypothermia gets the best of them and they both walk off within the space of a few deliveries. The Pro comes on and finishes the match in an hour of bloody butchery; his innings being to batting what death metal is to poetry.
Despite the overwhelming victory, there is no sign of euphoria in our camp, and our post-match handshakes with the opposition are almost apologetic in nature.
The club pro is always a contentious issue in lower-league club cricket. In my incredibly subjective, unreasonable and self-preserving opinion, engaging the services of a paid cricketer in anything but the top flight of amateur cricket is a little like engaging the US army to break up a playground scuffle. Few people are entertained watching a pro play several light years below his normal sporting altitude, annihilating the already fragile confidence levels of athletically challenged cricketers. Some Scottish clubs, whose names I shall not reveal, have become entirely reliant on their pros to remain in their respective leagues. I have never understood why the amateur players in such teams would even want to play at a level that is clearly far beyond their individual cricketing capabilities.
Thankfully, this season our team (Aberdeenshire CC 2nd XI) will be without the services of a cricketing mercenary. We shall therefore all be forced to up our game and take responsibility for the team’s performances without relying on any first-class players to dig us out of trouble when the heat is on.
Looks like the credit crunch has an upside after all.