There comes a point in everyone's life when you have to accept the march of time, to let go of your childhood dreams.

Aged 42, with eyesight and motivation ebbing, the body stiff in all the wrong places, never having played a first-class match or held a professional contract, and with the England middle order looking in reasonable fettle, it's time to face the harsh reality: if I'm ever going to play Test cricket, it will now almost certainly have to be as a spinner.

There are, I think, grounds for optimism: John Traicos, Clarrie Grimmett and John Emburey all played Tests at an age more advanced than mine. On the flip side, I don't really bowl spin (yet) - although, as captain, I could probably sell it as "leading from the front".

At least half the spinner's battle in league cricket is getting the umpires onside. Buttering them up, you might say. It's an art form, often starting with polite pre-match chit-chat, perhaps about, oh, I don't know, about the effect of the DRS on umpiring and how it's showing ever more front-foot lbws are out, before casually mentioning how "one or two of the weaker umpires" have "seemed to lack the courage" to give those decisions, an observation you allow to hang in the air before offering them a cup of tea. I'd like to think this is another way in which I'm leading from the front: by setting a good example to my young charges regarding engagement with the match officials.

As it happens, my league has issued a directive this season to clubs, requiring that umpires be paid promptly, that captains talk to them and generally make them feel welcome. This comes in the wake of the ECB's and MCC's concerns over declining on-field discipline in the recreational game. A handful of matches were abandoned last year due to outbreaks of violence. Behavioural codes have been tightened; categories of transgression and lists of sanctions issued, including red and yellow cards, with leagues trialling them on a voluntary basis.

Cricket doesn't take place in a vacuum, of course; it reflects the push and shove of wider social forces and attitudes. Look closely and the social contract is fraying. The reasons for this can be debated - Ken, who umpired us last week, thought it was a lack of corporal punishment at school - although the sense, confirmed by the Panama Papers, that the rich and poor are playing different games acts as a steady flame under people's frustrations. They come to vent those at the weekend, to transform them into runs and wickets, yet invariably find only more overheated botheration, frequently taking the form of a man in a white coat (Lightning Rod, they call him). Or so they think.

Regardless of life's wider frustrations, cricket's "post-DRS consciousness" has definitively changed clubbies' psychological relationship to the administration of justice, to the acceptance of that great finger from on high. You can sense it in the language, in the new ways of construing the game. A team-mate, recently adjudged lbw, was heard to answer the question, "Were you out? I mean, out out?" with "Probably umpire's call."

That was a fairly magnanimous response, yet the soul-piercing sense of injustice felt by the Saturday-to-Saturday cricketer when, to his mind, the innings over which he has daydreamed all week is unfairly sawn off remains as potent as ever. Last year I saw a new way of expressing this disgust: a batsman tossing his helmet, gloves and bat on the square and simply walking off, leaving them there for someone else to collect. The DRS magnifies the club cricketer's already healthy sense of being trapped in some Kafkaesque judicial system or totalitarian nightmare in which hopes crash hard against a great immovable slab of absolute authority, with no recourse to a court of appeal.

Pyramid systems and semi-professionalisation create an air of hyper-competitiveness, and as money permeates the recreational game, the stakes get ramped up, magnifying the apparent significance of umpiring decisions. Bad blood ensues

Of course, it stands to both reason and statistical likelihood that sports officialdom will attract one or two pompous, punctilious, strutting sorts who seem hell-bent on cultivating anything but a harmonious atmosphere with the players: "authoritarian personality types", as I was once moved to describe them when defending myself in writing to the league disciplinary committee (in younger, more militant days) having been reported by an umpire with whom I'd had a fair few run-ins, usually over his brazen habit of giving contentious decisions late in games in order to spice things up. A spectator's version of neutrality, not an umpire's.

The general deterioration of player-umpire relations at grass-roots level cannot really be understood outside the increased antagonism between the teams. Opponents may go through that ritual handshake at stumps, yet rarely discuss the game together in the bar. There's plenty of cordial, little entente cordiale. Tensions traditionally worked through with that miracle lotion called Drink - and the (un)sober realisation that "it's just a game, man" - are increasingly replaced by isotonic rancour and resentment. Pyramid systems and semi-professionalisation create an air of hyper-competitiveness, a fear of being left behind, and as money permeates the recreational game - sharks seeking to buy their way to the top, hoovering up other clubs' young talent - the stakes get ramped up, magnifying the apparent significance of umpiring decisions. Bad blood ensues.

Better relations between opposing teams would undoubtedly create more willingness to accept umpiring decisions - to move on, emotionally, from the moment of grievance. Meanwhile, however, greater trust and empathy are needed between players and officials. But this has to be a two-way street. Players need to understand that without umpires there's no game, that it's a very difficult job, that some decisions simply cannot be got right all that often, and that mistakes are (by and large) made in good faith. Umpires need to be aware of the type of things that rile players (inconsistency in applying laws, 7pm trigger finger, a self-important manner). In short, they need to make better mistakes.

Back in 2008 our league ran a trial whereby the two captains sat down with the umpires after the game and marked them there and then, to their face. Given the likelihood that they might be umpiring you later in the season, the chances of total honesty in these situations was slim ("Yes, Fred, you were dreadful; see you in a fortnight!"). Still, it's a shame these conversations between players and umpires are, for all sorts of reasons, also increasingly rare. Perhaps there might be a way of harnessing the power of the internet to allow all parties to talk issues through in a calm, rational, proportionate manner, once the raw emotion has evaporated. Virtual conversations could be insulated against "keyboard warriors" by not opening until Monday morning and by depriving people of the ability to post anonymously.

I'm looking to be a pioneer in this regard, having searched all the umpires who currently use Facebook and sent them friend requests. The majority have accepted. I have "liked" their cat videos, self-help slogans and grandkid photos, their calls for donations to deaf and blind societies. I have engaged enthusiastically in their threads.

Together we can create bonhomie and goodwill. And who knows: they might give me enough lbws that a county comes in for me on a short-term T20 deal. The clock is ticking, mind.

Scott Oliver tweets here