I’ve always thought the most important word in sport is confidence. Every word can be linked back to confidence, whether it’s belief or momentum.
Conversely, a lack of confidence results in a lack of belief and a lack of momentum and cricket, above all other sports, gnaws at your frailties and insecurities when it’s not going well.
I was reminded of this when I glanced at Division One of the Palace Shield League. It’s still early days but my own team – White Coppice – are currently unbeaten and sit on top of the pile with seven wins and one tie.
Compare our position with South Shore, who have won one and lost eight of their opening nine games. They’ve had the wood on us recently but they’ve got as many talented players as we’ve got so why the disparity in the league position?
Former Indian opener Navjot Sidhu came out with my favourite cricket quote. “Statistics are like mini skirts,” he said. “They reveal more than what they hide”.
However the league table doesn’t have a column to show confidence and our game with them in May highlighted the wafer thin margin in sport. They rattled up 245, with Matthew Rowley blasting 82, and had us in all sorts of trouble at 90-7.
Crucially they dropped our captain Kyle Dixon on about 50 and he ended up crashing 12 sixes in an innings of 152 and shared a stand of 155 with No 9 Siddik Munshi.
The result was a freak. We got lucky but when you’re doing well you get the breaks and when you’re near the bottom lady luck is in short supply. I’ve had some battles with South Shore but I wish them well and I’d back them to go on a run.
I’ve been around long enough to know how quickly things can change but confidence and good team spirit go hand-in-hand and here’s a good example.
Our young all-rounder Tom Bates was driving home after a game recently when his mobile phone burst into life.
“How did you get on?” he asked his mate.
“I got 19,” was the reply. “And you?”
“We won,” replied Tom, with no mention of his own performance. It said a huge amount about him because the team is what counts.
We played Fulwood & Broughton 2nds on June 1 and they reached 168-8 in pursuit of our total of 168 with 12 balls to spare. We'd played very poorly and a lot of teams would have thrown in the towel but our warhorse Wayne Dixon grabbed two wickets in three balls to secure an unlikely tie.
This Saturday we hosted New Longton and the “forgotten Dixon brother” Ross sprinted from mid-on to long-off to catch the visitors’ opener Aidan Walsh as it was about to smash team-mate Siddik Munshi on the head.
It galvanised the rest of the team. Our body language improved 5 per cent and we caught nine catches from nine chances.
Confidence impacts on individuals as well as teams. England’s Kevin Pietersen exudes confidence while Nick Compton is more introspective. KP’s form might desert him but his confidence never does while Compton appears to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders when his form dips. Ability is crucial but so is confidence.
* You can follow Chris Maguire on Twitter on @ifthecapRead more...
I’m coming off my long run today because I’m becoming increasingly frustrated about how cricket in England is too slow to give youth a chance.
The example I’m going to give is Chorley lad Luis Reece, who is the pro at Leyland Cricket Club in the Northern League and previously played for Blackpool. He’s on the books at Lancashire County Cricket Club and is the captain of Leeds Bradford MCCU.
He’s a quality player and will be 23 in August. I don’t know what arrangements Lancashire CC has with Leeds Bradford MCCU but better qualified people than I have been calling for him to get his first class chance for years.
Joe Root is attracting a lot of attention at the moment for his mature performances for England but only because he’s the exception to the rule. He might look 14 but he’s actually 22.
Compare England to the rest of the world. Sachin Tendulkar made his Test debut at 16 and had eight Test tons by the age Reece currently is. Garfield Sobers and Waqar Younis were 17 when they made their Test debuts while Daniel Vettori and Wasim Akram were 18. Ricky Ponting made his first class debut at 17 and was 20 when he pulled on the famous ‘baggy green’ for the first time.
I’m not advocating throwing youngsters in at the deep end for the sake of it even though Alan Hansen famously said “you'll never win anything with kids" about Man Utd in 1995-96 and they went on to win the double.
Chorley Cricket Club, for example, proved they’re a much better team when they mixed a few experienced heads with a lot of talented youngsters.
In the case of Reece I made my final 1st XI appearance for Chorley in the last game of September, 2008, when he was playing his farewell game for Blackpool.
Reece hit 50 for the Seasiders but it was my undefeated knock of two off 22 balls that helped deny Blackpool the win they needed to win the league. Boom!!
The following day Reece flew off to Australia to play cricket in Queensland. He was 17. Character isn’t just formed on the pitch it’s how you grow up off it and Reece matured a lot in his two winters Down Under.
When I was 17 I was catching a bus to school. When Reece was that age he was playing for Sunshine Coast Scorchers with first class cricketers like Ashley Noffke and pouching a catch off Australian star Andrew Symonds at fine leg.
Under the watchful eye of Leyland captain David Makinson, Reece has gone from strength to strength. He’s been scoring hundreds and taking wickets for fun. In 2011-12 he clocked up thousands of miles playing for Unicorns.
I played with him in a charity game against Emmerdale a few years ago. I smashed East Is East actor Chris Bisson for a lovely cover driven four while Reece was bowled by an extra from the soap but what I remember was how disciplined he was about what he ate.
This season he’s averaging 81 in the Northern League. He scored his debut first-class hundred for Leeds Bradford MCCU against Leicestershire in April and hit an undefeated 201 for Lancashire 2nds against Durham and followed it up with 33 not out in a low run chase.
Time will tell if he’s good enough at first class level (and I think he is) but if we don’t give youth a chance then we’ll never know.
* Follow Chris Maguire on Twitter @ifthecapRead more...
The worst part about getting out after another batting failure is the walk of shame back to the pavilion.
After all my personal experience of failure you’d think I would have mastered the art of tucking the most underused piece of willow in club cricket under my arm without catching the eye of my team-mates by now.
It’s a bit radical but what I’d like to see introduced is either a trap door concealing an escalator somewhere behind where the wicketkeeper stands or a transporter like the one Captain Kirk would use in Star Trek and say: “Beam me up Scotty.”
Any batsman getting a single figure score could simply disappear from the field of play without having to endure the ignominy of walking back to the hutch.
It could be cricket’s equivalent of the sin bin. There could be a sliding scale of time in the sin bin for various misdemeanours. A dropped catch could spell five minutes in the sin bin and a duck would merit 10 minutes out of view.
Look upon it as social cleansing. Before the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the Chinese authorities cleared the city of beggars, hawker, prostitutes, homeless people, unregistered taxi drivers and mobile snack vendors because they felt the sight of them didn’t create the right impression of Beijing.
Cricket is about confidence and there was a gallows humour in White Coppice’s changing room ahead of Saturday’s game at Fulwood & Broughton 2nds.
We’re currently top of Division One and my team-mate Matt Garstang voiced this theory that the reason we’re both picked for the 1st XI is so that we don’t get promoted to the Premier Division.
In other words we’re the antithesis of the cricket ringer. There’s no suggestion that we don’t try our best – it’s just not always enough.
I returned to the fray on Saturday after three weeks out with a broken finger and had spent much of the previous week practising by hitting a tennis ball against a wall with my ancient junior Stuart Surridge bat. It’s that old the signature on it belongs to the late Ken Barrington!
When Sir Donald Bradman was a kid he invented his own solo cricket game, using a stump as a cricket bat and a golf ball. I couldn’t hit a golf ball with a cricket bat but I’ve always found smashing a tennis ball against a wall gets my feet moving
Walking out to bat at number five at the weekend I reached five before changing my shot to a left arm spinner and being out lbw.
“Did it do a bit Magsy?” asked one of my team-mates respectfully. “Yep,” I replied solemnly. “It was straight.”
We posted 168 and Fulwood & Broughton 2nds replied with 168-8 with 12 balls to go to be on the brink of handing us our first defeat of the season.
However team spirit counts for a lot and our war horse Wayne Dixon grabbed two wickets in three balls to secure an unlikely tie.
In the changing room afterwards it felt like a win. “I don’t get many runs but I knew those five runs would come in handy,” I quipped.
That’s the thing about cricket. It’s a team game. For every superstar there’s a journeyman cricketer like Chris Maguire and Matt Garstang – which is probably just as well.
*Follow Chris Maguire on Twitter @ifthecapRead more...
If The Cap Fits - Cricket 1 Football 0
On Saturday afternoon I listened to Test Match Special's commentary of Joe Root's maiden Test hundred at Headingley.
For cricket fans all over the world TMS is an institution and if the BBC ever consider scrapping it there will be civilised riots on the streets of London to Pudsey.
In the evening I watched the all-German Champions' League final between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.
I was reading that a season ticket at Bayern's Allianz Arena costs just £104 - compared with £985 at Arsenal. The cash-obsessed Premier League could learn a lot from their German counterparts.
What got me thinking about the relationship between football and cricket was an interview I did last week with Jim Cumbes, former chief executive of Lancashire County Cricket Club.
A nicer man I have not met and he was one of the last men to play professional football and professional cricket.
He was a goalkeeper and during a 15-year career played for the likes of Tranmere, West Brom and Aston Villa he played in a League Cup final at Wembley.
After the football games the players would share a drink in the local pub with the fans who'd spent the previous 90 minutes cheering or jeering their heroes.
Cumbes was also a professional cricketer for 20 years. He joined Lancashire in 1962 as an 18-year-old but moved to Surrey to further his career.
During a decade at Worcestershire he played in a Lord's final - making him the only sportsman to have played in finals at Wembley and Lord's.
He loved both sports but his enduring friendships and memories during his career were largely forged on the cricket field - and that's the key difference between cricket and football.
Cumbes hung up his whites in 1982 but could reel off his cricket team-mates' names like it was yesterday.
These days we have nothing in common with our £200k-a-week football heroes.
I worry about the pervasive influence of the IPL but there's still an innocence about cricket. Joe Root won't look like the Milky Bar Kid for ever but I hope he never loses the qualities that make him a role model.
That's why the memory of his joy at reaching a maiden Test ton will live on in the memory banks while football matches will never stand the test of time.
* You can follow Chris Maguire on Twitter @ifthecapRead more...
Following my broken finger I’ve had a look into a (temporary) future without cricket and I’ve not liked what I’ve seen.
For the benefit of my two readers I broke my little finger whilst dropping yet another chance for White Coppice against Penwortham 2nds last Saturday.
Despite breaking the top of my little finger in the field I still managed to bat before getting a leading edge and being caught in the covers for a single.
I looked as graceful as Bambi on ice. I don’t think I got one ball in the middle and looked in pain every time I tried to hit it. None of this had anything to do with my broken finger as that’s how I bat most Saturdays.
I went back to the fracture clinic this week and the doctor took one look at my x-ray and did his best impression of a CIA interrogation operative.
“If you are going to suffer a fracture this is the one to have,” he said. All that was missing was the villainous over-the-top laughter you sometimes see in films.
I explained that I was desperate to resume my playing again and he just warned against being hit on the finger again.
“If the cricket ball comes near you again just make an attempt to catch it,” he advised. “I’ve been doing that all my career,” I joked.
At 41 I’m always getting aches and pains but this Saturday was the first weekend I’ve been sidelined by injury in more than 20 years of playing cricket.
It was a real shame because I’ve been batting very consistently having scored 1 against Croston (EDITOR’S NOTE: It could have been less!) and 1 against Penwortham.
If I’d played against Longridge on Saturday and got another single I would have returned successive scores of 1,1,1, which, by a strange coincidence, is the same number for the NHS’s new non-emergency helpline. Like my batting, that’s in crisis too.
Knowing you’re not playing cricket at the weekend completely changes your mindset. Your ears don’t prick up when you hear a weather forecast on the radio because you don’t care.
You don’t allow your mind to daydream as you’re driving about how many runs you’ll get at the weekend because it’s futile if you know you’re unavailable.
A life without cricket is a depressing future which is the reason why I’ve told Mrs M that I won’t be following the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson, Paul Scholes. Michael Owen and David Beckham into retirement.
As a result I spent much of the week doing a rain dance. I know it’s immature but I always feel better if nobody else plays when I’m unavailable. As weekends go this one was a good one to miss.
White Coppice’s game with Longridge was abandoned without a ball being bowled. Instead of dodging showers all day Mrs M had me building some garden furniture with one hand.
It’s fair to say my return to the cricket field can’t come soon enough – although I’m not sure my team-mates and opponents would agree.