Jim Hindson investigates the challenge of Notts cricketers 'pro’ing' for a local club.
While the start of the recreational cricket season may not contain as many bells and whistles as the professional game, it means every bit as much to those amateur players participating. I’ve been with Caythorpe CC for the last 28 years, and have been eagerly waiting for the start of this season.
Our first Nottinghamshire Premier League fixture saw us on the road at Attenborough CC - a beautiful ground set next to the nature reserve. After the warm up, our captain began his team talk, imploring us to get off to a good start, to set us in good stead for the season. My eyes wandered across the ground to the Attenborough lads going through their paces, when I suddenly spied Nottinghamshire opener Neil Edwards in home team colours.
I discovered that Edwards had recently signed as one of their professional players (you are allowed two paid players in the League). Having watched him lay the foundations of Notts Championship victory versus Kent earlier in the month with a belligerent innings of 85, I was under no illusions as to the threat he posed to us.
However, as a former Notts cricketer myself, I know only too well the challenges facing professionals in club cricket. The theory is that you are playing at a lower standard, and therefore should dominate and have such an impact on the game that victory for your adopted side is a given. Like many theories in life, the reality is a little different. Edwards would have to get to know a brand new set of team-mates, acclimatise to a very different club culture compared to the professional game, and acquire his bearings on an alien cricket ground and pitch.
"...it came as no surprise to hear that Andre was remunerated in part through vouchers from the local butcher."
The challenges posed by this transition became apparent in the first couple of overs, with Edwards often defending the ball in the air just short of our fielders. In a nutshell, he needed to make swift and radical adjustments to his technique to adjust to the pace of the amateur game. He had opened the batting against Somerset the day before on, by all accounts, a quick wicket, against bowling that was in the mid-80s mph. At Attenborough, the bowling rarely topped 70mph, and a perfectly respectable club wicket, albeit slow and low, was in stark contrast. For this highly tuned athlete, the game was happening in slow motion.
A towering six, hit over the trees into the nature reserve signalled an aggressive change in tactics from Edwards, who then smoked another brace of boundaries, before eventually being bowled. The relief for our side was tangible, as a game that had briefly threatened to be taken away from us, was clawed back. Caythorpe went on to win the game, but the talk in our changing room centered on Edwards. What if he stayed in for just another 10 overs – would that have taken the game beyond our reach?
At Caythorpe CC, we have certainly had our fair share of maulings from professionals, demonstrating precisely why they are paid to play – and us amateurs are not. Last year, Paul Franks crashed 78 not out against us for Farnsfield, while two years ago Northants (and former Notts) swing bowler David Lucas took 7-25 for Clifton, bowling Caythorpe out for 79 in the process.
But by far the most feared professional in the league was Notts and New Zealand all-rounder Andre Adams, who enjoyed two years at Kimberley CC before eventually joining the county set up. Not only could he bowl with good pace and (incredibly) reverse flick the ball when fielding on the boundary, he smashed it when batting. Being strong as an ox with a good eye was a devastating combination given the tiny nature of Kimberley’s ground. The towering sixes (many off yours truly) seemed to get bigger with each game and it came as no surprise to hear that Andre was remunerated in part through vouchers from the local butcher.