Growing up in fairly rural Suffolk, I didn't think cricket was played near me. Now I know that was because nobody told me Essex was close. Therefore I have never felt a natural affinity to any particular County and although I have ancestors hailing from Somerset, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire I didn't feel a strong attraction to follow their colours. Despite Chelmsford being the nearest County ground I stayed within the confines of Suffolk and simply supported England. But this summer, that is going to change. Here I lay out the three reasons for why I'm excited for the start of the LV= County Championship season.
If you've ever been to Suffolk, you'll know that it's pretty much not close to anything. And as a young cricket fan, aching to see real cricket - until you've seen your heroes in action it doesn't feel proper. You can understand my glee then, when I visited Lords for the first time aged 19, in early May 2011.
It was the 4th day of a match between Middlesex and Essex, of which I only saw about 4 overs before Middlesex knocked off the runs to win. It was a non-event really, but the fact that I was within touching distance of the pavilion was spine tingling enough. After a trip to the museum and whilst a groundsman's back was turned I even did a little run on the sacred outfield. Still, I can't really say I have experienced County cricket.
"Supporting the County game should be a staple of all young cricket fans upbringing."
Therefore I have set myself the entirely attainable goal of seeing at least one full day of cricket at each of the main County grounds in the next couple of years. And now that I know that Essex is close and public transport has come to Suffolk, I plan on experiencing some of the local flavour over the coming months.
So that's the first reason I'm excited for the County season - to get the first stamps on my card.
"The county stuff is a bit dull" wrote Andrew Hughes on his maddeningly inflammatory article for Cricinfo last week. As an amateur cricket writer, I understand the need to write something divisive to get noticed and to get column inches. What I don't believe in is the increasingly common, pernicious attitude of taking pot-shots at something easy to get a reaction. Hughes feels that taking pot-shots at the IPL is an example of just this, presumably ignoring all of the level-headed reasons for the IPL actually being an atrocity.
Annoyingly he got to me so this is my belief - if we do not support County cricket, it might fall by the wayside. If it is discarded then there will be, in the future, at least one generation of cricketers who do not know how to put together an innings more than, say, 50 overs long. That will then impact on the English Test team (unless they play Ranji Trophy cricket in India, or Sheffield Shield cricket in Australia, for example) as they won't have the patience that is attained by batting for long periods in 4 day cricket in England.
Supporting the County game should be a staple of all young cricket fans upbringing. Be that through t20 introduction, or 4 day cricket. Fortunately, by watching Cheltenham & Gloucester finals when I was a boy I became familiar with County cricket, bizarre as it was to me at the time. By supporting the County game, you are supporting the National game.
So that's the second reason I am excited for the County season - to show my loyalty to a struggling side of cricket.
In recent months, as my incredibly self-indulgent journey as a wordsmith has progressed I have been lucky enough to both write for, and visit Nottinghamshire CCC. Therefore I have learned about their history, their players, their culture and so on - I have felt the inevitable pull towards Trent Bridge that one gets when the appeal of the new and unfamiliar is wafted in front of them. Whilst not being a Notts fan just yet, all the signs are there - the frequent visits to their website, the daily checking of their Twitter website.
I have had chances to support Counties, just didn't take them. At a party some years back I met a guy who told me that he was a cricketer. I didn't really believe him so I just nodded politely and then forgot all about it. A couple of summers later I was pretty stunned to see that Jaik Mickleburgh had run up 174 against Durham - I cursed myself for not being as friendly as I should have been. Right there I could have become an Essex fan. But I didn't. I remained a neutral.
Yet this season, I will be following Notts. I will be checking their results, keeping tabs on who's doing well, who's on the slide and who of their young spinners that I've tipped for future success get game time.
So that's the final reason I am excited for the County season - rather than just being a casual observer, I'm going to be an active fan, following the successes and inevitable failures of Nottinghamshire CCC.
I'm not saying that everybody should pin a County's flag to their chest and be a die-hard fan for the rest of their days. Merely this is how my anticipation for the season has been built up by. What I do think should be in every cricket fan's interests is the preserving of the County game, for if County cricket is forgotten about, the national game will suffer.
Alex Britten writes at alexbritten.wordpress.com