Alex Stockton looks at how a cricket lover can stay in touch with the game once the summer ends…
Last weekend, the majority of the county’s club cricketers put their kit bags, whites, and spikes away for the final time in 2017. With the passing of the final round of NCL fixtures, we bid farewell to the summer and to the cricket season.
For some, that won’t be too much of an issue; plenty of cricketers are also enthusiastic rugby and football players, while others will simply enjoy having a bit more free time on their hands. For others, however, last weekend will have been depressing. The cricket season is gone, and with it the smell of freshly cut grass, and the sound of leather on willow. How on earth are these individuals to occupy their time? Thankfully, there are a number of coping methods, and I’ll run you through a few of them here.
Keeping fit is an excellent way to both prepare for the 2018 season and occupy yourself in the off-season. Generally, a sound principle to adhere to is to focus on strength training until you start netting again. Then, you can focus on your cardiovascular fitness.
Join a gym for 6 months, get yourself some weights, or just teach yourself some effective body weight exercises. Regardless of your role in the team, extra strength will go a long way; use this time to help with that. While weight training is to be encouraged for any sportsperson, overdoing it during the season increases the risk of an injury. Make the most of not bowling 15 overs every Saturday to improve your core, upper, and lower body strength.
Come February (or whenever winter nets start up again), you can focus on getting fit. Run, swim, row, and stretch; do whatever you need to increase your fitness. Hopefully, by then you’ll be stronger than you currently are, and you can add a good base level of fitness to that additional power. By the time the season comes around, you’ll be fully-fit, but also have that extra level of core strength that should enhance your performances with the bat, ball, and in the field.
Another way of coping with cricket-less months is, simply, to do whatever you can to satisfy your urges: watch cricket. India, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa all play at home at times between now and March, so all is not lost.
While I personally believe that the English summer is the highlight of the cricketing calendar, the IPL and Big Bash are exceptionally popular, and there’s the small matter of an Ashes series down under to contend with this year. Add to that test and one-day series aplenty and you’ve got yourself more than enough cricket to be getting on with. Watch, observe, and enjoy, and allow yourself to sit back while other people score runs and take wickets. Take in the tactical side of the game, and listen to the commentators. Generally, they’re extremely knowledgeable and might be able to tell you something useful about your own game. Hopefully, England will thrash the Aussies over Christmas, too, and we’ll all be lost in the magic of a successful Ashes series. That way, the loss of our own season might not seem so blue after all.
You can continue to play. Sports halls throughout the county are available to hire, while you can also hire a lane at the county ground. If you simply can’t bear to go four or five months without hitting balls, get a group together and stick to a pre-winter net schedule.
The county ground in particular is a fantastic facility, and not many club players take advantage of it prior to the New Year. Playing indoors is obviously very different to playing on damp September wickets, so try and train inside as you would in the summer. Don’t get dragged into bowling too short or hitting too much on the up off the front foot. Stick to what you’ve been doing this summer, and work on maintaining your performances. If you think you’d benefit from it, get yourself some coaching sessions, too.
Finally, it can also be beneficial to simply walk away from the game for a bit of time. Not touching your bat or thinking about bowling for a few months can help to ensure that you return to your club fresh, and raring to go.
A bit of time away from the game is, sometimes, exactly what’s required, so don’t force yourself to train if it simply isn’t your thing. The key is to know whether you’re a trainer or a rester.
If you rely on your innate ability and don’t generally get a lot from practice, the chances are you won’t get too much out of a winter of hard graft, either. Put your feet up, relax, and enjoy the time off.
There’s no right or wrong answer here. Personally, I’d advise some time off, but I can’t stress enough just how individual my own opinion is in this case. There’s no right or wrong way of navigating the winter as a cricketer, and if it works for you to continue ticking over until next April, then go with it.