Dramatis Personae (2)

Who Can It Be Now? (Men at Work)
Profiling the cast of League Cricket, The Musical (second in a series)

The Scorers
In twelve years of umpiring I have yet to encounter a scorer who was less than excellent. The geek persona they are often given is complete nonsense. I have never seen a copy of ‪The Galloping Sausage and Other Train Curiosities hanging out of  a scorer’s bag and I have never met one aged fifty-plus who lives with his mother.‬ Their training and assessment is as rigorous as ours and they are consummate professionals.

Approaching the scorebox after each innings is like waiting to be thrashed by the headteacher at school (Chewing gum under your chair in assembly sir? That’s outrageous). But when a scorer points out you have allowed a five-ball over, you don’t get the begging bowl out. Scorers are not to be messed with.

The Drinks Break
If a human addicted to recreational drugs wanted a cheap weekly fix, all he or she has to do is sign up for a recreational cricket club and midway through an innings go through the ceremony of inserting a liquid fix into his or her body. The sugar rush is surely equal to a line of crack. Welcome to the mid-innings drinks break. I’ve stopped requesting plain water because players who bring these jugs of squash (or as I call them, multi-coloured bags of sugar) cannot believe that a human being would actually not want to drink this liquid chemical cocktail. If it was branded by a couple of hipsters sitting on a hammock in their desk pace inside a refurbished shoe factory, naturellement, it would surely be called Sledge.

The Spectators
It’s rare to encounter more than a few people watching a club cricket match – I don’t count dog walkers or Secret Umps’ mates who occasionally flex their cycling muscles to watch another brilliant umpiring performance. I’ve had the occasional exchange of opinion with spectators, the most fractious involving a gentleman who was shouting from the boundary: He’s no-balling.

Reading these wise posts, you will be aware that Secret Umps is a voice of reason and tolerance, ready to impart goodwill to all men and women (and like my Welsh mate who does not know whether to identify as a man or woman, those who are gender Clwyd). But if there is one thing that gets my goat it is seeing a grown man wearing a short-sleeved shirt with a tie. So at the end of the over I rounded up Mr Other-Umps (it’s posh our League) and we approached the said fashion troglodyte.

He’s no balling, I can see it from here.

Look mate, your not even square to the wicket and good luck to you if you can see the bowler’s front foot from here because I can hardly see the line myself. Enjoy the game and leave the umpiring to us. Oh, and your tie needs straightening.

Overseas players
In our League there are players who come from all parts of the cricketing globe. A few are club pros whose passage is paid by the club and they enjoy a lovely English summer coaching and playing.  Can I have leg stump please sir? asks the South African club pro taking guard. I put the idea of calling me Sir to Mrs Umps and I must say, after being on the receiving end of her negative response, the A&E department worked incredibly hard to free the 240mm trussing needle that had penetrated my abdomen.

I remember an Aussie pro telling me after a game that down under his colleagues show more respect to Messrs Umps than English players. But such is my admiration for the local hearty souls that frequent the pavilions of league cricket, I find that assertion from a Pom incredibly hard to believe.

The Kids
Before my self-imposed exile on friendlies and matches other than Saturday League games, I umpired a few school matches and a couple of county U17 games. Yes, it’s great to see the stars of tomorrow strutting their stuff and occasionally we have a youngster turning out in the League.

When I say youngster, I mean 12-15 and those are rare on the circuit. But cricket is a meritocracy and there are some very good young players who have the ability and temperament to play in adult cricket. When I was serving my apprenticeship in the lower Leagues on behalf of a club, I would sometimes take a lift with the skipper and when youngsters were present, the level of banter noticeably changed from the  dregs of the gutter to a bingo caller in a Darby and Joan tea party.

I really messed up one youngster’s debut. Standing at square leg I did not get out of his way quickly enough and he spilled a difficult catch. But there was no gerund from him, why he even inquired if I was all right having taken a tumble trying to give him some room. I’ll wager that his grandfather never left the house without a pair of leather gloves.

The Bathrooms
I think it’s reasonable to expect a cricket club to provide a decent hot shower after each game – and most do just that. I think it’s poor form to chat to captains and players after a game wearing the same sweaty slacks and blouson. Despite some fairly old pavilions and clubhouses, clubs do their best to keep the lavatories clean but there is nothing worse than coming off the field with a magnificent sunset behind you (think The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro) only to find the remains of the tea break floating in the bowl. Still, in these difficult economic times, some clubs are more flush than others.