When you think about it, populating a cricket pitch with just nine players is on your way to herding cats. I mean, it’s massive, even your bog-standard club pitch is massive, especially when your skipper follows the well-worn path of taking at most three or at least one of those players to stand next to the wicketkeeper under the pretence of slip fielding. Now, I’m not a bowler anymore (some would say I was stretching the description when I did throw it down) and I’m a very good batsman. Well, very good provided at least six of the planets align while the Earth is on its 17th axis spin in an anti-clockwise direction. I’m a fielder. Ultimately, when I turn up to play cricket, I’m a fielder. Two years ago, when I was three stone heavier than the weight I was when I finished last season, I was barely a fielder, more an obstacle in slips who could catch. But I think it’s fair to say I’m a better-than-average fielder so often I’m often given the boundary on one side or the other when the game has become stretched. Bringing it back to my beginning, that’s how you populate a cricket pitch; you give one entire side of the pitch to one person and see them either at the over change (at best), tea (at least) or the end of the game (reality). On the boundary, there’s literally no-one to talk to, apart from yourself, and that is the loneliest part of cricket. I spoke to a friend – and probably the best player I’ve played with – and he says batting is lonely. I reckon a bowler would say the same. I think it’s because they’re in the team to do that, and that brings a whole new pressure. But fielding on the boundary brings its own issues. It’s a constant cry for help. “Skip...skip...SKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKIIIPPPPP?!” “What?” “Two yards left or right?” “Where I put you!” “Ah” The don’t care about you, you think. The over begins...dot...dot...one down the ground...dot...heave across the line to the other boundary for one….You’ve concentrated hard on all five. But sixth ball, you’ve already gone. You’re lost in your own thoughts and madness about whether the skip wants you in the team or whether chicken fried rice would be greedy after tea. Mmmm chicken fri- “CATCH IT” are the words drifting past your ears. Three seconds later you’re throwing the ball in with an apologetic wave as their out-of-form overseas pro completes a three on their way to a first (and only) 100 of the season. Suddenly, fielding gets a whole lot lonelier.
Barrie White has played cricket since he was 13 and has been a player at Parkfield Liscard Cricket Club since the mid-90s. He’s been a journalist since 2011 and currently works on two titles in north Shropshire, as well as presenting his own football podcast.
He loves to slog-sweep.
Opening Up Cricket is a not for profit organisation that promotes mental wellbeing and suicide prevention through cricket.