Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Line in the Sand

“The more things change, the more they stay the same”. So the saying goes, and so the Kiama Cricket Club continues to prove.

Reading back over old stories, and old correspondence, I never cease to be amazed by the truth of this statement. As I write this, another season of cricket is drawing to the finals stage, and once again Kiama appear to be losing the plot just at the defining moment.
An unbiased observer may well accuse me of being a tad pessimistic. Following another thumping victory for Kiama's 4th Grade side – their fifth in succession – all four of the Club's teams appear to be heading for finals berths, a feat not achieved since the 1994/95 season, the last season Kiama won the Club Championship. I would counter this by adding that the following season, 1995/96, Kiama finished either last or second-last in every Grade. But this is about the present, not the past. Split Enz told us that “History never repeats”. I certainly hope they are accurate.

Whispers and back-room conversations are circulating, belying the good results that appear on the surface. All is not 'peaches and cream' in the land of the Cavaliers, and it is time to tackle it head on. For too many years, our Club has festered beneath the surface with rumblings of bad blood between all parties concerned, and in the long run, it is this that contributes to the downfall of the Club - on the field, and off the field. Many people are sick of it, and talk of trying to end it. But good intentions do not always convert themselves to reality, and in some cases just contribute to the muckraking behind the scenes, rather than bringing it all to the surface.

1st Grade are in serious danger of throwing away all the good work of the season so far, and falling out of the finals at the final hurdle. The disappointing efforts against Lake Illawarra and Albion Park have already been documented in this column, and need not be revisited. The first match after Christmas also finished in a ugly loss to last season's Premiers. Having restricted Albion Park to just 155, Kiama faltered in their chase, eventually falling for just 97. In their second innings, Kiama had an outside chance to press for outright points, but a clumsy and lazy display of fielding, resulting in at least four dropped catches, put paid to any thoughts in this direction.
Following last week's disappointing result, only one change was made to 1st Grade, the captain retaining faith in the team, and giving them the opportunity to put right what had gone wrong the previous match. To then see their opponents race to 1/100 with the bat must have been distressing. Bowling them out for 139 would then have been a relief, though a troubling one in regards to the ineffectiveness of his opening bowlers. To then find themselves at 6/24, following the batting woes that have troubled the side this season, would have been shocking. I can guarantee you that everyone at 2nd Grade were in disbelief when that score was relayed to us. Falling 31 runs short on 1st Innings leaves 1st Grade a lot of work in order to save face this weekend.

2nd Grade appear to have dug themselves out of trouble, thanks mainly to Mick Norris, who carried the team on his own shoulders with 17 of the team's ordinary 101 (2nd top score to Josh Elliot's slashing 20), and then bowling 13 precision overs on a goat track to claim 6/14 with the ball, restricting Shellharbour to 45 in reply. At 1/120 in their 2nd Innings, with a lead already at 176, 2nd Grade dodged a bullet that a lackadaisical start should have ensured would wound them. It is to be hoped that, apart from Mick's efforts, skipper Steven Holz's 3/0 off 2.1 overs embarrassed the other seamers in the team. Bowling only what he asked of his front line bowlers, Steve proved his theory, where his seamers apparently could not.

There are a wide range of issues that need to be raised here – for the good of our Club, and for the good of our Club spirit, and for the good of our Club's on-field performance. Some of the problems creating brick walls as barriers within our community are listed below :

1. We have a situation where it appears that players from each Grade are unable to congregate with those from other Grades. It seems that there is a reluctance for players from different Grades to mix with each other socially, and the blame for this bounces back between each group like a rally in a tennis match, without any real effort being made to solve it rather than rebuff it.
2. We have batsmen who are clearly batting out of position in their team, and therefore doing themselves and their side no good at all.
3. We have players who believe that they are being crucified by their captains, and seem to be unable to get past this belief and just put runs or wickets on the board to help their cause. Not only this, they are unable or unwilling to discuss this with their captain face-to-face, and solve any issues or problems they may have in a mature fashion.
4. We have bowlers who say they know the line and length they should be bowling, but are either deliberately bowling to a different plan, or are simply incapable of performing what should be the relatively simple task of bowling to this line and length. Any bowler who says they cannot bowl at the stumps should start concentrating on their batting instead.
5. We have players whose season figures (some for longer than this season) are absolutely deplorable, and yet they have failed to be dropped from their side, apparently because they are either favoured by their captain above those performing in a lower grade, or because apparently no one in a lower grade is performing well enough to replace them. On the other hand, we have players in Grades who have done more than enough to suggest they should be playing in a higher grade, and yet they are apparently superfluous to the needs of those higher grades when it comes to selections.
6. We still have a number of players in our Club who only seem capable of performing to the extent of their talents when it suits them, and are full of excuses when things don't go their way. They are also the first people to kick up a stink when they get dropped for this lack of performance, and immediately begin bagging anyone who has an off week in the hope it will get them back in the team they want to be in.

These are not just my observations. This list has been compiled from conversations with a wide variety of people from within and outside of our Club. Mine is not a lone voice. These are the collated concerns of a Club, and a community who watch our Club with interest.

We have made made too many advances this season, and in the past few seasons, to allow this opportunity of success to slip from our grasp.
As individuals, we must be tough and honest in our self-assessment, and be able to improve our performance on the field and give 100% at all times, to be of the greatest benefit to our team and our Club. We must be aware of the performances of those around us, in our team and in our other Grade teams, and congratulate and commiserate with them.
As Grade teams, we must be aware of the results of our other Grade sides, and be positive and supportive in their own efforts of reaching for finals glory. We must be able to mingle with them, sit and talk with them, have a beer with them, and realise and remember that, when all is said and done, we are a CLUB first, a TEAM second, and an INDIVIDUAL third.
We must support our captains, their tactics and decisions, and perform to our peak for them. In return, our captains must support their team, always thinking of the team, but realise that there are eleven players in a team, and each needs their own support and ego-stroking. The old adage has never been truer – a good team will always beat a team of good players. Ensuring everyone is a part of each weekend's performance, whether as an active participant or a willing back-up, is absolutely essential.

People will say I am being a hypocrite by coming out with all of this. They will point out that I have been a selector for this Club on four separate occasions, and each time walked away of my own accord. They will look at a captaincy record in Grade cricket at two Clubs that shows I presided over only one victory in almost 20 matches in charge. They will point out that I do not attend training, and that I only return to the Grand after a match every second weekend. They will suggest that someone with such average figures as my own has no right to start pointing the finger at others, and to come out and basically call into account the desire, heart and guts of our Club. It will be suggested that there are better channels to front these concerns than on a website of my own thoughts. In many cases, I will be called an old dickhead past a prime on the cricket field that amounted to very little, who thinks he knows everything about cricket, and knows basically nothing.

Every one of these points has its truth.
The problem is, so does every point I have raised here. And we cannot sweep them under the carpet any longer.

If it wasn't time to be concerned after last week's result in 1st Grade, then you can be damned sure it is time to be concerned now. It isn't just a 1st Grade problem however – it is a Club problem.
It is time for every member of this Club, who has the desire and hope to see our Club once again rise to being the best in our district, to be aware of what is happening – and in their own way, help to solve these issues. In many cases, it will have to be a personal adjustment. But all changes begin with the individual, and finish in Club glory.