A poisoned chalice (idiom – especially British English) a thing which seems attractive when it is given to somebody but which soon becomes unpleasant.
On a dreary and dismal Friday afternoon in January 2019, I received confirmation that the Park Hill CC Committee had (foolishly) appointed me as the captain of the Saturday XI. The potent combination of satisfying a sizeable ego and the residual guilt attached to the circumstances surrounding the previous incumbent’s serious cruciate injury meant that I took up the mantle for the season ahead. If you have not already lost interest in this meandering diatribe, please read on to discover how I fared during my first term in office.
The pre-season programme started positively enough and we managed to retain the majority of the previous season’s squad – always a good start. As with many clubs up and down the nation, many a batsman looked unrecognisable in the safe confines of the nets. Equally, the agoraphobic brigade led willingly by D. Ransom and others put aside their April-September induced yips in order to tantalise the batsmen with an array of meats and vegetables encased in pastry – or pies to the layman. The sessions were typically well-attended and occasionally coincided with trips to the local curry house or pub. Therefore, the club’s membership went into the opening week of the season with renewed optimism and hopes of building on the previous season’s mid-table finish.
A chastening defeat to the eventual league winners on the opening day was not the greatest start and quickly eviscerated the aforementioned optimism and positivity. However, an admirable footnote to this defeat proved to be the season’s recurring motif: the determination to get games played, even if that meant playing with fewer than 11 players. Special praise is also reserved for those who often rearranged plans or sacrificed their places in the side for the following day in order to answer the call. This, coupled with my newly adopted mantra of “aim low and you’ll never be disappointed” meant that we stormed to 3 victories in the opening 4 fixtures; May proved to be a remarkably profitable month!
Our renaissance continued into June as we dispatched our sparring partners Spelthorne in convincing fashion. In what was arguably one of the most impressive victories of the season, we stormed to a 7 wicket victory inside 27 overs after they were dismissed for 147 runs. Regrettably, the remainder of the month proved to be infuriating. Firstly, our momentum was stalled somewhat by a mysterious abandonment at Ottershaw and then the small manner of consecutive defeats by the margin of 4 runs on both occasions! The first of these was made all the more frustrating by the fact we only fielded 10 players, but the second was inexcusable following the agony of the previous week and the advantage of boasting 11 players on this occasion.
July saw us put up a valiant fight by posting 186 against Ploughmans – almost quadrupling our total from the reverse fixture on the opening day of the season. Although we did not claim the victory, the side carried this increased confidence into the following fixture and we successfully chased 196 against Croydon in the dying embers of the game. Once again, the Cricket Gods – sensing our buoyancy – sent down a deluge for the rest of the month and halted our impetus.
We often long for hot weather and dry spells in August; we certainly delivered the latter when it came to posting totals in what proved to be a miserly month for Park Hill’s batsmen. Our opponents claimed 36 victims for 327 runs during this spell, although we did claim a nerve-jangling victory after chasing 94 to beat Commonwealth.
One victory and one well-contested defeat in September summed up our season perfectly: hit and miss. The former was particularly pleasing as, in addition to consigning rivals Spelthorne to relegation, we also saved our best total of the season until the last league game by reaching 234 runs from our 40 overs. Another excellent team performance and well-deserved victory. Another game where we would not play the following week!
In summation, we only took to the field on a Saturday afternoon on 14 occasions due to a mixture of inclement weather and opposition withdrawals. Six of these fixtures were victories and a further 8 were defeats. 35 different players donned their baggy green Park Hill caps across the 14 fixtures. I have also learned a series of important lessons that should hopefully enable me to develop into a better captain for the 2020 season: “aim lowER and you’ll never be AS disappointed”; I should occasionally opt to bat after winning the toss; it is harder to find 11 relatively able bodied players during the week than performing the match day duties of captaincy; there is nothing better than enjoying a beer with a group of mates after a long afternoon of cricket.
Fast-forward to February 2020 and news has inevitably filtered down that one much maligned, egotistical and divisive leader narrowly escaped impeachment and cemented their own position for another term of office. Nobody fancied drinking from the poisoned chalice at the Park Hill AGM.
In other news, Donald Trump’s antics are also eliciting much interest in the media.