"Have you got 5 runs off that over?" "Yes, and the score is 153 after 52".
It's a hot Saturday afternoon, sometime between 2pm and 2:40. I'm praying that 2:40 comes quickly, I get a 20-minute break from staring at the iPad and can finish my chicken roll from lunch. I feel a solitary bead of sweat roll down my cheek as I glance up to view the dry, grassy oval. I shouldn't have to; it is implanted in the mind's eye - 13 men all dressed in white, most of whom are wearing a rounded cap or a white wide-brimmed hat and at least half are crowded around a strip of extremely short cut grass.
This is cricket in its purest form, a world away from the riches of the Indian Premier League, Big Bash or any other Twenty20 competition that are seemingly sprouting up like weeds after a storm around the world. Exempt from the aura and constant speculation that surrounds international cricket. This is grade cricket, where professional and amateur cricketers alike come together to create dramatic storylines each Saturday from August to April; and I am the scribe who transfers these storylines onto paper, or as is becoming increasingly more common the internet.
There are a lot of remarkable things that a person may notice about a first-grade team if they spend as much time as I have in that environment. First is the number of support staff or lack thereof; that are involved; a coach, an assistant or two and most importantly a scorer. Our team is somewhat lucky to have a part-time physiotherapist, but she is probably the only one in the competition. Apart from the ground and the canteen staffs, it is a small operation considering the high standard of the players. That shock is matched by the shock when you realise that only a handful of people if any are turning up to watch these matches.
In the time I’ve been involved, 250 people is roughly the largest crowd at a game which featured two former international players and a host of other First-Class players. For the majority of cricketers, First Grade is the pinnacle of their careers and it’s a shame most of the games are watched by less people than an under 10s match. Another remarkable facet of First Grade is the amount of time the players must dedicate to a past-time. If a player attended a minimum of two sessions per week, which ran for an hour and a half each and a day’s play on Saturday they would be spending close to fifteen hours per week on their passion. The amount would rise to more than 20 hours if you included travel times and playing on the occasional Sunday; all this while paying to play, rather than being paid.
As I alluded to earlier, scoring is not a glamorous role; you are constantly repeating yourself, “What’s the Score?”; the hours are similar to those of a full day of work and you can find yourself under immense pressure on occasions. Not to mention often you are painted as the bad person when you ask people to move or be quiet because it’s affecting your concentration.
Despite all the pitfalls which come with the position; it’s the people which keep me coming back every season.