All in the timing?
Davy Holmes (News Letter)
Apparently the secret of good comedy is timing; can the same be said for the starting times of cricket matches?
The NCU season began last Saturday week with two matches surviving the weather, one starting at 11AM, the other at 1PM; so why the disparity; not to suit Sky Sports I can assure you... Or perhaps it was in a way.
The subject of starting times particularly in the first months of the season is something which seems to draw more comment than even the likely make-up of the CIYMS team. There are two very distinct schools of thought, early starts, no more standing freezing waiting for a game to finish, seems good; and the traditionalists who favour the later 1 PM start.
Let’s be clear I have made no secret of where my preference is, having suffered arctic conditions at Pollock Park last season at approaching 9.30PM and on several occasions not being back home until well south of 10PM. But this is not about my opinion.
The NCU has not laid down a definitive starting time for games, the regulations state that “Play may start at any time agreed by both teams, but not later than 1PM in April, May or June.” Note the word agreed.
Last Saturday was interesting from two perspectives, one we had two teams agreeing to play at 11AM; secondly and perhaps not coincidently there was the little matter of an Ulster rugby team playing the Heineken Cup semi-final in Dublin with an early evening kick off. A definite case if ever there was one of sport united.
CSN’s Nigel Jones was moved to post on Twitter:
“11AM start tom, CSNI V CIYMS @ Stormont, pitch & square looks well. Early start... Live Ulster match #commonsense”
Some may disagree about this version of common sense.
Popular wisdom says if you start before 1PM, you are in direct conflict with the schools’ game played on a Saturday morning. Others will say forget about Saturday morning cricket, the schools can play their fixtures through the week and all play for clubs on a Saturday.
Who better to turn to for some rational thoughts on the subject than Kyle McCallan, current Waringstown captain, former Irish international and perhaps more importantly in this context the Head of PE at Grosvenor Grammar School, with cricket coaching as his specialist subject:
“If I am being purely selfish and looking at this with self interest, would it suit me not to have schools cricket on a Saturday morning? Of course it would. Already I am juggling to get to matches on time and arrive just before the start and often when the toss is already made.
The Bob Kerr Irish Senior Cup and NCU Challenge Cup games already have early starts so this is difficult enough. I happen to believe there is no need for conflict and the games should all start at 1PM, certainly bring them forward from the end of June onwards.
It is far too simplistic to put up an argument which says all schools cricket can be played during the week. With the exam curriculum the way it is most of the guys from 5th form and above are not regularly available during May and June through the week.
As Head of PE at Grosvenor I want to facilitate as much cricket as possible. Together with Andrew White and Johnny Young plus the support of others we are providing cricket from 1st form up. I concentrate on the U12’s and the first eleven. Last year we had 72 matches crammed into an 8 week season.
Matches start on a Saturday morning at 9AM, with duration of 20-25 overs and we aim to be completed at 12 to 12.30 so the guys can play for clubs in the afternoon.
I will not stand in the way of the better players playing for the club ahead of the school. Certainly I believe it is much better for the development of a player like Alistair Shields to be playing in the Irish Senior Cup for North Down, so he would be excused the school game.
The schools need to piggyback off the clubs; we are developing relationships here with North Down CIYMS, CSN and Cregagh, indeed they have used out indoor net facilities. In July North Down has agreed to host a fixture in our festival where the boys will be introduced to the 50 over form of the game. Schools must develop links with clubs and what I believe this does is produce lots of cricketers.
Who are we trying to please here; is it the social cricketers or is it those who have real aspirations to play at a higher level. If guys want to play social cricket, no problem, cut back the number of overs down the club and let them get away early to spend time with their families or whatever. What we really need here is flexibility of thought and application of common sense.
Bottom line why create conflict, the schools need the clubs and the clubs need to schools. When I was at school guys did it for me, school in the morning and club in the afternoon, all I want here is my guys to have those same opportunities.”
No doubt the debate will continue.