There have been plenty of changes introduced into North West cricket this season, many of them have worked out really well while others maybe haven't been wholly successful and may need tweaked over the winter. Lots of people aren't overly convinced by power-plays for example but these are pretty much the norm throughout one-day cricket now and we may just have to get used to them.
One thing I have noticed recently that hasn't changed however is the pressure that is put on umpires when rain or light affects play. In one case last week I watched a former player following the umpires around pointing out that he “had played in far worse than this …” and at one stage advising the umpire that “every other umpire in the North West would play except you …”. Obviously very many people are annoyed and frustrated with the way things have panned out for the past four or five weeks but this is an issue that has been going on in regional cricket since teams started playing it. The rule book states quite clearly that the umpires alone are the sole judges of the fitness of conditions for play. Quite literally that means that they don't need any help from anyone else although as a matter of courtesy they do liaise with captains and scorers as and when required.
Whilst not a criticism of umpires I do think that all officials need to have a fairly consistent approach to what constitutes acceptable playing conditions. It can never be an exact science however and players have to accept that. For example umpires are reluctant to run for cover at the first sight of rain in case its a passing shower that will be over before you reach the rope. Similarly, how often have you heard the phrase “..it was the sort of rain you wouldn't come off for, but if you're already off you wouldn't go back out..”. And that's just it- it's a judgement call by two men who are trying to do the right thing by everybody.
What they don't need is someone following them around telling them what they should or shouldn't do. As a matter of fact I believe the umpires should help themselves by advising individuals that they will be put on report if that type of nonsense continues. It doesn't matter whether they are players or not; clubs are responsible for the behaviour of the people who follow them and while captains or vice captains can expect to be part of the consultation process, the sooner the matter is properly dealt with the better.
As you will probably know by now the Cricket Operations Committee has asked Bready to suggest an alternative weekend for the Northern Bank senior cup final in the event of the bad weather continuing. Obviously it is as a last resort but something had to be done simply on the basis that if Donemana v Glendermott isn't finished this Saturday, or indeed if the winners' semi- final is rain affected the following weekend, the final may have to go back. Considering that it will have taken at least a month to play the quarter final it isn't beyond the realms of possibility that we could get another day or two of rain between now and the end of July which begs one question.
Why can't cup matches be played midweek? I know Duckworth Lewis is used in the cup but it is used in the league as well and league games can still be played midweek. Cup matches have traditionally been played on Saturdays or Sundays and carried on if necessary but that surely shouldn't stop games starting midweek. I could be wrong but my guess is that if Donemana v Glendermott had started on a Monday night it would be long finished by now as players wouldn't be keen to drag it on. The decision doesn't rest with the fixture secretary by the way- it rests with the clubs and ultimately with the Operations Committee. I just wondered if anyone knew a genuine, unavoidable reason why it can't happen.
And what about our five-way tie at the top of Division 1 of the Long's SuperValu league? It has grabbed everyone's attention over the past few days and although we've had close races in the past heading into the second half of the season, there has been nothing as tight as this. Strange too that half the teams in the league are tied for top spot and the reigning champions aren't even among them.
We have long since been used to Limavady and Donemana leading the way and more latterly Strabane being bang in the mix but how refreshing to see Bready and Coleraine in there pitching too. In a ten team league we have five battling hard for an advantage in the title race and four fighting for their lives at the other end. I have no doubt that it reinforces the view of many here that, just like the English Premier League in football, we might be lagging behind a touch in technical terms but we bow to no-one in the excitement stakes. Long may that continue.
Finally for now, and with the greatest respect in the world to Railway Union and their hard-working committee whom I had the pleasure of meeting when they were up at the Rectory this season, the best of luck to Donemana this Sunday. Whatever the rights or wrongs of 2009 this is the Holm side's first Bob Kerr Irish Senior Cup home tie since then and here's hoping that players and supporters alike do the club proud.