Sunday, 3 October 2010

My retirement speech

This was my retirement speech as third team skipper. I was away with work so couldn't attend myself, so I wasn't able to read it out. It meant a lot to me to say how much I enjoyed playing with my friends and team-mates, but there you go.

With a weary sense of inevitability, it was another case of 'nearly, but not quite' for the 3s this season.

Under the joint stewardship of myself and Matt Child - always the Venables to my McLaren - we had probably the strongest team I can remember, but as ever, lack of availability towards the end of the season derailed our title hopes. We used over 40 players over the course of the season.

In terms of batting we had the always-dashing Sefton superstar Vinny Abel opening with the solid and dependable Adam Flynn, who has made huge strides forward in the last year, in terms of the quality of his cricket if not his running between the stumps. They scored 336 runs at 33 and 400 runs at 36 respectively.

Matt Child batted in virtually every spot this season, and had a poor season by his high standards, but his grit and bloody-mindedness saw us to at least one victory. I'm sure he never enjoyed himself more than when carrying his bat on a sticky wicket for 49* in the rain and wind at Ormskirk.

Coming in at three - and usually the first of the middle-order powerhouse - was Paul Eastham, who kicked on again after a strong year in 2009.

His swatted six into the long grass by the pavilion to bring up a ton was a rare moment of cricketing genius – the perfect shot at the perfect time. Paul's jokes are the worst in cricket, possibly the world.

As if those opening salvos hadn't worn out the opposition, the sight of the eight-foot Heandog striding to the wicket in his floppy hat soon would. The sheer hitting power of Mike is probably unrivalled in the league, but there's a touch there too that few would expect from such a rhinoceros of a man.

The third part of the middle-order engine was Nick Moreton, who quietly amassed runs all through the season, or as much as his hectic social schedule allowed. In Nick, we finally had a replacement for Jonny Woodmsith, both in terms of his weight of runs, and in terms of his wide-ranging and frequent social engagements affecting his availability.

Eastham, Heaney and Moreton scored a combined 1000+ runs at phenomenal respective averages of 49, 58 and 46.

To then have Jim Pearce, Adam Taylor, Ali Khan and the hard-hitting Saj Khan still to bat was testament to probably the strongest order in the league - although this meant that players further down the order were often frustrated by the lack of innings.

Vinay Agrekar proved a valuable asset late in the season, with runs and wickets. The prospect of him playing for us next season with Vinny Abel, if he manages to return to the UK, is a mouth-watering prospect.

Adam Taylor had a great season behind the stumps, with the most stumpings to his name of any keeper in the LDCC at one point. He was ably supported by Alex Miller as a natural fit behind the stumps late in the season.

The bowling department was, at times, equally strong with myself, Ali Khan, Rob Kelly, George Lee, James Sayer, Ted Williams, Saj Khan, Vinny and Adam Brennan all in the wickets this season, though we struggled to bowl teams out at times.

Before Jamie Bowman steals the nickname, I'd like to propose Rob Kelly as the unluckiest man in cricket, having bowled consistently well all season for little reward - ending with 10 wickets at 30 apiece. Rob was similarly unlucky in the field all season – the ball kept going towards him. This often proved to be unlucky for the team too, but a true champagne moment catch against Liverpool almost redeemed him.

George Lee may have been the fastest bowler in the league this season, and certainly troubled batsmen of all abilities in the third team league. More consistency will see him troubling batsmen for years to come, almost as much as his strange outbursts troubled me this season. His suggestion that he might explain how an iPhone works to me will stick in the memory. He took 12 wickets at 17.

Saj Khan. Thank God for the relaxed immigration policies of the last 13 years. Saj's left-arm swing arrived around the time Vinny Abel left us this season, and could not have been better timed. His enthusiastic, if rarely-understood, encouragement and will to win was a great addition to the team half-way through the season. Saj took 22 wickets at 15.

Ali Khan also had a good season, adding a vital part of the spinner's arsenal to his talents; namely the ability to take wickets with the filthiest deliveries imaginable. A well-judged adjustment of length against a particularly destructive batsman during the season was evidence that Ali is becoming a thoughtful slow bowler. He took 23 wickets at 15.

Adam Brennan always stepped up when required, and proved himself ready for third team cricket with some excellent performances. He ended up with nine wickets at ten apiece.

Other bowlers who had strong seasons include Vinny, ever-brilliant with the swinging ball and putting in another 7-for which won us a game, something I think he managed every season I played with him.

Ted Williams played for us twice and took 10 wickets at an average of three. What a bastard.

Jay Sayer played once and took a five-for. Bastard.

I took 30 wickets at 15, and even managed to dispose of both Iwan Williams and Stu Lomas with balls than actually spun. Iwan in particular will never forget the send-off he got in the first 3s versus 4s match.

On a personal note - and I'm speaking as Boyner [Mark Boyns, who was reading the speech] now - Robin is quite simply the best bowler I have ever faced. A fine bowler, a fine skipper and a fine human being, with a fine head of hair.

[some stuff about certain teams probably best to not repeat went here]

On the plus side it's a reminder of the valuable work we do with youngsters at Sefton by people like Howie and Ted. It was also a valuable reminder of the importance of respect and fair-play in competitive sport.

I'll finish on a positive: the second memorable game for me was our home fixture against Liverpool.

With a weakened team, we batted first and had an early collapse, courtesy of their first-team bowler; but steady innings from Mike Heaney, Chris Brereton and Ali Khan – none of whom are given to steady innings - at least made a game of it.

Rob and George had an off-day with the new ball, so myself and Vinny came on to try to peg it back. Liverpool, with nine wickets in hand and with 20 overs to score less than a hundred, still finished some 20 runs adrift of our score.

It was a draw, but it felt like a win to us and no doubt a defeat to them. The way the team pulled together and fought for that draw really made me proud to be the third team skipper that day.

If I had the time I'd gladly continue as captain, as I believe we have squad capable of winning the title and the cup and I love playing cricket at Sefton.

However, with a demanding job and new business I don't feel like I can give it my all - and believe there are several other people capable of doing an excellent job. Not quite as good as myself, but still very good.

My thanks go to everyone I played with this season, some of whom are absent tonight. Chief among them is Vinny, who we hope to see back at Sefton soon. In his honour I'd like to raise a glass to probably the only man to ever hit a ton and take a hat-trick as part of a five-for in the same game at Sefton.

My thanks also to Matt Child, Jim Pearce and Mike Heaney for lessening the burden over the course of the season too. And to other skippers for advice and understanding.

There are lots of people whose hard work goes on, often unseen, at the club in order that we can keep playing the game we love. Stu Lomas, Bob Paisley, Howie Baird and Ted Williams are the ones I'm most frequently aware of, although there are many others.

Perhaps most important; Rob Jobson and Charlie O'Mahony labour away heroically throughout the summer and the winter in order that we can play cricket. We should remember that and be grateful for that fact.

Jan and her team prepare what are routinely described as the best teas in the league; while Dave is a reliable and welcoming presence on frantic Saturday mornings.

It just remains for me to reflect on another good, if not great season for the third team - and definitely a great one for the club.

It was an honour and a privilege for me to be a captain at the club in its 150th year - with amazing events like the Solstice Cup; sixes tournament and MCC visit and plenty of national press coverage - and I look forward to playing for many more years at Sefton.