Regular readers will know my blog centres on my life as a self-employed cricket watcher – so it’s my views on cricket and my travels, with a few photos thrown in for those who find cricket ‘boring’! I know there are a few people who think that!
But today to start with…a reflection on coming out of the other side of the pandemic and general well-being. I thought that I had handled lockdowns one, two and three quite well, didn’t feel unduly upset (after all we were all in it together) and managed to get by, better than some, but that’s just luck and circumstances I suppose.
What has struck me last week and this, is how much I missed the rhythm and routine of cricket watching! The preparation, the travel to and from the match, the pace of the game, the rhythm of the day, the events unfolding in front of me, the weather – cold, warm, sunny and wet in equal measure, the winning, the losing, the players and spectators and so on.
But now I’m back into the swing of things again (until an enforced break in the fixtures) it’s made me realise how we took our past lives ‘for granted’ – I haven’t felt this relaxed and at ease in months! It’s said what you don’t have you don’t miss but when your ‘old life’ returns you really do appreciate what you have.
Today, through happy circumstance I find myself at the CloudFM County Ground in Chelmsford for the first time in ages. It’s day three of a four day match (but actually day 2 due to rain) between Essex and Nottinghamshire.
The first hurdle of today’s routine was dealing with the stewards! A lucky 200 members are allowed in to watch but we have strict arrival time slots, told to bring an umbrella in case it rains but then not allowed to bring one in. Cameras are disliked (been coming here for 35+ years and never been told that before!) – hence today’s poor photos – but what is really frightening is the sheer number of stewards for 200 people. I’ve counted over 20 so far and all watching our every move. There were even two stewards to oversee my short walk to the toilet! I suppose the shape of things to come as I reach my dotage!
None of them seem to have any idea or knowledge of the game – walking in front of sightscreens, walking around mid-over. They are experts in watching what you do. As you can imagine, the mature, double vaccinated Essex members are not impressed; some threatening not to renew for next season.
It’s costing Essex £ 15,000 per day (!) to have 200 spectators but I’d like to know what they’re spending that on! The match however seems to be meandering to a draw – even at the start of play. Nottinghamshire take their second batting point early in the day but then seem to stop. Essex take wickets after about an hour and it seems that neither side wants to make an effort.
Perhaps a naked pitch invasion by a hundred or more over-60 Essex members would brighten things up! But they’d need to dodge the army of stewards first!
No need! Nottinghamshire have a final fling and reach 293 giving Essex half an hour before lunch to start their innings. The new ball brought a change in the feel of the match as Essex succumb to 15/3 at lunch – somewhat typical of their season so far!
By tea time Essex reach 81/4 so the session was evenly balanced; Westley taking the lead in reaching 35no. Once the shine goes off the new ball batting gets easier – never easy – and Notts can’t get it to reverse.
The main interest however has been the collapse of the cashless pay system – it ‘reached its limit for what it can take in a day’ which means tea/coffee are free but beer is off! Symptomatic of what Essex CCC off the field has become – trying to be something special but failing to do the basics right!
By the close Essex had struggled to 180/7. Westley making 71 in just under four hours held the innings together. No one else really settled. Wheater was out the next ball to an amazing boundary catch looking straight into the evening sun by Ben Compton (yes…another branch of Denis’ family). The Nottinghamshire reaction summed up the day – they have the desire, drive and momentum at the moment; Essex have Plan A but no Plan B or any real desire to win…or so it seems.
But back to the stewards; they really have taken the edge off the day. They’re supposed to make us feel safe, but I feel intimidated – it’s heavy-handed over-stewarding!
The Lord’s pavilion stewards have a fierce reputation but at least they’re polite. Those at the Oval are warm and welcoming. Other test venues across the world all make you feel welcome and you’re greeted with a smile and a friendly word.
Here at Fortress Chelmsford it’s as if they don’t want you!
But I suppose it’s part of life’s rich pattern and was the same before the pandemic – it may have been so but making paying spectators feel uncomfortable will not get them coming back. Am I being curmudgeonly or is this one of the things I’d conveniently forgotten during lockdown?
It’s something I need to get back into my own rhythm and routine for visits to the Fortress! And perhaps a mass streak by the over-80s members would give the stewards something to really get to grips with as opposed to watching spectators watch cricket!