The constant use of practice to make perfect is an almost daily occurrence for those who are talented and/or lucky enough to be paid to play the game. It’s part of the job.
For the vast majority of the participants in the cricketing world, however, nets are something that you need to fit in alongside the rest of your life.
This is why you will find hunched figures in the shadows brandishing cricket bats in the middle of January, as they wait to be picked up for the first of the winter indoor net sessions.
These will take place at either
a) A local purpose-built facility, hired out by the hour or (more commonly)
b) A local school / leisure centre, where mats of varying quality are rolled out over the gym floor
In my view, they have limited value, but I suppose that, as a former batsman, being able to hit through the line of almost anything that was bowled to you was hardly adequate preparation for opening the batting in Co. Durham in April. Fair enough if your home ground is the Adelaide Oval or the M1.
The one thing they would do though, was “blow off the cobwebs” having remained basically dormant since the previous September.
A group of players will gather just before 10am on a Saturday morning at the appointed venue, invariably hungover and, slowly, order will form from this amorphous mass of masculinity.
People are allocated to various lanes (6 or 8 to each, dependent on attendance) and over the next 2 hours each will be allocated 15/20 minutes of batting against bowling of highly variable (mainly poor) quality.
These two hours are almost guaranteed to throw up the following issues
Balls – someone needs to have thought to gather together last season’s spare balls for net use and remember to bring them along. Having secured the one in best condition for himself (naturally), he will then “produce his ball-bag” (cricketing double-entendre #147 of 552) for the others to rummage around in. Usually these balls are of a range of qualities, dependent on how many games they have been used in and how much exposure to the bouncer they have had. (Naturally by “Bouncer” I mean the dog from Neighbours)
It may be that there aren’t enough for one each, so ball-sharing may have to occur. The sharer will then surreptitiously search out the best quality ball in that net. The sharee will be highly reluctant to form the sharing contract, especially if the other party is a “non-bowler”
“Alright to go sharesies?”
“Go on then, but I’m bowling first”
“Make sure you keep the bloody shine on it though”
Batting order – in general, the rule was the earlier you arrive, the earlier you bat. This ma result in people arriving up to half an hour early to claim their spot, or a deadly race along the dual carriageway if the two opening batsmen for the 1st XI both happen to be taking their cars on that day.
You MUST, however, be extremely aware of Mr “I’ve had my bat and now I’m going home”. In net terms, this man is pure evil. He turns up late, sneaks into the batting line-up as early as he possibly can and then exits as soon as he can, usually with some lame excuse of having to take the wife shopping, or “It’s my weekend with the kids”. Never believe this man’s excuses, ALWAYS bat him last. “Sod the kids, I’m having a bat”
The outgoing batsman will always whinge to the designated timekeeper that he has been given less than his allocated time, the incoming batsman that he has had time nicked from his slot.
Interruptions – invariably, one of the hungover contingent will leave a cloud of utterly noxious gas at the point of delivery, resulting in the next bowler running in and being met with a wall of retch-inducing nastiness in his delivery stride meaning he either bowls the ball into the side of the net, resulting in moans from the batsman, or he stops and fails to deliver it at all whilst he registers a complaint with the culprit, again resulting in moans from the batsman who is losing his precious time.
No kit – one person will always turn up in a track suit & with no cricket kit whatsoever. Usually enough will be loaned to him so he can have a bat, but this raises the vexatious issue of box-sharing. For the kitless one, does he want to insert a recently used one into his undies. Residual warmth and sweatiness are unpleasant in the extreme. For the person loaning, what is his view of the general hygiene levels of the potential loanee and his Friday evening activities? Best to avoid if possible, but cricketers are usually loathe top want a fellow player to put his lovespuds at risk, so someone will usually say yes. These days, the kitless one has probably turned up in boxer shorts as well, so he’ll have to bat commando no matter what.
In this manner it continues until midday (and the next club using the facility) arrives. You all retire for a pint and to exchange half-baked theories on the winter’s cricket. The full indoor net horror is not yet over though.
Club indoor nets require everyone to bowl, including those of us for whom bowling is but a distant memory in the school team. Bowling is weird. It must use muscle groups that no other human activity does. Thus, if you haven’t bowled for a period of time & then put 2 hours of bowling into said muscle groups, they are going to complain. Movement of that arm is enormously restricted over the next few days, as your shoulder seems to be almost frozen.
This impairs your ability in…… various ….domestic functions. 95% of all bidets in Britain are in the homes of cricketers. FACT.