Comparing oneself to a Premier League striker would seem rather churlish but as the new season arrives on the horizon one ponders a phenomenon that has affected a number of successful players down through the years: second season syndrome. Post a successful first campaign the striker struggles to maintain the same standard the following year. Whether it is a return to the norm in terms of form or the opposition players studying said striker and devising plans to neutralise his / her threat is a matter for conjecture but the effectiveness dips during the following season.
For bloggers surely the issue is not form but the dangers of familiarity, similarity and motivation. How to keep the pieces flowing whilst maintaining a freshness, both of the mind and of subject matter. This author’s first season had proved something of a voyage of discovery and, possibly, novelty with two underlying themes for a number of pieces: the beauty of cricket venues and the minor counties. Some pieces ventured off on other tangents but mainly those two subjects formed the background for a summer’s writing.
Thus, beautiful venues provided an undercurrent for the season as locales such as the Parks, Arundel, Hartley Wintney, Challow Childrey, Falkland, Banbury and the Chalke Valley engendered fulsome words and descriptions from an itinerant few months. The season also featured a handful of firsts and brushes with cricket history: one’s first trip to a women’s match, the first trip to a floodlit County Championship match, one’s first foray into wandering cricket and an afternoon spent at the sun drenched Cradle of Cricket.
The conundrum is that one could only enjoy first experiences once though. The underlying question now is how to avoid such matters becoming repetitive. In truth, cricket rarely stays the same. The clubs and counties involved may remain and the fixtures similar but the most important elements, the players, are constantly in a state of flux. As soon as one exciting player leaves the scene another appears in his or her place to excite and provoke much anticipation. Sometimes just a change of one’s personal viewpoint can open a whole different angle.
Thus, the plans for the new season feature the same eclectic mix of fixtures, competitions and standards but with the odd new theme and angle. An early visit of the reigning County Champions has prompted an outing to the Ageas Bowl whilst the re-invention of the previously defunct Minor Counties T20 competition has provoked curiosity and intrigue. Outground cricket, both past and present, remains of great import courtesy of planned trips to Radlett, Horsham and Arundel along with the daddy of all festivals at Cheltenham whilst the advent of a Royal wedding proffers a free Saturday afternoon at a game of choice. The burgeoning Kia Super League offers a greater number of opportunities, particularly with fixtures at pleasant grounds such as Arundel and Guildford, but the aforementioned shift in viewpoint opens a new angle. Venues will remain an integral part of a season’s attraction but being able to enjoy the skills of certain players refines the focus somewhat. Thus, the opportunity to witness the precocious talents of Jofra Archer in the flesh along with the sublime batsmanship of Hashim Amla, Cheteshwar Pujara or Kane Williamson makes the mouth water. And, of course, Rashid Khan has signed to play for Sussex…..
Throw in the staple trips to the Minor Counties, still a firm favourite, the curious MCC Young Cricketers and a return to the floodlit County Championship as well as the odd proposed foray or three into cricket of a more parochial, local nature along with some more wandering cricket and the season promises plenty!