I have held off sending a pre-season message to members for some weeks owing to the wet weather that has wrecked the start of our season. When I first sat down to write this message, we were contemplating the impact of a hosepipe ban and the consequences of not being able to water our pitches effectively. There was considerable hysteria amongst the cricketing community about dry pitches and the risk of injury to batsmen. I even commented at a committee meeting on the irony of a cricket club chairman hoping for rain at the outset of the season. That all seems a long time ago now. The season is upon us and we face a struggle to prepare our waterlogged pitches and outfields following the onslaught of five weeks or more of constant rain. We have completed just two matches, one on 7th April and the other this weekend, a fourth team fixture at Thaxted. At least I can report we have a 100% win record!
Very few fixtures were played in the Essex league this weekend across the county despite fine sunshine. Our outfields are so wet, it was impossible to stage matches at home. We need a prolonged period of dry weather and sunshine for the grounds to dry properly. This problem extends to our outer pitches used by the junior teams and to many other grounds in Essex. Certain grounds have been literally flooded by adjacent rivers and will take several more weeks to dry properly, including Colchester where the 1st Xi plays next Saturday. Given the rain forecast for the end of the month, I now fear a real possibility that the 1st Xi will enter June without having played a match! Our groundsmen are doing their very best to prepare our ground so that we can stage both matches and practice sessions. The fixture chaos has had a major impact on the cup competitions; both the Kingfisher National Cup and the Dukes Essex League Cup should have completed two rounds by now but we are yet to play a first round match in either. A number of clubs have withdrawn from the League Cup as a result but we remain committed to this competition and will do everything we can to play our home tie against Wanstead before the deadline of 5th June. We hope to play Chingford in the National Cup this Wednesday evening, the deadline set by the ECB for completion (either as a T20 match, a bowl out or by flipping a coin). Unfortunately, the weather is beyond our control and we must remain patient.
Regrettably, we have taken the decision to defer the Vice-Presidents and Past Players day on 10th June owing to the fixture chaos. There is a strong probability that the team will be required to play a cup match that day, which could be away from home. Additionally, we found that none of the invited opposition could accept as they themselves have club cup commitments that are uncertain at present. We have decided, therefore, to celebrate our VPs and past players later in the season, identifying our home league match versus Wanstead as an ideal opportunity to do so on 18th August. I am sorry for any inconvenience but hope you will understand that the decision was taken for the best reasons.
Despite these frustrations, I consider that we enjoyed a successful close season with good attendance at indoor nets, success in becoming Ice Cricket World Champions, promotion for our senior indoor team and a satisfactory initial season for our second indoor team. Our junior indoor teams were also very successful. I am pleased to introduce Daniel Magin, a new fast bowling recruit from Australia whom I look forward to seeing in action once the rain stops. We also laid the foundations for a development strategy led by Tom Clark that will support the coaching and training of the younger players once they have graduated from our superb colts’ environment with the aim of helping them become excellent adult club cricketers that will sustain the Club into the future. This initiative extends to us fielding a team once again in the Jeff Rodrigues competition, which requires a mix of younger and older players and one in which I personally look forward to playing alongside some of our stars of the future. This is just one of many ways in which we are addressing some of the issues and concerns that were raised last year in connection with the juniors and we hope this will assist in bridging the gap to the senior teams. Another initiative to develop our juniors is the fielding of a 5th Xi using pitches at Chigwell School as our home base later in the season. This will provide greater opportunities for all members to play matches, both junior and senior alike. If this experiment is successful, we intend to enter a 5th Xi for a full season in league competition in 2013.
We must appreciate and understand that the Club overall is facing difficult times owing to the economy and the ageing infrastructure of its pavilion facilities. I am pleased to report that we were able to upgrade our pitch covers over the winter (albeit insufficient to protect the pitches in the current deluge) and the refurbishment of the changing rooms was also completed. However, the Club needs new members and to maximize the use of the Club by existing members. We are doing everything we can, weather permitting, to maximize the opportunities for cricketers to use the Club and to enhance their experience in doing so. I urge all members to support and participate in the various events that will take place over the summer and beyond. Our objective is to provide a fantastic cricketing experience both on and off the field for players and supporters alike. I encourage you to recommend membership of the Club to your friends and invite them along to enjoy the excellent cricket at all age levels that takes place at the Wells. In that connection, I am afraid I must remind all members that annual subscriptions need to be collected. Cricket is increasingly expensive and the loss of early season fixtures to the rain has an adverse impact on the Club’s finances at a time when many costs such as affiliation fees need to be paid. Early payment of subscriptions enables us to budget necessary and discretionary expenditure with certainty, which ultimately benefits all of us in supporting the facilities that differentiates us from other local clubs. Most members pay diligently and it is unfair to them if a few drag their feet in paying these subscription fees.
I would like to emphasize two points from my previous message to members. Firstly, please make yourself available to play and communicate your availability to the selection committee. Selection takes place on Mondays and it can be an unnecessarily difficult task to field teams if availability is uncertain. It is not fair on the respective captains, particularly those of the lower elevens, if they have to spend time during the week making changes to teams simply because availability was uncertain at the time of selection. This holds true for the junior teams as well. Please make contact with the relevant team managers to let them know when you are and when you are not available to play. The wet weather is making it exceptionally difficult to select strong teams at the outset of the season so please play your part in assisting the process. Secondly, I would like to reinforce the earlier message that we expect the highest standards of behavior and sportsmanship from all players that represent the Club. It takes many years to establish a reputation for good sportsmanship but simply a few moments of madness to destroy it. We will act strongly and take action to protect our reputation should the need ever arise to do so.
Lastly, I would like to thank all of the supporters, donors and helpers that have contributed to the Club in preparing for this season. Please continue to come and along and support the Club. Fixture cards are available at Reception.
I wish everybody a successful season and ask that we all pull together in the current difficult circumstances that have made this such a desperate opening to a cricket season.
With best wishes