What Does He Do? By Paul Tasker
As a junior cricketer, I was considered quite good for my age and won several individual Club and League Trophies for the U13s, U15s and U18s, but never really got the opportunity to play much senior cricket as Carlton had one of the strongest First and Second teams in the Leeds League and didn’t need to use many juniors in the same way teams do now.
It therefore came as a huge surprise when my Dad came home one day and told me that I wouldn’t be scoring for the Second Team at the weekend, but would be playing for the First Team. Obviously, it was a joke and I didn’t even think it was that funny. Why would the First Team pick me, a 15-year- old who had only played one or two Second Team matches? Nope, it couldn’t be true and he must have had one too many pints of Stones Bitter at the club.
Only when I went to the club myself and saw the team sheet for the weekend match did it hit me – I would be playing for the First Team. It turned out that Paul Stanyard, one of the Club’s best Captains and off spin bowlers in the Club’s history had decided to step down from their First Team and give one of the younger players, me, the opportunity to play First Team cricket. Wow! I don’t know what was scarier; playing for the First Team or knowing I was expected to fill the boots of Paul Stanyard. Even though the match was still four days away, I started to feel very sick. Butterflies couldn’t describe the way I was feeling, more like a dozen eels squirming around in my stomach. How was I supposed to play First Team cricket? I guess I would soon find out!
The next weekend we turned up at Colton and the weather forecast wasn’t good. For anyone who doesn’t know Colton, it can be a little depressing, even on a good day and in all the years I’ve played there, only on a few occasions could the weather be considered reasonable for playing cricket. But today was special, rain and wind was predicted, so it was going to be perfect for my First Team debut. Great!
Carrying my kitbag to the clubhouse I gave the scorer a polite nod and kept on walking. He must have thought I was helping to carry the kit for my dad and would then be joining him in the scorebox. He and everyone else had no idea I was going to be playing. This seemed to sum up pretty much everyone’s opinion of me and even Keith Barrett had to ask who I was and what I was doing there. Yep, this was going to be an interesting day.
Now I don’t remember much of the match itself, but I do know we batted first and didn’t get a particularly good score on a difficult pitch in less than perfect conditions. The rain fell and we came off several times but managed to get back on and it looked like Colton were going to knock off the runs and win the game. It was at this moment the Captain, Roy Sampson, turned to me and asked if I fancied a go? He said not to think about the score and just to do my best. He threw me the ball and we set a field. However, by this time the ball was wet and I could hardly grip it - this is not good for a spin bowler.
Waiting to deliver my first ball I thought Sigourney Weaver had planted an Alien in my chest and my heart or something was going to burst out of my chest. But as soon as that first ball hit a perfect length and turned, any thought of nerves seemed to vanish and I was in the zone. I had a job to do.
I bowled tight while wickets fell at the other end and we were suddenly back in the game. I can’t remember who was bowling at the other end, probably Dave Cooper, but together we took it down to 9 wickets and a chance of stealing the game from Colton who only needed a few runs to win. Game on.
At the start of my next over, I was bowling at Matthew England who was never someone I particularly liked as he always had something ‘clever’ to say, and always talked a better game than he was ever capable of playing. He looked at me and saw a small, young, naïve and inexperienced bowler who he thought he could smash anywhere he wanted and to be honest, he wasn’t completely wrong. But he wasn’t completely right either and although he thought he could end the game in one hit, I wasn’t going to let that happen. I knew he was going to come down the wicket so as he charged me, I gave the ball some air and he missed it through ‘the gate’ and the feisty and tenacious Mark Oldroyd read the situation perfectly, watching the ball through all the way between bat and pad. Mark took the ball cleanly and in one fluid movement took the bails and I had my very first wicket and the match was ours.
The gamble had paid off and I had proved to everyone, including myself, that I could become a regular First Team player.
But this was only the beginning and it wasn’t until a later match when I truly went from cricketing boy to man. No, this would come later.