Rob Bradshaw, the head groundsman at St Ives Outdoor Centre, doesn’t think cricket is a summer game anymore. He might be right.
RICHARD HUGHES reports.
WE are under month away from the beginning of the new TuckerGardner Premier League cricket season and Huntingdonshire’s wickets and outfields were covered in snow over the weekend.
“It’s just crazy,” said Rob Bradshaw, the head groundsman at St Ives Outdoor Centre. “The climate is changing and we are just going to have to adapt.”
There are six teams from the district in the two divisions of the Cambs & Hunts Premier League this season.
“In Premier One, new-promoted Waresley will join Godmanchester Town, St Ives and Ramsey, while Eaton Socon will join Warboys in Premier Two after winning promotion from the Hunts County Bats League.
But at Ramsey, groundsman and chairman David Swannell hasn’t seen anything like this, weather wise, in his 25 years of looking after the pitch at the club. “I usually like to get my pitch ready for two or three weeks before the friendlies start – but this year, at the moment, I can’t even walk on the wicket,” he said.
The Premier League, in their wisdom, have told clubs they can move their opening day fixture – which is scheduled for April 20 – to one of the bank holiday gaps this season, to avoid non-competitive results on the first day, should they need to.
Games-off was problem last year – the amount of games never played cast a shadow on what was otherwise fantastic season. But Bradshaw thinks St Ives at least will be fine.
He said: “We are professional groundsmen here so we can deal with the situation – we have time to work on the pitch. But credit must go to the volunteers who work on the pitches at the likes of Ramsey and Warboys. Without those volunteers the teams wouldn’t be able to play.”
PAUL Swannell is the big signing at St Ives with the club hoping to improve on a sixth place and then fifth place in its first two season back in Division One of the Premier League.
Swannell – not the Huntingdon Town football coach but the former Sussex semi-professional – brings with him a wealth of experience and the captain Bevis Moynan believes he will be the best player in the league.
“Paul is quality and he is a massive signing for us,” he said. “I have played with Paul in the past and I know what he can bring to a team.
“He has also introduced us to Chris Muggleton, a 22-year-old Australian who he played with when he was in Perth for a year.
“Chris will be joining us on April 9 for our first friendly against Fordham and first game at home to Sawston.”
Once again, Matt Durrant is expected to be one of the bigger players in the team but there have been a few on their way out during the summer.
Bowler Rob Setchell was excellent last season but has moved to Norwich with work. Moynan is still hoping the player will be able to return for the odd game or two.
And the captain has a simple ambition for the campaign. He told The Hunts Post: “Our aim is to continue the good progress of the past two seasons,” he said.
GODMANCHESTER Town will be a stronger team this season and Kevin Clement is expecting them to challenge for honours.
The fixture secretary and Hunts Cricket Board official said the quality of the new players coming into the side for the new season could see them make a concerted push for the title.
“All being well, we will be fielding a much stronger team,” he told The Hunts Post. “And the knock-on effect of that is that the seconds will be better in the Hunts County Bats as well. I think we have a great chance.”
A lot will be expected of the returning Chethan William, the Indian all-rounder who spent the 2011-12 season at the club scoring more than 1,200 runs and taking 50 wickets.
But Goddy have also signed up Martin Burton, the former Cambs County all-rounder, from Camden, and Huntingdon rugby star Dan Malem, who was playing for Ramsey last year, has also moved to the club.
Returning from two years playing in the West Country with Westbury is Matt Davis-Binge, while top-order batsman Matt Pateman will once again be the captain.
But Clement said he won’t be taking such an active role this time around. The bowler said: “At 57 I think it is reasonable to presume I can take it a little easier.” We’ll see.
RAMSEY’S John Slack wants his players to enjoy their cricket this season with the club going through a transitional period.
Just two years ago, Ramsey were crowned champions of the TuckerGardner Premier League but missed out on promotion to the Anglian League in a three-club end-of-season play-off.
But, after a disappointing campaign last time out, the cricket manager says there are changing attitudes now and the younger members have been busy over the winter reorganising the infrastructure at Cricketfield Lane.
He sounded genuinely cheered by the activities.
“We have a new clubhouse and there have been lots of things happening off the field and mostly that is because of the work put in by the youngsters,” said Slack. “That’s great to see because it means this club has a future.”
Back from a year out at Peterborough is Michael Cafferkey, while Taylor West is the new captain, and there will be an Australian wicketkeeper-batsman and class 2 coach at the club too when Luke Stewart arrives from Down Under. “We are looking to build on last year,” said Slack. “I want people to enjoy their cricket and walk around with smiles on their faces.”
WARSELEY chairman Dave Warman has done a good job persuading his son Steve Warman to be the captain again “after the winter was kind to him”.
Having decided to listen to the pains in his back and legs, Warman junior, who was last season’s highest run scorer, was going to step down after Waresley won promotion back into Division One of the TuckerGardner Premier – but dad had a word and the player will now see how it goes.
“As it stands, Steve is still our captain,” said Dave Warman. “He is getting old like his dad and the pains were getting to him, but the winter months were kind and we have asked him to stay on. Things may change but at the moment Steve is our captain again.”
Also planning a return is Australian left-hand bowler, right-hand batsmen Ern Neville.
On April 20 they have a tough start to their season against Wisbech – but at least it’s at home: it’s a 88-mile round journey, that one.
WARBOYS will be missing their top run scorer for the first two months of the season with Dan Wright facing end-of-year exams at university.
But dad and fixture secretary John Wright believes the squad is good enough keep the season ticking over while they wait for his return in July.
“Last season was his first year at university,” said Wright senior. “But because it was his first year he was able to come home at weekends and he didn’t miss a game. This season he has exams.”
Stepping up from the seconds will be Ryan Humphries, son of the captain Wayne Humphries, and Ben Duncan, and John Wright is expecting the team to finish in the top half of the table after they just missed out on promotion in their first ever season in the Premier League last time out.
“We surprised a few people,” said Wright. “We were disappointed not to win promotion. If we had won one more game, then we would have probably gone up. “But we are a village team and we only use village players. If we can’t compete at this level using village players then we will find our natural level.”
TERRY Day thinks the introduction of two new players to the already settled Eaton Socon squad that won promotion last season will help them adjust to the new level.
Eaton won the Hunts County Bats League with a late surge and during the winter break Matt Taylor has joined from Ramsey seconds and Paul Fields has returned from Waresley.
“We have kept all of last season’s squad,” the captain said. “There’s no reason why we can’t compete at this level. We have had three or four net sessions so far and it’s all looking pretty good.
“We had two years at this level five or six years ago but were relegated in our second season after finishing eighth in our first. We have a much better squad now than we did then.”
Day thinks it is the two teams that have come down from the top division – Saffron Walden and Hardwick & Caldecote – that will be the front runners.
“But if we make a good start, then you never know what we might do,” he said.