There are few games like cricket that can lead to such an asymmetry between what you train for and what you actually face in a match. Take Ned Absolom, who played first grade for Clarence this weekend. He is a specialist batsman who did not bat. How do you prepare for that?
Well, the short answer is that you cannot. Training is designed to make sure that you are in the best position to make the most of an opportunity if it presents itself. There are occasions when it does not. This was one of them, for two reasons. When he plays in first grade, Absolom is more or less a specialist death overs hitter in one-day cricket. That means there is always a chance he won’t bat. But the second reason, and the more pertinent reason in this case, has to do with the fall of wickets. When Clarence lost what turned out to be the last wicket they would concede for the innings, it was the right-handed Daniel Salpietro, not the left-handed Liam Devlin. As they wanted to keep a right-left hand combination at the crease, it was the like-for-like Wade Irvine who went to the crease, not the left-handed Absolom.
Ned Absolom: Preparation for Nothing
Had an opportunity presented itself, however, Absolom would have had good reason to believe in his performances and his preparation. In the first match, he scored 26 off 17, and then bettered that with 58 off 56 in the next match. Before this match, the third of the season, he had seen an area where he could improve; he had only hit one six over the course of those two innings. On the Tuesday night training, before he went into the nets, he asked me to throw a few balls to him, so he could practice hitting the ball in the air instead of clubbing it along the ground. It is easier to explain how physically than through mere words, but basically he was looking to hit the ball a little earlier and with a little bit of a straighter bat. He was succeeding as well, at least as far as I could tell.
Obviously, he did not have the opportunity to show the fruits of his labor and, considering that it was first grade’s last one-day match until January, and their last white ball match until mid-December, a degree of caution may be in order that precludes regular use of the aerial route for a while. So why write about it?
A respected former Australian cricketer and writer recently told me that he strives to avoid being seen as a whinger because, while his complaints are usually made for valid reason, he feels the game has been very kind to him. Notwithstanding the fact that he, like anyone else, has every right to voice an objection if he sees something wrong, his point was certainly relatable and worth reflecting on. If there is positive news to report, it should be reported. In this case, a cricketer had been performing well, and had seen a way to get better, and, for reasons outside his control, the scoreboard ultimately did not reflect it. There are, I would wager, many stories in the game of cricket like this one, that don’t get reported because they are perceived as not worth reporting. I think that’s wrong. They are, or at least, some of the ones I know about in Tasmanian club cricket are.
That doesn’t mean the writing of hagiography; frankly, such copy is boring and unrealistic. Absolom is a club cricketer. He makes mistakes that reflect that. He dropped a catch during North Hobart’s unsuccessful reply, for instance. I say that as no insult because I am a lower grade club cricketer who drops more catches per season than he does. I say that merely as the statement of a simple fact.