South Yorkshire League: A bigger lesson to be learned as rain decimates league programme

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Everyone knew it was coming, the rain, but none in the SYSCL Championship managed to avoid it wrecking their game, apart from Hallam, who weren’t playing. Their match had already been conceded by Rotherham.

Elsecar and Wath, both desperate to get points over Tickhill to bring them back into contention for the last promotion place, were left gnashing their teeth over games they were very likely to win.

Elsecar had bowled Kexborough out for 99 (after being 73-2, Michael Jepps 33). Paul Cummins again put in a great bowling performance: 5-15 in 10 overs. He’s taken 17 wickets in the last four games and only four players in the league have bowled more economically. Elsecar were 26-0 in three overs when the deluge came, with Peter Hadfield in full cry.

Wath had battled to 149-7 in their reduced 34 overs (Jonathan Allan 36, Jack Whitlam 24* at the end). But Collegiate B were faring even worse: 5-3 in four overs, with Nick Gaywood and Matt Tyas both gone to Whitlam, as the rain banged down.

Not much joy elsewhere either: Tickhill hadn’t yet extracted Houghton Main, who were 134-6, Tahir Nawas and Simon Ward both making 30s, and Siviwe Gidana again in the wickets with 3-18 from nine; Whiston were 15-1 against Conisbrough who had made 144-8 ( Jonathan Phillips 65); and Darfield rattled up 209-5 against bottom club Coal Aston in 34 overs, Haider Jahangir making the day’s top score, 77, but Coal Aston didn’t even get to bat.

It’s not been a good end to the season, with the weather, but also with a player being banned for life and his club expelled from a neighbouring league. These things happen rarely in cricket, but they do happen and there is a feeling that the causes of such things are becoming more prevalent and we all need to do what we can to prevent them.

Sport always attracts people with issues. We used to play against someone whom we knew as ‘nutter’ and he was always offering to sort someone out behind the pavilion. I remember chatting about this with their captain over a drink and he said: “You should worry mate. You only have it twice a season, we get it every flipping game!”

The best spirit in all sport is respect for your opponent and his humanity and vulnerability. The best days are when you can break out of the protective shell of your team and laugh and joke with your opponents after a game, even during a game, getting to know them as people, admiring their ability and enjoying and respecting their rivalry. I’ve taken junior games when parents are so fixated on winning that they only applaud their own side, even when the team manager is doing his best to encourage the team to play in the right spirit.

The worst, of course, is the contemptuous tactic that some individuals employ to unsettle and upset their opponents. This isn’t the odd witty remark to relieve tension, it’s not banter and it’s not encouragement for your own players, it’s a systematic, sometimes concerted and always deliberate attempt to bully. It can be easier and nastier in cricket than other sports because batsmen are always outnumbered in a hostile environment, so they have to put up with it and bullies always thrive where they can feel dominant.

It always poisons the atmosphere and often changes the nature of a game and sometimes provokes retaliation. All of us involved in cricket share a responsibility for stopping it.

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