Judge’s Verdict: Age no concern to run machine Carl
While Minor Counties cricket has changed a lot in the past 10 years and may have become more of a young man's game, Carl Rogers has demonstrated once again that he's as important as ever when it comes to scoring runs for Norfolk.
The fact that he scored a championship-best 173 against Northumberland at Jesmond last week, at the age of 40, just goes to prove what I have always said –you are never too old to play at that level if you are good enough, nor too young for that matter. Age should be no barrier, whether you are 14 or 44.
There was the suggestion in some quarters a few years ago that Minor Counties cricket ought to become an under-25 competition. That really was nonsense.
Why should rules and regulations deny someone achieving fabulous career records if he is still good enough and hungry enough?
Funding for the Minor Counties is now loaded in favour of counties who pick younger teams. If the average age is below 26, you benefit most. Climb above that and you start to lose money.
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But I don't think there should be this kind of 'incentive', which could lead you not to pick people who are still good enough, just to meet an age criteria.
It's a matter for your members, too. Do they want you to field the most competitive side possible or not?
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It was when the change in regulations came in that meant Minor Counties could pick only one ex-professional with more than 40 first-class games under his belt that the three-day careers of Steve Goldsmith and me were effectively brought to an end.
There were plenty of other players performing with distinction well into their 40s when you look at people like Stuart Turner at Cambridgeshire, Stephen Plumb at Norfolk and Lincolnshire and Tim Smith at Hertfordshire. Even now ex-England off-spinner Shaun Udal is playing for Berkshire.
There is always a place for someone like that in your side while he is still delivering the goods.
However, there are some ex-first class players who just see Minor Counties cricket as a pay cheque and leave at the end of the day without putting anything back into the county. But I moved here and moved my family here and spent 10 years with Norfolk and that makes a big difference.
Carl, of course, has always played as an amateur and is a Norfolk man through and through.
You could use the way Buck bats as an example to any young player.
I am sure Sam Arthurton, who would have learned a lot from playing with his father Shaun at Great Witchingham, has also benefited a great deal from playing club and county cricket with Carl Rogers.
• I CAN'T STAND THE RAIN AGAINST MY PAVILION WINDOW
It may have been a very dry year but the rain fell with a vengeance at the weekend, with the Norfolk League schedule completely washed out.
It revived the age-old argument over whether a points average system, such as that used in the Norfolk League, is better, or whether a points aggregate as operated by the EAPL and Norfolk Alliance is preferable.
Under an aggregate system, sides that play and get a victory gain a big advantage over teams who lose matches to the weather. Fakenham must have been very frustrated after winning their first seven Alliance Premier Division matches to have their game called off at Sprowston and have to settle for five points, while reigning champions Downham maintained their recovery from their early-season wobbles with a win over Norwich & Coltishall Wanderers and collected 22 points. Downham always seem to manage to get their games played whatever the weather; strange that!
Similarly, in Division One, we were unable to make a start at Acle against Bradenham, but our closest rivals, Old Buckenham, managed to close the gap to four points with a winning draw at Swardeston.
The danger of the points average system is that it is open to abuse if a team at the top of the table with a high average is able to preserve that by not playing.
In theory the average system is fairer but it can only be so if neutral umpires are available to make the decision on whether play is possible.
If we were able to give umpires complete control of the game, then the fairest way for the Alliance would be to go back to the average.
In the higher divisions of the Alliance, the sole decision on whether play is possible is supposed to be down to the umpires, but I'm not sure that's always the case. Wet weather can bring conflicting emotions for cricketers depending on their circumstances.
I have to admit that as a professional back in the 1980s there were times when a day in the pavilion had a certain appeal. I shouldn't say this but the volume of cricket we played at Derbyshire was such that, as a quick bowler, I was very often shattered and welcomed the heavens opening.
In the pre-internet days, players would amuse themselves with three-card brag, crossword puzzles, reading or, as I've always collected cricket memorabilia, visiting the opposition's club shop.
It's different now as a club cricketer when I play only at the weekend and just want to get out there. At least at Acle, there are all the facilities you could wish for to enable you to pass the time on a wet afternoon – such as watching the Test match on Sky Sports.
But there were times at the third Test at the Rose Bowl when it was very easy to understand spectators' frustrations. It costs a lot of money to watch Test cricket and every effort should be made to give the paying public as much play as possible.
With the kind of covers used today and the technology available for drying the playing area as well as the drainage systems at top grounds, I am convinced more play is possible than we are seeing.
• ONE NAME THAT RANG A BELL RIGHT FROM START
I took great pleasure in seeing Ian Bell compile his 14th Test century when he scored 119 not out against Sri Lanka at the Rose Bowl.
I remember playing against Bell when he could only have been about 14 and was turning out for Coventry and North Warwickshire in the Birmingham League.
I didn't know him from Adam and had never come across him while I was teaching at Bromsgrove School but even at that age, he stood out. I bowled against him for Old Hill and he stood up to whatever he faced, looked to have fabulous technique and temperament, and I have been a fan ever since.
Even though he went through some very testing times in his early England days – notably in the 2005 Ashes series against Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne – he had the character to bounce back and now everybody realises what a wonderful player he is.
It is a daunting experience to walk down those steps at Lord's in front of nearly 30,000 people as he did on his Ashes debut with England at 11 for two. In circumstances like that it is very often the case that everything you have been taught and have practised for hours goes out of your head and you completely freeze. It was a difficult series but he kept his chin up and worked hard and never looked like chucking it all in. He was helped by the fact that England realised his great potential and although there were times when he was left out of the Test side, he was never far from their thoughts.
I have coached some fabulous players at 15, 16 and 17 but ask me how many have gone on to make it and there are very few. That's because it's not all about ability and technique – that's just a small part of the game. Temperament, courage, hard work and dedication all play a part, and Bell has the lot.