Touregs Cricket Society: Vienna Wintercup part 2 (#wheresDerek)

We enjoy the city of Vienna for many reasons. But for me, one of the biggest draws is being able to put the cricket to one side, and share a drink and many stories/memories with old friends and new. The warmth and hospitality of our VCC hosts always makes the visitors feel at home.

As for our Touregs, the Saturday evening dinner offered a chance for us to get to know each other a little more (our team had hailed from 4 separate counties, and included our Berlin-based “overseas pro”). It was really enjoyable, and I for once felt we grew closer as a team. Thank you for the excellent company guys!

touregsWhere’s Derek??

As we moved around the teams, nd the beers flowed, the Touregs were eagerly spreading the word that we had a secret weapon up our sleave. A player, of legendary status, who we has intentionally held back, for the right moment….

Some say that he bowled out Gary Sobers, WG Grace and Brian Lara on the same day.

Some say that he strikes a cricket ball with such force it once exploded on impact.

Some say that he overslept and missed the entire of day 1.

Any or all the above may be true….send your guesses on a postcard! But the mysterious case of the missing Derek was reaching fever pitch. What great deeds would be in store when Sunday came around……?

Game 4: Touregs V UCC Seebarn

…….well the first thing in store for us was a great big hangover. I for one was grateful for the mercy of a 12:30 start. We were lucky to enjoy a nice lie in, and stroll up to the venue around noon. Time for a light warm-up (Edmund put us all to shame with some genuine stretches), and a quick headcount – who’d have thought that would be necessary 24 hours earlier! 

Our first opponents of the day were UCC Seebarn (Vienna’s second team). Over the years they have proven to be very able and clever indoor cricketers. Their running between the wickets in particular stood out (their captain Owen insisted later it was just hit-and-run), which was arguably the best of any side in the tournament.

This useful skill helped Seebarn to play low-risk shots, but still pile on the runs. Lily and Edmund kept the ball on the spot nearly every ball, limiting the scoring rate as best they could. Our fielding was a little more sluggish than the previous day….for some inexplicable reason the ground seemed a little further away today!

Enter the amazing Derek! Our mysterious man took the ball in the 6th over, and was an instant success. His bustling approach skidded the ball into the batsmen, with some late swing foxing even settled batsmen. Where has this man been all these years! He picked up a bowled and an LBW for his troubles. Not a bad debut. As always, the Touregs refused to lie down, and a late rally saw us wrestle back some control. Seebarn’s opener s both retired, and their number 3 opted for a comfort break mid-innings (retired knackered in the scorecard?). The final score posted was 103.

We’d require our highest score of the Wintercup to win this one, but we felt very positive going into the chase. We had a point to prove. The masterplan….take the game as deep as possible, and shift the pressure back on Seebarn….whose forte was definitely batting.

And sit back and watch the mighty Derek in full flow, of course! Turns out he can bat as well! Our hero played a very elegant innings, adapting to the challenges of the hall and bounce immediately. He never looked rushed, guiding the ball to all corners in his 28 not out. What a performance!

touregs-photoAs the overs ticked by, Touregs were staying thereabouts….a little behind the asking rate perhaps. But Seebarn had thrown their best bowlers in early, searching for a wicket. We had weathered the storm. And Lily led the middle order charge. Her run-a-ball innings, with one beautifully struck 4, came at just the right time for us. Her perfectly judged calls for runs also kept the 3’s flowing. 8 per over became 9 per over, then higher. Momentum was building in our favour.

After Lily departed for a fine 12. Mazza and Martin had the task of finishing the innings. The resolve of Seebarn was finally broken in the 9th over. 3,3,3,3,3….and a crucial boundary to finish. Touregs nervelessly stuck to the gameplan to the end, and it had worked!

8 to win off the final over, and Martin managed to sneak the winning runs…..but only after a couple of leg-spinners ripped past him. We stumbled triumphantly over the line on the penultimate ball! So satisfying to know that every member of this team contributed to a fine win!

Game 5: Touregs V SNASY

That fateful Saturday night, the Touregs also found time to discuss a couple of interesting/bizarre/genius (insert where appropriate) strategies for the following day. One of these found particular favour.

The final couple of hours of the evening can be summarized for me as follows….

“On the last game, we should have 4 slips, Maz. just for banter”.

“Go on Maz, it would be proper funny mate. 3 slips and a gully. Proper bants”!

“Maz you’ve gotta get 4 slips in now”!

“It’s gonna be SO FUNNY, mate”.

“You know what would be such banter, Maz……”

Honestly, I have no idea Chris? Oh wait, could it be 4 slips by chance?

They said it couldn’t be done……3 slips and a gully in a six-a-side indoor match? “You must be mad”, they all said. We sure showed them!

Winning the toss, and electing to field, our maverick stand-in captain (and full time banter merchant) wasted no time at all delivering on his promise. Umbrella fields are rare in isolation in the indoor format. Whether such a tactic has been employed for a 45mph bowler…..and we are in the realms of unique instances in cricket. Long story short, by some complete travesty, somehow the ball eluded the outside edge. I know, I can’t believe it either!

snasy practice.jpgSNASY are a team to look out for in the future. With only 2 players aged 18 (and the rest of the squad just 14-16 years old), we expected a dynamic and energetic display. But combining this with maturity beyond their years. Their repertoire of aggressive and delicate shots made it very difficult to defend. Nevertheless, Touregs saved one of their best performances for last.

Captain Chris did us proud, and made sure the team kept their heads held high, and inspired a late rally. Touregs managed to bowl SNASY out in the final over, thanks to some neat catches. A really positive display once more, and one everyone should be proud of.

In reply, Derek continued his fine form. His traditional style, playing very late, allowed him to caress the ball into gaps. However a running mix-up proved his undoing, ending his short but highly effective contributions to the team.

A word must be spared here for poor Edmund. Every game our poor teammate had contrived a different unlucky way to get out. Every time he took his misfortune on the chin with a smile. And today was no exception. Ed eyes lit up as he received a juicy half volley to tuck into….striking the ball so well that anybody would automatically set off for a single. Unfortunately – this being indoor cricket –  such a sweet stroke only ends up rebounding straight to the bowlers end. Bad luck mate!

This left Martin Haynes to anchor the chase for us, a task which the Berlin man performed really well. It was great to see his fluency when driving. His effort was ably supported by our other batsmen, but some quality spin bowling pegged Touregs down to just a few scrambled singles.

Despite our best efforts to open up, SNASY held their nerve, and closed the game out comfortably. Congratulations to a team that will only get better with time!

The closing stages

Being hospitable hosts, the Vienna CC are seemingly determined to ensure no soul goes away empty-handed. This is achieved via the catalogue of raffle prizes – ranging from the magnificent (a limited edition gold coin as the top prize) to the, frankly, baffling (yours truly once returned to the UK with a shiny blue toilet seat).

In summary; a frightening number of schnitzels consumed, several new acquaintances made, some erratic cricket played…..and a wonderful weekend had by us. Thank you to teammates, parents, girlfriends, hosts and everyone for making it so memorable.

2018 will see us make our latest attempt to bring home the famed Wintercup trophy!!

Who knows, it might final be our year……As long as we can find Derek.

Interesting in cricket tours??

The Touregs Cricket Society travel around Europe, playing at interesting, less known venues!

Previous tours have been to Austria, Italy, Germany and Spain!

Click here for our Touregs Cricket Society Facebook page, if you are interested in joining us!

Coaching dilemmas: “Fix that now” V “let them play”. When to focus on the big and the small.

Cricket is – of course – a highly technical sport. Details matter. In order to be a successful coach, and improve a player’s game, you may need a acute eye for small movements and flaws. 

The ability to observe and spot the small things, is a skill that separates the best from the rest. However another, underrated skill….picking your moments to use this!

When is the time to micro-analyse,  and when is the time to let them simply play: going for wickets, picking the right shots, and trusting in their technique. A coach is constantly presented with this question. And too often, we are too “technical”, taking our eye off the fundamentals of batting, bowling and fielding.

Never forget the simple truths

I learnt the ropes from a very experienced coach. Many of his methods and lessons helped me become a better coach….but one particular skill has stuck with me. 

During bowling drills, when any of his players were looking tentative as they went through their action, he would offer this succinct advice:

“Don’t worry. Just bowl it”.

At first, I was tempted to dismiss this as a meaningless statement of the obvious. Of course you “just bowl it”.

It was only later on that I grew to realize the true meaning….or what the statement symbolized. This coach was simply aware of a very important truth……that when your mind is on the little things, bigger things get forgotten.

“Just bowl it”, was a way of urging children to run in and bowl with genuine purpose and momentum. This is fundamental. Without it, there is almost no point in even mentioning technique – it will be impossible to apply consistently.

What he realized (better than any other coach I have met)….at the end of the day, you can’t be charging into bowl, and fixating about your front elbow position. There are activities to iron these aspects out, but there comes a time where all these details must be “chunked”, allowing you to focus on the more fundamental things.

Bowl. Hit the right area. Hit the stumps!

Batting: different discipline, same principles!

Can these lessons extend to batting? Of course!

When you observe a player, body language can be deceiving. Often when it appears they “aren’t even trying”, the opposite is true. A boy or girl can often be trying very hard, but thinking too much about a small thing makes them freeze up. Rhythm is lost, and shots can appear “lazy” or “careless”.

Talk to your players. The answers to “what are you actually thinking when the ball is coming?”, can be completely fascinating.

  • Defend it
  • Don’t let it hit me
  • Try and drive
  • Move your foot out to it
  • Get a run

How about……”where is it?”. Again, it sounds like the most obvious thing in the world. But is that what young nervous batters are really thinking? Or do they need to “declutter”?

Watching the ball (and leaning towards it) is the single most crucial element of batting. This initial judgement helps to prepare your movements, and instantly make them more precise. It draws the body into a better, stronger position. Some shots are doomed from the beginning, because the batter hasn’t watched the ball.

It’s amazing how often these simple principles can be forgotten, when we stray into the complex. Stay vigilant!

Rhythm

Bowlers are often told to “slow down” as a way of ironing out a flaw….and this can be a valid point! Sometimes however, it will make the problem even worse.

Remember, if you are not going into a movement with commitment, then this technical flaw might be compounded. For example, that confident final stride before bowling might be lost, meaning you lose balance.

Instead of saying slow down/speed up, try asking players to find their ideal “rhythm” or “tempo”. Communicating this a a percentage (eg/ 70% of your full speed) can help to make people aware of the meaning of rhythm.

Match- leave the tiny details until later!

In a game, all that should matter is the ball, watching it, and acting as you see fit. The match day is not the time for detailed coaching.

Coaching sessions are the moments to ingrain these habits. So try and wait before delivering your feedback.

Finally….ABSOLUTELY AVOID SIDELINE COACHING!! All you will achieve is making your players think about the previous ball. Most likely, they will over-compensate and get themselves out.

PICK YOUR MOMENTS

 

“Owning the failures” as well as the successes.

Do you know anybody whose coaching can be summarized like this:

Good shot: “see? There you go! Just as i said”.

Bad shot: “you need to stop doing that. As i said….”

It isn’t always as exaggerated as this. But there can often be a tendency to selectively shift responsibility, depending on the success of an activity.

As coaches, it is important to remember that we are not acting independently….we are as much a part of the team and their journey (with all the ups and downs), as the players. Owning all the successes your group or player achieves, and detaching yourself from the failures, simply isn’t good enough.

Finding a balance it tricky – having to demonstrate your worth, while keeping your players independent, preventing them always relying on you for every answer. Here are a few tips that can help you enjoy both:

1. Go the extra mile

Premium rates are charged for 1-to-1s. And,having someone to focus entirely on you can be very useful. But is there more that could be done, to cement these improvements. Can we do more to ensure that progress is made permanent.

One option is to make notes, presenting them in a friendly, easily understandable way, for your player to take away.

When time allows, we have also begun exploring video editing, to capture and highlight flaws, improvements, and help players to understand what can often go wrong themselves.

Player independence is hugely important. Being aware of glitches in technique, and fixing it as quickly as possible, is important when you are out in the middle, with nobody to guide you through.

Anybody can improve a player. But can you make sure the improvement becomes a habit?

2. Remember that it is their game

We all like to receive praise when praise is due! But sometimes it pays more to let the player believe they have “worked it out themselves”.

The more a player can feel that their hard work and application is the reason for their improvement, the better and more self assured they will become. And crucially, they will take more responsibility for their game, and more likely to adapt to challenges based on the knowledge they have.

If you do a good job, you will be appreciated by the people who matter! There is no need to emphasize your personal input. Try not to build a “dependency culture” where a player will always be looking to you for the answers. It isn’t healthy in the long term.

3. Take your share of responsibility

On the flipside of improvement, a player’s development is not linear and smooth. There will be some difficult times. Tangible gains come in sudden bursts.

Sometimes you can be improving, but your improvements aren’t reflected in the results…..scores and wickets might not come until later.

Here is where you can make an important difference. Take an interest in how your players are faring in other setups, or in their matches. It’s always nice to know that someone if on your side, and has faith in you….even – especially –  if result aren’t going your way.

If one of my 1-to-1 clients is struggling on the pitch, I feel personally responsible for their struggle. And determined to help them through the other end, to more successful times. This sense of togetherness is a powerful tool.

4. Be the bigger man!

I have certainly felt the urge to blame and rant when things don’t go to plan. But at the end of the day, such an attitude will only make the situation worse over time. The only way to reverse this trend is to stay relentlessly positive….even when all your impulses are driving you the opposite way.

Never hold grudges, and always go into a new session with a “clean slate”. This shouldn’t (i feel) be confused with being slack on discipline. But in order to treat today’s incidents at face value, you cannot be clinging onto yesterday’s. The child will never have a chance to redeem themselves.

Always be the bigger man.

Keeping vulnerable groups in the game.

Scrolling through the comments of a women’s cricket video on Facebook……you get a small inkling of how frustrating it must be to be a woman in a male dominated game.

Play well, or dominate your sport….and it’s not good enough to pleas all. One off-day, and your very right to be playing in the first place is challenged. It doesn’t seem to matter to them that a) the various men’s team has been a shambles at some point of recent history, and b) these elite women would humiliate many of them in club cricket.

The sooner these whinging male gasbags are consigned to the dustbin of history, the better. Speeding up the process is in the interest of us all.

Some things need to stop

One of the most powerful lessons I have picked up, in a decade of coaching on cricket’s “fringes” (people who haven’t quite decided if the game is for them yet), is this:

PERCEPTION is more important than REALITY.

This means that, even if you have the best setup at your club, the best infrastructure in place to capture talent and interest, and the best of intentions, it still is not enough.

The great battle to be won – and it will take a long, long time – is convincing not just a generation that cricket can be for everybody, not just their parents that their associations of cricket are not (or no longer true), but also to keep EVERYBODY in the existing cricket community on board (and if they can’t keep up with the 21st century world, out of earshot).

Cricket – like it or not – is bound up in ideas of male exclusivity or class divides. We may sometimes have to go out of our way to disprove these as myths.

Inclusivity: doing it properly

Cricket still mainly operates under a club culture. This can be a source of huge collective strength….but it can also serve to exclude.

Frustratingly, the men involved in girls and women’s cricket can be just as guilty of crass comments. I have scored for my club’s Women’s XI before. In such an environment (no escape), you sit and inwardly pray that nobody will sit next to you, and proceed to “tell it how it is”.

“They just don’t get it sometimes, do they”. What do you mean? “The backing up, just they’re not aware of these things”. So, just a few lapses, much like any amateur cricketer, who only gets to practice once a week? “Yeah, I know, but they just SEEM TO never learn from their mistakes”. OK, the same bullshit sentiment, but with “seem to” to soften the impact?  Save me.

I’m very sure that many players don’t truly realise the impact their behavior can have. But I have seen the damaging effect that a single overheard comment can have on a vulnerable, new player. No matter how far someone has come along,  a setback can reinforce the notion that they don’t belong.

It is important to mention that these individuals are a genuine (and decreasing) minority. But most clubs have one, or a few. They are usually met with awkward silence or a shrug.

1. Changing the attitude

One of the bigger challenges coaching players who are fresh to cricket, is not technique, strategy, or coordination. It is convincing each person to believe they can . 

The sport has a POTENTIAL TO EMBARRASS YOU more obviously than practically any other team sport (excluding goalkeepers perhaps). 

You have to remain sensitive to this natural reaction. Convincing any newcomer to keep approaching the task with a “can-do” attitude, banishing the failures from their mind, is difficult but vital. When you feel like a player has “lost focus”, you may be right, but frequently, fear of yet more failure has caused this.

Keep looking forwards. If they miss a ball, but approach the shot the correct way, point it out! And as soon as your player is officially thinking more about “what can i do” than “what might happen” you have won the battle.

Some  might need more time for this than others. But this is not something you have control over. Stay sensitive to this truth. You may have to adjust your long term targets for the group.

Just remember that “slow and steady” development is a better method than “haven’t really mastered this skill, but let’s move on anyway”. Vulnerable or new groups may need the extra care and attention.

2. Speak out

I know some of you are out there. Feeling helpless to challenge lad culture. But it needs to be done. The more people who speak up, the better.

For me, the macho comments are highly frustrating; they undermine all the work going on behind the scenes, or the efforts to keep the game healthy (and in existence in a competitive world).

Sports can’t afford to pull up the shutters….and shouldn’t be considering that option anyway. Call out the crass remarks. Make sure your club is genuinely open and welcoming to all.

Coaching for the right reasons

“That must be so rewarding”.

I can’t imagine there is a career coach out in the world, who – upon disclosing their profession – hasn’t at some time gotten this response. 

Now….your answer to this is usually, “yeah, yes I’m lucky to be doing something I love”. Or along those lines. However, your freshest coaching memory may….let’s just say not entirely match up to this statement. 

Reality check

Of course, coaching is rewarding. But unfortunately, it doesn’t equate to always feeling rewarded. The “rewards” are sporadic, and sometimes sparse.

They can be hard earned, feel long overdue, never come at all….or take you by surprise – come about when you least expect it. The feeling can be explicit and direct (a thank you note, or gushing compliment from a parent), but on most occasions are more subtle. That feeling can come about suddenly and be gone in a flash.

Also, important to remember, there is always an unfortunate moment (often out of your control) that can send you crashing out of the clouds, and back to earth! I once – in the same hour of coaching – received a “best coach ever” card one one child, and a death threat from another in the group (unless that 8 year old has connections in the mafia, i should be fine). The whole rollercoaster of emotions is hard to comprehend, let alone handle.

Stop craving approval

I hate to break it to you, but you might go entire days without getting recognition for your efforts. Not every session is going to be a “rewarding” one. If you coach simply for accolades, you are in the wrong profession.

It is essential to remember the moments that make you realise you’ve made a difference to somebody’s life. The reminders that you love your job. But these should be taken as bonuses, not the sole reason for working.

Try to stop craving the approval, and the grateful comments. If you do, your mood will just lurch from the highs of a compliment, followed by the lows of the next setback. Sorry if this sounds overly pragmatic. But it’s true.

Remember what you are doing this for, that your method is valid, and that you are taking the group in the right direction – even if they can’t see it (or fail to point it out) themselves.

Good things come to those who wait….

Many of the improvements you impart will only be visible to the trained eye (which, despite the beliefs of many to the contrary, is a minority of people).

Much of the legacy you imprint on a group of players will be only discovered in years to come. But they exist….and they will come. It just required a lot of intrinsic strength to identify where you have changed things for the better.

But what takes the most fortitude, and willpower? To me, it is to just be happy at a job well done. For its own sake. Are you able to sit back, and take joy from the fact your players have progressed, without feeling the need to always attach yourself to the success? If so, you are a stronger person than most of us!

Subvert your ego, and you will find the real meaning of “rewarding”.

ps- you won’t find this one one of those Facebook memes. But the message is more useful.

Touregs Cricket Society: Vienna Wintercup 2017! A tale of bats, balls and schnitzel!

vcc-logoEvery February, when many cricketers are still in hibernation, one band of travelers are dusting off their pads and gloves, for their biggest weekend of the year already! This group is known as the Touregs Cricket Society, who make an annual pilgrimage to Austria. Their mission, to bring home the prestigious Vienna Wintercup, an indoor six-a-side tournament – now in its 30th year of existence.

In the past the tournament has attracted cricket clubs from all over UK and Europe. This is our side’s 6th attempt at victory. In previous editions, the best we have managed is runners-up. But every year, our team goes in with fresh optimism, that this can be our year.

The team

ecadOur team was composed of 3 coaches at Twenty20 Community Cricket (Edmund, Chris and Mazza), one member of Berlin CC (Martin Haynes), and 3 members of the ECAD deaf cricket community (Lily, Derek and Martin Henderson). A great bunch of cricketers, from different backgrounds.

We felt confident of putting in a good performance in 2017. As long as we could get to grips with the conditions quickly, make a disciplined start, and not do anything stupid like lose a member of the team before the first ball – ok, i know that’s a bit far fetched, but just an example – the Touregs stood every chance on day 1.

Game 1: Touregs V Vienna CC

Cricket can be an odd game. At 46-0 batting first, Mazza and Chris were cruising. It felt a great time to be taking on the highly experienced hosts, who weren’t yet at their sharpest. Some excellent calling and running, supplemented with wides, set us up perfectly. Could we be genuine contenders this year?! Just an explosive finish was needed.

Well…..explosive it was….just not quite in the way Touregs intended. Before we knew it, 46-0 (solid), had crumbled to 52 all out!! Vienna’s decision to take pace off the ball proved to be a masterstroke, as a succession of Touregs batsmen were out playing too early.

We came out for the second innings, determined to make our hosts work for their runs. And it was great to see everyone keeping spirits up, and playing with a smile. Despite Martin and Lily keeping things tight, Vienna could play risk-free, and reached our total with the loss of 1 wicket.

Some harsh lessons were learnt, but this would serve us well for the future matches.

Game 2: Touregs V Zurich Lions

Touregs were lucky to have back-to-back games. This meant we could build on our momentum with the ball, against Zurich Lions. Winning the toss, it was an easy choice to bowl, and Martin immediately got to work. His clever angles burst the defences of 2 batsmen, while another Zurich Lion was desperately unlucky to be run out, without facing a ball! Mazza chipped in with the 4th wicket, and Lily’s deadly accuracy finished them off, frustrated the last pair into lobbing up a catch.

A really top effort from every member of the team. We chased the target with ease, for no wickets too! Tournament back on track!!

Game 3: Touregs V Warsaw Hussars

hussars picture.jpgOne more team stood in our way on Saturday. And they were an interesting outfit. Warsaw Hussars are a team of Polish born cricketers – who have come to the game later in life, but have been improving at a meteoric pace. Certainly not a team to be underestimated.

Once again, Touregs decided to bowl first. But for some reason, things didn’t quite click as before. A flurry of wides gave Hussars a welcome boost in the first 5 overs, and allowed Robert and Adam to be patient, and settle in very well. Although our discipline improved lots in the second half, the Hussars had their eyes in, and we found it hard to dislodge them. Special compliments should go to our keeper, Martin. His neat glovework, and ability to look very casual when taking the wider deliveries (making them not appear so wide) was invaluable in this match.

The chase began steadily, but some excellent bowling made manouvering the balls challenging. Hussars tall, medium-fast bowlers kept great lines, and extracted some late swing, that always kept our openers thinking. Despite looking in good form, our batsmen had to resort to hitting out, as the run rate increased. The wides never came to take the pressure away. It was just one of those days where the opposition were constantly on the money.

Result: Touregs lose by 10 runs.

Summary

So a disappointing finish to our day 1. 1 win and two defeats is far from a disaster. And the entire team was growing with each passing game. Martin (Henderson) had been our standout bowler, causing every team headaches with clever spin. Lily had produced some tight spells, and fantastic reflex stops at point. Mazza, Chris and Hartin (Haynes) were in the runs. And our one man “pace attack”, Edmund, proved he was one of the quickest bowlers in the tournament…a real asset.

Touregs could also be proud of posessing the largest, loudest most committed travelling supporters group of all! Deborah, James, Tom, Ashley, Darren, we all hugely appreciated your positive words throughout.

We all took an opportunity to experience everything Vienna has to offer. Their are so many attractions, landmarks, acitivities and places to eat and drink, in a city that caters for nearly any kind of tourist. I’d reocmmend anybody to make a trip, if you get the chance.

Hang on….did somebody mention losing a teammate earlier? Coming up in part 2, our Sunday match reports, and the mysterious case of the missing Derek!

wheres derek.jpg
Where’s Derek???

Cricket Around the World: Warsaw Hussars CC

VISIT WARSAW HUSSARS FACEBOOK PAGE FOR MORE INFO!

In 2 years….

  • More than 20 Polish born cricketers
  • Founding the “Natives Cricket Cup”, with 35 cricketers attending
  • 2 UK cricket tours
  • Weekly Summer and Winter training sessions
  • A full Summer of friendly matches and tournaments

From the start

Warsaw Hussars was the birth-child of a small number of Polish-born cricketers. United through cricket, they came to know the game from various sources.

The dream was modest; to be able to enjoy some form of regular cricket, with like-minded individuals. A small group founded the new club, with the intention of improving their basic skills and knowledge of cricket together.

Twenty20 provided encouragement and support from the outset. Our coaches were in dialogue with the team, providing advice where it suited. This included some video analysis of the players, recorded during early training sessions.

We were also able to organize the first tour to the UK, with the team playing under their new official name – the Warsaw Hussars CC. 3 training sessions and 2 friendly matches were held in Surrey and South London. The team performed encouragingly in their first experience of UK cricket grounds – and significantly, turf wickets. Despite 2 defeats, the bowling attack had proved highly successful, bowling out their opponents in the second match.

Early progress

In just a few months, the club had come a long way….but there was still far to travel. The Winter of 2014/15 was critical, where the group was able to add some structure, and formalize their activities into a functioning cricket club. A training base was secured for the Winter months, and a membership developed – all of whom paid an annual fee to take part.

Twenty20 staged the first training camp in Warsaw in December 2014. An intensive weekend of drills and matches (11 hours training spread over 2 days), saw large scale improvements. The main focus of this weekend was improving core technique, where our coaches focussed on the basic batting set-up, straight bat shots, and consistent bowling actions. The outcome was to ensure every player had a solid foundation to build their own game on.

After the camp, detailed notes were provided for the players, outlining what they did well, where there was room for improvement, and solutions to their technical flaws. Importantly, we also provided the key members with tips on how to assist their teammates – for instance observe where a shot or delivery is going wrong, and how to correct it.

By the time of the second training camp – in January 2016 – the development of the team meant that our coaches could be more specific and targeted with our coaching. This year, we put large emphasis on the upcoming Vienna Wintercup, a six-a-side indoor cricket tournament. On top of technique, more time was devoted to game awareness, clear calling and running, and fielding as a collective unit.

2016 season: building and learning

The benefits of this focussed training were reflected in the Hussars’ performances in the 2015 and 2016 Wintercup. Despite only recording a single win in each tournament, the margins of defeat were mostly narrow. Certain “KPI’s” set by the team had been passed with flying colours!

In 2016 it was clear that increased match-play was the secret to reaching the next level of performance. Huge strides in technique and ability had been made across the club. The new challenge; transferring these skills from the training ground to the field of play!

Fortunately, the opportunities to play were greater than ever before. This was thanks to strong cooperation between the casual cricket clubs around Poland. As a result, a handful or multi-team competitions were staged, as well as friendly matches throughout the Summer.

The showpiece event of the 2016 Summer however, was the 2nd CEE Natives Cup. The Hussars had founded the tournament in 2015, open to players who were born in the country they represent. The 2nd edition of the Natives Cup had expanded from 2 teams to 5 (six-a-side) – 2 from Poland, 2 from Estonia and 1 from Serbia – with 35 European-born cricketers participating, this is one of the largest gathering of continental cricket players!

The Hussars were victorious in the 2016 Natives Cup, winning all 5 of their games! This represented a giant leap forwards, demonstrated no better than their convincing defeat of last year’s winning team, Estonia I. The team were learning to express themselves, producing their best cricket on the field.

Reaching the next level

Seizing on this momentum was critical. With just 6 weeks until another UK tour, training began in earnest, the players working harder – and with more purpose and direction – than ever before.

Twenty20 organized a second tour for the Hussars. The schedule was 4 days, compared to 3 days 2014. 8 players were able to travel to London, for 4 matches at Chswick CC, Cobham Avorians CC, Epsom CC and Dorking CC.

Once again, the team were making tangible gains on the field. In 3 full matches, the team weren’t bowled out in any. In fact, in their final match, at Dorking CC against a team comprising of league cricketers, the side batted a full 25 overs, recording 110-4! The batsmen and bowlers showed great composure, to cope with difficult periods, and maintain pressure on the opposition. There was evidence of a long-term strategy developing, with greater awareness of aspects such as field placements and risk management.

In between the matches, the team worked hard on their personal games. With each player having a strong core technique laid down, they were able to focus on the next level, mainly building a personal batting and bowling plan. The players were encouraged to consider their strengths and weakness, playing to the former, and eradicating the latter. We also impressed on the team the importance of thinking about a long-term plan – that is to say, building an innings, or working batsmen out in a longer spell – being disciplined, and sticking to a method that works.

The future

2017 will see the Warsaw Hussars reassess, and plan for the future once more!

There is much to look forwards to. More weekly training, a Summer program, a 3rd Natives Cricket Cup and (with luck) another overseas tour! Among the targets for the coming 12 months will be:

  • Growing the local players base – above and beyond 20 members
  • Introducing juniors to the game of cricket
  • Improved on-field performances – with particular focus on batting totals
  • Formulating a long term plan – for sustainable growth of cricket in Poland

There will also be further coaching visits from Twenty20 (most recent in November 2016), as the partnership between us and the Hussars grows ever closer and stronger.

Cricket has a rich and promising future in Poland. This is thanks to a relentless effort from many members of the community to promote the game, nurturing many newcomers.

Twenty20 are delighted to be contributing to the health of Polish cricket. It is pleasing to see the Warsaw Hussars lay down permanent foundations, securing their future for years to come.