New man in

There is nothing quite like walking off a cricket pitch flushed with success to find the person who has come along to watch you for the first time has done a big poo.

Let’s start at the beginning. My baby was due to enter the world on February 18th, just a few days into the World Cup. Not ideal timing, but at least he wasn’t interrupting The Ashes.

In the end, he was late. Five days after the scheduled start of his innings, at risk of being timed out, things began to stir. We were just getting used to the comfortable preliminary rounds, experimenting with fielding positions and fine-tuning the batting order, when the situation suddenly became a bit more serious. Flashing lights, pained expressions, screaming and shouting – we were now well and truly into the knockout stages.

You can do all the net practice you like, but out in the middle it’s a different matter. I proved myself a useful partner at home, picking up singles and keeping the partnership ticking along, but once in hospital I froze.

All padded up with nowhere to go, I stood paralysed at the non-striker’s end as my darling wife held firm in the face of an almighty onslaught. Time and again she went down; the physio told her to retire hurt, accept a runner, but she would not budge. She stared back at the bowler with a determined glare, took a deep breath and re-marked her guard.

Presentation1Finally the pavilion doors opened (that’s probably a metaphor too far) and out he came. The moment of triumph was strangely muted. Despite having had my eyes fixed on this life-changing landmark for so long, I hadn’t really considered how I might react when it finally arrived. Should I look to the heavens and thank the Almighty? Get down on my knees and kiss the pitch? Or embark on a lap of honour, arms aloft, twirling my bat to the four corners of the stadium?

They say you never forget your first – a monkey off the back, an unsullied glimpse of a dazzling future, your place in the team secured forever. There will undoubtedly be low points – dips in form, temper tantrums, bad decisions, horrific collapses, entire days lost to bad weather. But a platform has been set, and now we must make hay while our son shines.

He is now two months old, and last weekend he attended his first match. Quite what he made of our chaotic 25-over, 12-man-a-side friendly against Liskeard Teachers, I’m not sure.

We batted first and he saw his old man get clean bowled for zip as we made 170-odd. When I picked up two cheap wickets opening the bowling I peered over to the pavilion, hoping for a sign of approval from the lad. He was either asleep or bored senseless.

They told me once I had a baby nothing would ever be the same again, and they were right. My hand-eye coordination, dodgy at the best of times, has not responded well to sleep deprivation and emotional overload. But the new season is here at last, and I’ll be damned if a few dirty nappies and fiddly car seats are going to stop me now.

Sam Blackledge

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