Nasser Hussain should count himself lucky. He has a cast of thousands behind him. Compared to my role as captain of my club's 2nd XI league side and Sunday 1st XI, I reckon his job is a doddle.
As any club cricketer knows, captaincy stretches way beyond the playing field. The week commences with the selection committee putting their heads together to pick four sides for the following Saturday's league battles and two for Sunday's friendlies against Old Fatblokeians.
The meetings are fraught with tension, especially when it comes to selecting the 2nd XI, a mixture of veterans on their way down and young bucks on the way up. Invariably, somebody is disappointed to find their place has been taken by the out-of-form first-teamer with nine ducks to his name. This is where my problems begin. My mobile, surely the scourge of every skipper, rings incessantly for the rest of the week. "All right, mate?" It's incredible how friendly my team-mates have suddenly become towards me.
The key is to explain your decision before your unhappy opener has a chance to argue his case: "I suppose you've seen the teams. Look, you know I know you can play but, let's face facts... you're averaging seven."
This always catches them out, as the dropped player will add 15 runs or so to his average in the vain hope that the captain will live by the adage that form is temporary but class is permanent.
There are 37 phone calls just like this one, and by 1.30pm on Saturday, I'm ready to hand in my resignation. Before that I have some tasks to organise when I arrive at the ground. Four hundred metres of boundary rope to put out, covers to wheel off and on, deckchairs to unfold, tea to arrange, mid-innings drinks to consider, stumps to put out, creases to paint: the list goes on.
In the professional game, hundreds of bright-eyed young tyros perform these tasks in the knowledge that they won't have to do it for long because they will be playing in the next World Cup or their county 2nd XIs for the next 27 years. In club cricket, it is down to the skipper to assign these duties to members of his side. This is never easy. The bloke dropped from the firsts tells you he did the ropes last week, the 2nd XI stalwarts have been preparing the wicket all week, the young pups won't do it "because we do it every week" and your bowlers tell you they can't do it because they are struggling with various ailments.
I think about my resignation speech, only to remember why I am here in the first place. Because I love it. We all do. The smell of the changing rooms, an intoxicating mixture of Deep Heat and jock-straps, the sound of spikes on the pavilion steps, the camaraderie, the game.
Above all else, the game. That's why Nasser does it, that's why I do it, and that's why the octogenarian off-spinner in the Sunshine Retirement Home 4th XI does it. It's a game of champions. Unfortunately, they are Australian.Reuse content