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HOT SPOT – Dover clearly out of their league

Barry Alleyne

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’Twas the day before Christmas and inside the pavilion of the Dover Cricket Club, not a creature stirred.
Under the Christmas tree, were the usual gifts, but for this club, more than normal gifts are required.
What they really need is a nice fighting spirit wrapped up with a bow.
A few match-winning players in some stockings would be nice too.
Some young guns under the tree would make president Charles Vaughan smile. And a fitness instructor would go a long way as well, to take away the image  of pot-bellied men playing in this country’s highest cricket division.
It’s not that the Dover Cricket Club haven’t been nice. In fact, they’ve been far from naughty.
But what they have been, is downright diasppointing.
And what their fans and club members found out last week, is that when it rains, it pours.
Apparently, that analogy applies to the sport of cricket as well. Just ask captain of the side, Sean Armstrong.
The Christ Church team’s first Division 1 appearance turned into a debacle, with the side earning only 45 points to be demoted to play in the Upper Immediate competition next year.
In their final match of the season, which finished last Sunday, Dover could only muster four players on the field at Queen’s Park, and umpires had no choice but to award the match to home side Spartan.
Armstrong had tried batting all day to save the Dover team blushes, but alas he couldn’t. Spartan fans didn’t like that, and according to Armstrong, he was followed into the dressing room and threatened by a man who is a Spartan fan. He subsequently made an official report to match referee, Mohamed Pandor.
But that’s the least of Dover’s worries.
All in all, they simply can’t wait for 2010 to come to an end.
Armstrong made no bones about why the team did so poorly.
“Our fitness was horrible. We had a lot of players with solid cricket knowledge and that helped off the field, but to be honest, they weren’t fit enough to handle the Division 1 cricket environment,” Armstrong told me earlier this week.
The captain was honest. I’ll give him that. But what he needed to admit, was that Dover were simply in over their heads, especially when it came to batting.
According to Armstrong, their weakness was clearly with the willow.
In fact, the stats do prove Armstrong right. Dover earned just four batting points, and more than 30 bowling points in a season that they also lost two matches by default.
“Our bowling was really solid all season. It was batting where we fell down, as the two times we did get batting points, we barely got past 200 runs,” Armstrong added.
Having played and dominated Upper Intermediate for years, the side had become a family club of seniors.
That meant not many young cricketers were interested in joining Dover for the 2010 season. That meant they were easily the oldest team to ever play Division 1 cricket.
And they paid for it.
Armstrong hopes there will be changes in 2011.
“We have a few youngsters, who if they show the right attitude, have the potential to make a difference for the club,” the skipper said.
But he also admitted Dover have to go on a serious mission to attract more youth to the South Coast side.
“That goes without saying. We have some senior players who own their own businesses, have senior jobs, things like that, and they may not be able to practice, or even get to some matches. We can’t do things like that again.”
Dover should have known that from the start, and that is where the club’s hierarchy should take the blame for this year’s awful Division 1 debut.
Armstrong still sees light on the horizon though, and has given no indication he will run from the challenge next year. In fact, he expects it to be fun.
“Playing Upper Immediate next year could be a happy year. The circket should be competitive, since Police and Wanderers were also demoted,” Armstrong said.
At least the thought of playing in a league next year in which they are capable of dominating, should make Christmas a tad more enjoyable for the Dover faithful.
• Barry Alleyne is an Associate Editor at the Nation Newspaper, and can be reached at [email protected]