In a moving, evocative reflection, written exclusively for The Incider, ESPNCricinfo Senior Cricket Correspondent, George Dobell shares his personal memories of supporting Somerset at Taunton and considers why the County Ground remains the most special of places to watch cricket.
A little while ago, a colleague in this cricket-writing nonsense phoned in an agitated state.
Struggling with some setback or another, he had rather lost his way. Too many words, too many deadlines, too many press conferences and too many hotel rooms had taken their toll. Perhaps he should do something else, he suggested.
My advice was simple. Go and cover a Championship match in Taunton. If that doesn’t help revive the spirit and rekindle the enthusiasm, nothing will. It will be time to move on.For reasons I’m not going to be able to explain, it worked. Maybe it was the wit of the press box. Maybe it was the sense that cricket still matters in Somerset. It matters, but winning isn’t everything. Maybe it was the spirit of a side that has always – as far back as I remember, anyway – had the sort of big-hitting all-rounder that we all wanted to be as kids: Sir Ian Botham, Graham Rose, Ian Blackwell or Peter Trego. Maybe it’s the charm of a ground that has redeveloped but retained – largely thanks to the tower of St James’ – its charm. Maybe it’s the people or the pitch or the pavilions. Maybe it’s a combination of all of those things or nothing to do with any of them.
All I do know, is that it is advice I’ve heeded a few times myself. Disillusioned, defeated or drained: if watching Somerset can’t revive you, not much will.
I’ve always supported Somerset. I spent so much time at the county ground as a boy – my parents used it as childcare – that I thought for a while Colin Dredge might be my dad. I took my future wife there on an early date – I know, lucky girl – and then our oldest child before she could walk. I’ve seen every Lord’s final they’ve contested since 1983 and, far too often, allowed myself to hope – most often when Mustaq Ahmed and Andy Caddick combined – that this might be the championship-winning year.
I saw Caddick take a nine-for. I saw Andre van Troost break Jimmy Adams’ nose, Alvin Kallicharran break Joel Garner’s heart, Sir Ian Botham bowl all day and Simon Francis’ run-out. I know what good players Richard Harden and Mark Lathwell were. I know what a good player Simon Ecclestone should have been. And I reckon that the last few years – the Trescothick years as they will one day be known – have been the finest in the club’s history. Sure, we don’t have trophies we would have liked. But it’s not all about trophies, is it?
I’m delighted to write a testimonial for this site, The Incider. At a time when professional cricket writing is a dying trade – I KNEW I should have been a wheelwright – it is wonderful to have such a resource. Powered by knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteers, it covers all-things Somerset with wit and warmth and wisdom.
Good luck to everyone involved; I hope to see you at the ground soon.
Our sincere thanks to George for taking the time to write this special piece for us amid the pressures of covering England’s current tour of the West Indies. We look forward to welcoming him back to the County Ground very soon.