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cricket1

There is a group of people living among us who are like the rest of the population, but not quite.

Like the vampires in True Blood, or the zombies in 28 Days Later, they are outwardly human, yet there is something different, something (itals) other (end itals) about them.

They are cricket club secretaries, a sort of sub species of homo sapiens. If you can’t identify them in the ordinary way (they’re usually barking mad), you may look for an indentation on forefinger and thumb caused by excessive pen work at this time of year.

I know all this because I am one of them. Yes, despite living an outwardly normal and respectable life in leafy Dublin 6, at this time of year I become one of those vampire/zombie/cricket creatures.

Cricket is, of course, a summer game. Yet much of the work goes on in the dark months of the year. This is the time when fixtures are arranged, tours planned, players recruited, grounds booked and plans hatched.

As the skipper and general dogsbody of a cricket team, it is my duty to start making my fixtures calls around this time of year.

They begin in late January and continue well into February. Have you a date? Have you a ground? Are we due to play you home or away this year? How are you fixed in July?

And thus it is that I come into annual contact with the force that is the Theatrical Cavaliers.

The Cavs, as they are known, are a team drawn from the dark corners of the thespian world. They work as actors, lighting designers, props men, and playwrights. But really, they are cricketers.

They are not so much a cricket team as a movement, a way of life. They have a motto (“line agus fad”; Irish for “line and length”), they have proper kit, they have a huge pool of players, they hold events such as pub quizzes and parties.

They always have a full team, whereas we are always scrabbling for XI. They charge an annual membership, while I always have the greatest difficulty in extracting the €5 match fee from out lot.

They even host a tournament of their own. They are the Scientologists of the Dublin’s social cricket scene, forever expanding, recruiting and proselytising.

They are an unnerving team to face on the pitch. You begin your bowling run-up and then, as you get closer to the wicket, you think you know their batsman from somewhere.

Is it your man from Fair City? Or was he in that thing at the Gate? By the time you have worked out that you’re bowling at Nick Dunning, who played Thomas Boleyn in The Tudors, he has hit you for four over the pavilion boundary.

There was a time I thought the Cavs living entirely for pleasure (ie cricket). But as I got to know them over the seasons, I learned that they have something every team needs: an esprit de corps, a conscience, even a soul.

The proceeds of their annual quiz, which I always thought went into the club coffers, in fact go to charity.

And when, a couple of seasons ago, one of their number passed away in the off-season, they turned out in force to see him off.

They rang around the other teams that make up the Taverners cricket community in Dublin (a euphonious roll-call including DUMP – that’s Trinity College – Arthur’s Knights, the Dalkey Archives and Bell’s Academy) to ensure we were represented at the funeral.

It was strange to see a bunch of cricketers, all pale and pasty-faced, in the off-season. We exchanged greetings – “I hope you are wintering well” – and memories of the deceased.

And then, outside, as we sheltered against the rain, the talk turned to our beloved bat-and-ball game. For cricketers, winter is  merely an interruption. Our minds, like our exchanges that day at the funeral, are always turned towards summer.