A month into the new season and 23 different players have already represented the first team at my club. That stat is both a sign of strength in depth and a source of huge frustration.
Work, school, birthdays, christenings, rugby tours, online county cricket commentary (yes really!), revision, illness and reasons unknown: you name it, we’ve had it so far this year.
And while I understand that every player misses the odd game, this season things have been, at best, a test of patience.
The first XI should be the pinnacle of any club, the team that set the standards both on and off the field. Yet at the moment the message being sent out is that playing for our first team isn’t that important.
Like a ‘devout’ Christian who only goes to church twice a year, many players are happy to state their commitment without backing it up with action. It seems cricket is their top priority, just as long as there is nothing better going on. And the attitude to training is even worse.
The knock-on effect is more than just a headache for the beleaguered selection committee on a Wednesday night. The decision of a first team player to pick a party over an important game affects 44 blokes across the four teams we field every Saturday.
The results are also clear for all to see on the field of play. The first XI has enjoyed a mixed start to the season with two decent victories interspersed with a couple of comprehensive defeats. The inconsistency, lack of discipline and togetherness in all three areas of the game is symptomatic of a side that has not trained or played enough cricket together.
Pick any great team, from any sport, in any era and list their strengths. I would be willing to bet that in every case the words commitment, team spirit and dedication would feature highly. And these things are not simply a by-product of success that happen by accident. In theory they can be trained and developed just like a solid forward defensive or a well-concealed slower ball.
Over the last few years I have tried bringing the side together to come up with lists of key values and phrases that our team should embody, drafted a selection policy that has been forwarded to the whole club and spent more time on the end of a phone than a News of the World investigative journalist, but all to no avail.
This leads me to the conclusion that what is wrong is not so much the commitment of the individuals but the unrealistic expectations of myself and other captains around the country.
Perhaps it is unreasonable in the hectic modern world we live in to ask people to give up one evening and one day a week to the fun but ultimately meaningless pursuit of amateur sport.
Whether this is true or not, one thing that will not change is my refusal to give into this world-weary view. If we start believing that sport doesn’t actually matter then we lose the whole raison d’etre for playing at all.
And despite my frustration, there are a number of players at the club who provide grounds for a more optimistic outlook.
In the second team two players worked double shifts and weekends throughout the winter in order to get their summer Saturdays off. And a fellow first teamer, who has recently fathered his second child, has booked Mondays off work to ensure he can still play cricket and have a ‘weekend’ with the family.
You can offer me all the talent in the world but it is these individuals that you want in your team when the going gets tough. Yet for all the high regard they are held in throughout the club, the fear persists that these kind of cricketers are a dying breed.
*Luke Sellers plays Minor Counties cricket and is captain of a league club. Let him know your views or experiences by commenting here or by following @Luke_Sellers on Twitter.