Broken Sporting Curses - Lancashire County Cricket Club
Local Lads end the curse.
In county cricket it is the County Championship that is the most prestigious trophy to win. Forget the hit and giggle of Twenty-Twenty, or the slightly less manic one day games, the County championship is about a season of games that are set to last four days each. Four days of playing cricket for around six hours each day, and yet it can still so often end up in a draw. Played in most parts of the country, but mostly south of Lancashire, some Counties have big venues that are used for Test Match venues by England, others have quaint little grounds a lot more akin to a village green feel. Playing in the county championship includes a lot of travelling, a lot of staying in hotels and a lot of cricket.
Lancashire hadn’t won the title outright since 1934 (in 1950 they shared it with Surrey), despite always being classed as one of the more powerful counties, with their famous Old Trafford ground being a frequent venue for test matches. With Cricket being the game it is, the weather can have a big say in the outcome of any match, therefore the outcome of any county championship season. So Lancashire had the peculiarity of a drought that was blamed on the rain. Stereotypical thoughts of Manchester rain were often given as a reason for Lancashire’s long wait for a County Championship title. Too many rain affected drawn matches would count against them come the end of the season, although I’m sure that if each year’s squad were honest, there was always at least one other reason for not clinching the title.
Such is the complexity of the county championship scoring system that it can’t always be too straightforward to work out exactly where a title campaign went wrong. Bonus points for first inning batting totals and first innings wickets taken, can often lead to a somewhat farcical situation of the title being clinched by one player stroking a four through the covers half way through the second morning of a match that they might well go on to lose. Give me a Grand Final to decide the champions any day.
One thing that Lancashire couldn’t blame their winless years on was a lack of playing talent. As well as a host of England internationals over the years they have had some of the truly great international stars as their overseas player for the season. During the 1990s their overseas player was the cricketing genius Wasim Akram from Pakistan, one of the best bowlers of all time, a genuinely fast left arm swing bowler who could get the ball to move all over the place. He was also a more than useful batsman capable of playing match winning innings. In the twenty first century they had the Sri Lanka spin master Muttiah Muralitharan, another of the game’s greatest ever bowlers, a deadly accurate off spinner capable of spinning the ball enormous distances and even capable of spinning it the other way too. If you were to be trying to pick an all time World Cricket team, then you could make a strong case for both of these players to be in it. In the 1970s Lancashire could call upon the legendary West Indies skipper Clive Lloyd, a devastatingly brilliant batsmen who was the captain that turned the West Indies into the dominant force they were in the late seventies and through the eighties.
In 2011 Lancashire started the season with their smallest squad in living memory, the cost of the refurbishing of their Old Trafford ground meant that some players couldn’t afford to be kept on. The building work at Old Trafford meant that they wouldn’t be able to play any county championship games there, instead playing at much smaller grounds in Blackpool, Southport and mostly in Liverpool. The squad was largely made up of players who had come through their own youth system, along with a few old heads who had been around the county scene for years. Their coach was also experienced and well regarded in the county game, despite a largely unsuccessful spell in charge of the England team, he had already won the country championship with Sussex in 2003.
Their overseas player for the year was a Sri Lankan International Farveez Maharoof, obviously a more than decent player, but nowhere near the class of Akram, Muralitharan or Lloyd. Expectations at the start of the season were very low, apart from the one place where expectations really matter – amongst the players and coaches. That the young players all knew each other so well helped create a great team spirit that the more experienced squad members were more than happy to be a part of. As the season went on they found themselves in close exciting games time after time, a lot more often than not they found a way to win these games, thanks in no small part to that great team spirit. With one game to go they were just a few points behind the leaders Warwickshire. Whilst Warwickshire stuttered to a draw on the last week of the season, Lancashire eeked out another win and one of the most unheralded squads they had put together since 1934 turned out to be the one that finally ended their wait for a County Championship title.
Lesson to be learned from the breaking of this curse:
Sport success will always be more dependant on the team as a whole rather than the quality of individuals. Having local players in your squad that are truly proud to represent that team is always going to help. Using things outside your control as excuses for your failure is not a recipe for success.