Batting, bowling and catching are not the only useful attributes if you play at or for the Nidderdale League side Blubberhouses – it helps if you can swim as well.
“Our ground is right by the River Washburn, and we get a lot of balls going in there,” explained first-team captain Luke Davis.
“We do go wading in after them. We have an annual Duck Derby Day in the river, so we’re all quite used to getting in.
“There’s a few which get lost, but it’s more the away teams who do that.
“We have worked out the ground dynamics, and our opening bowlers know exactly where to bowl it, and by the time the spinners come on the ball’s dead anyway.
“It might not be a bad thing to lose the ball at that stage.”
Blubberhouses, who run two senior teams out of their picturesque North Yorkshire village ground with an Otley address, are preparing for a season in the competition’s top flight having been promoted from Division Two in September.
They finished second behind champions Alne, a campaign which was Horsforth High School PE teacher Davis’s first as skipper.
“We bounced straight back after not a great season in 2022 when we were relegated,” he said.
“Last season was really good. It was a very competitive league with some good teams, but our home advantage definitely helped us.
“It’s not like Galle, should I say, but the other three teams challenging with us (Alne, Ben Rhydding and Whixley) all played on roads and we definitely played to our strengths of slow bowling.
“I’ve been at the club for 22 years, and it’s always turned. The outfield is lightning and our boundaries are small, which lulls a few people into shots they maybe shouldn’t play.”
By the sounds of it, it must be such good fun to play for the club given Davis has encouraged his players to not die wondering on the field.
The Blubberhouses Bazballers, you might say? No. They prefer Pieball – a playful jibe at their skipper’s choice of delicacy before a fitness kick, a joke he is more than happy to let run.
“When I took over, there was a change in mentality,” said Davis. “I wanted the guys to go out there and smash the ball as far as they could. I just want the lads to see ball, hit ball.
“We never bat our full 45 overs and always give the opposition maximum bowling points. But I couldn’t think of anything worse than being 140-2 after 45 overs.
“It’s more just being carefree and taking the pressure off the team.
“At times in the past, we’ve had a bit of a blame culture, ‘What are you doing, why did you do that?’ It’s just been about flipping the psychology and having fun.
“Anything above 225 gets us maximum batting points, and I don’t care if we get it in 20 overs and we’re all out.”
Davis is a wicketkeeper by trade, but an Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury has forced him into the field over the last couple of years. He could potentially reclaim the gloves in 2024.
“It was quite funny the amount of people who didn’t take well to me chattering away in the field when I didn’t have the gloves on,” he laughed.
“Having the gloves on almost gives you a free license to chat all the time and gee the boys up.”
That doesn’t sound like a school teacher, does it?
Another chuckle comes, before continuing.
“We play hard but fair. It’s about playing hard and fair but enjoying everyone’s company.
“One thing I find baffling is teams who lose and then don’t hang around afterwards – they leave straightaway. I think that’s poor etiquette. If you lose, stay for a drink. If you win, stay for a drink.”
As for aims in 2024, Davis said: “Staying up is the main one, but I’d love a cup run as well. We won the Atkinson-Swires Cup in 2021, and that was huge for us.
“That highlighted that on our day, we can beat anyone. But we just lack consistency.
“Last year, we had that consistency. This season, we need to continue to play our way and replicate that in a higher division.”
Australian Ben White, an overseas all-rounder from Melbourne, is coming over to help Blubberhouses achieve their goal. He is replacing the popular Kale Irvine (“a gem on and off the field” was Davis’s assessment).
Upon White’s arrival, he will find one of the county’s most picturesque grounds.
“We call it Cote de Blubberhouses because the Tour de France went past when it kicked off in Yorkshire a few years back,” said Davis.
“On a sunny day, when we get a good crowd on it’s a fantastic atmosphere. We get a lot of walkers stopping and watching. When it’s buzzing, it’s a really nice place to be on a Saturday afternoon.
“It’s like it’s own little micro climate and in its own valley. It can be 23 degrees in Otley but 27 at the ground.
“It’s just a shame we can’t host a final because of the limited parking situation.”
Davis says the club doesn’t run a junior set-up, owing much to geography and catchment area, but they nonetheless have some talented youngsters playing in what the skipper describes as a “diverse and close-knit” set-up.
He loves the diversity in his club and and across the league and county as a whole: “It’s important we celebrate that,” he said.
As for the Duck Derby, that is a club fundraising day usually held during the second week in July.
“It used to be a massive thing before Covid affected things,” said Davis. “But it’s a great day, and we’re slowly but surely getting it back to what it once was.”
As for the cricket side of things, it’s sink or swim time for a first team preparing for a season of Division One cricket in 2024. And, as we have already established, they’re pretty used to swimming at Blubberhouses, so things are looking good.
If anyone wants to play or get involved with Blubberhouses Cricket Club, or just wants more information, you can contact captain Luke Davis on [email protected]