2015 was a season which started so well. We enjoyed a series of well-fought matches from May until late July when out of the blue no fewer than 6 of our last 9 opponents cried off within 48 hours (and sometimes less) of the game. It was wretched for those Brethren who had made their cricketing plans for the weekend only to find them dashed at the last moment and it was equally infuriating for groundsmen, umpires and scorers alike. These cancellations reflect a problem that is affecting the game of cricket for both wandering and town clubs. Young men are under greater pressure to observe their responsibilities to their home and family life than in days of yore and sadly they simply don’t spend as much time playing cricket as used to be the case. Happily BB still has a strong cricketing base and our younger members enjoy their BB cricket enormously. This is a reflection on the enthusiasm of our remarkable Hon. Match Manager, Alex Hill who makes a supreme effort to ensure that BB cricket remains successful and enormous fun for all involved. He and our excellent Match Managers have been central to our successful team-raising and, though challenged occasionally, we always had a team on the pitch for our matches which is a rarity nowadays. My thanks go to all of them for their unswerving determination that BB will not let down their opponents.
A group of playing members and I met after the season ended to discuss this problem and the Benevolent Board has heeded their advice that we should not simply carry on regardless of everything that is happening in club cricket. We will continue with many of our matches in the same way as in the past while at the same time we will try playing some 20/20 matches, play some afternoon-only matches and we have cut back our fixture list a bit to ensure that we do everything in our power to play matches only against those on whom we feel we can rely. We cannot be healthy if our opponents are failing.
In early May I travelled to Paris with a delightful and enthusiastic group of 12 for the second BB Tour to Paris. BB played three consecutive limited overs games in very indifferent weather winning two of them. Our Tour Committee ensured that everyone played a full part during these matches and everything went like clockwork apart from the fact that one player sustained an “injury” late on the first evening and I unexpectedly found myself umpiring for the next two days. The injured player made a surprisingly rapid recovery!
As usual we had many wonderful days in Kent and most particularly at Torry Hill where the re-laid wicket was again magnificent. Brother Rose Kingsdown was as hospitable as ever despite the many claims on her time as Kent CCC’s President, a role which she carried out so spectacularly well that she has been asked to do it again in 2016. We are also very grateful to the Trustees of Belmont who so generously allow us to play some of our matches on that lovely ground with its historic connections to Lord Harris and BB.
We won 11 of the 19 matches we actually played which meant that we really might have enjoyed a fabulous season had we been able to play all our matches. There were some excellent performances again this year with Jonathan Wilkes-Green, Alexander Cornwallis and Chris Maurice scoring hundreds and Michael Churchill taking a five wicket haul at Hurlingham, a bowler’s graveyard, to snatch success for us in a very tight finish.
Despite the fact that Tunbridge Wells Cricket Week was much later in the season it still proved disappointing that our tent there was very difficult to fill - as indeed was the Kent CCC’s tent next door. We have therefore accepted a very kind offer from the Kent Committee to share their tent on a trial basis in 2016. They have offered as many tables as we can fill (and we can fly our own flag alongside the Kent flag) in exchange for a modest contribution. Incidentally our lunches and teas will cost significantly less than previously and since we will not be renting a marquee or crockery etc it is well worth a trial this year. We will not be putting these savings to profit but will spend the money on making BB cricket more attractive to our playing Brethren and Junior BB with an eye very firmly on the future. Our tent at Canterbury Cricket Week will continue as it has done throughout our history and we have no plans to change anything so far as this is concerned. I do hope though that Brethren will try very hard to support us at the two Cricket Weeks. Our tents are the greatest fun and a very enjoyable time is always had there. St John Brown, our hardworking Hon. Secretary, will continue to manage our tables in the Kent Committee’s Tent at Tunbridge Wells and Peter Canney will continue to run the BB Tent at Canterbury Cricket Week. They carry out their roles with charm and efficiency and I know that we are all grateful to them for all they do.
It was with great regret that we have had to discontinue the use of the traditional name “The BaBes” when referring to our Junior Section after more than 100 years. Those with whom we are able to communicate by e-mail received a message from me last year explaining the reasons for this, and the text of that message is now enclosed with (or attached to) this Chief’s Letter so all Brethren will understand why this change is actually necessary. My thanks to those (unanimously understanding and supportive) Brethren who wrote to me then. I am very grateful.
In their last season playing under The BaBes’ banner our young cricketers were a nice group and had a great deal of fun. In 2015 we had a particularly young membership and they struggled a bit in their matches, but happily many of those young players will be back in 2016 (and 2017 in many cases too) and their experiences will no doubt stand them in very good stead. Brother Mark Baker White has now completed a very good stint as Manager of the BaBes and Brother Mark Pettman kindly agreed to be the new Manager of Junior BB. He has two sons who are already playing Junior BB cricket and he has already seized the initiative and the Junior BB fixture list is most attractive and larger than before. As Brethren seem to stop playing BB cricket earlier than in the past it is critical that we replace them with young players who will love what BB has to offer. Brother Mark will ensure that they are versed in the traditions and spirit of BB when they move up to playing BB cricket.
Our annual golf matches against Royal St George’s, Rye and Chislehurst continue to be greatly enjoyed as was our Quadrangular match against MCC, the XL Club and the Gloucester Gypsies played at St George’s Hill, Weybridge this year. My thanks go to Brothers Giles Brealy, Bryan Hamblin, Peter Cattrall and James Davis respectively for managing the events so well.
Communications with Brethren
It proved very helpful (and it saves us money too) that so many of you were happy to receive our communications by e-mail. If any more of you would be happy for us to do this please send an e-mail confirming this to Brother St John Brown (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Changes to the Benevolent Board
Brother Mark Baker White has now stood down from the Benevolent Board with our gratitude for all he has done as Manager of the BaBes. His successor, the new Manager of Junior BB, Brother Mark Pettman has joined the Board at my invitation.
Our financial position remains sound despite a recent fall in the value of our invested reserves (which will not surprise many of you). The Board has taken significant steps to reduce expenditure in areas which do not impact on our main business as a cricket club. Our policy is to support the playing side of the Club in particular and to make playing for BB as attractive as possible.
The following have accepted my invitation to appointment to playing membership of BB during the past year :
and the following have been invited to become playing members :
May I end by thanking the Officers of BB and the members of the Benevolent Board who have been enthusiastic and constructive at all times. I am most grateful to them for all they do. I hope that Brethren will continue to take an active interest in our affairs and look forward to seeing many of you on the boundary in 2016.