Cricketers everywhere will have felt utter frustration at the three-month delay to the start of the 2020 season due to Covid-19, but for one player the lengthy wait for action has caused more distress than most.
Andrew Edwards is autistic, a condition which needs routine, so the psychological effects of something not happening as it should can be extremely upsetting.
Thankfully, and typically, Wrexham man Andrew has found ways to cope, helped by his amazing friends and family.
And this weekend, the sun will hopefully shine when Andrew’s team Chirk seconds belatedly begin their 2020 campaign in the Shropshire County Cricket League Border division at home to Pontesbury seconds (12 pm start).
Author Andrew has written three books, the first of which ‘Steel, Bat and Ball: A Pictorial History of Brymbo Football and Cricket Club 1882-2015’ fell very much within his lifelong love of sport. For many years, he was a statistician for Manchester United TV.
Andrew takes up the story: “After leaving Manchester United Television in April 2014, I have volunteered, among other places, at a Heritage Trust in my hometown of Wrexham.
“The first year I was there, my boss and now cherished mate, Gary Brown could clearly see my love of cricket and football history.
“So, Gary and my sister Melanie Beckley encouraged me to write a book on the history of Brymbo’s Football and Cricket clubs, which statistically sold more copies than 50% of books ever published.
“With my interest in local cricket now blooming, I decided that I would give playing a try. It had to be for a team that usually didn’t have a full allotment of players. I wanted to feature most weeks and not be left out after a short spell of this occurring when I tried junior cricket aged 15.
“After perusing they scorecards of the North Wales Cricket League during the 2017 season, especially those near Wrexham, I had a choice of three teams.
“I contacted Mr Skinner, Chirk Cricket Club seconds captain, as they were one of two teams in Wrexham short of a full eleven with a view of playing for the seconds.
“We met up in February 2018 in Wrexham and I could clearly see that we had a shared ethos regarding how to go about playing and behaving in recreational cricket. I had also researched Chirk and found that they had had experience of autism at the club.
“So, that was my decision made. It has turned out to be one of the three best decisions that I have made in the last five years.”
Andrew continued: “I made my Chirk seconds debut at Holyhead Road against Ruthin seconds on Monday 28th May 2018. It was a very warm second Bank Holiday Monday of May.
“We batted first, rattling up a score well in excess of 200 in our allotted 40 overs. Being me, I chatted amiably to those on the sides introducing myself by showing the books that I have written, including my 2015 memoir entitled “I’ve Got A Stat for You – My Life with Autism”, whilst openly talking about being autistic.
“I never believe that it should be hidden as it creates issues later on for all concerned.
“When we fielded, after an inauspicious start where I dropped a catch, I made amends by taking what others have deemed memorable. I will never forget the batter’s name was Venkatravaghan Sundaram.
“Upon taking the catch, I ran around like a mad person a la Imran Tahir. Everyone seemed chuffed for me. Although I didn’t realise how much until months later.
“In my second match, I took the wicket of Richie Samuels of Marchwiel & Wrexham Seconds. I had never got anyone out in my entire life, even my nephew Louis Beckley when he was six in the front garden!
“After four appearances in the 2018 season, we held our annual presentation in February 2019. Clearly, my catch of Venkatravaghan Sundaram wasn’t forgotten as I won a trophy for “Champagne Moment” of the season named in honour of a club stalwart named Dave Kelshaw.
“I couldn’t believe how much everyone at the club had recognised me for being me, autism or not. I am still so proud of this trophy. It makes me emotional just writing and thinking about it.
“In 2019, I made 10 appearances for Chirk seconds, as the club moved into the Shropshire League, taking five wickets @20. I even opened the bowling unexpectedly in our last match at Lilleshall Thirds. We also won promotion in our first season in the league.
“I still haven’t scored a run, but have batted just twice in my 14 appearances. I hope after the pandemic to achieve this. I really appreciate the support of all my team-mates and everyone associated with Chirk Cricket Club, especially my captain Ian Skinner.
“He has completely gone out of his way to make me welcome and a well respected part of the club whilst also having my role within the team very clearly communicated to me.”
Andrew admits the effects of this year’s pandemic hit him hard emotionally.
He said: “I greatly felt lost due to the coronavirus pandemic at the beginning as I saw my entire life taken away from me. I couldn’t process that the cricket season wasn’t beginning as usual. It was especially confusing with the lovely weather that we experienced in the Spring.
“What has helped, outside of my strength and conditioning training at home, 10km runs and walks with my sister Melanie, is being in contact with my team mates. I joined the club Group Chat and we have a Zoom Quiz every Saturday evening. This is great fun and I am buzzing afterwards.
“This has made my process that whether or not there would have been any season at all in 2020 that I have made peace with it in about very late April whilst being thankful that myself and all my loved ones are well. There will always be other cricket seasons but living, whilst your loved ones being well and us all being blessed to have our health are priceless.
“Fortunately though, after clearance from the Welsh Government in the last round of lockdown easing, our season in the Shropshire Cricket League Border starts this Saturday at home at The AAA’s, Holyhead Road against Pontesbury seconds.
“Although there will be adjustments to make like no group wicket-taking celebrations, I am really looking forward to it as I never thought that it would happen a couple of months ago.
“I hope all players belatedly starting their season this weekend luck!”