When I was young cricket was my passion. Now it is my therapy.
I always enjoyed a meandering relationship with the game; learning and playing in adolescence, playing and watching in adulthood then watching occasionally in maturity. 
But now, just after raising a metaphorical bat for my half-century, our bond has taken a sudden, unexpected turn.
I used to have an enviable job, equitably replete with respect and remuneration. But ‘the company pivoted’ and, ever since, I have been floundering upon a freelance scrapheap that provides too little work, too much time and a total loss of control. 
My family is loving and healthy but middle-aged masculinity always yearns for greater validation. I have felt lost for years and the world has moved on in my absence. Society’s drive for openness in mental health is welcome but I will not be unbottling my feelings any time soon. We may talk of a world dominated by kindness but, in reality, competition is still king and I do not need any more ‘L’s right now. It would just confirm my rap-sheet – ‘pale, male and stale’.
I have read that a mid-life crisis occurs when the world tells you how far it is going to let you go. However, my family is intact and that sports car remains unbought. Instead, in my lowest moments, I have found refuge in county cricket. 
Solace has come through stolen afternoons in the sun and snatched sessions between school runs. Nothing replenishes my emotional batteries like its genteel, polite and, above all, quiet rhythms.
Thinking back, the game has often been a nursemaid. My father died the weekend before England secured that famous Ashes of 2005 and we held the urn until a few days after my son was born in 2007. Somehow, stupidly, I felt the glory was ‘tiding me over’.
Then, just as my career went bad, Essex came good. The ‘pivot’ occurred late in the summer of 2016 and, within a week, I had seen them promoted. I witnessed much of the fairy-tale title win that followed then, in 2019, missed just one game in another Championship success and travelled to Edgbaston for that last-ball victory in the Vitality Blast final.
I stress again, my life has been blessed in many ways. I try to count them but it seems that tallying the runs of Ryan ten doeschate and wickets of Simon Harmer leaves me considerably more ‘centred’.
For decades, the County Championship has been seen as a haven for old, grey, solitary men. This forgotten, voiceless audience may be why the competition remains so ignored. 
Until recently I too considered county cricket as the most wonderful waste of time. Glorious but pointless. Now, in the most difficult period of my life, it has revealed a hitherto hidden purpose as salvation and sanctuary for my troubled mind.

If you feel like me and can talk, then talk. But if you can’t, go, sit and watch… in silence.

It just may help.

Twitter- @The_Grumbler