Tim Murtagh may not have bowled a ball in two months, but the Middlesex seamer has found another way of maintaining line and length during lockdown.
Murtagh has rediscovered his love for darts and, in between keeping fit and looking after his two young children, finds time to work at improving his average – from the oche instead of the bowling crease.
“I used to play a lot of darts in university, but it was literally getting on for 20 years since I’d played at all,” said the former Ireland international. “Now I’m playing probably a couple of hours each day.
“My wife (Karina) got me a dartboard two years ago and it’s just been gathering dust in the garage, but I thought now was the perfect time to get that out, give the garage a clean and put the board on the back of the door.
“It’s nice to just disappear into the garage, put the music on and play some darts. I’ve got an app on my phone that keeps track of your average and tells you what doubles you need to finish, stuff like that.
“I’m playing 301 and I’ve hit a few 180s and managed to check out in eight darts, so I’m pretty happy. It hasn’t quite got to the point yet where I’ve ordered a darts shirt or given myself a nickname, but I should be ready when the World Championship comes around!”
While currently preoccupied with the accuracy of tungsten rather than leather missiles, the 38-year-old is itching for an opportunity to resume doing what he does best.
With the potential structure for a shortened domestic season yet to be confirmed, Murtagh would even put his name forward for T20 cricket – a format he last experienced four years ago – if that were his only opportunity to play in 2020.
“Hopefully there are going to be some red-ball games and we can cram them into a short space of time. But, if it gets to a stage where there aren’t, I’d be open to playing any form of cricket,” said Murtagh.
“I haven’t bowled a ball since we came back from pre-season in Oman. I spoke to (Middlesex managing director of cricket) Gus Fraser about it and he agreed, if you’ve been doing something for 20 years, you’re not going to suddenly forget it.
“I bowled three or four times a week indoors throughout the winter and I can switch back on when we know we have a definite date to kick off. It’s more about staying fit for now and I’ve hired a Wattbike, then there are also the sessions Middlesex are running over Zoom.
“We’re not as well paid as footballers – some of them have their own swimming pools, but I’ve only got a paddling pool for the children. I’m not sure I can quite rack up 50 lengths in that.”
However, keeping active hasn’t proved difficult for Murtagh – with Karina busy in her role as chief executive of the Ruth Strauss Foundation, he spends much of the day running around after their sons, aged five and three.
And, despite his enforced break from cricket, he has no regrets about the decision to call time on his international career last autumn and focus on increasing his tally of 700 first-class wickets for the Seaxes.
“With hindsight, maybe I should have gone the other way,” Murtagh added. “I would have had a tour to the Caribbean with Ireland!
“But I’ve taken the approach I did and it’s good that I now get to spend more time with my family, which normally I wouldn’t have at this time of year.”