A Sporting Chance 3

Ave a Go ya Mug”

The above title is quintessential Aussie slang often yelled out by Cricket spectators at Batsmen that are particularly slow in scoring runs. England’s all time greatest most boring batsman – Geoff Boycott must have heard this thousands of times on Aussie cricket tours. Damn he was hard to get out though!

The most famous Cricketer of all time – the Australian wonder Batsman, Sir Donald Bradman. Correct, some cricketers do receive knighthoods!

Cricket: played between 2 teams of 11. One team bats and tries to hit the ball to places where the other team is not fielding, as much as possible within an allotted time or total of balls bowled. This team scores a run or more when the ball gets past the opposition team. The other team fields and bowls to the batting team aiming to get 10 of the 11 batters out before they have scored too many runs. Once those 10 batters are out, the teams swap roles. Simple really! It is a game full of statistics, history and above all humour.

The following provides a much clearer description………..

Dead Simple!

Cricket terms: bowled a Maiden over, leg before wicket (lbw), Bouncer, googly, square leg, deep gully, silly mid on, point, howzat!, turning square, golden duck, Mankad. For the intrigued reader just google cricket terms. Many more.

Years and Clubs played: As an adult, so far 21 years. Not quite retired yet. Tuart Hill (now North Perth) Cricket Club 16 years, Kelawar Cricket Club here in Kuala Lumpur 5 years.

Injuries: Little finger left hand twice broken. Last time two years ago, the end of the finger almost fell off, many times bruising to the inner right thigh from fast bowler getting through defences. (5 and 1/2 ounce leather covered ball is very hard you know). Severe left leg hamstring injury (12 weeks), hyperextended right shoulder many years ago causing some issues now. Surfing injuries accumulated about 4-5 months out of the game. (story for another time) General after game soreness that dissipates after a couple of days. Not much really.

Fun Rating: 10.5 out of 10

So much Fun! The mighty “Swainfantastics”, self titled by our Captain – Chris Swain (no ego at all!). Me at the back centre with No.1 finger up. 8th Grade Tuart Hill team after yet another Grand Final victory over Applecross CC. Am pretty sure that after this GF defeat by us, their entire team required Counselling Services for some years to come. Some may still not have recovered to this day.

“So what do you do?”, the Captain of the lower grade Tuart Hill Cricket team asks me. “I don’t know, I haven’t played since high school days, but I do like to run“. Quizzical semi-frown on his head, but as per usual with this particular Captain – the awesome Graeme Doyle, he replied – “better field at Cover then“. That was it. My first Captain instruction in Adult cricket, November 1999 at a ground south of the Swan River in Perth Western Australia. Could have been Bentleigh we were playing against.

I was 41 years old and a long way in time from cricket that had always been in the veins from Primary school days competing against other schools, lunchtimes at Moonah Primary School with about 50 of us on the field, missing a catch at Point fielding position that hit me on the end of the main private part that bled a bit for a few days – ouch! Quite concerning to an 8 year old. Didn’t stop me making children in later years though!

Maybe it was that bloody incident that helped focus on catching the ball so well for many years. Much backyard and front-yard cricket was had with neighborhood mates. Dragging the lawn mower to the local Park, which in reality was just a patch of cleared paddock on the side of a Hill. Putting the blades all the way down on the mower, we scalped a cricket pitch into the side of this hillside park. Grabbed buckets of water and hand held lawn roller from a mates place backing onto the park, watered and rolled the pitch. Very professional! The batsman was at the top, and the bowler bowled up the hill! A good workout! Dad would always complain about how come the mower blades were so blunt! Only now will he find out the truth.

The Australian Cricket test team has always been watched on TV with the family especially when it was against the old enemy – England (loved beating our old Colonial masters!), later times with my similarly addicted Sister and listening on the radio. I really couldn’t get enough! In Primary school a career was envisaged as a leg spin bowler, but could only land 4 of the 8 balls I was allotted on the pitch. High school was selected in the team but was an average player. Sometimes in and sometimes out of the team. Always batting down the order, never to bowl, but I loved chasing the ball in the field and rarely dropped catches. Moving to Singapore, there was no competition, but we did have cricket at school that I enthusiastically participated in, even though my skills (apart from fielding) were still average.

1975, Back in Tasmania at 17, surfing found me and any thoughts to play competitive cricket disappeared. Fast forward 24 years to 1999 and here I was back on the paddock. My son Sam had started playing juniors with Tuart Hill Cricket Club and I went to his training, initially to observe and then assisted the Coach who was a Senior player at the time. One week he mentioned that they were always looking for players down the grades and assured me that I would get a game. At that time, my surfing was at a standstill, not getting much pleasure at all and quite frustrated with my lack of progress. Besides, summertime Perth was pretty terrible for decent surf. I reminisced back to those days of team sport, rugby included and realised how much I missed being part of a group of people with a common goal to play, have fun and win.

What did I have to lose? Nothing! Went to selection night training (Thursday). The boys were welcoming. I borrowed Club gear to bat in the nets and did alright. Nothing fancy, mainly kept the ball out, bowled my version of slow medium and occasional off-spin, participated in the fielding drills and loved them while most others were complaining! At team selections later and I was picked to play! Wow, just like that. 1974 was the last time I had held a cricket bat in the middle of a ground and 1971 as a 13 year old was the last time I had held a bat in competition. Headed to the Cricket shop the next day – bought playing pants, cricket shoes, batting gloves, a private parts protector box and a brand new cricket ball – my kit. The Club provided the rest.

Match day with these senior cricketers and was a bit intimidated as many had played top rung cricket for many years with much game day knowledge. Some up and coming juniors and a few random newbies (substitute Cricket tragic) like me made up the team. Captain Doyley made a point of properly welcoming the new players in a team huddle on the ground and away we went. Memory not that clear, but fielded okay, no miss fields and chased down a few balls that would have been boundaries, no catches came my way. Teammates were encouraging and supported every step of the way with, “great chase Roundy, good stop Roundy“, resonating in the ears. Naturally, being a newbie the Captain had me batting well down the order and I ended up with a glorious 3 not out in a little late partnership that almost got us over the line, but not quite. A loss it was, but I was seriously stung and hooked by the end of the game.

Cricket is more than just the day on the park. It is the tapestry of the story woven through dissection of the scorebook at days end, running commentary of batting performance by a self appointed torturer (usually a bowler) describing your painful to watch, paltry 8 runs scored with 28 dot balls (no runs) peppered throughout. But, the laughter is contagious, especially when you check and raise discussion of the torturer, his bowling stats and inability to actually land a ball on the pitch, and when he did it was dealt with unceremoniously by the batsman. More laughter, even in defeat. The Worlds worst tail end batsman, holding up his end and not getting out, while his more accomplished batting partner somehow got us over the line for the win. Everyone is a hero in cricket. One small act can have a multiplier effect that changes the course of immediate cricket history.

If a person plays a team sport they need to focus on their position in the team and to be the best they can possibly be. It sounds a bit cliche, but why else bother to turn up, in this case Perth WA cricket in the heat of a 38 degree C day? Hot desert wind sucking any vestige of moisture out of you. Unrelenting Sun, that if not for slip, slop and slap sunscreen, shirt and hat, bright pink to blistering red skin awaits. A person cannot just turn up to make up numbers as so much is sacrificed just getting on the field.

What do you have to lose by putting everything into the time on the Park? Probably about 2 litres of sweat, which is simply remedied at games finish by a celebratory frosty brew or two, three or four preceded by an appetiser of sports drink to get the body salts back up. It does not matter ones ability or lack of. Effort applied gets rewarded through the person improving their skills and maybe contributing to that one special moment that turns a potential loss into a win – the game changer scramble and dive, stopping a ball getting over the boundary and reducing a certain 4 runs to just 2.

Realising that the ball smashed in the air directly at you from close range by the batsmen has been caught by your Couch potato/beer belly, looking down and finding your hands automatically wrapped around the ball for a catch and gleefully proclaim you watched it all the way off the bat, when in fact you were trying to preserve your life by ducking for cover! The best comedy and the team wins by 1 run. That crazy dive to stop the certain 4 runs an hour earlier or the beer belly catch contributed to the teams win. The fielder did not know then that the save or catch would be the difference between winning and losing. All you can do is your best.

The writer – warming up the throwing arm 2019 KL Pic: M. Round

With commitment to improve, I applied myself, especially in the practice nets, where apart from the Cut shot, forward and rear defensive bat ingrained from childhood, my batting was ordinary. Hard to get out, but ability to score runs was woeful. Bit by bit with much assistance from experienced players, the technique improved. Much to do with batting is to keep the bat straight (perpendicular to the ground) when you hit the ball. I was woeful with the bat doing attacking shots, always dragging the bat across the body and messing up the shot. A handy hint to make sure my right elbow brushes the body on the way through the shot fixed the issue and straightened me out. Thanks Kevin O’Neil. Slowly but surely I started putting some runs together, forging partnerships and generally enjoying batting. Phew! Batting average crept up to a respectable 27 average, and then the season 2004/05 down to 3.4 batting average and started inventing new ways to get myself out. The more I thought about it, the worse I became. I started experimenting with the batting stance and tried to predict where the bowler was going to land the ball. All this resulted in more outs and severe batting jitters.

Yes, I was carrying an elbow injury (tennis elbow style), but it was a pretty rough home life with husband and wife not seeing eye to eye, that consumed my thinking time. Unfortunately unhappy home transferred to the cricket field in the most appalling way. No runs, getting demoted further down the batting order, equaling the Club record for most ducks (0 runs and out!) in a Season. Took out the inglorious Duck award which consisted of a Yellow plastic bath Duck on trophy stand. I did seriously think of melting it more than once, but that plastic bath duck was just too cute! The only consolation being that the Duck perpetual trophy had some illustrious real batsmen on there as well.

After that despairing season, slowly but surely the batting regained some normalcy. Still not many runs, but at least the confidence was not taking a belting every week. Home life changed when we agreed to separate and eventually divorce. We maintain friendship to this day. The mind felt lighter and more focused. Fortunes really turned for the better, when I put my hand up as Opening batsman for a game when our normal opening bat was a late withdrawal.

Opening batsman has to face the other teams fastest and meanest bowlers. They don’t just try to get you out, they try to hurt you out! They are not called “Demon Fast Bowler ” for nothing. The ball is being bowled at well above 100 klms/hr. Over 22 yards, there is little reaction time or room for error. (in the top echelons that ball is coming at 140-150klms/hr) Many times the ball is bowled so that it bounces up into your ribs, chest, neck or head region (the Bouncer). That is why we have protection – helmet, batting gloves, leg pads, sometimes arm guards and the all important Box (manhood protector). The Bouncer creates different reaction – sometimes duck and weave to avoid the ball or other times attempt the Cut, Hook or Pull shot.

One demon fast bowler bouncer assault stands out. He just peppered me with Bouncers that I spent most of the time evading. He started chirping at me about being gutless to take him on (in the vein of “Ave a go ya Mug”). I was just being patient for the right ball to hit and he finally delivered the short ball that was in the slot to Pull and with one sure step down the Pitch the ball was smashed to the boundary for 4. To this day the perfect cracking sound of the ball hitting the sweet spot on the Bat and the speed at which the ball disappeared over the boundary, is a crystal clear memory. Following through on the shot there were more steps down the pitch up close and personal with the fast bowler and loudly making the statement – “How did ya like that!“, still brings a chuckle. To this day, I have no idea what made me do it as World War 3 could have erupted, but it felt so good at the time. Sport does bring out the passion!

The batting did really come along and culminated in my one and only Ton (100 runs) finally being scored. All Batsmen dream of this! What a wonderful feeling to have reached a pinnacle of the Ton! Admittedly, this was seventh grade cricket and the Opposition that day were not great, but I still did it and ably supported and celebrated by my cricket mates. Sir Roundy I was for a great and glorious night after the game!

December 2011, Number 1 Batsman and 100 not out! More than ably supported by Craig (Kiwi) Alderson in a partnership of 142, a young Tom Christides further down at number 5 contributing nicely in a 117 run partnership. What a day! What a night after back at the Club rooms! PS: We won this game.

Bowling consistently improved, picking up the odd wicket here and there, becoming a bit of a partnership breaker. The Captains learnt quickly though not to keep me on for too long as the batsmen would get used by my slow medium bowling. I did develop a late outswinger which worked a treat. 4/11 was the best statistic, but statistics can be misleading as the first of those wickets was to a batsman that had carted us all over the Park for many runs (145 from memory) and set up what would be a big win for the other side.

It was in the fielding department that apparently Park/Club cricketers hate doing (according to a speech by an ex THCC 2nd Grade Captain in a final), that my reputation grew. Cover fielding position I claimed as mine and relished it. The opposition batsmen always knew I was there and that if he so much as lifted one ball into the air in my general direction, he would be on the long walk back to the pavilion.

I caught everything! Balls were chased down with vigour to limit what could have been 3 or 4 runs to 2 or just 1 run. I would not let anything get past me. One game was a highlight with 4 catches all from different fielding positions which was almost unheard of. Taking out the Association fielding award twice and quite a few Club fielding awards were fantastic rewards for effort put in.

Traditionally Fielding awards were the domain of the wicket keeper who by virtue of the position took the most catches and many run-outs. It was special for me and still is. ‘Clamps’ became a nickname. Couple of times I was selected up the Grades, on my fielding alone. I have to thank my all time favourite cricketer – fellow Tasmanian and ex Australian Captain- Ricky Ponting for the fielding inspiration. He was a serious benchmark. The hands are still pretty good, though the throwing arm is not what it used to be. Currently in a Kuala Lumpur with Kelawar Cricket Club, taking out last years Fielding award – not bad for 61!

Taking out yet another annual Club fielding award in my Grade and receiving from Jack Hobbs. Love that stylish Bangkok tailored Tuart Hill CC Suit Hobbsy!

Grand Final BLING I have accumulated. Far more that could ever be imagined back in struggling school days or indeed the first few years of Senior Cricket. Extremely fortunate I have been to actually realise vague dreams of sporting success. Grand final Winning medallions are so treasured. I played in winning Grand Finals with some players that played all their adult life to have that one special moment of a winning Grand final elude them until my time of playing. I may stand corrected but club mates Neil Rankin and Al Smith come to mind. 30 plus years for no silverware, and there I was after 3 years with the first one of many. They had to wait until about 2010 with their first ever GF medallion! Emotions were very high after that win! For Smithy and Ranx, my gratitude to them is enormous. They showed clearly that perseverance is a challenge that does not need to defeat you, but stimulate you to go one more, even if the body is screaming at you to stop. Rewards will come, preferably sooner than much later!

The Bling! At least three of those Grand Final Wins was against Applecross CC who finished the Home and Away season for two of those years on top of the Ladder. Do I have any sympathy or empathy for their loss? Not one bit. It is the Grand Final that matters and nothing else!

This cricket caper has given so much enjoyment to what may well have been quite a dull life. Starting adult cricket at the age of 41 was never about winning silverware, it was more to enjoy and test myself on the field. Could I really play and contribute in Cricket? Would I just get eternally frustrated, never to to be more than just average as one early High school physical education teacher stated? He had no idea what a motivator he would be some 28 years later.

The highest Grades were not for me, most of the time spent in the lower grades with in theory lower standards. Many that I played with and against had played at the upper echelons for many years before the body started betraying them. They were still highly skilled and tough sportsmen that played hard with tactics designed to get the Opposition out, if not this week, then next week or the week after. This tenacity to keep at it no matter the adverse circumstances was infectious and character building. Never give up, always fight the game out to the last ball as you never know what might happen even though failure may beckon.

Cricket is a funny (odd) game. Just one small moment can turn an entire game and what was failure the week before turns into success. The success is so sweet because combined team effort has been put in by a bunch of wise old timers, young timers and licorice all sorts like myself and others. I love em all through the tough grinds, personal batting trials, losses and the sweet victories. Huge thanks to all that encouraged, nurtured and played with me at Tuart Hill Cricket Club – I certainly fancied that! Miss my Party Mix lollies boys?

Manlove of a teamate at its best. Celebration of Grand Final win with another dedicated fighter to the last ball – Virat Shah. Miss you Buddy. One day we catch up again after Covid times are over.

Life would not be what it is now, if that pursuit of my “Cricket tragic’s” dream had not started at the age of 41. You are never too old to pursue the dream or desire that has almost crumbled to dust with time. You never know if you don’t have a go! “Ave a Go”? I certainly did!

Tuart Hill Career Stats: Innings: 187, Batting Runs: 2,543 at average of 15.7, Bowling: Wickets 71 at average of 21.92 and Catches: 101.

Coming soon: Ashram

2 thoughts on “A Sporting Chance 3

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