When I was twenty-two, I got dumped by a girl called Lucy. I was a stupidly loved-up and ridiculously immature young man, and my, did the rejection hurt. I mention this because several weeks after being dispensed with I was still languishing in a sea of self-pity, I woke up and for the first few minutes of the day, it did not occur to me that Lucy was no longer mine. I was actually in the shower, happily singing away when it dawned on me I was a rejected singleton. A similar thing happened to me this morning, but instead of me suddenly remembering I had lost a love, the thought that came careering through my fuggy mind was:
HOW DID WE LOSE TO BALBRIGGAN LAST WEEK?
Please don’t get me wrong; there is no shame in losing to a club like Balbriggan. I have a lot of time for Balbriggan. I chew the fat with Damien from the Brig (who I am told, is nicknamed “Satan” and I hope that this isn’t news to him) quite regularly about the complicated aspects of running and developing a cricket club and his is an opinion I have learned to value. The club is run well, and they are doing a bang-up job of developing young players.
As I found out last week.
We posted 160 in our forty overs. We probably should have scored a few more, but 160 is a fairly robust score for our 3s. I was pretty confident that it was defendable, and when after about 15 overs we had them at something like 45/7, with one of their players crocked, I thought it was all over. I mean, you would, wouldn’t you?
Indeed, as we walked back on after drinks, I even discussed with a colleague how quickly the game would be finished. I can only assume that the cricketing gods overheard my hubristic arrogance, and decided to smite me. Ninety minutes later, the eighth wicket stand went to about 120, and we trudged off the pitch applauding a quite splendid display by our opponents. I have to be honest, the applause (from me, anyway) was a little reluctant. It wasn’t reluctant because it wasn’t deserved – it absolutely was – it was reluctant because it really hurt.
I know it shouldn’t. This is low level, amateur sport and losing is part and parcel of the experience, but to lose with five overs to spare when we were clearing cruising to victory…it still smarts now.
The eighth-wicket stand was made even more splendid by the fact that one of the batsmen was just twelve (perhaps thirteen) years old, scoring his maiden 50 in adult cricket. This is one of the things that makes cricket so unique. We had an old team out yesterday. I reckon the average age must have been north of forty, and there was a huge amount of experience out there. The downside to that experience is that some of us aren’t quite as nimble in the field as we used to be, but even so, it is unlikely anyone would have placed a bet on our opponents winning after that seventh wicket fell yesterday. Decades of experience, and we were beaten by a young man who won’t take his leaving cert for a couple of years at least. What other sport could that happen in?
I should make a nod at his batting partner too, but he was easily thirty, so his 50 was not as remarkable!
We’ve played three games this season, and we’ve lost three times, and I’ve been playing for long enough to understand how it ebbs and flows. Even though I can appreciate what was done to us yesterday and what an achievement it was, I can’t remember feeling so bereft walking off a pitch.
On the plus side, all three games have been played in a great spirit. I can barely remember a murmur of complaint about the umpiring, and in drinks and tea breaks there has been plenty of warm, friendly and even funny conversations between the teams.
Long may that last.
I know in time that I will look back on that young man’s knock with more appreciation. To achieve that at such a young age augers a fantastic future in the game. I suppose I will have to say that it was a privilege to witness it, and perhaps in time I will reach the requisite level of maturity to speak those words.
That loss though. It still really hurts. Give me time.