There was a time, a few weeks ago, during a game being played on a difficult pitch with facilities that could have been much, much better, when I caught myself wistfully day-dreaming about saying, “You know what boys, I have better things to do with my time than this”, before getting in my car and making the long drive home.
It was just after the umpire’s phone had rung, and he answered it, sticking his arm out to halt the bowler while he had a three-minute call. We were getting hammered, but this didn’t stop some poor officiating from our opponents which ensured that the total we were about to chase was as high as possible.
It was hot – of course – and the liquid refreshments offered at drinks and tea were of a similar temperature. Warm, weak squash. Nommy.
Trust me, I have had better Sunday afternoons.
The ridiculous thing about all this is that our opponents would have probably beaten had they umpired properly, although it’s difficult to say for certain. I have to say I was sorely tempted to give as good as we got when we batted, but I decided to umpire properly and made sure the message got through to anyone standing behind the stumps. We lost heavily in the end, but we did not end up pointless, and that felt like an achievement.
And it got me thinking…why do I play?
It’s difficult to put it down to one reason. Part of it is the craic. We are a close-knit club and many of the people I walk on the pitch with are proper friends, and the banter keeps me constantly amused, even if some of it is staggeringly brutal. And coming from SW England, pretty much everybody I knew was English and Caucasian, and thanks to cricket , I now know people from all over the World, and I am much richer for it.
I am a modest player, but the beauty about cricket is that even modest players get their moments in the sun, and in the five years I have been playing for Bagenalstown I have a raft of terrific memories and minor achievements, things that I will look back fondly on when I am old(er) and grey(er).
And most of all, it is the competitive nature of the games. We have played a few corking matches this season that have gone down to the wire. The fact that we have won all such games makes it sweeter, but to even play in a game that goes down to the last over or so is unbelievably exciting. It’s a buzz that lasts for days.
I played a game recently that was exactly what cricket is supposed to be – friendly, hard and properly competitive. But there was this one fella…
Upon being turned down for the only LBW he appealed for, he screamed, dramatically, WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO TO GET A WICKET?? Two overs later, he was wide balled, and this led to a three-minute debate about the injustice of the decision. He was asked, politely, to stop running down the mat after releasing the ball, and he refused to accede to the request, saying, sorry, shouting I HAVE TO RUN, WHAT DO YOU EXPECT ME TO DO? When I came out at the death of the game to bat, he tried to up the already agreed total to be chased.
The rest of his team were gentlemen. They umpired well. We didn’t necessarily agree with all their decisions, but would you expect us to? We accepted their decisions, and they accepted ours.
Apart from Mr Shouty, of course. And I found myself wondering, why do you play cricket, chief?
Look, if it looks like I am trying to give the impression that we at Bagenalstown don’t have the odd Mr Shouty, then I can assure you I am not. They are everywhere, and you know a few.
And Mr Shouty seems to play cricket because he likes arguing with people and souring the atmosphere and making it all about him. I have to say, I am not a fan of Mr Shouty, and there are times when Mr Shouty makes me wonder if I should stop playing cricket, but why should I let him stop me experiencing all the positive things that I have experienced in the last six years? All the lovely people I have met, not just from the club I play for. All the fantastic games I have played in, even if I am well and truly in the cheap seats, and destined to remain there.
No, I will not let Mr Shouty stop me playing. I will wait, like everyone else, for the inevitable career ending injury, and just hope that it doesn’t hurt too much.
So. Why do you play?