A couple of weeks ago on a hot summer afternoon in Fulham, London I saw these young people playing cricket in the park. I sat down and watched as the batsman tried to whack the ball as far as possible and the bowler tried to beat the batsman by hitting the tree with the ball. And at that moment the memories came pouring back!
As a child, I had been a cricket fanatic. The highlight of the year for me, was when my father would take me up to London to the Oval Cricket Ground to see England play. I remember seeing the fast bowlers, Wes Hall (West Indies) and Freddie Truman (England) hurtling the ball towards the batsmen at more than 90 miles per hour. And I too, dreamed of being a demon fast bowler.
A test match (International game) lasts for five days, starting at 11.30 in the morning and finishing at 6.30 in the afternoon with stops for lunch and tea (very English). There is now an exciting, modern speeded-up one-day version but the five day International Test Match is still going strong. The problem with this tradition is that you can watch for hours without anything important or spectacular happening. You then escape for five minutes to have a pee and miss the best and most exciting action of the whole day! However for local cricketers all over England, it is a week-end entertainment and on a Sunday afternoon, men in white can be found on every village green in the country. I remember as a boy going to church, noticing that the vicar always had his white cricket trousers on under his religious garments, ready to make a quick getaway as soon as the service over.
Back to the young me and my dream of becoming the world’s greatest fast bowler. I was selected to play for the Sussex County Junior Team. Yes… this was an important step indeed towards becoming Freddy Truman’s replacement. Things were looking good!
And it was then that disaster struck. It happened during the game between Sussex and Buckinghamshire. I was bowling… and the Umpire (referee) suddenly announced that I was…..I was….. I can’t say these words……..HE SAID I WAS CHUCKING, the worse infliction a bowler could possibly suffer. It meant that in my bowling action, my arm was not completely straight. My bowling was therefore illegal, prohibited, not allowed……I tried not to shed tears all over my white shirt. Nobody had ever complained before about my arm action but the opinion of this one umpire was enough to throw me into crisis. I wasn’t selected again for Sussex, and just continue playing for school and for club, who were not at all concerned about my slightly bent arm. Then, when I went to college….. I gave up cricket altogether and took up rugby instead. However my trusty cricket bat still remains as an unused ornament in my living room.
In Lima, where I live, many of the expats belonged to Lima Cricket Club and it was just about possible to gather together twenty-two ex-pats for an occasional game. Once, after a few beers I made the mistake of telling some of the regular players of my days playing for the county, and was immediately press-ganged into playing the next game. Needless to say, after the great embarrassment and humiliation of being worse than useless after so many years absent from the sport, nobody ever asked me to play again. What a relief!!
However, it is always a great pleasure to see a game in progress on a village green. It is also gratifying to observe that the game is alive and well in all corners of England’s vast ex-Empire.
I came across these boys playing in the street in a small town near Kathmandu.
And in Galle, Sri Lanka there is a great view of the cricket ground and stadium from the neighbouring hill, a good way to avoiding paying an entrance fee!
Here there was some pretty serious playing going on, some real action! Each fielding position in cricket has a name. For instance the fielder on the left of the picture just in front of the batsmen is in the position of “silly-point”. A few paces back and he would be at “silly-mid-off”. The player directly behind the batsmen in the “wicket keeper” and by his side are two fielder playing in “the slips”
But just down the other side of the hill, about five hundred metres from where these last pictures were taken, there was an informal game between friends going on, which brings me back to the first picture taken in Fulham……..cricket is simply a game where people get together with bat and ball to have a good time.
And one final, comment……. I WAS A DEMON BOWLER, and that poor excuse of an Umpire didn’t know what the hell he was talking about…..SO THERE!!! 😁