An Innings for Dad

AN INNINGS FOR DAD

The ball was short of a length outside off stump. Still early in my innings, it was my first opportunity to break the shackles. I leant back and unleashed a back foot square drive through point that was a combination of flourish and brute force. As I took off on those instinctive first few steps and watched the ball race away to the fence, I felt an almighty rip to my groin.

As if this innings wasn’t going to be emotionally difficult enough to get through, it was now going to be the most physically and mentally challenging innings of my life.


Dad was the reason I started playing cricket. He was the reason I developed a strong dedication and determination in my game. He was the reason I enjoyed moments of team and personal success. He was the reason I was a good Sharks clubman. He was the reason I loved cricket. And he was the reason I was playing and enjoying cricket again at 48 years of age.


 Dad went into hospital in three months ago and sadly never came back out. During the week of the Semi Final, my brother and I made the three hour mercy dash to hospital and then had to make the most difficult decision of our lives to turn off his support and let him go.
 

 Dad’s fighting spirit kept him going for another week, but sadly he passed away on the Tuesday before the Preliminary Final.
 

 The funeral was set for the Monday following the Preliminary Final. My Captain and Committee told me that they would understand if I withdrew from the game, but it never crossed my mind. Dad loved his cricket and he loved his sons playing cricket. He would have wanted me to play the game. And I knew he’d be watching from upstairs.

It was (“only”) the F Grade Preliminary Final but a Grand Final berth was on the line. It was my first season back after a ten year absence. At 48 years of age, I’d had my “15 minutes of fame” in A Grade in the 80s & 90s, but the competitive spirit was still strong and I was determined to get the mighty Sharks into a Grand Final.

We’d lost the Semi Final the previous week. I was disappointed with my lack of concentration and a loose early shot, trying to push up the slow run rate, which resulted in an early dismissal. So this week, I was determined to do my bit for the team and in the process, to do Dad proud.

We won the toss and batted first in the Prelim. Batting at Number 3, I was in early at 1/18. My first goal was to get my eye in and still be there after thirty minutes. I’d set myself to bat risk-free early and started confidently, but circumspect. Plenty of balls left to pass through outside off stump and a picket fence of singles started to accumulate.

Then rrrriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiippppp – that cracking first boundary and that cracking feeling of my right groin muscle tearing.

After two strained hamstrings in the second half of the season, that I batted through, I figured that my running at full pace and my limping at half pace was not a major difference.  So, I decided not to call for a runner and to endure the discomfort. From this moment, through some perverse masochistic psyche, my mind just switched into “the zone”. Nothing the opposition did or said was heard or acknowledged. I was just focussed on that little red leather ball and my teammate at the other end.

With determination and concentration I started to bat myself into some form against a diverse and accurate bowling attack. My timing was on song at times, as I struck seven boundaries on the large lush oval and I hobbled my way through many singles and twos (I drew the line at running any threes!). Whenever I did feel my concentration slipping or thought it was getting too hard, I focussed on the “D” scrawled on my forearm and reminded myself of the job that I wanted to do.

After two hours of batting, I really started to struggle. After the tea break I started to get tied down – running between the wickets was getting harder and my footwork restricted with the lack of flexibility and the pain.

 

We were 4/122, at a bit under 3 runs an over, when I figured I had to chance my eye and try to hit myself back into form and up the run rate. An attempted lusty cover drive to an outswinger caught an outside edge and unfortunately for me the keeper did his job efficiently with the catch.

As I walked back to the pavilion I was absolutely spent – physically and emotionally. That’s when everything hit me like a ton of bricks. The throat went dry and that horrible involuntary throbbing feeling in the throat and sinus hit me as I choked up with tears. I looked up into the southern sky and said “thanks Dad, that was for you”. I don’t remember much else of that walk or the following 15 minutes as I slumped in the sheds with my head in my hands.
Our tail wagged and we made 171, of which I top scored with my contribution of 54.

I iced the groin all evening and overnight but it was to no avail, as I could barely walk the next day and was subbed off in the field. With runs on the board and tight bowling and fielding, we were on top with the ball having them 6/107 shortly after the tea break. But a fifty one run partnership from two experienced campaigners looked like it might win them the game.

And then, when all looked lost, I witnessed the most amazing finish to a game I’ve ever been involved in. With 20 balls remaining, 14 runs required and 4 wickets in hand, a great catch at backward point triggered a desperately needed 7th wicket for 158.

Next ball, plumb LBW for 8/158 and the end of the over.

A single from the first ball of the new over from the established batsman and it’s 8/159.

First ball of the new batsman, an outside edge and caught behind for 9/159.

New batsman and four dot balls.

Twelve balls to go, score at 9/159, 13 runs to win, their established batsman on strike and our bowler on a hatrick. At 35 not out, the batsman backs himself and unwinds with an almighty swing,,,,, and is clean bowled. ALL OUT FOR 159 AND A HATRICK!

Game over. What a win! And what a way to say “Thanks Dad”.

 There’s no rhyme or reason as to how to grieve the passing of a loved one and moments can hit you at any time or place. In the first few days of sadness following Dad’s passing, I had a general feeling of endurance and even some stoical moments as my way to cope with everything that needed to be done. But, the time and place where the raw emotion and grief hit me smack in the eyes was as I walked off that ground at the end of that innings and that moment will now be forever special in my heart.

 

Rest in Peace.

About Ramon Dobb

A footy and cricket fanatic. A lifelong passionate one eyed Mighty Magpie fanatic. My writing is unashamedly written with one black & white eye open only - so please don't take offence, it's nothing personal, it's just the black & white way! Also a lifelong player and member of Washington Park Cricket Club, the Mighty Sharks. My 15 minutes of fame includes regular contributions to Hot Pies, the 1999-2004 Fanzine, and regular contributor to the Coodabeen Champions weekly competition from their heady 3RRR days. Go Pies and Floreat Pica.

Comments

  1. haiku bob says:

    lovely tribute ramon.

  2. Beautiful, Ramon, just beautiful. Your dad would be very proud of your two innings – the one on the cricket field and this one on the Almanac.

    I don’t know if you’re familiar with a lovely song by the Fureys “The Old Man”

    We thought he’d live forever, he seemed so big and strong,
    But the minutes fly and the years go by for the father and the son.
    I remember when it happened, there was so much left unsaid,
    No second chance to give him thanks for everything he’d done.

  3. Phil Dimitriadis says:

    Stirring stuff Ramon. Your dad would be proud of you, mate.

  4. Ramon,
    There’s just something about cricket…fantastic!

  5. Great tribute Ramon – to both you and your Dad.

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