Beauty and the Cricket Club

Psst.

 

Come over here.

 

Lend me your shell-like ear for I’ve a confession.

 

I wonder, just quietly, if I didn’t learnt more at cricket clubs than I did when undertaking my degree.

 

Now, this isn’t a criticism of my alma mater or my scholarly ways, or untoward praise of the gents with whom I shared a summery oval and a clammy protector, just a reflection from my distant viewpoint.

 

And why shouldn’t it be?

 

Yesterday, the Plympton Bulldogs Cricket Club had its Under 12’s Presentation Night (Presso), and after twenty-odd years it was great to again be in a cricket community.

 

The wood-panelling was festooned with premiership pennants, and the dates on these were sufficiently regular and recent to confirm that we’d made a wise choice for our boys.

 

If their last flag had been in, say, 1953, it might have spoken of the club’s resilience and bright optimism in slogging away over fruitless decades, but as any mug punter will tell you, if I can mix speculative and seafaring metaphors, it’s necessary to have an earn or two along the journey, to keep the scurvy at bay.

 

Happy in their undisputed real estate at the corner of the bar were a couple chaps in red and black Bulldogs polo shirts. On the back, triumphantly listed, were their team-mates: Dogga, Perky, Kev, BK etc. In the roster were universal names, and also a few quirky inclusions that, hopefully, suggest a healthy and robust culture.

 

Glancing up at the TV to check the score from South Africa I see that everyone’s fourth favourite Test-playing, West Australian Marsh: the elongated Mitch (behind Rod, Geoff and Shaun) was assembling a tidy innings. He seems in danger of becoming a useful cricketer.

 

The family in front of me struggles to finalise their meal order as the kids are, as we know, compulsorily indecisive. “But you said you wanted gravy. Are you sure? Once it’s on the schnitzel we can’t take it off. Lemonade or squash? You might just have to have water.”

 

If we were in a pub there could be an impatient urgency, born of a commercial subtext, but this is a community, and the unhurried manager runs both her till and club with the reassuring calm of a pilot’s pre-flight announcement.

 

Each coach presents a trophy to all his players, and makes a considered, careful, encouraging speech. Their words are promises and handshakes. Most refer to their stapled pages, and these hand-scrawled notes are emblems of investment, beacons forward for a modest, suburban cricket club.

 

About an hour in, Alex’s coach cycles around to the bowling trophy. The audience has been respectful and attentive, only occasionally requiring a shrill whistle from an elder to refocus the boisterous pups by the bar.

 

The coach continued. “This lad’s only just turned ten. And after playing the first game in the Under 10’s he came up to our team.” I speculated silently on the recipient. “He always bowled a really good line and length, and across the season had over a hundred dot balls (each player only gets two or three overs a game).”

 

“The winner is Alex Randall.” And up from his plastic chair in the fifth row he went, boyish and shyly pleased, as his Mum and I both got a bit of dust in our eyes, simultaneously. We found each other’s hand, and after an exhausting week had a moment that suddenly reminded us again of the worth in those often hideous Sunday starts, the washing of grassy whites, and the nagging to pack away the sprawling cricket coffin.

 

Wandering back to the car along the balmy, twilight oval past assorted kids running and hollering and launching balls skyward I thought, not for the first time these past weeks, about the trajectory from childhood across the adult decades.

 

Situated along this arc there’s many gorgeous people competing for our love – wives; husbands; kids; parents; friends. But in trying to best shape ourselves I’ve decided there’s another who I’d forgotten, and who I now really want to impress: a golden-haired, perfectly-conceived boy who sees you exactly as you want to be seen.

 

My ten year-old self.

 

Meanwhile go and hug a cricket club, in all its ragged, often clumsy beauty.

 

 

About Mickey Randall

Late afternoon beer, Exile on Main St playing. Sport like cricket, most types of football, golf, squash, horse racing. Travel, with Vancouver my favourite city, but there’s nowhere I’ve not happily been. Except Luton. Reading. Writing about family, sport, music, the stuff that amuses me. Conversation. Wit. Irony. McLaren Vale cabernet sauvignon, Barossa shiraz, Coopers Sparkling Ale. Jazz and especially Miles Davis. Lots and lots of music. I live in Adelaide with my wife Kerry-ann and our boys Alex and Max.

Comments

  1. Dave Brown says:

    Beautiful, Mickey, and well done Alex! We will be hugging our cricket club this Sunday evening at presos. In many ways I reckon a cricket club has a bit more to teach than its equivalent footy club (in our case, one and the same building). Personal success and failure is more stark amongst the team success and failure. During a footy season a kid can cruise unremarkably if they play their cards right. At cricket they must deal, most weeks, with that ball on a good length that took their off bail or that wide one they bowled down leg side that ruined their otherwise economical figures. Growth mindsets to the fore and all that…

  2. Life is a journey back to honouring that 10yo and living up to their expectations, after the detours of adolescence (which you give up on around 45 if you are lucky).
    “What did you want to be when you were 10yo?” is the most useful question a counsellor/mentor/friend/therapist can ask. It is the golden speck hidden in the over burden. If we can help a person find community, connection and acceptance – the silent credo of every good club – all else will be well.
    Beautiful Mickey. I can see Alex as the next Chadd Sayers in a decade’s time, and you fulminating about the selectors’ perfidy in the pages of the Almanac.
    “Nothing you do for children is ever wasted. They seem not to notice us, hovering, averting our eyes, and they seldom offer thanks, but what we do for them is never wasted.” – Garrison Keillor

  3. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says:

    Beautiful piece Mickey and comments Dave and PB.

    Since my Cygnet dropped his leggies to grip the trapeze bar even more firmly, I have missed the cricket club and community. The dewey mornings on the camping chairs. The long hours of observation. The crazy precision and accountancy of the scorebook, the prowling enthusiasm of impatient players. The week’s, session’s, over’s rhythms. I even miss the pre wash spraying and long wash of the whites. But then the circus family is grand too …

    Your pre-flight announcement calm at the till is just so lovely.
    Thanks.

  4. Cricket clubs – each one so different, but all so similar.
    Well played, Mickey

  5. I reckon in this day and age there is not much that is more important than involvement in any sporting club, for children. Takes them away from their wretched electronics, teaches some discipline (hopefully), life skills, teamwork, communication, I could go on. Physical activity, friendships, relationships across generations, the benefits are boundless.

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