Junior cricket: Vic Under 13s take the national title in the very best spirit

 

by Simon Taylor

 

She’s a regal town Bendigo furnished with splendid buildings and wide avenues. It’s a perfect venue for the under 13 national cricket championships, blessed with a range of impressive sporting facilities from Eaglehawk through to Kangaroo Flat.

This is my third day here watching the young Vics. There are three players in the team who play with my son so it’s great to see him so excited by their success. I am their current coach and am taking as much vicarious credit as possible for their excellence. In reality it’s down to talented kids, supportive parents and a bucket load of hard work.

The standard is as expected high, but it is the level of cricket nous that these kids possess that impresses me most. As Jack Dyer would have said “90% of cricket is half mental” and playing 50 over cricket on turf wickets for week is a massive ask for twelve year olds.

Today’s game is played at the Queen Elizabeth oval, which is Bendigo’s MCG. On paper it’s almost a dead rubber. The ACT are the minnows of this competition and haven’t won a game to date. The Vics are undefeated and a win today will see them crowned outright national champions. The coaches are toey and warn the boys about complacency. They tell the tale of the same scenario three years ago when the ACT pulled off an upset.

The game starts at a pedestrian pace in perfect conditions. The ACT open with a lumbering left armer who dwarfs the umpire as he leaps into his delivery stride. He is bowling to Johnny Britton whose helmet doesn’t reach the umpires armpit. It looks to be a David and Goliath battle but it becomes quickly apparent that David is well equipped for the campaign. He’s in behind everything, balanced, plenty of time…geez I wish had that composure at 21 let alone 12.

At the cathedral end a young leggie opens proceedings. The legacy of Warnie is well and truly alive, I’ve seen four leggies for every offie this week and a young Queenslander was as close to carbon copy as you could wish to see. Johnny is opening with Dylan Brasher an assured left-hander who is quickly into stride unleashing a flurry of back foot shots. At the 17 over drinks break it’s 0/43. A good platform, time to push it along boys.

The spirit of the game debate has raged again this summer with the national side again failing to set the standard. At this tournament I have seen cricket played in great spirit, in the final overs of tightest contest of the week I watched the NSW captain glove punch the Victorian captain when he brought up a match winning half century. M. Clarke, take note.

A couple of tight overs after drinks and there is good energy from ACT. They are in their own David v Goliath battle and haven’t come to lie down.  0/50 off 22 and the young leggie is back on. Dylan unleashes three four’s in his first over, the energy flattens like the proverbial shit carters hat and it looks like the floodgates might be about to open. Another pint-sized leggie is introduced and immediately hits a length. It’s a tough craft and at this level the batsmen are ruthless with anything short. Brasher notches up 50 in the 28th over and the batsmen are finding plenty of short ones to dine out on. Goliath is beginning to flex his muscles.

The spinners are starting to take hiding and the local coach and school teacher in me starts to kick in. “What is this doing to the young kids’ confidence?” The skipper might have sensed it too because the medium pacers are quickly reintroduced. 0/116 off 29 and the feast is on. Dylan has moved onto 78. They are hitting it straight to fielders and running.

In the 36th over Dylan is on 99 and punches one straight to point and runs. Johnny rightly sends him back and the run out is on. The throw misses and then produces an overthrow. That’s one way to get it done son. It’s a terrific performance; he is only the 5th Victorian player in the history of the tournament to make a ton.

Dylan is retired for 106 at 0/187 and Will Thompson is in. He’s one of “my boys” and I’m sitting with his mum, she’s a trauma surgeon and this looks like trauma for her. This is Will’s first hit for the carnival and it’s a cricketer’s nightmare. Fail with the score at 0/187 and you look like a goose. Make a few and everyone expects it anyway.

But it’s a great time to bat and Will is quickly into stride. He’s able to sit on the back foot to the spinners and gets plenty to cut and pull. He’s a high energy player Will and great to watch, always in the game and making things happen. It great to see the way young cricketers who take the game on are encouraged nowadays. It never occurs to Will to bat for the red ink as he continues to take suicide singles in the final overs.

It feels like garden variety junior cricket now, 1-228 off 44 and the heat is kicking in, you are reminded that the ACT boys are indeed just little kids. Will the whippet has raced to 23 and mum is now off the critical list. The ACT continues to plug away rotating their bowlers, but finally the Vics finish with 2/261. Will is not out 30.

 

I take a welcomed lunch break at the Rifle Club Brewery where the honour board pays homage to those who have 1000 pints under their belt. Smart phones are interrogated for updates of other games and texts are flying to relatives and friends. The warm climate and scent of victory is making this support crew thirsty, but 50 overs remain to be bowled. When I suggest that the result is a forgone conclusion I am howled down by those who believe in the ACT curse.

 

It is quickly apparent that the ACT are not going to chase.

 

0-9 off 6 overs

0-20 off 12

0-27 off 17 at drinks

 

The Vics are well drilled and with one hand on the title and it’s hard to believe that the word clinical can be applied to a group of 12 year olds.

The game meanders. Eventually, in 37 degree heat the ACT posts 100 with three overs to go and 5 wickets down. It’s tough viewing.

With the final delivery come celebrations that any international team would be proud of. The boys are understandably jubilant and pose for photographs from all comers.  Proud fathers smile warmly at one another and exchange the occasional handshake while mothers wear sun glasses to hide their tears.

The closing ceremony is hot and dry. The champion teams are presented and the Victorian captain provides another highlight with an eloquent impromptu thank you speech. It’s far more entertaining than any of his adult counterparts.

As a parent and teacher I am constantly surprised what young people are capable of. These young people have represented their states with great skill and more importantly played cricket the way it should be played. One day I hope to be sitting on my couch still living vicariously through one of “my boys”. If so I am sure that the spirit of Australian cricket will be in good hands.

 

Comments

  1. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    I am pleased for you as a coach I have been in exactly the same situation at he same age carnival but please never compare the spirit of sportsmanship etc at under age level to international cricket it is idiotic and just stupid take a step back and think what you have written re M Clarke ridiculous

  2. E.regnans says:

    ST, lovely story.
    Good reminder of the positives to be found in the smallest things.
    Well done all involved for putting on the tournament etc etc.
    Rulebook- fair enough that international & junior comps run at different paces. But then, why should we should expect different behaviours from under 12s and adults? Aren’t we all in this together..?

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Playing for far different reasons and rewards when I am coaching juniors it is my job to pull any youngster in to line v quickly if need be in juniors there are guidelines which are strictly adhered to as they should be
    Ashes battles are physiological war I for 1 thought hooray when Clarke stood up to Anderson what has been Clarkes weakness communication ! It was a vital turning point of him gaining respect from his players for standing up to the opposition
    We have short memories Border made the conscious decision to stop being nice to the opposition in 89 in England Result !
    Junior Sport and International sport MUST be regarded as separate it really posses me off when examples are tried to be made of it is crap

  4. Great stuff, Simon. Amazing that the standard is so high at Under 13 level. I remember at that age my leggies struggled to hit the pitch let alone a length.
    And I am with you on the attitude/behaviour issue – I think that at the top level you need a ‘bit of mongrel’ to succeed. But the ‘break your arm’ stuff was boorish and over the top.
    Genuine ‘tough guys’ walk the walk; so there is no need to talk the talk.

  5. Thanks Peter
    It’s an interesting issue. I grew up playing “the Australian way” from a young age.
    Play hard, grind them into the dust stuff.
    Returning to the game and playing with some Kiwi’s and Englishmen who clearly understand the concept of the game being bigger than any individual has been enlightening.
    There is no doubt that junior cricketers model their game on their hero’s at every level so I think the message that is sent from the top is pretty important.

  6. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    I must state of course international players have a responsibility to the game in setting standards having coached with Peter Siddle Darren Lehmann and numerous current state and former international players can not speak highly enough of there attitude and responsibility towards the game . We must not forget Clarkes comments re Anderson was Channel 9s fault that we heard it
    I am v firm tho ibeing involved both at junior level and senior iit is completely different especially international level overall this summer things may have gone a fraction overboard but no where near as bad as the media would have you believe

  7. Troy Hancox says:

    I agree with Rulebook. Can’t compare ashes with these kids.
    Out of the entire games between the states, you’d be lucky if 2 players make the grade! Things change…… women come along (LOL) and bowling a maiden over takes a new meaning!

    Great story in parts.
    Congratultions to all teams, and to the victorious, Victorians (hurts to say that).

    Sadly, Warnie was a one in a lifetime bowler that i had the pleasure to see. Alegend on the field, a tool off it….. But that’s the Victorian in him LOL!!!

  8. Mark Duffett says:

    Am I reading correctly that you are the club coach of four of the players in a State side that’s just won a national championship? That’s an extraordinary (unprecedented??) effort if so; well done!

  9. Luke Reynolds says:

    Great to hear the kids are playing the game in good spirit. Shows they have been coached well in all aspects. However I agree with Rulebook’s comments above re comparing junior cricket to top level, professional Test cricket. I bet clubs of all our football codes would not fare as well as our national cricket team if player conversations could be heard by intrusive on field microphones. Apart from Watto’s selfishness and sulking I believe our cricketers are fantastically well behaved on field in such a scrutinisd, high pressured environment. I want to see professional sport played hard and no holds barred as long as its within the rules.
    Great to see the Vic’s win another title.

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