Almanac (Backyard) Cricket: When I was G.S. Chappell and brother Joe was Geoff Dymock

 

 

Pic: Pam Sherpa’s Christmas backyard cricket

 

 

 

Dad encouraged my younger brother, Joe, and I to play cricket from an early age. So much so that at the tender age of ten he seconded me to join the local Wallan Under 16s, as there were  no other junior teams.  Wallan in 1979 was just a small country town located 50 kilometres north of Melbourne, with one servo and a few shops, completely unrecognisable from the sprawling outer northern suburb of Melbourne it is today.

 

Our coach was Mr Morris, the affable local primary school teacher, who gave up his spare time to coach even though he had a disabled son to care for as well. Mr Morris always called me Danny, and in one match report in the local newspaper, he wrote “young Danny Hoban concentrated hard behind bat and pads which were almost bigger than he was!”

 

The next year saw an Under 12s side fielded so I went from being a tormented number eleven in the Under 16s to an opener facing kids my own age who were much less terrifying. Mr Morris appointed me vice-captain (surely a superfluous role in the Under 12s) and we won the Premiership. The victory, however, was not without controversy because in a nail-biting finish Mr Morris inadvertently (I think) adjudged an opposition Sunbury batsman caught at cover off a bump ball.

 

Dad thought that if we were to progress in the game, we needed some quality practice facilities. So, a spot in the cow paddock, next to the house, was selected and a five-metre long cement slab was laid with a thin strip of black malthoid stuck down the middle (which we rarely managed to hit!). Unfortunately, the cement developed a large crack right on a good length so if the compo ball hit this it either skidded into your unprotected shins or reared sharply at your head (also unprotected). Another hazard was the open sewerage trench which was located behind the cyclone wire net which had been crudely erected around the pitch. If the ball ended up in the trench from a top edge it was usually the batter’s job to gingerly prise it out with his fingertips whilst trying to ignore the putrid smell and other floaties which swum in the murky sewer.

 

I would always rather bat than bowl and Joe became frustrated at being cast as a bowling machine. Occasionally a friend or neighbour joined in but usually it was just the two of us. This caused plenty of fights. The trouble was that I thought I was Greg Chappell or Allan Border, but he didn’t fancy being Geoff Dymock all day, every day.

 

Like many kids at that time, I dreamed of owning a Gray Nicholls scoop used by the great Greg Chappell. Santa must have misunderstood me slightly, because instead of the “scoop” with its sleek, innovative design I received a more conventional-looking Gray Nicholls Powerspot autographed by Rodney Marsh. That’s right! Not the elegant Greg Chappell, the dashing Kim Hughes, or the pugnacious Allan Border but a wicketkeeper who scored his three Test centuries back in the 1970s. I was only eight when Marsh scored his final one in the 1977 Centenary Test.

 

I also pestered Santa for the board game, Test Cricket. Like with the Gray Nicholis scoop Santa must have decided that the product didn’t match the slick marketing campaign behind it and I realised later it was a pretty boring game too- hitting a ball bearing between plastic tokens was not going to help you become a Test batsman at all. Mum (I mean Santa) was right again!

 

Once on summer holidays at Apollo Bay I saw an interesting game being played on the foreshore: mini golf. It was truly a watershed moment for me, like when Ray Kroc first visited the McDonald brothers restaurant, as I realised that if you could play mini golf then why not mini cricket? It was a concept which could be explored further when I returned home from our seaside vacation.

 

Mini cricket, I reasoned fairly instinctively, had to be played in a confined place. Fortunately, our carport was perfect; enclosed on three sides by the washhouse on the left, the kitchen wall at the back and a disused room we called the bungalow on the right. A straight hit, however, could potentially clear the cattle grid at the entrance to our yard and the ball would have to be fetched from the adjacent paddock.

 

Standard backyard cricket laws were applied (One hand one bounce, Hit the wall on the full and you’re out, etc) although as with The Big Bash the rules for “minsta” evolved over the years.

 

The game was heavily skewed to favour the bowler who had the option of bowling underarm.  The batter had to somehow hit the bouncy tennis ball away from the bowler and my other siblings who were by then old enough to field. One trick was to flick the ball through the door which was where leg gully would normally have been. But there were few other survival tactics and before long the batter succumbed to the spinning, bouncing tennis ball. This made for a fun, quick game and we were soon lured back to the Test cricket on the TV to watch AB playing yet another lone hand for the Aussies.

 

 

Read more from Dan Hoban HERE.

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Enjoyed this Dan. So much resonates.

    Question: “The tennis ball has contributed more to cricket than its own sport.” Discuss.

    Thanks.

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