Kapunda Cricket Club: The Comeback

 

A bumpy guess says it’s been 10,629 days since I last fronted for the Kapunda Cricket Club.

 

Moreover, 90+ years, collectively for Tommy, Puggy and me. With Hollis and Stef also donning the drawstring creams we average over fifty. Years, not runs. My cousin Froggy is our captain. He’s played cricket continuously for nearly four decades.

 

Nuriootpa’s number 2 oval is scandalously slow, and the eastern side caravan park will come into dreadful context later. If I bowl, I fear for the Millards and the elderly gents in white singlets shuffling with their toiletries bags to the amenities block.

 

Winning the toss, we bat and make a bright opening. Coming in at three and four, Tommy and Puggy (another cousin) bat together. They’re watchfully cautious, but the scoreboard is glacial. From our gazebo an informative voice (possibly mine) inquires, “You chaps know it’s a forty-over innings and not a five-day match?”

 

Across the afternoon there’s marginal opportunity to sledge the opposition for we’re too busy sledging each other.

 

I bat for a few overs with Stef.

 

For many of our teenaged years we spent a summery week down at Port Willunga. There was relentless, fierce backyard cricket with his cousins Nick and Adam. Despite the therapeutic presence of a taped tennis ball this often disintegrated into a physical fight.

 

Once this tumbled onto the street. Of course, the brothers were at it like a mobile MMA bout, and Stef, spectating bemusedly with me in the January dusk said, “Should we start throwing a few punches at each other, just to fit in?”

 

Batting is about partnerships. Stef and I do this by scrambling some byes and keeping the scoreboard, as IM Chappell would recommend, ticking over. We turn some easy twos into panicked singles. We urge Kapunda’s score toward the century. It’s great fun to spend time in the middle after many, many years.

 

 

 

We have a mid-pitch chat. With widening eyes, Stef says, “I’m going to start swinging.” I like his thinking. The ancient leggy tosses one up. On this hard wicket, he extracts ridiculous bounce. I get after him. Like an Adam Scott lob wedge the ball is instantly vertical.

 

I’m caught mid-pitch by the keeper. For a duck. Can you believe it? A beautifully-compiled duck. Like the slaughtered buffalo in Apocalypse Now, I stagger towards the non-striker’s end, and know, preternaturally, that I should’ve paused inexplicably, allowed him to pass, dropped my shoulder and then decked him, accidentally.

 

Having made just over a hundred, we take the field. Our tally is Invincibles-like given that a few weeks’ back we were rolled for 21 after being 7/7. And that was with the captain and oldest player, Dr Max, making 18. If he’d made zero point zero it might’ve been truly, profoundly hideous.

 

The next two hours are fabulous fun.

 

We spend it laughing, largely at each other. There’s a Grand Canyon between my cricketing memories and the rotund, slow-motion parodies trundling, and on this warm Barossan afternoon, listing about in the outfield like matinee ghouls.

 

Tradition dictates that we establish a Schooner School. In this a dropped catch equals buying everyone a beer while claiming one earns a cup from each participant. Tommy and Puggy argue that I owe all a beverage for my undeserved duck. Froggy shakes his head and says no; the rules must be as they were in 1987. Blood is thicker than beer. Six of us sign the verbal contract.

 

We take a solitary wicket, dropping three catches which, of course, is great for the Schooner School but not our cricket. After one grassed Kookaburra I giggle rhetorically, “Do you blokes want wickets or free beer? What’s wrong with you?” Today is a celebration of contemporary failure and not just a nostalgic reunion with our sunny past.

 

 

I bowl from the northern end, which is acknowledged rightfully as the difficult, or as I call it, the heroes’ end. After one exotic and ragged nut, Froggy completes a decidedly athletic and unthematic manoeuvre on the mid-wicket fence to save a certain four, heaves the ball back in to me, and yells at the batsman, “Don’t try to hit my cousin for six, pal!”

 

The day is going magnificently. Towards the end of my third over I’m cooked. Stef hollers, “You’ll be good for fifty overs, Mickey!” I reply, “Well, yes, but maybe over three seasons.”

 

As a team, we strangely only sustain one injury, if embarrassment, humiliation and self-satire are ignored. Having been forcibly, if not brutally removed from first slip, Puggy is banished to short mid-wicket when one of my deliveries is punched in his vague vicinity, and with the elegance of a land-locked sea mammal he flops belatedly at the ball, and in an alarming gesticulation which will forever haunt those who saw it, rises ashen-faced, grabs inexactly at his groin and cries, “I’ve done my groin.”

 

At Nuriootpa number 2 most of us read this as a clear medical sign that he had, in fact, done his groin, at least in a musculature sense. Puggy subsequently spends the rest of the match, evening and financial year hobbling like a knee-capped, low-level gangster in a C-grade mafia movie.

 

The net result of this groinal misfortune is that he can’t replace me as scheduled at the heroes’ end. Froggy asks, “Can you keep going, Mickey?” I nod yep, assert that my groin is fine, and from cover point Hollis quips, “Heart of a lion, heart of a lion.” Much laughter. A little bit of wee nearly comes out.

 

We share a post-game beer with our Nuriootpa opponents, including Horrie Moore who enjoyed sustained infamy as the Barossa’s premier fast bowler. As is often the case in sporting demonology he is a ripping bloke.

 

Stop-overing at old mate Chris Higgins’ Greenock Brewery, it’s bursting with happy Kapunda people who are there for a 50th. We invest an animated hour, and as ritual commands, each fetch a paper-bagged longneck for the arduous fifteen-kilometre expedition back to Kapunda.

 

 

In Hollis’s Prado are five blokes who’ve triumphed with the stellar sum of six runs and so we endure the ruthless, unforgiving Greenock Road and Thiele (named for Colin) Highway before decamping, more or less permanently, to the historic Sir John Franklin Hotel, located on Kapunda’s main street, which is conveniently named with the Google-friendly nomenclature of Main Street.

 

At half-eight it is time for spoofy. With nine players it means the potential number of coins is twenty-seven. Given the fiscal incentive to cheat engineer the result (the loser buys everybody a beer, so there’s little change from $100) Dan is summonsed to record the live data: Goose- 12, Puggy- 16, Froggy- 17, Tommy- 22, Whitey- 9, Hollis- 20, Stef- 23, Mickey- 19, etc.

 

If you’re from Kapunda and haven’t suffered a spoofy final with Goose Mickan then local mythology suggests you’ve not lived, or felt existential pain. I sweat through two finals with my (read: everyone’s) old nemesis and we share the (dis)honours.

 

 

There’s continuous handshaking and back-slapping and affirming cheer. My fellow veterans and I vow this to be an annual event. We conspire that a 2020 away fixture at Greenock would be ideal, and schedule a late-spring, high-altitude training camp in Denver.

 

I love being back home.

 

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About Mickey Randall

Favourite film: The Shawshank Redemption Favourite song: Khe Sahn Favourite holiday destination: Gold Coast Favourite food: steak Favourite beer: VB Best player seen: Dogga Worst player seen: Frogga Last score on beep test: 3.14159 Favourite minor character in Joyce’s Ulysses: Punch Costello

Comments

  1. Daryl Schramm says

    A most enjoyable read Mickey. I feel my right arm would fall off if I tried to replicate your experience.
    DJS

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I feel for the blokes who were dropped to make way for you.

  3. DJS- mine may do this yet! Just a few niggles today although I’m pleased I booked some annual leave to aid recovery.

    Swish- one of the blokes mentioned- Goose Mickan- started going to training and was told by my cousin Froggy that he could imagine no circumstances in which he’d be picked and he should do something else with his time. Goose played that week.

  4. Well played Mickey.
    Can you return the box?
    “As new”?

  5. Enjoyed that Mickey. My boys have gotten right into cricket this summer. It’s been great having a hit with them. William has even made his schools Grade 5/6 team and is playing another school on Friday. I have to say though I did my shoulder throwing the ball about 20 meters down the park the other day. Don’t think I’d get through many overs if the real thing.

  6. Most enjoyable, Mickey! That’s what cricket’s supposed to be about. Have spent most of this summer umpiring Under 12s – it does stretch one’s love of the game so very glad to read pieces like this

  7. The toothy grin; pear-like shape and “ash” blonde locks looks very SK Warne. The similarity ends there.
    I went searching on Cricinfo Statsguru for the impact of the blob on your career average. I found Randall – Charlie; Derek (could bat a bit); James; Kate (a sister?); Neil; Stephen; William. No Michael. Surely an oversight.
    Take heart that Bradman made a one game comeback for the Prime Minister’s XI in 1963 – 15 years after the last test blob that consigned him to “only” 99.94. He got 4. https://www.canberratimes.com.au/sport/cricket/manuka-magic-don-bradman-s-last-stand-20190131-p50upx.html

  8. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says
  9. Absolutely superb,Mickey ( loved the Millard’s line )

  10. Thanks for reading and commenting, old mates.

    Er- I somehow doubt there’s much of a market on Gumtree even for a box that’s only been worn for ten minutes.

    Djlitsa- glad your boys are enjoying their cricket. It can be a lifelong friend, although today on Day 3 of my recovery from five of the gentlest overs ever delivered I’m not sure.

    Dave- yes to that. As they say when you’re umpiring, every day is a fielding day.

    PB- most of my career was analogue so am not surprised my digital presence is slight to zero.

    Thanks Rulebook.

  11. Luke Reynolds says

    Mickey, you look magnificent in your whites.
    Despite the result it sounds like you had a great day, thoroughly enjoyed your telling of it.
    Hope it’s far, far less than 10,629 days before your next appearance for the Kapunda CC!

  12. Thanks for this Luke. Having not puchased a pair of whites in many years I was astonished at how affordable they were ($25) and for Gray Nicolls too! Hope your season is concluding well.

  13. Patrick O'Brien says

    There’s something about cricket writing which lends itself to having recently lost a match, badly. Statistically, you would imagine there are some people out there who have actually won a cricket match, but if you based your research on words alone you’d have to conclude that cricket is a unique game in which every team loses.

  14. Patrick- that`s a good point. I think that the languid nature of cricket compared to quicker sports like the football codes means there`s more narrative opportunity; more space for wit and banter and dialogue. I think golf functions in a similar way. And, of course, a sporting loss coupled with ageing opens up the possibilities even further. But then I’d argue that only in the scorebook did we lose. In every other way we won if laughter, joy and fellowships are our metrics.

    Thanks Patrick.

  15. Patrick O'Brien says

    Mickey
    Nah mate, youse got flogged! ;)
    Patrick

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