Pleasures of club cricket in PNG

John Harms wonders if anyone is playing club cricket anymore? Well, I am here to say it is never too late! I am rapidly approaching the unlovely age of 60, and have found myself opening the batting for the Royal Blue Lions in the Madang Cricket Association, and more surprisingly, making some runs.

Madang is a sleepy hollow on the top side of PNG, a city built around a most beautiful harbor. One of its claims to fame is Divine Word University, a funny name but the best managed and resourced university in PNG. It certainly has the most advanced library in the country, which it is my pleasure to be the managing.

A Victorian chap, Blues supporter, by the name of Ben Ryan was up here last year working for Cricket PNG to get the game going again up here. It was strong in colonial times, but has dropped off. Ben had to leave for health reasons, so I have inherited his role as Mr. Cricket in Madang. I have very little experience of actually playing the game, apart from a few games with Barkers Creek in the Castlemaine Association, when my boys were growing up, but years of experience of listening to the ABC commentaries. When Ben left I became coach of the local squad that was training for the PNG games that were held in Kokopo last November. The main reason was that I’m the only one with a car, so I get to put the mats and gear in the back of my Honda Stepwagon every practice and game day.

The local stalwart of cricket up here is Leonard Ora, from Central Province. The first thing anyone asks up here, is what province are you from? Most of the good cricketers in PNG come from the Central Province. Leonard has two sons who are good cricketers. David is the oldest, and captained the PNG Games team, a very quiet lad, and deep thinker about the game. His younger brother, Tomtom, is the opposite, very outgoing, loves getting involved in cultural dancing, always singing and talking. Leonard is the President of the association, and I am the Secretary.

This year we finally got around to getting a local association going. We have to wait for the dry season, which has got a little unpredictable up here over the last few years, but we have a season running from September to December. We have 5 local teams, and one team we have put together that I call a British Empire team, with Sri Lankans, Indians, Pakistanis, NZers, and even some Poms, as well as a few Aussies. This team glories in the name Royal Blue Lions.

We are playing 20/20, as it is a bit hot to play all afternoon,

The local boys will make very good cricketers given a bit of practice. They grow up like we used to in Australia, outside all the time, throwing things, and hitting things with sticks. They have fantastic throwing arms, and usually a good eye for batting. With very little practice they can bowl very quickly, although sometimes their actions need  a lot of remedial work. They are mostly very young, early 20’s or teens, mostly from the local squatter settlements. They don’t have money for gear, a pair of shoes is a luxury, so you get used to the sight of a batsman in thongs. If they are lucky enough to get a job, the pay is usually only 3 Kina per hour, about $A1.17.

After my teammates from the Lions saw the local bowlers in action, none of them wanted to open, so I got the gig. I’ve only got 2 shots, a straight drive, and a hoick to cow corner. But the straight drive is serving me well, I very rarely middle it, so the ball flys off at all sorts of angles, and on a small ground when the grass has been cut, it is very productive.

The best local bowler is a young chap called Junior Bevan. Normally the PNG parents are pretty good when picking names, at the uni we have Elvis, Moses, Faustina, Giok, Bentson etc. but there are a lot of Juniors running around as well. Junior has a Glen McGrath type action, and is quick. He collected me on the shoulder with a short one, but a few weeks later, another Junior, Junior Paul, got me in the ribs, which I think are cracked.

Some of our Sri Lankans are very good cricketers. Sanjeewa Prerera is frighteningly quick, and captain Shree Sridharan is a solid batsman and keeper. One very good Aussie turned up, Glenn Bucknall, unfortunately he is going back to Australia with work soon.

We were sitting on top of the ladder, but got our pants pulled down last week by Nabasa, one of the local teams, they found a couple of new recruits who had played before (from Central of course) and really blew us off the park.

So now I spend the week kicking myself over the dropped catch or stupid shot, and looking forward to redemption in the next game.

If anyone is coming to Madang for some diving, you can get a run with  the Royal Blue Lions, especially if you actually play cricket!

 

About David Lloyd

Librarian who is doing something a bit different before I get past it. One one question is important: will I see the Dees win another flag?

Comments

  1. Really enjoyed your story and the whole idea of sport as social engagement. I gave up the game at 30, and then in my 40’s thought I could/should have played on. Now in my 50’s I don’t think the reflexes and eyesight are up to it, but you gave me cause to dream.
    I love the Royal Blue Lions name. Tales of the Raj.

  2. Luke Reynolds says

    Great stuff. I’m a keen follower of cricket at the second tier of the International game and closely follow countries like Ireland, Kenya, Afghanistan, Netherlands and PNG. Fantastic to read about grassroots cricket in PNG. Hope the game continues to do well up there.

  3. Neil Hermes says

    Lovely yarn from David.
    I had the pleasure of donning the creams (metaphorically) with David and Ben a few times in Madang a few years ago. With our combined ages a bit over 100, David and I played together in one game where, he, the one time bowler discovered he could bat, and I, the one time batsman, discovered I could bowl. He got 100 and I got hattrick. Funny game cricket.
    David mentions facing the local quicks. He doesnt mention that some of the local lads face up with (supplied) pads but are barefoot.
    I hope David will share with us one day a story about the annual cricket grudge match between the Madang Mongrels and the Country Club.
    Great spot Madang, and good on David for supporting cricket in PNG.
    If anyone can help David I know he would apprciate it (old kit etc)
    Neil hermes

  4. Dear Neil,
    for a Tory you have a very vivid imagination! I remember the hat trick, but not me making many runs.
    He is correct about kit though, if anyone can help we would all be very grateful

  5. Really enjoyed reading this and I’m interested to notice no sign of writer’s block. To say I’m proud of you is an understatement. Forget the fear of 60 , keep hanging out with the young as I find it has a tendency to be a transmissible disease.
    Love
    Louise

  6. Great work David. 60 is the new 35. At least it is to we old dudes. Grow old gracefully and try to develop the hook shot ( just don’t keep your head in line with the ball – too dangerous for the dim of sight). As one who has yet to retire ( 59 ) but hasn’t been required to pull on the whites for a couple of seasons. the pleasure of sport never leaves ( nor does the stiffness).
    Have fun in PNG. Look forward to catching up when you return.

  7. Hello DL,
    I have had much pleasure watching you practise your batting and bowling style on our own pitch, along with other notables like Mantle, Nigel, George, Hannah and who could forget OFB (Our Friend Bert).
    Great to hear that you are still carving out a reputation.
    Happy Birthday for the 18/11/2013.
    regards
    Potter

  8. David I am so excited to hear your story and to see that Cricket is doing so well up there. As a former Cricket PNG CEO who dared to dream of these stories it is fantastic to see Ben’s great work resulting in these outcomes. Greg Campbell (Current GM of PNG Cricket) would love to see Madang players in calculation for U/17, U/19, Mens and Womens Teams I’m sure so please keep working at it and create opportunities for these brilliant young people to find opportunity and represenbt their communities.
    Well done ….Bill

  9. Great write-up David. I came across this when Googling information about Madang Cricket.
    I must say Madang cricket has improved greatly improved this year. I’m one of the Central guys David mentions towards the end, who play for Nabasa. Couple more other ‘wantoks’ have joined and the local competition has grown strongly. We have been preparing for the last three months for the 2014 PNG Games and I can bet you the Madang Cricket team will bring out some great results. It is unfortunate to have lost Leonard Ora, who collapsed whilst at training with the boys 2 months ago. The boys will missing him during the Games.
    Without the hard work and commitment shown by David and the late Leonard, Madang Cricket would still have been in the doldrums. It takes passion and dedication from people like David and the late Leonard to take the game to another level in a province which is mainly famed for soccer. Well done Dave and I’m looking forward to a great result in the 2014 PNG Games for Madang Cricket.

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