Seasons in the Sun (Part 2) – Leg Theory

L – R: Maestro, Mantis, Benny, Steansy, DK, Nashy, Trav, The Benevolent Leader, ME, Bronty

L – R: Maestro, Mantis, Benny, Steansy, DK, Nashy, Trav, The Benevolent Leader, ME, Bronty

You can learn life’s lessons in microcosm in cricket.

Learning to appreciate and maintain success. Learning discipline. Learning the consequences of actions. Learning to fight back from failure.
Or learning to hold back tears when you finish your first two overs with eleven wides. Y’know – just hypothetically. I’m learning little lessons like that all the time.

My spectacular implosion came at a bad time. The Lower Plenty Thirds were in the novel position of having batted themselves into a strong position against Old Paradians/St Francis.

We got off to a flyer. Two of the four O’Connors playing today hit 30 in five overs. The Mantis opened his day with a six over square leg but was then caught behind.

As he came off, he confessed, “I dunno if I hit it or not.”
We just sort of stared cynically.
“You hit it cleaner than you hit your six,” replied Steansy.

The other O’Connor – my Uncle Johnny, replacing Captain Grumpy as today’s skipper – went on to make 30.

Johnny’s ideal for diplomatic captaincy could have come out of a Clash song: “You have the right to free speech… as long as you’re not dumb enough to actually try it.”
Last season, during a fit of stubbornness regarding field placements, Bronty and I dubbed Johnny the Benevolent Leader.
He merely blinked and replied, “There’s nothing benevolent about me.”
Clearly the Leader never opened a book on Mao Zedong.

A strong 44 from Benny Weissenfeld took us to 156. The Benevolent Leader gathered us round as we prepared to take the field.
“Right – good total. We need to bowl well now. Brian the Umpire was calling everything outside leg stump a wide, so Phase Two outside off stump.”
He looked directly at his two openers, Nashy and I, when he said everything. This made it particularly horrifying when everything I bowled was outside leg stump.
It became a recurring nightmare: run in, ball goes down leg, turn to see Brian standing with his arms mockingly outstretched, The Leader fumes silently at slip.
Meanwhile Nashy made everything look easy as he peppered the ball outside off.

This is where bowling is cruel. It looks so easy that onlookers are difficult to impress even when it’s going well. It’s therefore difficult to get much sympathy when you’re awful.

Benevolent Leader mercifully pulls me after two overs whereupon his loyal subjects stick to his orders. Dylan Kane – who has received the old cricket favourite nickname ‘DK’ – and Bronty keep the ball pitched up, forcing the Old Paradians to drive honestly.
Bronty breaks through twice in an over: one thanks to an inspired field change from the Leader and the second… well…
Slowly stampeding in, Bronty delivers a testing yorker that the batsman hammers back like a bullet. There’s half a second’s confusion as we try to see where the ball has gone. Then a roar of tribal triumph alerts to us that Bronty has held the catch. He’s off: screaming to the big blue sky, running around, veins bursting out of his neck as he raises the ball like King Arthur with Excalibur.

“Quiz question, boys,” the Leader says as we gather in. “Should you look that surprised when you hold a catch?”
Bronty’s too happy to care about the snide jibe. In his first match last season he took three catches; each was heralded with the Leader trumpeting, “It’s a miracle!”
By the last Bronty muttered, “I must be Jesus to make three identical miracles in an afternoon.”

I sit contentedly down at fine leg as we close down the Old Paradians, who need 60 with six overs left.
The Leader surveys his troops like a General on the bow of a ship. Who will bowl at the death?
He briefly consults Trav the keeper but the delusion of non-totalitarian decision making doesn’t last. He turns, turns, turns … until he’s looking at me.
I almost die.
“Comeback time.”
I’ve had enough time to think about what I was doing wrong but I haven’t come to any conclusions.
“Just run through the crease,” Bronty mutters.

I run in.
Middle stump. Dot ball. Good start.
Off stump. Dot ball. Looking good.
I concede a couple of runs but none are wides. However we’re bleeding runs at the other end. When I prepare to bowl the last over the Old Paradians need thirteen runs. If we lose it’s my fault, end of story. I’ve conceded half the team’s wides.
First ball.
Cramp him up. He’ll charge you.
He charges and a leg stump yorker bowls him.
I sink to my knees in a ridiculous over-celebration.
Five balls later we win.
Resilience. That’s something else cricket teaches you.

Lower Plenty 6/156 Benny 44 The Benevolent Leader 30 Old Paradians/St Francis 7/150


About Callum O'Connor

Here's to feelin' good all the time.


  1. I am really enjoying these stories of your cricket season, Callum. You do a nice line in self-effacing introspection. Hope you keep them going on a regular basis through the season.
    There is something epic/heroic about the cricketing journey. 30 years later I have clear memories of the regular humiliations and occasional triumphs of my modest parkland career.
    I can identify with Bronty. I regularly dropped sitters and caught blinders. Something to do with thinking too much. Our former captain had ‘done a Griffen’ and defected to hated opposition. First game against us he is looking aggressive and menacing as always. I was at mid wicket when he skied a ball to square leg, trying to flick off his pads.
    I set off thinking “lucky I’m no chance of even getting there, but better make an effort.”
    Bugger me if I didn’t catch it full stretch out in front of me down near my ankles.
    Remember it clear as a bell 30 years on. If I went back to Adelaide I could mark the spot on the oval where I took it.
    “Legend in my own lunchtime.” Thanks for stirring the memories that no one else remembers Callum.

  2. Callum O'Connor says

    Peter – thank you for your feedback.
    “Stirring the memories that no one else remembers” couldn’t have put it better myself. This is what I want – the names may change but these stories are for everyone.

  3. The artist formerly known as Bronte says

    “Slowly, stampeding in”? In my minds eye it is somewhat more free flowing. As a bowler Callum (well for your last three overs on Saturday) why do you only quote batsmens score? Our glorious leader and myself combined figures were 14overs, 2-31, which did stop our opposition in the mid part of the game

  4. Malcolm Rulebook Ashwood says

    Keep em coming , Cal as a ex player and occasionally very frustrated coach resonate with each word . Love your descriptions so so spot on thanks , Cal

  5. Peter Fuller says

    As pretty much a never wasser as a footballer, I’m virtually a never tried it as a cricketer, even though I’ve always been interested in the game.
    Yet your wonderful anecdotes resonate. I once heard an after dinner address by Bill Smyth, a noted umpire in the 1960s and ’70s (or thereabouts). He noted that as a game, cricket builds character; his experience was that me met plenty of characters. That seems very much in evidence at Lower Plenty. Keep bowling up the accounts of your travails, and of course try to keep sending down accurate ones when you are at the bowling crease.

  6. Love it.

    Golden days.

    It’s your MCG.

  7. Also COC, I think Lower Plenty is a magnificent name for a cricket team.

    And you’re playing for their thirds.


  8. Callum – I know the O’Connor clan (unless I’m greatly mistaken). Good Montmorency family. I went to Primary school with one of your aunties – Anne. Say hello for me. She’ll know who Dips is.

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