The Boys of Summer are Back

You never want the first match of the season to be unseasonably hot and windy.

It’s hard enough trying to reacquaint yourself with all of cricket’s technicalities – walking in with the bowler, backing up a throw, moving through the crease and judging a screaming high ball. To try to remember all this when the heat is pickling your head and a Northerly is sapping your energy and concentration, well, that’s just cruel.

So thankfully the DVCA had allowed this to be a one-day match.

We win the toss and send Camrea in. Kaney, our Captain from whom compliments are hard earned and rebukes not so much, pulls me aside.

“Cal, I want you to open. Which end do you want to – ”
“Yep, thought so.”

Happily enough, this means that my Dad and my younger brother Liam will be pushing into the wind. There’s no greater sacrifice than somebody else’s pace.

I dismiss Camrea’s opener with a perfectly bowled outswinger… if I do say so myself. I can thank my mid-off confidante Winchy.

“Right, he’s not lookin’ too hot on the drive so keep it up, these old school pricks’ll hit ya for four if ya drop it short and with ya height y’ll trouble ‘im on the bounce.”
I sometimes wonder how these canny old blokes can figure out a batsman so quickly. I had only bowled three balls at him and Bill had given a thoughtful analysis already. At any rate, I do what he says and finish with 1/9 off four overs. Tidy if not destructive.

At the other end, Liam is on the receiving end of my decision to bowl downwind. He’s pushing into it hard, his slender frame maintaining a straight line and his inswingers at the gusts’ mercy.

Nonetheless, we’re at a steady position when we finish our spells. At this point, Dad comes on into the wind.
As he begins his laborious, lumbering run-up, I’m reminded of a moment from last season.

In 2013, we had Ayden Hurst, who is now a Melbourne Rebels draftee. He was a complete smart arse and his God-given talent was coining nicknames.
One day at Bundoora, Dad stopped an ambling ball, making it look a bit more difficult than a sprightlier lad would have.
“Onya T-Rex!” cackled Hursty and the slips cordon chuckled.
At this point, Dad made the stupid mistake of pointing out that the T-Rex was a fast-moving predator. If he thought he was one-upping Hursty he was very wrong.
Hursty paused for a second and recalibrated.
“Onya Brontosaurus!”
Bronty. It has stuck because it works. To this day, the mention of the name ‘Ayden Hurst’ makes Bronty fume a little.

Bronty’s first over is very good. Bowling to the established Camrea opener – “the other old school prick”, as Winchy called him – he doesn’t concede a run and causes a bit of trouble with his inswing. Bronty continues to trouble and restrict Camrea and eventually bowls their first drop. Considering that he’s pushing into that bloody wind, he’s bowling manfully.
Not that he’ll ever admit it.
Summer Saturday evenings at the O’Connor household become an exercise in false modesty when the girls ask “how did you go?”
“Well, we batted alright, we’ve made an OK total. We’ll have to bowl well to defend it, and it’s something we’ve been trying – ”
No, Chrisso, how did you go.”
And so on. Liam has perfected the art: once, when speaking to Nanna, he spoke not only about his team’s performance but Uncle Johnny’s team’s performance before he got to his own personal effort.

By the tea break, we’re looking good. Camrea are 2/51.
At the crease is “the other old school prick” and an extremely cautious right hander. He is, in fact, so cautious that I’m tempted to give him a bit of lip.

However the Timing of the Sledge is something I’m still coming to terms with. I can draft and redraft a single line four or five times before I even get to the issue of having the chutzpah to deliver it.
In this scenario, I’m presented with a batsman either leaving or missing the ball in a one-dayer.
As Dylan, the long-suffering son of Captain Grumpy, bowls his outswingers downwind the dot balls mount.

Hey you’re batting, don’t know if you’ve realised?
That’s alright, but a bit long. Can I cut it down a bit? I’m going to use it. But when?
Four plays and misses in a row. That’s when. Dylan tightens up, trying to get The Conservative One to snick the ball.
But a miss! And a miss! And a miss! Ok, here we go, here we go, here we goooo….
Yorker. There’s a flying edge and the ball escapes over the head of big Chesser at slip. He dives like the girl from ‘Flashdance’ but it’s away to the boundary.
He puffs and sends young Luke Sirianni on an errand to fetch the pill.
I’ve missed my sledging chance.
The Conservative One has been in so long that he’s learnt how to bat. He and The Old School Prick churn out the boundaries. Anything short is gone, likewise anything slow. The enthusiasm drops off. We’re not much of a batting team. This isn’t looking good.
When Anuga Caldera brilliantly runs out The Old School Prick for 58 the score is 3/106. The Artist Formerly Known As The Conservative One switches to overdrive and bores us all by hitting lots of fours. In the last six overs we concede 60 runs.

Captain Grumpy, in a moment of desperate creativity, asks Liam to open the batting. I can vividly remember the only other time Liam has opened. It was under my own captaincy for the Panton Hill Primary cricket team. Didn’t end well. However, Liam holds his own. He doesn’t rush, only plays good shots and makes the most of some pretty gentle bowling. We nick a few chairs from Camrea’s clubrooms and establish the Square Leg Coterie. As Liam’s score builds, the Science of Nicknames enters the conversation.

Name of Debutant: Callum Sexton
Callum’s brother Kane already plays for Lower Plenty and Callum is taller than he is. He is, therefore, the Big Sexy. As Winchy points out, there was an old WWE Wrestler called Kevin Nash whose stage name was The Big Sexy (don’t type Big Sexy Wrestler in Google, by the way). So Callum Sexton is anointed and welcomed with the nickname Nashy.

This brings us on to Nickname Number Two.
Ciaran ‘Woz’ Anderson and Luke ‘Sirra’ Sirianni both have big mops of hair; Ciaran’s is red and Luke’s is brown. Although Ciaran is 17 and Luke is 13, the Square Leg Coterie decries that, as Luke had the mop first, Ciaran is now Red Sirra.
I protest this.
“There’s nothing lazier than a second-hand nickname,” I point out. “Besides, we have three Sirras at Lower already. I say we unburden the nickname and call Luke the Brown Woz.”
Elders Bronty, Winchy, Chesser and Captain Grumpy discuss this. It clearly has some merit because we re-open the discussion.
A quick collapse sees Chesser join Liam at the crease. Liam doesn’t anticipate the limitations of his new partner: calling a quick single blows Chesser’s knee out and he soon departs, bringing Sirra to the crease. Liam and Sirra bat well together.
Sirra, who is playing in the rep team the Falcons, is labelled “the Little Master” by Captain Grumpy.
“No,” refuses Anuga. “He is not black.” End of discussion.
However two overs later, Chesser comes up with the perfect balance. “Maestro!” It is universally accepted. Luke ‘Maestro’ Sirianni.
Liam reaches 32. I’m now at a moral dilemma: I want him to do well but three more runs and he’ll beat my highest score. He slashes a wide one down to the boundary and that conflict comes to a close. I now want him to make a 50. The bowlers continue to bowl to Liam’s on-side strengths; booming flicks over midwicket bring him into the forties.
I pace and can’t sit. Bronty contains his excitement.
A pull down to deep backward square brings him to 49. Finally Liam loses his head: a soft loopy full toss brings him down the pitch and he misses. On the spot, he does the splits and makes it home.
“He looks like a praying mantis”, grins Dylan Kane. ‘The Mantis’. Today has been a good one for nicknames.
Another full toss. Liam comes forward neatly… and skies it. Square leg advances. Dives. Misses! Liam scurries through for his fiftieth run.

We fall short by 25 runs. “Sloppy fielding”, Captain Grumpy declares. “This is Men’s Cricket, boys. We can’t be happy with that one.”
If I can’t be happy with the result I’ll be happy for Liam.

Camrea Taipans 5/160
Old School Prick 58
The Conservative One 53*

Lower Plenty 7/135
The Mantis 58*
Maestro 22

About Callum O'Connor

Here's to feelin' good all the time.


  1. Terrific piece of wrting and reflection Callum. I am a long time retired from playing the game, but you reminded me that one of the great joys of cricket is in the pauses. The time between deliveries, between overs and between innings – when you are not so much an active participant as an observer of the human folly of the flannelled fools. And what joy it is to know that share being one among many pursuing a common madness.
    Great stuff. Keep enjoying the season. Thanks for the reminder of the joys of club cricket, Callum.

  2. Enjoyed reading that Callum,

    Loved the sibling rivalry stuff. My “little” brother is 6 foot 5 and loves nothing more than trying to take my head off every Tuesday and Thursday.

    At North Ringwood we need to enlist your nickname skills – in my team we have 4 sets of brothers and no new nicknames -two ridgeys, two jonesys, two stoiks and two scottys.

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