The hoick, the dismissal or just taking part: What will he remember from our weekend of cricket?

I’ll admit that it probably wasn’t quite what Kipling had in mind, but over the weekend, I think I can say that I met with triumph and disaster and treated them just the same.

I confronted my own cricket mortality, twice, whilst also providing my son with a memory to be proud of.

Last Friday evening, the junior club season having ended for two of our Under 16 teams with no finals appearances, a fathers vs sons match was arranged. (Before anyone rushes in and points out the disappointment of ‘Dads only’ this close to International Women’s Day, mums were invited to play yet none chose to partake)

The rules were indoor cricket-style, in that each batting pair got two overs, with Dads bowling an over to their sons, and vice versa in the second innings. If a Dad dismissed his son or a son his father, you were out and off, otherwise you stayed for the two overs, losing 5 runs if dismissed by another boy/dad. We were flexible in that we had 15 dads fielding and by the time we batted, I think the boys had a football team’s worth on the field, but no one cared.

The boys chose their batting pairs. I was worried to see that my son Ben had connected with our best all-rounder and second highest run scorer for the year Arya, meaning I would be bowling to him and to Ben who, whilst more of a bowler, had peaked with the bat towards the end of both the school and club seasons.

Whilst my cricketing career at school was average and I have only played about three games since finishing 30 years ago, I have had many net sessions with him over the last few years, so thought I would probably not completely disgrace myself.

The quandary in matches like this is that you want to do OK, but not too well or too badly. Show yourself as a nuffy and the kid might feel good at having topped you, but equally no kid wants to see their dad exposed as having feet of clay (or just plain bad footwork). However, a kid could get crushed by dad belting him about too much or being bowled for a duck.

So, you try to strike a balance. I wanted Ben to walk away with grudging pride that I wasn’t a complete English cricketer at the crease, but also that he felt he won the day. As it was, that was done for me without me trying.

The dads fielded first, I put myself at leg slip and we were away. My fielding was pretty good I thought, culminating in a sharp run-out and a few near misses with what I’d describe as Maxwell-like reflexes.

However, my turn to bowl bought me down to earth. I landed a few pretty well against Ben, with him getting a single or two and having to play a dead bat to one, but strayed off the pitch badly with a few wides. Then I bowled to young Arya, who dispatched me effortlessly over mid-wicket for a 4 then an equally languid 6. Ben batted well, got a few, and before long, his 2 overs were done. I sledged him while bowling, which I thought was fair, however it seemed to put me off more than him. I looked forward to batting to restore some credibility and pride from the boy.

At the break, after some snags and a few beverages (to ensure we remained hydrated), we started our innings. With runs added up and subtractions done for dismissals, we knew our target and with plenty of Dads padded up, I was comfortable being down the order.

However, the quick nature of two-over innings and the odd dad dismissal to a son meant I needed to get ready. I’d remembered to wear jocks that enabled me to keep a box in and eschewed the thigh pad, but grabbed the helmet. Ben, in my view, can crank the pace up a bit, so I was wary, lest he decide to pepper me with chin music.

At that stage, I did a mean thing that I am not proud of (but can live with). Padded up and in one ahead of me was the father of Arya, the batsman that had creamed me earlier. That meant with the two-over change of batsmen approaching, we’d be a pair and Arya would be bowling to me most likely, and he is a skidding and fast leggie who troubled batsmen all year. Thinking that wouldn’t allow me to shine, with Ben bowling the other over, I noticed that the young kid currently bowling wasn’t too good. When he surprisingly dismissed his father with his third ball, I quickly grabbed my helmet and strode on ahead of time and batting order, thinking I could get a few runs before facing the quality bowling.

With selfish thoughts only for my own ego and not the variable emotions of a young kid riding high, having just dismissed his father, I cruelly dispatched his first ball far over mid-wicket, not moving to attempt a run as it sped to the boundary. I blocked the next, then scored another 2. Facing the son of my batting partner in the next over, who picked up the wicket of his own father to a blinding slips catch, I made another double before having to face Ben’s over.

He has told me since the game that he only came in off 4 or 5 steps not his usual 14 but they were quick enough. I got him away for a single, sledging him at the non-strikers end, before facing the last two balls of his over and my innings. The first I miscued and skied only for our usual keeper, fielding at mid-on, to drop a sitter, sending Ben into near apoplexy at having missed the chance to get me out. My final ball I thought I’d just go the tonk, nothing ventured etc. He bowled me a stunning yorker which led to my off stump being knocked out of the ground and him in raptures, embraced by the multitude of fieldsmen. My effort then was 9 off 7 balls but an aggregate of 4 having lost 5 runs for the dismissal.

The outcome therefore was even. He will relish the memory of my stump lying prone and bails flying having got me out, whereas he has also seen that I could hold a bat and played a few with finesse and not total embarrassment. I am glad in a way that I didn’t connect with that last delivery, although I was torn between the desire to hit him back over his head, or be dismissed. As it turned out, there was no charity in my dismissal, his delivery being right on track and something Anderson and Broad could note on the plane back home about bowling that length when it was required.

The upshot was the Dads won, but in the end, cricket was the winner. As competitive as it was, the boys are the perfect age for this to take place. They are old enough to be a good standard and company and able to play against grown men, but we dads probably don’t want to face them in a year or two as they continue to grow into strong young adults, hell bent on pace and scare tactics. The Dads got to relive some glory days of their youth, no tears were shed by sons being dismissed and I struck a balance between a son’s potential grudging admiration and also having a story to hold over me forever.

Two days later, the quiet Sunday afternoon of the long weekend, Ben booked a net session with a bowling machine at the local cricket centre, part of a Christmas gift from grandparents. After feeding in the many bucket of balls, changing pace and length to him for 50 mins, with him batting reasonably well, I thought I’d have a go too, based on my Friday efforts, and padded up. I had been setting the machine for him to vary between 90 and 105 kms, with the machine letting the balls go from about ¾ of a normal pitch length.

When I batted, I couldn’t see the first few balls, or at least was playing my shot after the ballwas well behind me. Sure that he was playing tricks on me and cranking the pace up to Mitch Johnson level, I complained, but he confirmed it was only about 90kms, slower than what he had comfortably handled. I eventually got my eye in, but asked for it to stay on the slower side, and responded well to his constant advice to move my feet (which I had to take as I had been advising him the same in his session). Chastened, I got through one bucket, but with growing admiration for him that I couldn’t handle what he had spent 50 minutes tackling with aplomb.

My confidence not pricked but certainly challenged, I later thought about what he’d remember from our cricketing efforts over the weekend. Would he be more or less likely to listen to my cricket advice having now seen my own efforts? Would he acknowledge that I played a few shots in the game or that he got the last laugh? Would he remember my cat-like fielding or awful bowling? Respect or embarrassment? Pride or scorn?

Upon reflection, I think I’d prefer that in future years, he just remembered that we played the game and went to the nets, together. That we joked, bantered, and played together as father and son, not the outcome. I hope he remembers the car drives to and from, that we were together doing something we both liked, that we both enjoyed that we could participate in something sporty, like when we have a kick at Glenferrie Oval. I hope he remembers friendship, a relationship, and a connection. That it was about being with Dad, not the shots we played (or missed). I hope he remembers a bond, some fun and a few laughs.

I hope he remembers love.

But, I think he’ll probably also remember that off stump, knocked clear out of the ground.

About Sean Curtain

"He was born with a gift of laughter, and a sense that the world was mad". First line of 'Scaramouche' by Sabatini, always liked that.

Comments

  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Glad I’ve got daughters Sean, never had to face this sort of dilemma, except for the occasional parents v players netball challenge.

    Sounds like you’ve got it right.

  2. Superb Sean

  3. Cameron Bennett says

    A great read .The last paragraph brought a tear to my eye thanks very much

  4. Luke Reynolds says

    Sean, Ben will remember your efforts very fondly. Off-stump and all. So will you. Important time spent together. Great story.

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