The local cricket rodeo – a short story on a batting collapse

You can feel the breeze before he comes.


Like a dust storm, a wind rises up off the floor, bristling through the changeroom door. Across the concrete floor, stray blades of grass and specks of dirt are lifted and caught in the gust. The air stirs, awaiting the destruction that is to come. A lone player sits hunched over, attempting to strap up the Velcro on his pads as quietly as possible. Knowing what’s coming, he diverts his eyes down. Expecting the worst, the awkward air of silence permeates the dressing room.


The heavy door, usually requiring a firm yank to wrench open, flies backwards. Previously as dark and damp as an attic, crisp summer sunshine blasts into the change room, trying to obscure the gloom. Silhouetted against the harsh Australian rays, a burly figure marches in, gloves already held by knuckles becoming ever whiter.


Disappointment radiates as the man sits down and begins to take off his pads and other protection. There are no words between him and his teammate, the latter understanding his pain and willing his hands to do up the strapping of his pads fast enough so he can make a sneaky escape. The only sound coming out of this poorly lit room is the huffing and puffing of the recently dismissed batsman.


Just as the other man padding up for his shot in the sun is ready to tip-toe past the grumbling giant, a yell pierces through the dust. Nerves that were previously nesting in his stomach rise a level, fluttering around as panic comes to the party. Heads whip to the sliver of light coming out of the door, which is still swinging after the shoulder charge it just received.


From the tiny peak the nervous batsman gets, he sees a worn-down wooden stump rolling on the patchy grass. Converging near this stump is a flurry of white and faded red clothes, delightedly cheering and jumping on a celebrating bowler. The man picks up his helmet, takes a shaky breath and steps out into the sun.


The door swings on its hinges, this time uncertainly glancing out towards the great expanse of the local cricket ground. Within minutes, the door turns into something completely different.


No longer is it heavy and jarring. Instead, when the batsman who was just removed barges into it, the momentum is changed. A minute ago, it was tentatively swaying to the nervous touch of the awaiting bat. Now, its trajectory is flung freely the other way, swinging on its hinges like a saloon door. The grumpy cowboy bursts in, this time throwing his hat first in disgust. Without knowing it, this local cricket team has turned into a rodeo of wickets.


We now follow the jittery bat who padded up just moments ago. He puts on a brave face after fiddling with the lock to the fence. Swinging it open in a manner that creates far less noise than the saloon door currently being flung off its hinges, the batsman tells himself to straighten his posture and look imposing.


His plan appears to have finally worked. Negating the doubts surfacing over the recent spate of quick wickets, he strides somewhat confidently to the crease. Until he stumbles over a poorly tied shoelace. Head down and his stomach rampant with butterflies, he takes his guard on middle stump and tries to sooth his panic. Raucous laughter erupts from the cocky fielders, backing in their young fast bowler to complete his hattrick against this lower order bat. Glancing around at the field, the batsman steals a look at the changerooms.


A stray empty packet of chips flutters in the wind, swirling around in front of the empty chairs. Teammates can be seen ducking in and out of the rooms. Bowlers hurry in and out of the rooms to quickly pad up. Already dismissed bats stand away from the rooms to wallow in their self-pity, or rush to the table to relieve the number eleven of scoring duties. The scoreboard is eight overs behind, the wicket tally doesn’t tell the tale of the recent destruction. Stress is palpable.


The last thing the batsman sees before he turns to face the bowler at the top of his mark is the door. It hasn’t stopped swinging since the last bat bludgeoned it open in anger. Now, it swings ominously. Swishing the stale wind around it. Perpetually in motion, eagerly awaiting the despairing bowed head of the under-pressure batsman. This is the rodeo, and the young man is struggling to keep down his fear as the teenage bowler runs in, ready to send those saloon doors flying once more.



Check out more stories from Sean Mortell HERE



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  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Ripper read Sean! You capture the tension of the scenario so well.

  2. So many home truths in this yarn, Sean.
    Well played!

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