At the very least it shows that cricket is an enduring facet of New Zealand sport.
I’ve loved the game for as long as I can remember. I started playing cricket in the schoolyard at Tamatea Primary with a tennis ball and plywood bat, which then evolved into Kiwi Cricket out on the school field when the initiative was released soon after. When I wasn’t at school long summer holidays were spent playing the boy next door in epic one-on-one test matches on an empty neighbouring section.
Each spring the latest cricket catalogue would arrive in the mail and I would pore over it hungrily. Admiring all the new seasons’ bats that my heroes used – John Wright’s Gray Nicolls ‘Power Scoop’, Martin Crowe’s Duncan Fernley ‘Colt’, Richard Hadlee’s Gunn & Moore ‘Maestro’ and Mark Greatbach’s Symonds ‘Rhino’.
One year I saved up enough to buy myself a Gunn & Moore ‘Skipper’ and matching gloves. I can still smell the oiled willow and leather as I opened the package when it arrived – Bliss!
I carried on playing cricket through to Intermediate, then my career then took a hiatus in favour of study, with a brief reprisal as permanent 12th man for the Tamatea High School 1st XI in my last year of high school.
It wasn’t until just before I got married that I took up the sport again after years of supporting from the stands and in front of the television and radio. I’ve been playing for my club, Napier Old Boys’ Marist, ever since – which would be almost ten years now.
There’s only one slight problem: I suck at the game.
I don’t play cricket because I’m good at it, I play for the love of the game. I play it because I have fun doing it.
When all the “Findlay-gate” hoopla was going on I was surprised at how many people voicing their opinions on the matter had a very hard-nosed “play to win” approach.
I’ve played cricket at all levels in Hawke’s Bay except for Premiere (because: A/ I’m not good enough & B/ I don’t want to get killed) and the Women’s League (due to unspecified biological reasons) and have found that the higher the grade, the less fun it is. To me no fun = no point.
Anyone who approaches cricket with the intention of winning every game they play will be an emotional wreck within about three games. It just doesn’t work out that way – cricket has so many uncontrollable variables.
In cricket you can literally stand in the field all game without the ball coming towards you once. That’s happened to me on several occasions – it’s bloody boring!
Unlike other sports one little lapse of concentration in cricket can end your game. If you miss a kick, tackle or try in rugby, you can have another go within minutes. When batting in cricket if you miss the ball completely and get bowled, or hit it straight to a fielder on the full and get caught, that’s it, you’re out, thanks for coming.
It can be very easy to get into a bad run of form and that can be very hard to get over or out of. As a result, depression affects more cricketers than any other form of sportspeople.
I find cricket, like all things, to be all about attitude.
When I played at Intermediate the teacher coaching our team told me I was “a chucker” (I threw the ball, as opposed to using the proper, straight-armed technique). But rather that showing me how to cure the problem and bowl correctly, he just stopped me from bowling. Because that was going to really help me develop my game, eh?
By comparison, shortly after I’d started playing cricket for NOBM I was in a team that ended up with twelve players on game day. Rather than sit someone out throughout the whole game the captain said he’d split roles with me – he’d field and then I’d bat. It was going fine until I was the last batsman waiting to go in. We needed about 20 runs and I, having not scored a single run for years, was having second thoughts. I told the captain that I really didn’t mind if he batted instead of me, but instead of taking up my offer he just said “no, I believe you can do it!” As it turns out I didn’t need to bat in the end and we made it with two wickets to spare, but it meant a lot to me that there was support like that in a team and a club.
Just last weekend I eclipsed my previous highest batting score of 10 – a total I’ve reached only twice in ten years), with a well-crafted 15 in 35 degree heat. My teammates and even our opposition (playing the same teams over the years you learn everyone else’s strengths, weaknesses and achievements as well as growing strong friendships) were happy for me. I was stoked too, but I was even happier for my batting partner who made his highest score to date (24) too.
It was all about attitude and that made it fun.