I have a small confession. Despite its ephemeral frivolity, few things in life (aside from family) make me as uncomplicatedly happy as…
I know, I know, it is just sport- a way of passing time whilst real life happens all around. In these times it may even be the equivalent of fiddling whilst Rome burns. But if you have ever played the game you will know what I mean.
Yesterday, I dragged myself (despite being near death from man flu) to Bute to play in the first league game of the season against Ardencaple (Helensburgh 2nd IX.) We won. Will scored a fine and sometimes brutal 82, I contributed a much less fine 37 and then took 3 for 17. We managed a total of 217 for 9 from 40 overs, Ardencaple were all out for 144. It feels good to win, but winning is not necessary for joy at our level of cricket. In fact some might say it is a little vulgar, a bit too keen.
My mate Graham played for his team yesterday (Hutton Rudby) and posted this magnificent result on FB- they were all out for 4 off 15 overs. Such a result is to be celebrated. It suggests to me not incompetence, but passion. It is no shame to be outclassed and outplayed on the cricket field- the point of playing cricket really is the simple joy of the game. In fact, the team who overwhelmed Hutton Rudby should feel shame that they did not extend the match beyond 15 overs- there is an art to this- bringing on the weaker bowlers at the right time- giving a little for the sake of the day.
So how am I able to justify this puerile love for a simple game of bat and ball? Of course I could talk about the great events in international cricket- titanic clashes of style and willpower in front of ecstatic crowds. But instead, I offer this;
REASONS TO LOVE LOWER LEAGUE CRICKET
- It is a great leveller. Players of all abilities make up one team. Some players are brilliant, others totally inept. All are welcome.
- Youth is nurtured by age in the same playing arena. Where else does that still happen?
- I get to play with my son Will. He has decided that the cut and thrust of division one is too serious, too much pressure. He wants to have fun. Yesterday I batted with him for 10 overs. It does not get much better than that.
- The banter. There is a kind of banter on a cricket field that is like no other. It is allowed to be crude, but not rude. Any abuse should be reserved for team mates.
- Passion. It is allowed, but when it erupts into anger (a dropped catch, a ball allowed through the legs for four etc.) then everyone is a bit embarrassed.
- Great things can be achieved by mediocrity. The stunning catch taken with a smack between the man boobs. The miraculously improbable six. The terrible bowler who cleans up the oppositions gun batsman, who can’t believe what just happened to him.
- Team/Individual. Cricket is an individual game in a team context. This means that we play for ourselves, whilst looking out for each other.
- A series of events. We play 40 over matches (the island location of the team has meant the the league has shortened our matches by ten overs to allow for ferry traffic!) This means 240 balls. 240 events. Each one its own mini-drama.
- The games within the game. Even in a miss-match, there will be moment where individual bowler-batman confrontations are electrifying.
- It allows a kind of very UN-digital friendship and community that has become rare. Where these gatherings develop they should be honoured and nurtured.
- The game will go on. There is an almost tangible yearning to ‘hand it on’ to the next generation. It may not be like it was in our day, but this is not necessarily a bad thing.
So, to all of you who turn up into the mizzle of a damp day, hope in hand for one more innings – play on.
It will liberate no captives, nor fight any major injustices, but nevertheless, for the simple joy of it – play on.