November 25, 2009
For somebody who has never watched a live cricket match, never mind played it, it was a brave step to attempt my first cricketing appearance against a crack Indian outfit at the AITO conference in Cochin, Kerala, last Friday. All the more so when I saw how fast the first few deliveries whizzed by our opening batsmen.
Every year at the AITO Conference, Steve DaCosta from Sports Tours Ltd lays on a sporting challenge where we play a local team. Playing the Spanish at football and the Indians at cricket is a wonderful occasion but to stand any chance of winning a game, we need to be playing the Spanish at cricket and the Indians at football.
As somebody who has played a range of sports, cricket has always appeared to be a sport that seemed slightly pedestrian. Hurling, with 15 other mad Irishmen chasing you with sticks and trying their best to beat the living daylight out of you, was a slightly livelier prospect. However, despite my sporting nous, I was dispatched to the outfield as a fielder, facing the batsman at approximately five o’clock on the field; somebody more knowledgeable than I can tell me what position that’s called! The first ball that came my way went over my head like a rocket, on its way into the Indian sky, as everyone shouted “catch it, catch it”. Easy for them to say as firstly, I barely saw it, secondly, I’m not ten foot tall and thirdly, I value my fingers a bit more than sticking them in front of a missile travelling at 80 mph. Still the next ball to come my way was far more manageable, a nice height, not too fast and as it approached I imagined the cheer of the crowd for this cricketing rookie, the appreciative drinks that would follow as I was constantly slapped on the back and congratulated for being a natural. As it fell down to earth, I was perfectly positioned and it sailed into my hands, a perfect catch but the momentum of the ball caused me to trip on the boundary, fall on my backside and I ended up over the other side of the rope, gifting the Indians a six. Slaps on the back did not follow although slaps of a different kind were now more likely to follow.
Batting was a going to be a doddle; I’m pretty handy at tennis and how to drive a hurling ball (sliothar to those who want the technical term) ninety metres down a pitch. As I expected this to be my one and only cricketing experience I intended to take a swipe at anything that came my way and send the errant bowler all around the ground. The moment came as I faced my first ball and as it slowly left his arm I panicked. I connected and the ball was hit 20 feet into the air, but sadly only three feet in front of me into the grateful arms of a fielder. My batting career had lasted one ball and twenty seconds, far from a glorious innings. Still, I had the consolation of being one of the first people ever to play with the new pink cricket ball, courtesy of Colin Gibson at the ECB and for seeing the happiness on the opposition’s faces at their victory.
My first cricketing experience was thoroughly enjoyable and a wonderful sense of camaraderie between both teams was apparent. Although I never expected to play cricket for an English team in India, I can’t wait for the next time to make amends for my dismal performance and rescue my reputation.