When I tell people I play cricket in winter they always assume I mean indoor cricket. No I tell them. Outdoors. A series of queries follows. In the rain? What kind of ball do you use? Are you crazy? The answers being, yes, its a special leather ball, and of course I am.
After they find out that there are 170 odd clubs playing cricket in winter over Melbourne, there is either intrigue, curiosity or denial. Mid-Year Cricket has been around since 2010. I began playing the mid-year season in 2017.
The first season of winter cricket was called the Platypus Cup. That first season had only ten clubs by 2018 there were 114 teams and 12 divisions across Melbourne. There is of course a similar association in Sydney. Madness can cross the border in many forms.
Aunty ‘Rona came and took out the 2020 season, however despite lockdowns the 2021 season is about to play its final round this coming Saturday. My team has not fared well. Persuading people to come and play in the cold and wet. With a ball that is slowly turning to mush. Is not easy.
There have been a few stalwarts to join me in this quest. One of them a sixteen year old who just captained for the first time. He has parents who encourage his participation and this has lead to his school friends playing as well.
Debut From the Pizza Shop
A few weeks ago, in my desperation to find players I asked a former work mate. He was a bit reticent in playing. Having never played cricket outside of the backyard. We were able to scrounge up the right equipment for him and he turned up to play.
The team we were playing against is very good. They have two great batters who both made fifty. In the winter season you retire when you make fifty runs. With the retired batters away the chances to take wickets emerged. One that involved our recruit who had never played before.
He was at a deepish mid-on. The ball was miss hit and flew high into the air. His arms raised, a bit too straight, hands aloft as the ball descended upon him. Clunk! I was at the other end of the field and was looking for the ball to fall onto the ground beside him. No, it was in his hands.
Cue huge celebration. As one the whole team centred on the debutant. The story does not end there. Because the rookie was given a bowl. He was given the ball and the umpire asked the regular question. Right arm over? Our newest bowler replied with “What does that mean?”. Dave, the Captain explained that one.
Our debutant ended up with the figures of one over, 2 wickets for 2 runs. Both were caught off deliveries that bounced twice. After the second wickets celebration his response was that it will be story to tell his grandchildren. It was a great day.
You Don’t Need To Win To Have Fun
There was no grasping victory from the jaws of defeat. We were soundly beaten by a team that was better than we were. However did we have fun. Oh yeah. I was still laughing every time I remembered the game till about Monday. I am smiling now remembering it all.
Personally I realised something that day. It did not matter that we lost that game. We had more fun loosing that game than the other team had winning it. After slogging it out for most of the season with reticent players who were luke-warm at best, this game was a cure-all.
So in the same spirit of giving people a go and learning what works, we gave the captaincy to a sixteen year old. That we lost his first game as captain was not a problem. That he is now very interested in learning how to become a good captain is everything.
The ethos for winter cricket is one that I want to encourage you all with. It is a set of three ideals that can help in many places. Create a space where people can improve their skills, can learn new skills, and keep it open so new people can freely join in.
This will not just help for sporting clubs, it should help in all places. That I’m still smiling about this a week later is proof enough for me.
[Header Image pembobowled.jpeg – taken by Scott Muir]
Phillip Hall has been too long in Melbourne to see AFL in the same light as those back in Fremantle. East Fremantle born and bred, he would love to see the Dockers back in the eight. But would settle for just beating West Coast twice a year.