Friday, October 25, 2013

How warm-ups can help you make the (F) grade

Bat.

Looking for an edge: using Michael Clarke's bat wasn't enough as the evidence of red ball on the inner and outside extremities of the bat shows.

I woke up three weeks ago wanting to play cricket. I don't know where it came from or why. I am 52 and should be doing other things - golf, lawn bowls or perhaps some gardening. But my competitive nature got the better of me.

I rang ''Richo'', the secretary of Romsey, my local team. Cricketers always have nicknames and Romsey is no different. Richo pointed out that I hadn't played for eight years and would not warrant selection for A or B grades … so we agreed on F-grade, which was playing a 35-over, one-day match.

My next problem was I needed some kit. I had no kit at home, except for my Victorian helmet. That was partly solved when I flew to Sydney and visited Spartan Sports, a company I work for that makes Michael Clarke's bats. I desperately wanted one of Clarke's bats and selected one of 10 bats made up for him to use in this Ashes series. ''This one will do nicely, this stick would be wasted on Pup,'' I said to myself.

But on the morning of the match I still had no whites. I could make do with one of my golf shirts, but I could not find trousers. The two opportunity shops in Romsey said all the whites were sold last week.

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I asked around the club to see if anyone had a spare pair of trousers. One of the lads, Tyson, did, but they were at home. When I got to his place, his mum told me that my backside might not fit into Tyson's whites. I thanked Mrs Ellis for her kind advice and left in a hurry.

Once we got to the ground, I noticed both teams doing warm-ups. I said I didn't do warm-ups. I have never pulled a muscle, let alone a hammy. Our opponent was Rupertswood and ''Rupo'' - as it is affectionately known - won the toss and sent us in. That was the visitors' first mistake, I thought. I was ready to put on a clinic.

Before the game, I was introduced to my new teammates. There were four Wilkinsons in the team. There also was a Jake, Jimmy, Wrighty and the keeper who had never kept before and looked to have had a very late night.

Wilko, our skipper (all of 18 years old), wanted me to bat at four. I came in at 2-25. Our ground is new, 20 metres longer than the MCG, with newly laid grass and a synthetic carpet pitch.

There was a fair bit of banter from Rupo. I had forgotten my chewy and had no white zinc on the lips. How could I forget the two most important things that put fear into bowlers around the world 25 years ago? I wanted to ask for centre, to take my first ball, but they had already used up the chalk. But that's OK … I know where my stumps are. One of Rupo's kids asked what century I played for Australia.

My first ball from Rupo's left-hander reminded me of Wasim Akram. It was a full, in-swinging delivery that nearly got me lbw. It reminded me why I've always hated left-handers. My mind was all over the shop - comparing this 16-year-old kid to Akram, for example. There were so many negative thoughts running through my head. Mostly, ''What the hell was I doing out here?''

There were so many poor shots played by me - mostly inside edges. I finally got off the mark with a brilliant cover drive … through square leg. Wilko, my captain, advised me that the ball we were using was a two-piece that swung a fair bit. I thanked him and played another 15 balls - either hacked into the ground or nearly chopped on to my stumps. I finally got a straight one to put me out of my misery. My stumps were all over the place and didn't the Rupo boys celebrate! It never looks or sounds good when you are bowled. I looked back and saw that my off stump was the only one left standing.

My teammates laughed as I walked off. It was all in good humour. Then I was asked to umpire and put the ''yellow vest'' on. I really enjoyed the umpiring duties. Then I had to score for a bit, which I hadn't done since 1974. That will teach me for getting out early!

At tea, Romsey had reached 7-158. Back in the clubrooms I was asked for my plate - and my $10 match payment. Then I tried to enjoy a nice cup of tea and the Rupo boys thought it would be a good time to bring up my elegant innings of one off 23 balls.

After tea, young Jake knocked over the two Rupo openers with some ripping in-swingers and the opposition was in trouble at 2-6. Then, as a nick went through the slips, I thought it was time to show these guys how I could still motor after the ball. So, when I put the brakes on to pick up the ball, I pulled my left hamstring. Perhaps I should have done the warm-ups.

Trying to keep pride intact, I tried to hide the injury and picked mid-off as a spot where I didn't have to field that much. Next ball, a lofted drive (that my Jack Russell would've caught with his eyes shut) was hit straight to me, reaching the height of my right pocket, where I dropped the easiest catch of all time. Now, everyone was laughing, including the batsmen, umpires and the magpies that were still swooping. Two balls later, a run-out was on. I hobbled after the ball, realising I could make a dismissal at the bowler's end. I picked the ball up, swivelled and let fly a ripping throw that collected our captain in the middle of his back. Now my teammates were crying with laughter.

As the game gained some sensibility and Romsey took control, I realised one of the Wilko boys was having a boring day. Troy, who was too quiet for my liking, hadn't batted and the ball wasn't coming to him in the field. I said to his brother and captain that we should give him a bowl. My skipper agreed and three brilliant overs later, Troy wrapped up Rupo's innings and was man-of-the-match with figures of 4-7.

Troy's body language completely changed with a few wickets next to his name. I was also impressed with the quality of high fives he delivered to his teammates.

Romsey had a great win and the Rupo boys had a lot of fun. I enjoyed the spirit in which the game was played and the respect shown me throughout the day. Some of the boys came into the rooms for a quick drink and a chat.

I hopped in my car and went home. I grabbed a beer and sat on the front verandah and just thought what a great day I had. Inside five minutes, this great game lifted a kid's hopes from feeling useless to being a match-winner. This is why we love the game.

Last Saturday's match also reminded me of how the game is flourishing in the country. I couldn't help but think how important team sport was to youngsters. How it builds character, personality, discipline and confidence.

It also reminded me how great the game has been for me and my family. This game can make lifelong friendships that make other sports so jealous. Then my dog Trevor wanted me to play some games and throw him a ball. He had no chance with my pulled hammy. I haven't been able to walk properly since.

For free live scores and predictions from ProfDeano, download free app from profdeano.com or from iTunes.


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