When I was nine years old my brother’s under 12 cricket team had a sudden shortage of players and I was called upon to take the field. Standing out in a bright blue tracksuit in stark contrast to my new teammates’ more appropriate white, I was kept deep in the outfield where my lack of ability would do the least harm. I wasn’t a registered player, and so wasn’t allowed to bat or bowl, but still that marked the first time I set foot on a competitive sporting arena. I loved it.
I was registered shortly after, and finished the season as a regular player (complete with whites I got for Christmas that my younger self deeply resented as a Christmas present). I was impossibly nervous as I stood out to bat against much older boys with the painted white County bat I could hardly hold, but I still clearly recall desperately wanting to succeed – to impose myself on the match.
The next season saw, due to a worsening of the player shortage that led to my inclusion to the team, a change of clubs. My half a season the year before saw me somewhat ahead of the new crop of kids. If I’m being truthful, I liked it that way. Cricket is a good game when it’s going your way, and standing on the pitch clubbing the ball around the field gave my somewhat timid nature a healthy ego boost.
A fictional world is created in your mind that removes you from any worries you may otherwise be experiencing, and having no expectations on yourself to do anything other than enjoy the plotline makes the involvement in the play all the more fun. Cricket is a hard, statistical game that can weigh on you. This is also partly why it is so good. When you succeed in cricket, there is no better feeling.
I once got chastised rather strongly from my mate Ash for saying that my first hundred was a better emotional feeling than the birth of my children. Child birth is a weird thing. The result is a slimy, screaming baby that you do instantly love, but for a man the process is a wild ride in the passenger seat at night with the lights off. There is no control, skill, or say in it. What will be will be and there is nothing the man can do about it other than try to leave his dignity at the door and avert his eyes at the appropriate times. What happens in the birthing suite stays in the birthing suite … and a man’s memory.
But bloody hell did I work for that hundred!
I turned 35 years old on Friday, so it’s close enough to 26 years since I first graced the cricket field with my portly, blue tracksuited form. Since then I have, from my reckoning, missed a total of six seasons of footy and cricket all up. Right now, I’m not playing anything. I did play Vets footy over winter, and I had fun playing the season, but it only amounts to a handful of games. I’ll load up again next year.
Cricket though, has been put to the side. I think I’ve missed three full seasons of cricket since I was nine, but all of those were because I wanted a break. I actually didn’t want to play. This season I’m not playing, not because I don’t want to, but because it can’t fit into my life. I’ve got a retaining wall to build and various other projects that require my attention, but I also have a wife and three children that I don’t see that much of during the week.
Cricket takes all of Saturday, as well as Tuesday and Thursday night. I was aware that my kids miss me when I am away playing cricket, but only recently has it dawned on me just how much I miss them when I’m away. They’ll only be young for so long, and I don’t want to miss it. Still, it’s a weird feeling wanting to play, to have that urge to compete, but not be doing anything about it.
I’m not sure exactly what I’m feeling. Is it grief? Remorse? I don’t know. I’m happy at home but feel that something is missing. I’m used to playing sport, and experiencing the highs and lows of what that offers. I know the decision is right to dedicate my weekend to my family as I know that I’d regret the alternative. At the same time I’m conflicted. The loss of the competitive sporting part of my life is a raw wound.
I hope it’ll scab over and become less painful over time, and leave a faded old scar that’ll remind me of the things I once did. And what were those things? I tried hard, I had some really good seasons, some pretty good seasons, and some shocking seasons. In the end, I was a pretty good cricketer, but not as good as I could have been if I had some more control of my emotions, and my instincts. Mostly, I had fun, and I miss that.
Hopefully, when the racing is done and the Tests start, I’ll have something to focus on to distract me from the urge to compete. Until then, it’s H Frames, sleepers, concrete, and eventually a nice flat backyard on which to play footy and cricket.