03 April 2016
Noel Coward once famously sang ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid-day sun’. When I first heard this way back when Sunday cricket was relatively new, I remember asking my father what it meant. When he explained, I remember looking confused and promptly went back to playing with my toys. After all, I had a plan to achieve world domination before I was 10 years old!
Many years later, and there I am umpiring my two daughters in a cricket game whilst exposing my pale English skin to the mid-day sun. You see, I had been roped into umpiring the under 13’s girls T20 game at one of Sydney’s many cricketing ovals. I suppose in reality I was slow to react when the coach asked who wanted to umpire the game. Almost immediately all the Dad’s at the game started answering their phones, even though I personally didn’t hear them ring. Others started heading to their cars at a rather swift pace. I was literally the last man standing and before I knew it I had the new shiny red cherry in my hand.
I had given both my daughters some backyard cricketing lessons. I had drilled into them what my father had taught me “straight bat, son”. I had truly passed on this holy grail of advice to the new generation of family cricketers.
As my oldest came out to bat I quickly told her to remember to keep her bat straight. Obviously the advice paid off as my daughter cross-batted the first ball off her toes with Laxmanesque like skill for four runs. The other umpire (the opponents coach) gave me the thumbs up. I just smiled awkwardly back.
As with most junior cricket there is invariably a run-out or two at every game. This time my oldest daughter fell victim to that old chestnut ‘yes’ followed by ‘no’ and then ‘erm….sorry!’. Still 68 runs off 20 overs wasn’t to be sniffed at. Our star player named ‘extras’ notching up yet another half century. I’m sure representative cricket awaits our main player in the next few years.
As an umpire you get to see all types of different bowling actions. The girls under 13’s are no exception. The slight rule change for the competition means the ball can bounce twice before the batsman has to play a shot. My youngest daughter is generally more of a bowler than my oldest.
This day her bowling was way off line. Think Steve Harmison’s first ball of the 2006/07 Ashes series but repeated frequently. I decided to have a quick fatherly chat. I needed to motivate her quickly. I gave my youngest some inspirational words “you really are bowling badly today”. I could feel the daggers in my back as she walked back to her mark.
Her next ball saw the middle stump uprooted and the batsman looking stunned. My youngest turned to me and said “So, do you still think I am bowling badly?” For once I was lost for words.
Yet again I was shown that Cricket truly is an unpredictable and magical sport!