The hard ball: now I understand why Billy Bowden runs when someone plays a shot at square-leg! Boy, this can hurt!
“Oww!” I howl miserably. The knee lets out a silent yelp of its own, and I give it a pat to encourage it. I’m trying to get out of bed and the ankle, shoulder and upper arm all go up in protest, forming a silent but truly belligerent battalion with the right knee as their commander in chief. I finally rise, and sigh deeply, because the eyes itch for want of more sleep.
Well, for the record, I haven’t turned 50 yet, but it certainly feels as though I have and the reason for my current condition is my brand new, and overly enthusiastic plan to play cricket. I won’t give a lot of details, but let me tell you I have finally found a group of women in the UAE who play cricket.
The first time I went to play with them I was quietly confident. For you see, I grew up playing cricket and I thought I knew how the thing was done. Walk back to the bowling mark, run in, bowl, get a dot ball or wicket. Repeat. Bat with a steady head: front foot out, cover drive, block, on-drive, block – I knew the basics, and I thought I could bowl and bat a bit. The odd medium pacer, the odd off-spinner. Boy, was I ever ready to play!
“Hi!” I said brightly. A few murmurs of response, and a few curious looks my way. Some girls ignore me completely, another replies distractedly when I try to make conversation. I’m not exactly popular, you know what I mean?
We started with the warm ups, and by the time one round of the ground was complete, I was walking while all the others were still jogging, right up to the end of round two. Right, the fielding drills came next. The fact that I missed all but one shot that came my way was only a prologue of things to come. When the others caught or fielded well, there was lots of cheering and geeing up and when I finally caught a ball, you could have heard a pin drop. The ‘good arm’ abandoned me and finally, finally (read:mercifully) we walked out to the nets. I can do this, I thought. Who needs stupid fielding anyway? I’m Pakistani after all!
I had only played with the tape-ball before and this was my first time with the cork ball. I quite liked the feel of it but it does hurt the hands a lot, and you can’t bat unless you have a proper kit, which I of course don’t own currently. With the hard ball in my hand, fingers placed on the seam, I took my run up and bowled at the stumps in an empty net to see if the ball came out right. The ball landed halfway across the pitch and fizzled like wet fire-cracker before it reached the stumps. Hmm, this is harder than it looks. When I finally got the ball to pitch up a little more, I bowled at the players. The fact that I bowled the right line and got a few looks of respect from my peers was somewhat heartening. To my utmost surprise the next ball swung (swing? I got the ball to swing? No it was probably me just being overly optimistic and hopeful?) and hit one of the best players on the toe. I felt slightly vindicated and appealed half-heartedly because it was going down leg anyway.
I’m feeling a lot better – I’m glad my bowling is not a complete embarrassment like my fielding. I’ bubbling with energy and enthusiasm and when someone says “Put your spit on the ball, shine it one side,” I say to no-one in particular: “Eww, is this for real? Like real spit on the ball?” The comment is greeted with complete silence. One girl then breaks the awful silence to say to another, “God, SUCH a wannabe!” My good mood evaporates and vulnerable idiot that I am, I can feel a flush creep up my neck. No more lame attempts to make conversation, I think to myself. I bowl the next ball haplessly off the mark, and I think of poor Mitchell Johnson and find a moment to sympathize with him. Sorry Mitch, I’ve been mean with you on this very blog. I realize how important wrist position is. “That’s a leg-side wide,” says a girl. I grin back and say, “Yeah, Mitchell Johnson style.” She turns away as though she hasn’t heard me. Thanks. Utterly polite, aren’t you?
In this manner, playing the sport I am passionate about, nearly three hours passed. I should inform you that while I love playing sports I am no fitness freak and don’t gym it up at all. My excuses are generally the children and chores and a spot of writing and that hell I’m tired – so a grueling three hour work out left me panting and exhausted and grumpy. I took leave a little earlier than the rest and when I reached home, the aches began.
As I write this post, my thigh hurts. Ow. Perhaps increasing my stamina and deplorable fitness levels might be the only way to improve. And improve I must! So until I play again next weekend, I better run and get the body a little used to sprinting, squatting, playing for longer than twenty minutes. Apparently standing over chaawal in the kitchen as they take ages to boil does not qualify as a warm up. For my updates on what happens next week, watch this space!