July 30, 2010

Cricket in Oman

Camel spider on a length

Rene Van Oorschot
Playing cricket in Oman
Delirious from the heat, a batsman returns after being timed out for losing his way among the sand dunes  © Rene van Oorschot
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My injuries tend to follow a cyclical trend and this summer it appears that I have hit one of many peaks. It is not just me who suffers from this affliction: over the past few months, Aberdeenshire CC has become a cash cow for physiotherapists as the casualty list is starting to resemble War and Peace. It is thus no surprise that results from all four XIs have been less than desirable as they slide down their respective league tables. The only silver lining is that one of the club’s main strike bowlers, a seven-foot mountain giant who flosses giraffes for a living and terrorises batsmen in his spare time, is on the mend and should be back causing severe urinary incontinence to many an opening pair in the near future.

Anyway, the point of all this is that our cricket over the last month has been pretty dismal, and having been stripped of my ability to contribute a few overs, I am personally about as likely to have an effect on the outcome of the game as a Tour de France winner is to pass a drugs test (although, to be honest, I wasn’t much of a game changer at the best of times). I am thus left with very limited material and I promise not waste your valuable time recounting the calamity that is my current cricket season, but will instead detail the humble beginnings of my floundering cricket career on the grassless pitches of Muscat, Oman.

The first team I ever played for was founded by, among others, my two older brothers (if you know them, this fact should tell you all you need to know). It was the inaugural American British Academy Muscat cricket team and competed in the lowest local league in the city. Having never played cricket before, we were of course, and this is being generous, an offence to cricketers everywhere, an athletic eyesore, and the most useless collection of untalented individuals ever to don whites. We did, in fact, end bottom of the league on several occasions, making us the worst cricket team in Oman, and thus, by implication, quite probably the worst competitive cricket team in the world.

The cricket wickets were roads (actual roads; they were made of concrete) and the outfield was a mix of gravel, sand, scorpions and bushes. I would like to say that the nature of the outfield impaired our fielding abilities, but in actual fact, having the hand-eye coordination of blind adders was probably our main setback. Watching our fielding was similar to seeing a Picasso painting of the Harlem Globetrotters, on acid. Although dropped catches and misfields were common, we never suffered from overthrows (we couldn’t throw the ball that far).

Considering that our Kiwi coach spent most of the day lying in the shade, recovering from the night before, or pretending to recover in order to avoid embarrassment by acquaintance, I unfortunately had to learn my cricket by watching my brothers. The first time I saw them in action, my oldest brother opened the bowling, bowled a 17-ball over, didn’t take himself off (he was captain), and followed that up with a 15-ball over. He would have continued, except the effort, considering we played in 40-degrees-Celsius heat, had reduced him to a pathetic, semi-comatose heap of perspiration. The opening batsman (who was 13) went on to score 189 not out in of a total of 340.

Did I mention we only played 25-over matches?

Tea generally consisted of last night’s curry and assorted subcontinental foods. Although delicious as they would have been the previous night, they were not ideal for a mid-innings break, with the relentless desert sun turning one delirious. On one occasion our designated tea provider for the day had forgotten his duties and made up for it by ordering pizza while fielding at square leg. We were that kind of team.

Despite being, almost officially, the world’s worst cricket team there was, inevitably, a plethora of politics within ABACC XI. It was an interesting mix of personalities with a significant potential for internal combustion. Our 12th man (yes, we, the worst cricket team on the planet, had a 12th man – the ultimate insult) once ran off with the team sheet on being announced as the drinks carrier. Play was delayed by an hour as he was chased and apprehended.

There were also numerous occasions where individual batting milestones were deemed more important than the required run-rate. This was not a huge sin, considering the likelihood of us ever chasing these mammoth targets could be filed under the same category as that of Warnie being ordained as a Catholic priest.

We had a run of power-hungry captains who came from the Mussolini school of diplomacy, although things seemed to stabilise as the team came to terms with our own (lack of) abilities and “simple sporting enjoyment” displaced “winning at all costs” (which never worked anyway) as the team’s general ethos.

All in all, it was a tough learning curve for a continental European teenager who had only ever played a sport that required one to kick a ball. Catching, hitting and throwing the damned things seemed pretty alien at the time. It didn’t help that my mentors (brothers) were equally confused. Having said all that, we have very fond memories of the team that allowed us to drop our first catch, receive our first sledge, edge our first run and bowl our first wide (of which many more would follow). More importantly, regardless of how many times I fell on the concrete wicket, tore my knee through the gravel or took a catch with my teeth, I never got injured. Funny how some things change.

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Posted by sajid on (August 7, 2010, 17:25 GMT)

Pakistan need a good player. we don't need unexperiences player.

Posted by waterbuffalo on (August 3, 2010, 9:15 GMT)

Heheh, I like your stuff Rene, it brings backs memories, we started a club in the early 90's, called the 66'ers, we had the logos, the shirts, we were old boys from high school/state cricket, at least half the team were, this was 50 over cricket, so, first year, we lost every game, friendlies and league, then the next year, we had an idea, if you got 50 runs or 5 wickets, you had a choice of a) a prostitute or b) a seafood dinner, and guess what what, bang we went to the finals, we lost, but everyone was shocked, it was very funny, we also had a very good captain who carried the team on his back, I opened the bowling, right arm swing, and we were so competitive, we spent all the time fighting. But the good guys in the team, the married ones, went for the seafood, I never got 5, best was 4, and I got 42, I was so close, but I would have gone for the dinner too, because I was so exhausted, because those days we drank , we smoked and we played in 90 degree heat.

Posted by Akshay Tickoo on (August 2, 2010, 16:46 GMT)

@Laz - oh sorry, I had joined Indian School Muscat only in 1998 and played for them in the 1999-2000 season. So dont know much of the mid 90's as wasnt in Muscat at that time. @JvO - Yeah usually Indian School Muscat and Pakistan College had the strongest teams amongst the schools, and more often then not, PC used to come up on top too. Btw, did you have an opening bowler called Babbar or something similar? I remember he was a lefty also. Had heard a lot of him before I played my first inter-school game for ISM and was quite terrified/excited of facing him. Definitely miss those batting paradises in Muscat.. Hated fielding out there though for sure.

Posted by JvO on (August 1, 2010, 21:47 GMT)

@akshay: It was Adnan Leghari who scored the 189 NO against ABA back in 1997 or so. Saurabh did score a hundred against us once but not of such magnitude. We (ABA) did get better over time and by the time I left in 2001 we had notched up victories against Sri Lankan School, Indian School Ghubra and Indian School Wadi Kabir. We were never able to beat Indian School Muscat and Pakistan College, who stood out amongst the schools. Of the two, I personally always found Pakistan College to be the toughest opposition.

Posted by Laz on (July 31, 2010, 19:16 GMT)

@Akshay Tickoo - I'm actually referring to an era around the mid 90's. I'm sure Rene van Oorschot can confirm this. However, I'm absolutely positive it was Pakistan School and NOT Indian School, unless ABA got hammered again by Indian School in the latter 90's and it was that game Rene is reminiscing. Still not sure about the surname of the batsman, but his first name was definitely Adnan (and excavating my memory deeper, I believe the other opening batsman's name was Rehan or something to that effect)

Posted by flypen on (July 31, 2010, 4:54 GMT)

haaa! Good old days in Muscat. I played for 4 months in the late 90's while on a work assignment. But they were of tennis ball cricket. Remember playing two games back to back between 7AM - 12PM with just a couple of bottles of water at the max. And being dead thirsty and tired.

I now play league cricket NJ USA. This summer has been unseasonably warm with temps hovering aroung 95F-100F with high humidity. But the saving grace is we can now "afford" lotsa gatorade and water.

Posted by Farhat Ali Zaidy on (July 31, 2010, 2:00 GMT)

I like the spirit really.you explain and written the whole subject nicely.Ilike it very much after a long time i read so funny & jolly verhaal,Please keep on writting I love de way you wrote de whole story. Succes man.

Posted by Akshay Tickoo on (July 31, 2010, 1:39 GMT)

Hi there everyone.. Even I played in Muscat Oman and was playing the same year for Indian School Muscats cricket team. Infact I had top scored in our interschool match against ABA Cricket team also. I bel. the player in question to score the 189 was not Andan Ilysas *cant remember his name correctly* as pointed out by Laz, but I think it was Saurabh Verma from Indian School Al-Ghubra. I hope I am right on this account and im thinking it was in 1999-2000 when this happened. Would like to know if my thoughts are correct on this one or not. Thanks.

Posted by Ali on (July 30, 2010, 22:23 GMT)

hahah very nicely written..this is exactly the sort of cricket we used to play in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia over the past few years as the American International School team--a team with just enough players to call itself a team and half the players were my 3 siblings, 1 cousin and myself!

Posted by Afridi on (July 30, 2010, 21:22 GMT)

reminds me of the time I went to see my brother who was in Harvard in Massachusetts, he used to be a KRL club cricketer based from Peshawar, he took me to a small ground at Cambridge where apparently he played 2 times a week. Most of the other guys who were playing looked very very green. Me and him opened and he tortured those poor lads, scored 270-odd off his own bat in a 40 over game.

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