Cricket in Oman July 30, 2010

Camel spider on a length

It was in the sandy outfields of Muscat that Clog Blog first learnt to play our noble sport

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.