July 26, 2012

South Africa in England, 2012

Always connected in the world of cricket

Firdose Moonda
Don Foster, Worcestershire, July 26, 2012
Don Foster, who played with Alistair Gray for Dunfermline  © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
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It does not matter how small the world gets, it will never get smaller than cricket. Like a large, extended family, everyone knows everyone else, because they know somebody who knows the person they are meeting, somehow.

It's a connected little world, however vague or thin those connections are. Cricket people nurture and foster these links with great pride, which is why there's every chance that when you walk into a ground, be it in Wayamba or in Worcester, someone will know someone you know.

That's what happened at New Road. While watching the South Africa team's optional practice - where the highlight was seeing triple centurion Hashim Amla giving throw-downs to the boys who did not bat at The Oval, such as JP Duminy - a man in a blue shirt approached the South African contingent.

"Do you know Alistair Gray?" he asked. Gray is a popular player on the South African domestic circuit. He plays for the Western Province amateur team and his legspin and confident batting have always made him stand out on the scorecard. Despite being there and thereabouts he never quite made it into the franchise system. "He played at our club."

The "our" he was talking about turned out to be Scottish club Dunfermline, where Gray has played for the past few seasons. Don Fraser, to give the man his name, said Gray played a major part in helping the club qualify for the final of their league but they found it unusual that he only bowled off a short run-up of about four paces.

On the day of final, Fraser offered Gray some advice before the big match, "You've done so well for us, Alistair," he said. "But I think you should shorten your run-up." The laughter drowned out the rest of Fraser's tale and whether Gray and Dunfermline had actually won the league but it hardly mattered. Another fireside tale had been told.

Many more were exchanged while Fraser waited to see if a player a friend of his had met years ago would sign a shirt for him. The friend was at a party where the player also was and the friend's memory of that night was the player offering the friend a beer. With none in sight, the friend said they would like one but didn't know where they were. The player dived into the swimming pool and took one out.

England and the depth of its cricketing culture creates a space big enough for the cricketing world to collide on occasion. Individual counties strike me as the best place for this to happen. Worcester is D'Oliveira country and stories of Basil and his impact were told, while introductions to his son Damian and grandson Brett were made. As people with strong ties to South Africa, those were some of the ones that had a lasting impact and served as a telling reminder of how connected cricket really is.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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Posted by sonny on (July 26, 2012, 22:50 GMT)

i wonder who read all this crap ..well i just did

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