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January 21, 2014

What being thrashed does

Jon Hotten
You're never quite the same after a massive hiding  © Getty Images
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The newspaper clipping is yellowing now and stuck in an old scrapbook somewhere, but the scorecard it contains still tells its story: a long-gone summer's evening and an Under-13s 20-over match, us batting first and scoring 80-odd (not bad back then, in the days when only kids' teams played 20-over cricket), our opponents Frensham CC batting next and all out for 7. The things I recall most clearly are the warm weather - never a guarantee in dear old England - and the fact that four of the seven runs were leg-byes, flicking off a pad and running past our keeper.

Many moons have waxed and waned since then, but you never forget a thrashing, whichever side of it you're on. I thought of it again this week when news arrived of an extraordinary game in New Zealand, in which former first-class cricketer and CEO of the Hawkes Bay Cricket Association, 42-year-old Craig Findlay, made 307 from 115 deliveries, leading his side to a total of 578 for 6 in just 45 overs.

His opening partnership with Bronson Meehan was worth 336 before Meehan departed third ball of the 24th over, and Findlay went after 33 overs with the score at 471 for 1. With a dispirited St John's College XI dismissed for 177, a glorious win came by 401 runs.

At least it appeared glorious until it transpired that the majority of the St John's College XI were 15- and 16-year-old schoolboys, some of whom had pleaded with Findlay to retire during his knock.

"He just walked away and carried on batting," a disconsolate St John's College skipper James McNatty, who had twice asked Findlay to consider walking off, told Hawkes Bay Today. "Nothing to be proud of in that game," tweeted Andrew Frame. "Tech should have declared at 300-1 at the 20-over break and saved face. I was playing on next pitch, almost got hit by two 6s. Felt for the St Johns' boys. Unfair contest, really."

"Some of those kids were 15 and completely demoralised," added Megan Singleton. "What a guy!"

The row took another turn when it emerged that Findlay had contacted St John's College's outgoing principal on the eve of the match to ask if he would consider dropping his side down a division. The principal declined, and the skipper's mother, Michele McNatty, told the paper that they had heard that Findlay had said he was going "to teach the schoolboys a lesson".

Findlay has taken the time-honoured stance of the battle-hardened cricketer, as the paper reported: "'I played hard so that's why I won a lot,' [Findlay] said, adding that was his goal as cricket boss to ensure the young built a steely resolve. 'To create champions you have to be tough. I'm not allowed to play and I have others telling me where I can bat and when not to play,' he said, adding it appeared the Bay was going down a slippery track to a 'PC world'."

As anyone who has been on the wrong end of one will know, the genuine thrashing can be a lightning-rod moment, a realisation that the world is a lot bigger and badder than you might have realised.

I've often wondered what the repercussions of one of the most devastating defeats of all time may have been. It came on December 4, 1964 in Lahore, at the conclusion of a three-day game between Pakistan Railways and Dera Ismail Khan. Railways batted first and made 910 for 6 declared. Dera Ismail Khan were then bowled out for 32 and 27 in a total of 28 overs.

The scorecard remains a thing of beauty, its contrasts never greater than between the figures of two opening bowlers, Dera's Inayatullah recording figures of 59-2-279-1, and Railways' Ahad Khan 6.3-4-7-9. Inayatullah also bagged a pair, while his team-mate Qaiser Khan was given out obstructing the field.

The last entry perhaps betrays the most relevant piece of information, that the callow Dera XI, from a small town 200 miles from Lahore, were all making their first-class debuts. It was to be their last first-class game too. None ever appeared again, leaving Inayatullah with one of the most plaintive player entries on all of ESPNcricinfo, a batting average of nought and a bowling average of 279. His may well be, statistically, the least successful career of all time.

The St John's College team has tasted some of Inayatullah's pain. The game may never feel quite the same again after their brush with Craig Findlay.

Jon Hotten blogs here and tweets here

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Keywords: Club/league cricket

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Posted by jb633 on (January 22, 2014, 10:49 GMT)

Nice read. When you receiving a thrashing in sport it can do various things to various people. A lot quit because they do not have the mental toughness to deal with being humiliated on occasion. These kind of people generally command little respect and rightfully so. There are some who use it as a watershed moment and look at themselves and make a commitment to work harder to never let it happen again (those players generally make the cut as they can deal with defeat). There are those also who can take it on the chin and look at the world as bigger than the sporting field on which they have just been humiliated. These guys can accept losing (although are not losers or weak) but do not take it too personally. Generally those that fall into the third category stay within the game itself but do not strive much higher. I find it very telling how people react to a drubbing or losing form horrendously. You learn a lot more about men when they lose than when they win.

Posted by supplydemandcurve on (January 21, 2014, 18:40 GMT)

@CantfindMyScreenName. Agree completely. Learn consequences. if that experience had long-lasting devastating mental repurcussions, wither New Zealand.

Posted by CantFindMyScreenName on (January 21, 2014, 8:03 GMT)

I played first grade cricket with my schools First XI in NZ many years ago. I can't remember being given - nor asking - for any allowances from anyone.

We accepted if we were playing at the top level in our area, that's just the way it was. It truly was if you were good enough, you were old enough. The youngest player I played with was 13 or 14. He went on to play Test cricket.

It doesn't say if the St Johns side was in the top grade in the competition. If so, I see nothing wrong with what happened here. If it was a lower grade game, then that's a different story.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jon Hotten
Jon Hotten is the author of Muscle and The Years Of The Locust, neither of which is about cricket, and writes the blog The Old Batsman, which is. @theoldbatsman

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