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Don't fret if you can't find cricket-themed music in Newfoundland. Watch a Canadian movie on the sport instead
July 31, 2010
There are two main thoroughfares in downtown St John's: Water Street and Duckworth Street. The former takes its name from the perpetual precipitation that renders it sub-aquatic for nine months of the year, whilst the latter commemorates the region's former love of resolving rain-affected cricket matches using complex statistical analyses. And if you believe either of those explanations, you're dafter than the great Phil Tufnell.
I was feeling pretty Tufnell-esque one day last summer after popping into the record shop on Duckworth Street. Fred's is a treasure trove of musical delights, and with Celtic connections aplenty round these parts, I convinced myself they'd definitely be selling a new Irish album, especially as it contained in its name the very street that Fred's is on. I couldn't find it in the aisles, however, so I walked up to the till to enquire.
"Do you have The Duckworth-Lewis Method, please?" I asked. The guy looked at me rather oddly.
"Duckworth as in Duckworth?" he replied.
"Yes," I said. "It's a new album about cricket."
"Cricket?" he mused briefly. "No, I'm afraid we don't." And then he considered it again. "Are the band really called 'The Duckworth-Lewis Method'?"
I assured him they were.
"How strange. Funny you should mention cricket, though, as I once went to the Tasmanian Cricket Museum and saw the Ashes. They're the remains of a burnt ball."
Somewhat deflated, I didn't feel inclined to correct him. What was I thinking, expecting cricket-based artistic works to be available in Newfoundland? I thanked him, wandered back out onto Duckworth Street and headed home, where I had to make do with buying the album online.
It was something of a surprise, therefore, to be told a few months later that I'd simply been asking for the wrong form of media. If I'd wanted to buy a film about cricket in Atlantic Canada, I'd have had no trouble at all. For in 2003, a Québecois comedy was made in which the inhabitants of an outport fishing village pretend to love the sport of kings in order to tempt a cricket-loving big-city doctor (named, appropriately enough, Lewis) to settle there.
La Grande Séduction was filmed in a Québec village - Harrington Harbour - that was founded by Newfoundland fishermen, so the wooden buildings, the unplayable terrain and the cricketing bafflement all rang true. The only part of the film I didn't understand was a barroom discussion between the doctor and the village bank manager over whether the greatest player of all time was Harley Parish or Oliver Wadsworth. According to the Wisden archives, Lieutenant D'Arcy Wadsworth played for Toronto CC, whilst a Harley Roberts took 3 for 6 for Warwickshire against Middlesex in 1932, but I'm not sure these are the men in question. Maybe something got lost in translation.
Or maybe it was just the wrong bar. Back in St John's, and a cover drive further down the street from Fred's, is a pub that advertises itself as "a taste of Old England". That alone would pencil it in as the venue for our post-match pints, but when it came to officially establishing the Cricket Association of Newfoundland & Labrador, the pub's name nailed it. Where else could we inaugurate but at The Duke of Duckworth? So a couple of weeks ago, at a long table on the back patio, around 8.30 in the evening, four Bangladeshis, two Indians, two Englishmen, and an Irishman signed the association into existence.
The landlord was very entertained to learn this, especially when we told him about the upcoming launch night. Under floodlights at the King George V football stadium, the Newfoundland B'ys will take on the Labrador Ducks. Like cricket over here, Labrador ducks have long been assumed extinct, whilst "b'y" is a buddy in local dialect, but also alludes to the Hindi word bhai, used by many of our players. The pitch is a curious shape for a cricket match, and the artificial surface appears (from initial testing) to offer a surprising amount of turn and bounce for the spinners, so it should be a splendidly off-kilter way to reintroduce the game to Newfoundland. We also have our first-ever selection problem, with 29 players vying for spots on the teams, and will undoubtedly need security to control the enormous crowd expected.
Of course, if it rains, as is entirely possible, we'll just have to use the Duke of Duckworth-Lewis Method. And all retire to the pub.
Liam Herringshaw is a medium-paced palaeontologist who moved to Newfoundland from the UK to improve his chances of opening the bowlingFeeds: Liam Herringshaw
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