Two frustrating weekends without cricket, February 18 2017

February 9

For once, I arrived at practice before the scheduled start at 5pm. I arrived from work via the car dealers since I was looking for a brand new car to replace my current Hyundai i20, which is not only small but doesn’t have the latest technology compared to the latest cars like my brother’s i30. I was interested in Mazda 3 since it had blind-spot monitoring, but the purchase didn’t quite materialize since the trade-in cost was lower than I expected.

Anyways, we started training with the usual batting drills. For the first time in a while, I brought out my Gray-Nicolls Training Bat since I wanted to ensure that I was able to hit the middle of the bat. Matty Andrews, the 3rd-grade captain, was curious about the blade when he saw it because I was able to time the ball very well during the drills. That was why I had bought the training bat at the start of pre-season, so I can hit the ball right in the sweet spot nine times out of ten.

After fielding in which we continuously stuffed up the drill that we learned during pre-season, we were back in the nets for the rest of the season. It was stinking hot, which was not overlooked by our coach, Mick Delaney. Despite that, he wanted everyone to maintain the high intensity at net practice and that we would finish training early rather than close to sunset.   

Despite the heat, I (as well as others) felt that I was in good rhythm regarding my bowling. The run-up and the mechanics in bowling the ball clicked most of the time, which meant I delivered bouncing out-swingers at a good pace. I felt my action was quite like the right-arm version of Mitchell Johnson without the ferocious pace and mustache (even if I was running on sore legs courtesy of leg day at the gym yesterday). Nevertheless, I felt I was a handful against all our batters, mainly our PNG imports Kipling Doriga and Hiri Hiri Patana, when I get it on the right spot.

I felt good after training as a result, and I was looking forward to unleashing my rockets at our cross-town rivals, Wests-UC, on Saturday.

February 11

Usually today, we would be playing cricket, but yesterday, Cricket ACT announced that they were canceling all grade games due to the extreme heat as the temperatures were 42 degrees. Understandably, most people in our club were pissed off about the news because they were looking forward to the weekend. I’d too would have liked to play given that I was in excellent bowling form at training (not to mention the whole season). Also, I had been through two weekends back in Perth at similar temperatures, and I had bowled pretty well (in Jan 2013, I bowled 21 overs, took 4 for 92. Then in Jan 2014, I took 3 for 46 in 12 overs). Not to mention, even the Australian cricketers have played in such extreme heat, mainly in the UAE.

On the other hand, though, I had read in ESPN Cricinfo that the Sydney grade cricket games today were also canceled due to the heat.  I learned that the Cricket Australia Doctor, John Orchard was saying that in amateur competitions like Sydney grade cricket, there isn’t enough personnel to monitor players’ health in extreme conditions, unlike in the more professional levels.  So I could understand Cricket ACT’s reason for the cancellation, and it would undoubtedly be exceedingly terrible if people get seriously ill or die due to a heat stroke.

It now makes next weekend a desperate one to keep our semi-finals alive. We need to win every single game from here rather than lose one of them and hope other results go our way. What seemed a possibility is beginning to slip away from our grasp. It seemed that we will lose the grip of the semis unless we win three on the trot starting next weekend.

Despite the cancellation of the cricket, I was able to redeem myself with a purchase of a new Hyundai Elantra, which has the updated technology and more prominent space than my current one. I’m hoping that I could pick it up on Friday afternoon and start driving it to the upcoming game.

February 16

I couldn’t attend training since it was Valentine’s day and Neethu was in town due to work. But I managed to participate in today’s training session, which started off for me with a fielding drill that involved every player.

Yesterday was the coach’s birthday, and he celebrated by playing in the curtain-raiser between an ACT XI and a Papua New Guinea side. He did go reasonably ok by taking a wicket and scoring 11 not out in the end. He later appreciated the support he got from some players of the club, which made him look ten feet taller. But he was in no mood to hand out the presents as he continuously demanded full effort in our fielding.

It was then straight to the nets where I was requested to immediately pad up to bat with Dominic Tran in one net. I ended up facing mostly spin from Sam Anavatti and Vishal Suresh, although Umesh Patel was there to bowl some medium pace. I felt really good with the bat again, mainly when I use my feet to get to the pitch of the ball, which was an improvement to my old approach, which was to play from the crease. I think for me moving forward, the key is not to get too over-confident that you either miss a ball and get stumped or slice one, which could present a catching opportunity. I am hopeful of a batting promotion this weekend as Joe had promised me of a batting opportunity having to sit out a few times, especially when we were chasing.

The focus for me was whether I could produce the bouncing out-swingers from last week. The answer was yes, and although I could be targeted by anyone taking a free swing like Dominic Ross or could be negated by Umesh and Prasad Karlapur, I still managed to beat the bat with those out-swingers most of the time. I had a good rhythm like I did last week, although the pace remained the same despite carrying fresh legs (courtesy of the use of the foam roller after gym workouts). It was certainly contrary to my expectations, but it showed that I can still bowl at a decent pace if I carry some soreness in the body. Leg soreness is okay, but the pain in the shoulder is not.

February 17

I was already on cloud nine when I finally drove home my new Hyundai Elantra and already had grown to like it, especially with the leather interiors and, more importantly, it’s power when driving on 80+ km/h roads. Getting the new car came in handy, especially when I actually will be driving down south to Conder instead of Kippax 1, which is deemed unfit for use. I was looking forward to playing at the club headquarters on the primary ground, but all season, I was aware that a drainage system was being applied in time for the upcoming AFL season. What a shame, particularly for the 1st and 2nd-grade cricketers. Nevertheless, I was looking forward to returning back to Conder. After all, my first three wickets in grade cricket came from there, and I bowled reasonably well there in winning games.

Selections had come out while I was waiting for my car to be ready for driving away. Joe Laria had been promoted to 4ths for the weekend, which meant the captaincy went to Chris ‘Archie’ Arcella. To be honest, it’s good he got the captaincy because he has excellent ideas for the game and a grand vision. He was the one who drove the candid chat a couple of weeks ago after the defeat to ANU. So he seemed the right choice for the role. Chatting with Archie after his appointment, he told me that he would work out his batting order tonight. I hinted to him that I’ve been batting well in the nets and hadn’t had much of a go with the blade. To him, he’s concerned with winning the game, which is fine because all I got to do is turn up and hopefully bowl nine accurate overs.

As it turned out, both Sammy and Umesh are playing for us, which meant our successful opening partnership is back. Hopefully, Sammy can continue making double-digit scores for us no matter how quickly the runs come off his bat. We got a decent batting line-up, so if Archie was kind, he could bat me around 7-8, but I’ll have to wait and see what will be his final batting order.

Archie was kind enough to invite me over for a BBQ at Adam O’Connor’s place, but I had turned it down as I was feeling a little exhausted. Then Andrew ‘Lovey’ Loveday messaged me asking to keep saying he dislocated his thumb and wanted me to take the gloves. I declined given my inexperience with the gloves and the desire to ball more. It’s only because that such a big move on my part will deprive Archie of one his strike weapons with the ball in hand. So I told Archie that Lovey wanted me to keep, and I refused for the same reasons I gave. I then realize that both Archie and Lovey decided to stitch me up, but Archie said not to worry as it was all a joke. I’m like Dennis Lillee during his playing days since I’m naive, gullible, and prone to a practical joke. Sometimes I just don’t get it.

Phew, at least I can bowl my bouncing out-swingers tomorrow rather than take the gloves. Someone will have to do the job if Lovey can’t.

February 18

I was very conscious of the weather this morning when it rained, and my mood didn’t improve when showers were forecasted around the time we were supposed to play. Although right now the sun is shining, there could be some likelihood of abandonment or at best a delayed start, which I still believe in since showers aren’t forecasted in the second half of the afternoon game (so a twenty20 may be on the cards).

Even if they called the game off, I wouldn’t have minded so much because I could go shopping instead and have a more relaxing Sunday in front of the couch playing Don Bradman Cricket 14 most of the day. That’s what happened eventually. Both Archie and the opposition skipper called off the match, and I managed to complete my shopping. So I will have a more relaxing Sunday ahead tomorrow.

But admittedly, the decision to abandon the game was made with a bit of reluctance on our part since we want to go out to win to keep our semi-finals alive. The wicket at Conder was very green, and I would have relished in bowling on the wicket. The only issue was the rain, which started again as I approached the ground, and it got heavier as the afternoon went on. Archie was in a bit of a fix whether to play or not, given it’s a must-win situation. Hence he was asking the other bowlers and me whether I’ll be ok to bowl on this track. He received a mixed response, but I was keen to bowl despite the wet outfield. I wanted to go out, and bowl liked I’ve been doing at training. Ultimately at 1pm, the match was abandoned, leaving us needing to win our last two games with results needing to go our way, including ANU losing their previous two games (provided they didn’t beat Weston Creek Molonglo).

The only highlight of the afternoon was the thunderstorm, which scared the crap out of Jason Cooper. It was funny, but I could sympathize with him for being shaken up because the thunder was so loud.

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