Eustace Rulach [Features Editor, Ceylon Observer] (Re-printed from the 1972 Battle of the Blues Souvenir)
Our young cricketer is feeling good. Today is Big Match day and he is bubbling with confidence as he has two half centuries under his belt from previous matches in the season, and he is rated as one of the chief run-getters in the side.
He has finished packing his gear. He twirls his bat in front of the mirror in his room at home. He plays a forward defensive stroke and looks into the mirror. He looks good. So does the stroke. He gets into his blazer and takes another look at the mirror. His reflection smiles back at him.
His father enters the room. He looks proudly at his son. “We expect some runs from you today son. I got a fifty in my first match. Your mother and I feel that you can better it” Our young cricketer nods.
His father takes the bat and plays a forward defensive stroke. He winces and holds his back. Our young cricketer smiles.
“Forget about this talk about bright cricket son. In your words, its a lot of bullshit. So is this talk about playing for a decision. Some old boys are complaining that you throw away your wicket by playing a rash stroke after you are well set. Well forget about any rash strokes today, just put your head well down and try and get as many runs as possible. Don’t worry about how long it takes, I like to see your name in the record books with mine.”
Our young cricketer continues smiling as he takes the bat from his father’s hand. But there is a trace of a frown on his face.
The telephone rings. Our young cricketer answers it. His girl-friend is on
the line. Myee child, we are just leaving for the Oval. We want to get there early because you are going at number three, as you say, if you all win the toss. I phoned to wish you luck. Anney, I just remembered. Don’t forget to look towards C section of the pavilion. We will be there. Cherioo”
Our young cricketer smiles into the telephone. But he is frowning a little more.
He goes to the Oval and as he enters the pavilion, he is confronted by an Old School tie. There is already a smell of beer on his breath even at that time of the morning. He takes our young cricketer by the arm and says “Now remember, none of those rash strokes. Don’t play your normal game. Remember this is the Big Match. Now go out there and do your stuff.
Our young cricketer is not smiling anymore as he enters the dressing room. When the captain gives his final pep talk he hears him saying “Donf get taken away by all that talk about bright cricket and playing for a decision. Remember this is our Big Match, and if we cannot win it, we draw it, so cut out all those fancy strokes’ and he looks at our young cricketer as he says this.
Our young cricketer’s team has won the toss. As he pads up in the dressing room the Coach walks up to him and says “Well, let’s see you get some runs. But remember no rash strokes like in previous matches.; As he walks out of the dressing room to his seat (the openers have gone in) another coach comes over and tells him “Don’t worry, play your normal game”
Our young cricketer thinks to himself “Who the hell is worried” but the frown is deeper and his face as grave as the umpire’s who has just raised his finger to give the opener out Ibw.
As our young cricketer walks out into the sun, he when someone saying. “Good luck, play your normal game” and when he meets the opener halfway he is told “watch out for the one that is going away.”
As he walks to the crease our young cricketer is not the same one who bubbled with confidence as he looked at himself in the mirror earlier in the morining. He tries to remember what his father said, what the coach said, what the captain said, and what that damn fool Old School tie said what the captain said, and what that damn fool Old School tie said. He is all confused as he takes his guard. The roar of the schoolboys from the tent has become a hush. The bowler races up and delivers the ball.
Our younger cricketer is still confused. In those seconds he remembers “play your normal game”; “forget those rash strokes”; bright cricket is bulshit”; “watch out for the one going away”
Our young cricketer offers no stroke to one he thought was going away. The ball whips back and hits his off stump!
Well, that’s cricket…. or is it?