[Door Robert Wolfe]
Crickettours are messy affairs. Inherently so. Which means they are meant to be messy. But don’t think that means there is no structure to them. O No. So many games in so many days. Game starts at that time, the bus picks you up 45 min before, lunch is scheduled, dinner is scheduled. Also the number of overs, how many each bowler is allowed to bowl even how many balls should be in an over, all these things are agreed on in advance. Then all statistically deemed relevant details are dutifully noted in the aptly named scoring-book. O yes there is structure. But it is actually this structure that allows the craved-for messiness, the freedom to go into battle and see what comes out of it, the friendly combative spirit of two dozen blokes being together for a while and therefore can start insulting each other in ways that have been banned from normal day-to-day life. Decorum is suspended for a few days and bodily noises, swear words and what really is on your mind are allowed out into the open without any filter or fear of repercussions. Drinking hours are extended and have such blurry boundaries that no one even tries to think of when to stop. Hangovers are neither a sign of an exceptional night or of bad self-control, they are, like the weather, simply always there. You are on tour.
And yet, messiness and structure have a way of when put together into a cauldron and stirred long enough with an age-old cricket bat to become something else… something transcendent, touching on magic, maybe even poetry.
Take the last ball of the tour and of the tournament. It was the tournament’s final and play had been so balanced that the result depended on this last ball. Fate would have Ben, the organiser of the tour for the London team edge a backfoot slash up in the air towards Robert, the organiser of the Amsterdam team, at deep backward point. It was October and as the European Summer was dying behind us on mainland Europe, the low hanging afternoon sun in front of us showed this day was on its way out too. It came down to this catch, all would be decided here and now, it was a moment of heroics one way or another, for one team or the other, and miraculously as if the ball sensed the momentousness of the occasion it suspended itself in mid-air. It just hung there. Magic was at work. In fact it even changed colour, from the cherry red of a cricket ball to the indigo gold very much like… the Sun! It was the Sun. And out of that golden suspended sphere, like a satellite with a change of heart, an Apollo happily on its way home, another circular object came, with a different trajectory, the cricket ball. And it was still catchable, just like the 05:30 morning ferry, Covid19 or the case of Tourrette syndrome that was going around the touring party like a flu. Very catchable. Quick steps were taken, a lunge was performed, an arm extended, fingertips stretched, red leather touched human flesh….
But wait, before we finish this final moment of the tour… let's pause…
Tour magic comes from opposites, or opponents, meeting and creating something, shapes, patterns, moments that didn’t exist before. It could be messiness meets structure or for instance an Amsterdam player named HRH King Charles meeting a court jester/ acro-yoga-bat/ man-from-Atlantis from London called Ed. Ed helped Charles learn how to do a handstand. As HRH was upside down Ed held his legs. Two men in white, making a shape that reflects both the infinity we all like to believe in and yet made every man over 50 feel the mortality of their bodies. That’s a shape, now for the pattern.
It may come as a surprise to most of the royalty watchers out there but HRH King Charles can actually bat. There may be a link between chasing a ball on horseback with a mallet or it is that fending off bad press makes one good at swatting things that come at you but in any case HRH scored runs. So many in fact, that intuitively at one point he thought the moment had come to retire. I know many think that Charles retired a long time ago, or that now that he finally got the job he should straight away, nevertheless in that game a distinct yet strong feeling came over him that exactly now was the right moment to retire, not abdicate, just retire, right now. And so he did. Where is the magic? Well, it is in the pattern and it was hard to see straight away, but when we all realised that he had indeed had that feeling at the score of …. wait for it…. 69, we started to see what was going on. The shapes created with acro-yoga-bat Ed before the game, his score, it had become a pattern. Then we also saw how Ed had helped HRH reach exactly that score, not just with the inspiration before the game but by dropping HRH with his bellybutton at Gully and by using the considerable webbing between his fingers to push a dolly over the rope for a six. Expect lands and titles to be coming his way soon. HRH declared that this magic score would from now on be even more important than a century and that no man should score higher than HRH on tour. He named it a soixaneuftury, I know, it’s a mouthful.
A tour can be lifted to great heights by the hospitality of the hosts. Considering in this case the hosting team was named after Sir William Hoste, you can have an inkling of just how good a host they were to us. Their sun-tinted faces were always smiling, beers, gorgeous wines and likewise food were available in happy abundance. Transport was arranged in impeccable fashion and even the angry neighbour who managed to cross the language barrier by demonstrating exactly how he would destroy Sanjay’ drone if he flew into his backyard where he had been napping with his wife one more time (the footage is now behind a paywall but discounts can be arranged), even he fitted into the fairytale like atmosphere that was created by our Vis friends.
So back to the fitting moment of transcendent magic when a ball flew out of the sun and leather touched flesh. Had you not been there it may have been a cliffhanger, but of course you were and therefore you know that nail polish is now required. But what a moment it was! Catch it and one team is in raptures, let it bounce off your finger tip and across the rope for four and the other team is in raptures. And as the fielder in question picked himself up, the beauty of the moment was yet eluding him, in fact he took the route of throwing off his hat and stomping on it, which is cricket language for I’m a twat but I’m pretending I normally catch stuff like that. However, one of our Host’s, one of our Tony’s in fact, ran out with a cold beer handing it to the fielder, just drink this he said, and like in fairy tales, drinking the elixir worked, all people in white seemed friends, the game itself was heroic, as was the whole tournament and the festivities could begin. The celebration of our beloved game as a great excuse to hang out together, make fun of each other and every now and then to rise above ourselves, to transcend, with or without an elixir.
Till next year!
May your straight bat be straight, your top edges fly and may the c**t who clean bowled you be called back for overstepping:)