Updated: Aug 19
An Australian living in Canada, I joined the local cricket association and found a weekend club a few seasons ago because I'm a masochist. After leaving the game cold turkey a decade ago I dipped my toes back in the cricketing waters ostensibly to make a few friends in a foreign city where I knew next to nobody. The manager of the club I joined was a kindly yet grumpy old bloke who, in true and correct grade cricket style, respected nothing but on-field results. A career bats-8-rarely-bowls with a batting average in the mid-20's (17.81) I nonetheless found myself to be a large fish in a very small pond. Batting 3 and bowling first change was a welcome breath of fresh air, and I quickly became friendly with a couple of the guys on the team. The inevitable failures of course started to add up, despite the standard being roughly equivalent to 4th grade in the small Australian town I grew up in. A single bright spot in my first season was bowling the local cricketing prodigy and opposing captain as he played an exaggerated leave, my off-cutter cartwheeling his off-stump. This kid was just 18 and had already made provincial and national teams during his teenage years. To be castled by a washed-up 36-year-old Aussie under such embarrassing circumstances must have really stung. Despite his father being national chairman of selectors and despite playing his entire career in Canada, let me be clear - this kid was already a much better cricketer than I am, was or ever will be. I showed him your book afterwards, specifically the cover photo, we both had a good laugh and I thought nothing more of it.
Fast forward to 2 years later and I've left the club, taking my two mates with me. The reaction was less vitriolic than expected, despite them also both being far superior cricketers to myself; I expected losing an opening batsman, star all-rounder and "fielding specialist" to carry some sort of social penalty, but I'm yet to see that play out personally. We are "fortunate" enough that despite COVID-times we are currently able to play grade cricket, and this weekend is the first time all 3 of us will face off against my old club - now with the kid as captain. I've always liked the kid, and over the last couple of years have squashed any chat to his detriment. Any time someone talked about his daddy furthering his career, any time he was called arrogant, I'd shut that shit down right quick. I've always enjoyed an amicable relationship with him. Which is why I was so surprised when I was made aware of his recent comments that he "has total respect for [me] just not when it comes to [my] cricket" and that me bowling him meant "at least [I have] something to hold onto in the VDCA".
Setting aside for a moment the fact that literally the only thing he knows about me is my cricket, this makes things interesting given our game this weekend. As a grown 38-year old man with a wife, dog, family, career and mortgage I feel like I'm absolutely above this shit, especially so given the latter comment is undeniably true. A decade away from the sport gave me much-needed perspective and freedom from the psychological torment that this game inflicts on us and that this kid must still endure every Saturday. I also feel that the kid has played himself into a corner here, and I've already won. If I fail, as is most likely, it just confirms everything we already know - that I'm a washed-up Aussie who hates this shit sport and is only playing out of a desperate need to reconnect with his youth, an objective fact that I've reluctantly yet resolutely made peace with. The alternative is that there is actually an outside chance I have a day out. The first time I played against him for my new club I somehow put together an ugly yet game-winning 84-run innings, during which time I'm reliably informed that his father left the ground in disgust. If I can somehow replicate this kind of performance this weekend, do I further entrench myself in his head and continue to psychologically torment him for years to come?
My question: How mercilessly do I sledge him about his inability to earn validation from daddy from gully after I inevitably get dismissed for a single digit score and go for 15 runs per over with the ball?
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