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The games we played. 13. (Part 2) Cricket. Part 2

Updated: Jun 7, 2023

The game goes on …

Naturally, we had no leg pads. Like trophies, we sported and compared our bruised shins for days after a match. Most of us were barefoot cricketers, so it was good that toe-crunching yorkers were not fashionable in those days. Imagine that on your unprotected toe on a tarred street or concrete pitch! Eina!! [Ouch!!]

Batting gloves were unknown items for street cricketers so getting the bat on ball was critical to a non-bruised future without a fractured finger or hand. My right index finger still has a wobbly look about it. I’m still waiting for the osteoarthritis to set in! With a bit of luck, the wicketkeeper occasionally had gloves supplied to him, but this was another rare luxury. A pair of welder’s gloves sometimes appeared for the hapless wicketkeeper.

The ultimate devastating lack of proper equipment was not having a protective box. How many infertile or impotent ex-street cricketers resulted from this critical lack of equipment? There must be some of you out there! Maybe that’s why I still speak with a squeaky voice!

My first experience with a box was somewhere in my mid-teens when somebody brought one along. I did not even know which way to put on the rounded triangular thing. Did the pointy end of the box face down or up? Surely one’s thingies hanging on the side had to rest in the wide end of the box. To this day, I still don’t know! You put the box on in public, but the actual process was out of sight. Did one put it over or under the undies? I wore mine over, and the thing never stayed in place. How many venereal diseases resulted from a contaminated cock box worn by the whole team? Uggh! Alternatively, should it be called a “ball” box? After all, it’s the reason you wear one. My mind boggles at issues like this! Don’t forget; I’m medical!

So what about helmets? You have to be joking! Those were the days of bareback [okay, bareheaded] cricket! Cricketing spikes? Same thing. Arm pads? Same thing. Thigh pads? Same thing. Body pads? Same thing!! A suit of armour? Spare me, please! All we had were a bat and a hard cricket ball. Real cricket, I call it. Now it can cost you a few thousand dollars to “properly” equip a child for the game. Who can afford that?

I was the middle order slogger. Bat on ball went for fours and sixes or a duck. One’s and two’s were uncommon against my name. Where was T20 in the days of my prime? I could have been the Chris Gayle of my day!

At school, besides no cricket grounds or decent cricket gear, we also had no coaching. Without any coaching, I was a spin bowler who bowled leggies. I did not even know what it was. The action came naturally to me. I’m not one of those “what if” or “if only” people, but I do wonder what coaching would have done. I suspect that the world’s leg-spin bowlers are born that way. Only the best are born with a leg-spin in the brain! I’ll have to ask leg spin king, Shane Warne, that question one day when we meet up – over a game of poker, maybe? If I had the crooked arm, I could ask the Sri Lankan spin-bowling ace and world record-taking wicket holder, Muralitharan.

In South Africa, cricket was a White game wrt internationals alongside England, Australia, maybe New Zealand. I only discovered later how good India and Pakistan were; West Indies were our champions, but, back then, they never played against South Africa. How we loved the West Indies victory in their first ever, short series against South Africa in 1991-1992. Come back Garfield Sobers, Wes Hall, Viv Richards and Brian Lara. West Indies needs you!

Later, it was beautiful to see Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India crowned as one-day cricket champions of the world. On this very day of writing, India is ranked number one in the one-day world ahead of England, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. [Enough said about the last country! Okay? No! They just had India win both a 5-day series and 1-day series for the first time ever in Australia. EVER! [Come back, Warner and Smith. ALL is forgiven! Reminds me of the nursery rhyme where “the kingdom was lost all for want of a horseshoe nail.” Read “for a piece of sandpaper?”]. Wonder what’s worse? Under arm bowling on the ground to prevent New Zealand hitting a six for victory on the last ball of the test match against Australia or sandpapering a ball in test match against South Africa? Victory at all costs? I leave the discussion open to others!

The politics of the country meant that we never supported a South African cricket team. We were the same with rugby, etc. Many of us never went to watch matches at segregated grounds like Newlands. That’s NEVER!

I have never set foot on this beautiful cricket/rugby ground, arguably the world’s most scenic with the magnificent Table Mountain and Devil’s Peak out west. It was anathema to go there; much more, it was a betrayal!

Almost with a conscience, I listened to occasional matches on the radio. When television started, I sometimes watched a game when it seemed the home team would lose. With the biased referees and umpires of those days, that was rare.

Yes, those were the days! I suppose the saddest aspect of my reflections above is that sport, one of the great national unifiers, could also so divide a nation so much. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why apartheid collapsed – united we stand, divided we fall was never as true!


I hope to get Book 1 out by year’s end. Book 2 will be done soon and will follow shortly thereafter. Watch this space. Yes, I know. I’ve been saying it for a while now!


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