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A Father, A Daughter, And Cricket

22 Mar

April 2005

It is a mild Saturday morning and I am home alone with my son. I am enormously tired: I put this down to the fact that I am newly pregnant and my body is devoting all of its energy to the growing of a new human being.

My 18-month old son is curled up on the couch with me, and we are watching TV. He has no interest in the kid’s programs, so I am flicking through the channels in search of something good.

Unexpectedly, I come across coverage of a One Day International cricket match between South Africa and England. This is a surprise because Canada is not big on cricket, despite the fact that many of its immigrants come from cricket-playing nations.

Delighted, I settle in to watch. I start describing the rules of cricket to my son and he listens intently, as if he knows exactly what I am talking about. Or perhaps he just realizes that he’s a captive audience.

The South African fielder throws the ball towards the stumps and the batsman is run out. Instantly, I am taken back to a summers’ day long ago, when my father took me to my first-ever cricket match.

February, 1992

I was 22 years old, and having gone away to university for a few years, I was now back living with my parents. I walked into the living room one day to find Dad yelling at the TV, calling someone a “damned idiot”. I looked at the screen: cricket. A sport that had never managed to grab my interest, mostly because I had never paid any attention to it. I always thought it seemed unnecessarily complicated.

On this particular day, for whatever reason, I didn’t simply tune out. I stared at the screen and asked Dad, “How does this game work, anyway?”

And Dad, thrilled to have a pupil, explained the game to me as it unfolded. By the end of that day, I was hooked. The intricacies and strategizing of the game suited my personality perfectly. The numbers geek in me loved the mathematical formulas and equations that came part-and-parcel with the commentary.

And so, when Dad offered to take me to a match the following weekend – a one-day provincial match – I eagerly accepted.

To say that the day was exciting would be a big understatement. By lunchtime on the day of the match, I completely understood why Dad got so passionate about this sport.

It was a riveting match – one of those where you cannot tell until the very last ball is bowled who will be victorious.

It’s the most basic cricket equation. Six runs to win with one over to go, and one wicket in hand. Simply translated: a run had to be scored off of each of the six remaining balls in the match, and a single mistake would mean defeat for the batting team.

It came right down to the wire. One run needed to win. One ball left to be bowled. One very shaky-looking batsman standing at the wicket. It could go either way.

Dad and I, who had spent a wonderful day together, just the two of us, held our breath and watched.

The bowler measured out his run-up, paused, and started loping back towards the batsman. He exploded in a flurry of arms and legs, and the ball flew through the air. The batsman swung and missed, and the ball went sailing past him and hit the wicket so hard that the middle stump broke.

And so the team that Dad and I had  been rooting for lost by the narrowest of margins. It was an incredibly exciting day, and now that Dad is no longer with us, it is a father-daughter memory that I will treasure forever.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Allyson challenged me with “Take the opening line from the book you’re reading. Use that somewhere in the middle of your piece.” and I challenged Jester Queen with “Tell us about an event that forces you to abandon a belief that’s been with you all your life.”

The book I am reading is a wonderfully humourous mix of fact and fiction called “What I Love About Cricket”, written by Sandy Balfour. It opens with the following sentence: “It’s the most basic cricket equation.”