Darjeeling CC (UAE) vs Premier CC (Canada), By Ash Banerjee

 

February 23rd 2018

With all of our players turning up uncharacteristically punctually (only to realise it was a 10:30 am start), the pre-game banter was in full flow whilst the academy tykes occupied the pitch and we waited for the opposition to arrive. In due course a ‘Fancy’ minibus wound its way through the car park maze (as it is now) and disgorged our Canadian visitors. They were resplendent in their dark brown playing kit, looking somewhat like the UAE team might after several months into their post-season fitness regimen of extra-large servings of biryanis followed by leisurely walks around the block.

Fittingly, the hyphenated-Canadians were met with a motley Darjeeling crew of mostly hyphenated and some non-hyphenated Brits and Aussies. With customary Darjeeling hospitality, the home skipper (sporting the club blazer, as we sometimes do to impress upon visiting teams our longstanding heritage… but minus the newly-minted club flip-flops, which Badger unsportingly refused to loan him for the toss) offered up a choice of three large coins: a Kennedy half-dollar, a two-pound coin and an old dirham. In typical North American style the visiting skipper opted for the half-dollar, called right, and chose to bat.

Your correspondent then informed him that “we walk on a nick,” etc., the two shook hands pledging a fair contest, extended and accepted an invitation for a post-match pint, all whilst the DCC malcontents grumbled and moaned sotto voce about having to field first after their generally good (but evidently not excessive) Thursday night shenanigans.

As we took the field (with typical Darjeeling nonchalance seasoned with cynicism) in green for this white-ball match, it became evident that our three walking wounded (Kirky – groin, don’t ask, Rohan M – calf and Umer – ankle) would not be able to move with even a tenth of the alacrity of Usain Bolt, and their surnames on the day might as well be Kripalani. With Badger in the side as well, the infield had magically sorted itself out even before we’d stepped into the 30-yard circle.

Just when one thinks we’ve seen everything… in a cricketing first in our story-rich annals, the Canadians had brought along a videographer who stood behind the umpire and beamed out play on Facebook Live for the benefit of those back in Toronto who had stayed up late into the northern night to watch this momentous match in their club’s cricketing history. Learn, o ye of little faith who won’t turn up to watch your clubmates play mediocre cricket in a Friday friendly! Et tu, Matt Peet, neighborly resident of Sports City, dancer of note, active member of three cricket clubs, winner of the Chairman’s Award, nominated volunteer Committee Member for Membership Affairs

Proceedings began with Dave from the School/City End and Badger from the Academy/Desert End continuing the legendary Darjeeling hospitality, respectively offering up a buffet of gently swinging and slowly spinning offerings which were duly feasted upon by the visitors, hungrily seeking redemption after their loss the previous evening to GEMS at the Sevens.

At an untenable 50/0 after 5 overs the changes were rung in, with Jerome and Dexy replacing Dave and Stu, and immediately the rot was stemmed as both “bowled in the right areas” (as cricketers and commentators are so fond of saying ad nauseum on the telly these days), “hit the right lengths,” “varied their pace to keep the batsmen guessing,” etc.

Not after some eventful happenings though – your correspondent shelled a steepling top-edged swirler at cover off Dave (yes, I’m 50-50 these days as the eyes degenerate further), and one of the openers nicked Dexy off palpably to Ieuan behind the stumps (it was heard in Canada on the Facebook feed, as we learned subsequently), but refused to walk after being given not out by their man standing… despite the most gentle, most polite, and most endearingly encouraging entreaties from all in the infield.

“Gentlemen, are we gentlemen?” you might ask upon reading of this terribly un-sportsman-like behavior (from them, of course, not us).

Most definitely we are, despite the quantity (and dubious quality) of smut pumped regularly into both WhatsApp banter groups by some of our more upstanding and rigid members. However, Darjeeling morality has generally tended to be contextually and situationally flexible (like the many shades of grey), much like the moral probity of the two supposedly neutral umpires who stood in last Saturday’s DSL game vs. Wombats Yellow and triggered half our side on horrendously callous lbw shouts… but I digress.

Well, a line had been crossed, so we bolted the bar doors, twirled our metaphorical brollies, morphed into Kingsmen, got on with it, and proceeded to tighten the screws on the Statesmen of Ontario. King Arthur George of Chiang Mai would have been proud of us reigning in our generosity when faced with ungentlemanly conduct.

With his tail up (possibly after watching Jackie Beltrao run through the football scores on Sky Sports?), a Merlin-esque Dexy conjured up one of his best spells any of us have seen, clamping one end down tighter than the proverbial Golden Circle (allegorically cinematic, not factually like an unfortunate and blameless sphincter suffering mightily after a dodgy curry night out somewhere in the seamy underbelly of Satwa).

With Jerome and later Krish bowling equally parsimoniously from the other end, the rate dropped from 10 an over to 6-ish, and consequently the worm turned, much like the Rand and the economic fortunes of South Africa drooped under The Zuma Kleptocracy (Robert Ludlum’s imminent best-seller – it happens to be World Book Day today, really).

Wickets fell regularly (despite Grant and someone else shelling a catch apiece in the deep) as the lower order ably, variously, and vividly demonstrated their ineptitude against spin of a certain vintage and quality (Badge and Jez bowling the last 4) and the visitors ended up on 153/8 off their 20, setting us up to chase at an entirely attainable 7.5/over. Despite taking a bit of tap in the powerplay, we had bowled extremely well: Dave 3-35-1, Stu 4-35-2, Rich 4-20-1, Jerome 4-25-2, Krish 3-20-1, Ash 2-12-1.

Alas the visitors’ app which they were scoring on proved less reliable than their videographer, crashing conveniently at the innings break; accordingly this report is short on the oppo’s batting details, and our bowling figures are the collective approximations of whatever’s left of Stu’s and my cobwebby brains. Then again, this newspaper has long favoured the embellishment of the inconsequential over the accuracy of the factual, and in this day and age of fake news we stand resolutely behind our moral duplicity.

With skippering duties split across innings, Galahad Jr. (Kirky playing Eggsy with elan) was running the chase, and the batting order was conventional with the man himself and Jerome opening. Kirky went early for 9 off 12, the inflatable doll punching bag in the changing room coming under immediate threat of violence most severe and sustained.

Grant walked in at 3 and got under way promptly with a sublime first-ball leg-glance for 4, living up to his moniker of ‘silky thighs.’ Meanwhile Jerome, too, succumbed to the whippier of the two opening bowlers, caught for 8 off 6. Enter Umer, a few nurdles and then out lbw for 5 off 11, even as Grant eschewed his usual jack-in-the-box and shuffle routines and hunkered down keeping the asking rate in mind, batting quite well and chipping away at the target.

Rohan in at 5, off the mark with a carbon copy of Grant’s first scoring shot, and the two motored along in our most substantial partnership, with Rohan lofting one over cow for the only 6 of our innings, but out shortly thereafter for a rapid-fire 20 off 15, with us bossing the rate at this point.

Young Thomas, in the side as a batsman subbing for Badger who left early, then batted very sensibly, giving Grant much of the strike for a well-made 11 off 12. Ieuan was in next, while Grant dispatched the bowling to all parts in a flurry of boundaries as the win loomed and the Canadians wilted.

All done and dusted in the penultimate over, Grant 78* (11 x 4) off 54 the MoM, Ieuan 9* off 6, and we had won chasing (again!) by 5 wickets and the beverages would taste even better.

A second invitation to the pub was issued to the oppo, and accepted, yet they failed to turn up. Someone ought to publish a book about cricket tours for the uninitiated – “Social Cricket for Dummies,” perhaps?

A good time in the pub afterwards with most players in attendance, with thanks to Matt Carney for umpiring through the match, thanks to our Aussies for keeping their inner Bogans in check against flaky opposition, and a thumbs-up for erstwhile member Bill Collier (left in ’88) who spectated with great interest.