weather at Vauvert, France
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Sunday, May 22, 2011
At the beginning of time, there was a group of youngish males who lived in Berlin, West Germany.
This city, one could called it "the walled City" was to become, in the opinion of these youngish males, the center of World Cricket, a sport not known, or little known in Germany as a whole, and West Berlin in particular. In it's way, our version certainly DID become the center of World Cricket, but not the accepted version!
The reason was simple. We had no balls, and it's difficult to play cricket with no balls!
We had tried all sorts, golf balls, plastic "boules", tennis balls and anything else remotely resembling a ball, but had no success.
The reason for this penury in Cricket Balls was simple.
Unlike elsewhere in the World, if the batsman hit the ball over the boundary, nobody cheered - everybody groaned. Any boundary, in particular a 6, meant that in general the ball was lost!
Attempts were made, regularly, to go around to the neighbour concerned, ring the prison doorbell, and ask for our ball back. Occasionally it worked, and we got it back, but mainly our polite request was denied.
You see - the Russian troops guarding Mr. R. Hess in the Spandau prison (our neighbours) had never seen such a work of art as a cricket ball, and they were treated as works of art, and "souvenirs of war"! To be kept at all price.
I suppose one could talk of "chance" - at least we weren't accused of an act of agression!
The American soldiers, in their turn, were no better. They seemed to consider a cricket ball like a sort of copy of a baseball, just a strange "English" variety. Poor ball had the same fate as with the Russians!
The French, of course, looked at the intruder, and tried to cook and eat it - all the while wondering about the strange eating habits of the English!
Happily we didn't have any Italian soldiers involved, or our poor cricket balls would have been "pastified" without doubt, covered in tomato sauce and cheese and gratined!
The only other soldiers we had occasionally were Dutch, and they at first tried to take the ball apart, suspecting there was some heroin or coke inside, but then decided it was of no use at all, and threw it back!
We liked the Dutch - but normally our balls had been viciously violated with a
rifle bayonet and therefore unusable!
It was a dilemma - our stock of old dilapidated training balls was down to almost zero, and rules were made in training that any batsman who hit the ball for 4 or 6 was allowed to do so only if he had shown he had a replacement ball.
This was rather stifling for training purposes - boundaries become a rare event and scores were low, because running singles and more between the wickets was tiring. When a batsman was really tired, his only possible choice was a "clout" for 6 - after which he was considered "6 and OUT" - just as in the old days as kids in the back streets or back yards of Lancashire!
In Lancashire, this rule was applied to try and keep the breakage of windows down to a minimum, and therefore the resulting consequences milder!
In our "home" games, it was difficult to convince our opponents that these "local" rules were necessary, and when we played against the local "Berlin" eleven (made up of 10 civilians from the West Indies working in Berlin and 1 German - for the legality of it all) we always had to make sure they had a goodly supply of balls in their luggage!
We never won a match, simply because we were inhibited by our training methods, no boundaries, just running your legs off.
I recall one match where we made 24 runs - all out! Our 10 wickets fell as "run-out", probably a world record somewhere!
Of course - we always won in the bar afterwards, because we had access to duty free stuff, and we considered openly starting the day with a longer visit to the bar, followed by the actual match. I'm pretty sure we would have won then, because the West Indians really do like their Jamaican rum - particularly at duty free prices!
It was always amusing watching the Russian guards peering secretly at us, through their binoculars, and undoubtedly taking thousands of photos secretly, who knows - maybe these carrying-ons were a new battlefield tactic!
Generally, I believe they finished being as knowledgable about the honourable game of cricket as before ..... but still convinced it was a trick!