There are certain things that just aren’t fun: visiting the dentist, the Eurovision song contest, playing cricket in the pouring rain.
Such were my thoughts as I trudged across a sodden Mowsbury Park, umbrella suffering a beating from the heavens above, five minutes before the scheduled start of our league game against Queen’s Park. “Gora, where’s your kit? We’re batting!”
Not knowing whether to laugh or cry, I turned around, waded back to my car and hauled my bag over to the graffiti-scrawled shelter under which 21 other players were gathered. It was agreed to wait and assess conditions at 3pm, but the outcome was inevitable.
At 3.05pm it stopped raining, the opposition – top of the league and wanting to take advantage of other teams not playing – took the field and waited for umpires and batsmen to emerge, ruefully, from the safety of the shelter.
Facing up first ball, I went to take guard, looked down at the muddy crease and realised there was little point. With every ball bowled a small chunk of the pitch – and with it a small piece of cricketing integrity – was dug out and deposited on the wicket.
Bedford Pakistanis were all out for 68 – despite heroic ‘George’ Iqbal’s unbeaten 37 – and the opposition were cock-a-hoop. Our opening bowlers marked their run-ups and soon realised that bowling pace from over the wicket was impossible. There was no sawdust (our number 11 had disappeared home to acquire some and arrived back instead with a KFC), so the only option was round the wicket.
Needless to say, the opposition won by eight wickets and all we had to show for it were muddy whites. I shivered at the thought of the groundsman’s face come Monday morning when he would first take a look at the ruined wicket (below).
But in these parts, days like this aren’t uncommon. Two weeks previously I had driven a couple of the lads up to Peterborough where a big Asian charity tournament was being held. Nine teams from as far away as Nottingham took part, games consisting of eight overs per innings. A monsoon greeted us on arrival at noon and failed to let up for the whole day.
Despite the lashing rain, matches took place on all three pitches, with games lessened to six-over smashes. I had contemplated leaving them to it and escaping before snorkels and flippers became a requirement, but in the midst of the second game for Bedford (a combined team of the best Pakistani players in the town), an urgent SOS was sent for a substitute fielder.
Having forgotten to take my smelly kit out of the boot of the car from the previous day, I was the prime (and only) candidate, so sneaked a token spot in the side as we surged through the group stages and semifinal.
That we lost out in the final thanks largely to the opposition’s Pakistan Hong Kong sixes player was a disappointment, but the captain of the local Peterborough side invited our whole team back to his house for food. As we were presented with dish after dish of roti, curry, rice and daal, the sense of disappointment was soon replaced by conversation and friendly banter, making the subsequent drive back home through the still-apocalyptic weather a little more bearable.