Wednesday, January 18, 2012

When you thought you’d seen it all, another epic with a few differences

What is it about the LOBATs and epic matches? Just when you thought you’d seen it all, you see it again.

There were a few differences this time around though. Probably for the first time this season, Ricky sent an e-mail around saying we had too many players. We initially thought Ricky had trouble counting. He was probably confusing people's nicknames with their real names and was double counting. But the accounting was right. We had 14 players. The recruitment drive had worked and now we had a good list of players who don't bat, bowl or field.

Immediately a few veterans made themselves unavailable just to stress Ricky out. One of those veterans was Rajitha. But we told him nothing doing mate (or was it machang) and in the end we had 12. In case you’re wondering how we found Rajitha who has been missing for these past 5 weeks, apparently his wife woke up one morning and found him asleep under the covers. She hadn't noticed him there for the past 5 weeks. So she woke him up and we got him to the grounds.

Ricky lost another toss. This time the opposing captain was one step ahead of Ricky and said they would bat before he could open his mouth. For the first time Ricky decided to open the bowling himself, still on a high from the damage he did with the ball the previous week. On the other side was Ani, who had fled the country late last year and somehow slipped through immigration back into the country. He was told to terrorise the batsmen. Instead, he terrorised the fielders.

One of the opening batsmen thought he was Warner and started swinging the bat at everything. At best he was a very distant cousin because after a couple of sixes he missed a straight one and was given lbw. The umpire appeared to be a disciple the Sam David's umpiring institute – he was a trigger happy fellow.

There were some classic moments during their innings. Their first drop was a machang from the hood – actually Angoda. Charuka and the slips started distracting the machang with a bit of a Sinhalese chat. It was working for a while with him missing a few balls, but then he dispatched one into the playground. We asked him to be careful because there were kids playing there. He obeyed and started blocking until he knicked one.

He was replaced by a lanky young chap who hit his first ball for six by mistake that really impressed Vasee who gave him a standing ovation. This fellow later had to dive into the crease to make his ground, resulting in a rather scratched elbow. Charuka immediately showed his concern by telling the batsman that he should get himself out and have his elbow cleaned up.

When that didn't work, we decided to change things up and threw the ball to the Stig. Seeing what was happening to all the bowlers who actually knew how to bowl he quickly threw the ball to Rajitha like a hot potato. Rajitha said he was going to bowl ‘pace’. He had everyone scared, except for the batsmen. We then realised we had mis-heard him. Apparently he was going to bowl ‘space’ - balls that would be launched into ‘outer space’.

For a while it looked like a few satelittes were in danger of being damaged. We were bracing ourselves for an international incident. Then Ricky, forever the diplomat, decided to avert such an incident and looked around for someone else to bowl. Suddenly everyone had their backs turned, except for the Stig. He was given the ball.

His pies were also sent into orbit. The keeper asked him to keep it on the ‘off’ and give it a good spin. That's exactly what he did. The ball pitched about halfway down the pitch and went straight on so slowly that the batsman was spining after taking a huge swipe missing and then swiping again. The ball finally trickled past the batsman and onto the stump. While the ball hadn't spun at all, both the Stig and the batsman were still spining in one place while everyone else was hi-fiving Vasee for no good reason at all.

After we introduced a new rule that a lost ball was out, we managed to get wickets on a regular basis in between the sixes that were being dispatched to the car park, the street, the tennis court and the neighbouring suburbs. But although we had a regular procession of batsmen, there was one guy on their side that was a big bully.

One ball he hit and then ran and tackled Saj – the bowler - for no good reason at all. This guy was the size of a sumo wrestler, so when we saw Saj flatenned from the tackle we started dialing the paramedics. Unfortunately the mobile phone network was down after a few satellites had been decommissioned during Rajitha's bowling. So we asked Saj to get on with it.

The sumo wrestler then clocked a catch at the speed of light back to Ricky off Ricky's bowling. We were all watching for a replay of last week's Matrix moves. Instead this episode ended with a few ‘aiyos’. The sequel of most shows are usually not as good as the original.  Ricky was seen rubbing his ego after that while Ani (aka Keanu) was seen showing him what he did wrong - bowling rubbish.

We finally managed to get the sumo batsman to mis-hit a ball that went straight up. Charuka had some serious ground to cover, which he did, seriously. He then dived, rolled, skidded, twisted, twirled and turned over ending up flat on his stomach with the ball lodged in his back side. That was the last ball of their innings, thank goodness. A few of the guys were seen thanking the heavens for getting them through that traumatic experience. At the end of this carnage we had 245 runs to get to win. This was about 198 runs beyond our wildest dreams.

Not to worry. The DL formula was back in action in the batting line up. Dias-Las were sent out to bat and they had already knocked off 75 runs even before facing a ball based on the latest version of the DL formula (v323214) that now uses very sophisticated algorithms to determine a fair score for the openers – particularly one opener that would otherwise not have a single run to his name.

You might recall the last time the DL formula was updated it took into account what the batsmen had eaten the previous night and whether they had a good night’s sleep. Now the formula also takes into account a few other key factors that can't be revealed due to the fact nobody knows what they are and we would not be able to make up a score if we were to reveal this information.

The batting got off to a flyer, that is once Las started facing the ball. He hit a quick fire 27 before holing out to slip after trying to reverse sweep the fast bowler. Then Saj came and took over where Las left off. He contributed a solid 44, during which time he lost his partner – the Stig – who was simply watching the proceedings from the other end – something he is good at. The Stig, who's average is back to being very average, had been given lbw and had to be carried off the field, kicking and screaming. Asked why he was crying, the Stig said someone said something to him. Asked what had been said, he said “I don't know machang, but the bugger said something, no?” An inquiry has been launched.

Charuka went out to set matters straight. Instead he was sent straight back a few balls later. He too was lbw. But unlike the Stig, he accepted his decision like a man. Someone said something to him too, but he wasn't bothered because he understood it and it was just directions back to the hut.

It's usually about now that the number 8, 9 and 10 batsmen start padding up as it is usually on a matter of minutes before they have to strut their stuff. However, Rajitha was sent out with instructions to ‘Stay there! No hurry!’. Saj and Raja got a great partnership going. But then Saj decided to invent a new stroke. He hit a full toss straight onto his helmut and was caught at covers! This stroke has been named the Saj HammerHead… He was seen wobbling off the field and he kept asking everyone to stop repeating themselves. He is still hearing echoes and sees the occasional satellite.

Sam then put his bat into autopilot mode and started the rebuilding. But then his bat mis-hit a ball onto his pad and he was given out for no good reason at all. He has lodged a service request with Graynicolls and is considering burning down his umpiring institute.

Meanwhile Rajitha who was worried about being spotted by a Police helicopter, decided to make the area a no fly zone by pumping a few sixes. He made it to 49 before resuming his nap back in the hut. This set the cat among the pigeons but we only needed another 40 odd runs in 5 overs. Ricky and Vasee were out there to get us home.

That is until Vasee got a bit tired and decided to take a nap in the middle of the pitch. He told the bowler to wake him up when he was ready to bowl. The bowler chose to get him out while he was sleeping instead. We had been penalised an over by the umpire for the time it took to fetch all those balls from neighboring suburbs. No leniency was given for having to wait for balls to re-enter the stratoshpere either. So it was touch and go stuff.

Ani joined Ricky in the middle to score the remaining 20 runs in about 2.5 overs. Then it was 12 needed off 7 balls. Ani swung and managed to connect his bat with a low flying fly. So it was down to the last over with still 12 needed. The flies declared the area as a no fly zone at this point.

A drink was sent out to Ricky with a few words of wisdom. A Lack of Brains and Trust and Skill (LOBATs) meeting ensued in the middle. The meeting minutes indicate that Ricky said he appreciated the drink but didn't care for the wisdom. That was probably a result of the ‘wiseman saying’ at the last match that resulted in so many missed chances.

So Ricky took strike. He swung and missed. 12 off 5 required. Next ball, swung again and missed – 12 off 4. Next ball swung and bottom edged, stealing a single. Ani then swung and missed. 11 off 2 required. The next ball was another single, which meant we needed a no-ball and two sixes. There was no no-ball and no six. It came down to the wire again, except this time Ricky didn't go nuts at the end of the game. Instead there were a few ‘aiyos’ followed by cherios…

The Scorecard

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Part II - A gift not accepted is not a gift to begin with... or something like that

To make a long story even longer, after the major recruitment drive, Sat came and two minutes before the start of the match, we had 12 players. This included the recruit from the SCG. In the line up was Rambo (aka Aneesh), making his first appearance for the season. In the off season he has been training in the Kuringai jungle and now his biceps are the size of tree trunks. Everyone was careful not to upset him even by mistake.

For once, it looked like we had a team that could win a match, at least on paper, as Charuka aptly pointed out. Ricky tossed, lost, then told the opposition we would bat and ordered his team to pad up. Yes, you read that correctly - he lost the toss and said we would bat. He's not called Tricky Ricky for no reason - actually he is, but we've now found a reason.

When our new recruit, Vasee, learnt we were batting and he was listed at #8, he said he would move his car and come back only to find that he couldn't find his car keys. The drama off the field never stops. He was told by Charuka not to stray too far from the boys because after the second wicket falls, normally everyone gets to bat very quickly. He thought Charuka was joking. We informed him that we were deadly serious. He laughed nervously.

The batting was the usual LOBAT performance, as in there were very few performances to talk about except for one name in the score book that is consistently the top scorer in our side, year after year – his name is Mr Sundries. In fact there was one over where Mr Sundries clocked 7 runs, which is quite an achievement for a LOBAT.

The openers got us to about 50+ and were looking steady. Then Ricky threatened to declare unless he got to bat. He had moved himself down the order, for no reason at all, once again. Soon the two openers were back in the hut and Lasi had replaced Saj who knocked a fluent 25 runs with some beautiful boundaries.

Aneesh went to bat at # 4 and was told to stay there. He did - for a few balls. The first ball he faced (which mind you is the first ball he faced in two years) was hit for a massive 6 that went into a neighbouring suburb. A few balls later, he was walking back to the hut after adding 20 to the score. In theory if all our batsmen did this, we would have 200 runs in less than 10 overs, which would be a winning score and an early end to the day. The suggestion has been tabled for consideration by the senior members of the Lack of Brains And Trust & skill. Will keep you posted on the outcome there – don't hold your breath, they're not too good with theory or anything for that matter.

Meanwhile, we are sticking to our strengths. As Charuka had warned Vasee, within a matter of balls and  minutes, Vasee (the # 8 batsman) was out in the middle. We had gone from 53 for no loss to 98 for 7! In the middle, waiting for Vasee was Sam, who was continuing his brilliant form with the bat. The two experienced campaigners set about resurrecting the carnage. Sam’s $500 bat was showing us why it was worth every penny. It comes with a remote control and a mind of its own. Our entire middle order was seen on their phones, ordering the same bat. Prasad is considering an upgrade as well.

Meanwhile, Vasee was providing a running commentary while batting, which entertained both sides. Ricky who was umpiring at the time said even O'Keefe would have been proud of Vasee's commentary. He was telling the bowler it was a good ball even before he played his shot, then he would tap the ball into a gap and call for 3 runs only to barely complete a single. This went on until Sam and Vasee got us past 150 without fuss.

Chris was getting a bit itchy to bat. After watching Clarke score 329, Chris decided to take all the stickers off his bat too. He was looking to snag a new sponsor as well. Chris removed the batteries from Sam's remote control and he was clean bowled the next ball. Sam got a standing ovation because none of the guys had any seats and the ants were nibbling away at their bottoms.

Chris then provided a display of batting rarely seen. He stroked a few beautiful leaves followed by a couple of nice flicks to take him to a quick fire 5. He was then caught on the boundary attempting to double his score. When he got back to the hut we noticed he had snagged a couple of new sponsors – two dead flies were found stuck to the glue left over from the stickers he had removed off his bat. He was a proud man. Simran then took the reins, ducking and weaving good length balls, followed by clocking a 4. We ended on 161, with Vasee not out on 26.

The bowlers were happy for a change that the match was likely to last more than 10 overs. That was until we saw what their batsmen had in mind.

Las and Fonzy bowled a few good balls in between the bad ones that were called for wide or clobbered. Two of those bad balls got two of their top batsmen out. One of these batsmen had scored a 100 against us last time, so we thought we had won the match. But then the other opener started hammering everything. Rambo was given the ball. He declared war. Unfortunately the opposition was armed with bigger guns and they started firing back. A few trees ended up losing limbs from the sixes that resulted. In the crossfire, Rambo took one to the back and was sidelined – he was seen stitching himself under a tree later.

Ricky then took the ball and decided to finish his over. By drinks - the halfway mark - they were only 3 down and needed only another 48 runs. Ricky decided to spike his own drink – something he learnt in Phuket. After drinks he went nuts. He gathered the guys into a huddle and yelled something at everyone. No one knew what was said but everyone nodded. The batsmen gifted us a couple of catches but we refused to accept them on grounds that a gift from an opponent is not a gift to begin with if it is not accepted - or something along those lines that a wiseman once said, but we can't quite remember...

The opener was still pumping everything to the boundary. Ricky started changing his field around. When someone asked him what the plan was, he said it was ‘to confuse everybody’. It worked. The batsman hammered one of Ricky's balls straight back at him, faster than the speed of light. Ricky, who at this point was in a zone reserved only for the likes of Keanu Reeves and Ani, gathered himself from his follow through, bent down, swayed out of the way of the ball, let the ball fly past his ear, turned around and snatched the ball from behind after it had passed him. As the ball was travelling faster than the speed of light, no one but Ricky and Keanu had seen it. The batsman and everyone else for that matter were stunned.

Ricky was in the Matrix - something he had mastered from all those practice sessions with Ani and those trips to Phuket. We had finally broken the unbreakable partnership. Now everyone wanted Ricky to spike their drinks. The team was pumped.

That lasted one or two balls until the other batsman started pumping everything. Ricky once again took the ball and had it whizzing past the batsmen. Unfortunately it was whizzing past the stumps too. This pissed him off. He made it personal. He started having words with the off stump, but the stump was unmoved. The very next ball he nailed the off stump and let out a blood curling scream. We now had them 5 down. But they only needed another 31 runs.

Once again, Ricky engaged his 'confuse everyone' strategy and put all the fielders on the boundary to confuse the new batsman. This even confused the birds who decided to take a different flight path over the grounds. Another partnership started building. Ricky's confusion strategy had run its course, so Charuka took to his strategy of putting ideas into the batsmen's heads. He kept saying how the batsman was unable to score runs in front of the wicket until he decided to prove Charuka wrong. He hit a ball up in the air to mid-off who had to back peddle – to run away from the catch. When mid-off turned around the ball was right above his head, so he put his hand up to knock it away. It went straight up off his hand so he kept trying to push the ball away until it stuck in his hand on the fifth attempt. The crowd went nuts. Ok, that's an exaggeration, there was no crowd, it was just Ricky.

Batsmen then came and went. They didn't like Charuka's taunts. Their skipper strolled out to the middle and took guard. They now had two wickets in hand and only needed 12 to win. He looked like he could bat until his first shot was a dolly straight to mid-on where the safe hands of Las refused to accept another gift from the opposition – that wiseman thing again. He picked the ball up from the ground and passed it back to Ricky who accidentally hit the stumps on his way back to bowl the next ball. He said sorry to the umpire, who gave the batsman out – run out. The batsman had assumed the catch would be taken and managed to run himself out after it was dropped. It was a win-win-win. Las refused the gift, the team got another $2 for their trip to Phuket and the team got the wicket.

Finally the last man had to get the 12 runs to win and we thought we had it... but we didn't! Ricky got pumped for a 4. Then Fonzy who was bowling on the other end got pumped for a 4. He then got a nick that Charuka and the Stig clearly heard, but Vasee who was keeping at the time said they were hearing things. The keeper then got a couple of gift catches that were refused on principle again.

Now they needed only 3 runs. Dilshan's overs were finished so we turned to Las. It was a match that could have been. We had come so close. Las ran in and bowled a wide down leg side, which meant they would have tied the scores because they were setting off for a single as well. But the batsman managed to top edge the ball somehow and it started going towards square leg. Dilshan was in the middle of a conversation with the square let umpire and had to be interrupted. He moved to his left, and we quickly told him to go the other way. He did. He started concocting his apology before he caught the ball and the match was won in epic fashion. Ricky went wild.

Monday, January 9, 2012

An epic week... the lead up to the game... part 1

Epic! If you were to describe this last match, that would be the word - epic. And the drama as always started well before the match.

As usual, mid-week Ricky sent out an email to confirm players. This was immediately followed by an sos saying we only had 7 players eventhough 70 people were on the email list. This resulted in a series of events that unfolded into an epic match. Let's recap.

Due to the consistent shortage of players, the LOBATs have been on a recruitment drive. Certain elite team members have been spotted in all sorts of dodgy places, such as dark alleys, curry restaurants, aunty's barbeques, the airport etc walking up to anyone that looks like subcontinental chap (aka kalu pora) and asking them if they play cricket. If the response is that they do, we quickly move on to the next guy and ask them until we come across someone that says no. Then we launch into our recruitment pitch that is so effective that even Amway has been trying to copy our techniques.

For those that actually pay attention to what is written in this post, you might be thinking there was a typo in the previous paragraph. There probably was, but you didn't misread anything. Yes, it is true that we only recruit those who say they have never played cricket before and there is a very good reason for this.

Let me explain.

One of the founding principles of the LOBATs was that only players that couldn't bat, bowl or field were signed up as elite members of the team. This has worked well for us over the years. In fact, this worked so well, that the principle was soon embraced by the PDCA (Paramatta District Cricket Association) and then made it's way up to CA (Cricket Australia). This was due to the fact that these cricketing bodies have some very good grass roots programs and when they saw how we managed to make it to two grand finals and win with our amazing noskill strategy, they adopted this principle as well. That is why CA dropped Warne and McGrath and all those other top performers. And as you saw last week, it's working wonders! Now even the Indian and Lankan national sides have adopted this modern management technique.

But I digress. The point is now that the PDCA is enforcing this policy, we have been a bit hamstrung. As soon as someone says they can play, the PDCA tells us we can't register them. Like all good strategies, once everyone adopts it, it stops working for the guys that invented it.
However, this week we were in luck. When Ricky sent out his usual sos that we needed to kick the recruitment drive into overdrive, your correspondent was on duty covering the match at the SCG, sitting with Duke in front of the Indian team in the Members Stand. This was a PDCA recruiter's dream. An email was quickly sent to Ricky, Peter and Greg - the chief recruiters - telling them 'not to worry'. There were 15 guys who couldn't bat, bowl and field behind us and they were all curries. Problem solved.

Not quite. A name was sent to Greg to register. A request came back asking if he had ever played before and what his stats were. An email went back saying he had just finished batting and his average was very average. This resulted in a series of emails which resulted in more emails.  

Meanwhile we had to wait for the PDCA to make a decision on whether our new recruit would be permitted to play. This meant we were running out of time to find another recruit. Then your correspondent had a bright idea. As this is a very rare thing he quickly made a note in his diary of the time and place of this idea but he forget to make a note of the idea. So a few minutes later he only had proof of - nothing really. So we decided to go straight to the top for a decision. A message was sent to Julia Gillard, who was also seen at the SCG – it looked like everyone was at the SCG.

Gillard's response was that of a seasoned politician: ‘I'm sorry boys, I can't make a decision.’ We asked why. She said she didn’t know how to. And then she added that even if she could, it would not be up to her. When we told her that we thought the buck stopped with her, her response was priceless. She said if we had a buck it would definitely stop with her. Unfortunately all we had were headaches and those get passed on to her PR team that have the same standard response. This response will not be reprinted here because this is a family publication that doesn't just publish any rubbish.

Our hands were tied. But Baulkham Hills Club veteran problem solver Greg (aka Bond) said 'not to worry', he'll get it sorted... Meanwhile, also sitting with the Indian team was Rajitha and the Stig. The Stig was on the phone to his mother shouting at the top of his voice that his average was 244. He was hoping the Indian team management was listening and would ask him to pad up ahead of Tendulkar. Unfortunately the team management was busy discussing the merits of the DRS.

Rajitha meanwhile was hiding from all cameras to make sure he was not spotted by the Hamas, MI5, Abbas and his boss who are all still looking for him. He said he might make an appearance at our game and asked us to hold our breath. We gave him the same response Gillard's PR team gave us.

At this point you are probably wondering if you are going to read about any cricket at all. Then again, you would only be wondering that if you have never followed the LOBATs before... with the LOBATs, cricket has very little to do with anything. It never gets in the way of a good story.

… to be continued (go to next page: Part 2)