Most people I know hate being ‘on the book’. They see it as a drab, boring experience and someone else’s problem. I really enjoy it. You get to analyse the game, the bowlers, the wicket, the fielding team, the batsmen and the outfield. You have no choice but to watch the game. You are in the game without being in the game.
In my first season of First XI School Cricket, I was the 12th man. I was neither a quick bowler nor an agile fielder. Of the other two 16 year-olds in the team, I was the worst of them. That meant I had to score first up. I grew to appreciate those early stints ‘on the book.’
Usually when I score, I’m relaxed. I share a jokes with my teammates and have a chinwag with the opposition scorer.
“How has the season been going?” “Got many with the bat or ball?”
Short sharp answers meant they couldn’t careless whereas brief detailed answers meant they cared and were alert. With the latter by your side, you know it will be a good day.
Grand Final scoring is all-together another kettle of fish. Just like the players, you feel the tension they feel. You feel the anxiety they feel. You share a nervous joke that makes it worse. You both feel the tension and anxiety ten-fold. Remember, you are just the scorer.
We lose the toss and bowl first. It’s a disadvantage to the team. It’s a flat wicket and a hot day. It’s an advantage to me though, as I get to settle in away from the tension and anxiety. My contemporary ‘on the book’ is the latter, careful and alert.
“Today is going to be a good day,” I said.
It is a good day, for the opposition. At the halfway point they have nine wickets in hand and are rolling along at four-an-over. We’re in a bit of strife and my contemporary agrees.
“This could go either way, you guys could make plenty more or lose many quickly,” I replied. He smugly disagrees.
It’s game on! Cricketer versus cricketer. Bowler versus batsman. Scorer versus scorer.
They lose nine wickets for 40 runs. We are definitely in the box seat.
I wish I could repeat what I said to my teammates. In all, I wanted to win! I wanted to beat these clowns.
The change of innings brings a change of scorer. He is more concerned about his bets on the horses than the match. I wish I could repeat what I said to myself. I wasn’t impressed.
We lose three for nine in a matter of minutes. I start feeling the players’ tension and anxiety again. I want to take a break. I want to go for a walk. I want to breathe. I cannot. I MUST remain seated. Cricket superstitions!
“Today is not going to be good day,” I muttered.
You play team sports because you believe you can make a difference to the outcome of the match. You are just the scorer but you think you can bowl that dot-ball or hit that boundary. This was the first time that I’d felt I couldn’t make a difference.
We get a partnership and the tension eases. The banter slowly returns. The mood gets lighter, the pacing stops.
“Today is going to be a good day,” I say confidently.
Players are moving around. I get up to walk. I get up to breathe. Someone has gone to the bathroom. We lose four quick wickets. Cricket superstitions!
The tension is back. The tension is palpable.
The final runs are hit. They win! Jubilation!
I haven’t dropped a bead of sweat. I’m just as excited.
They did it. I did it. We did it
I didn’t bat, bowl or field. I was in this game.
That day was a good day!